Gave Up Meat for the New Year? Here’s Your Guide to a Plant-Based Diet
If giving up meat was one of your New Year’s resolutions, don’t feel discouraged. It can seem overwhelming to follow a plant-based diet at first. It might even feel restrictive, unsatisfying, and confusing. However, you can easily commit to a plant-based diet for the months to come with proper guidance and nutrition.
Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
There are many alternative plant-based options to add to your meals for those who still love the taste of meat. You can buy virtually any meat-substitute product, including bacon, sausage, chicken nuggets, and more. You don’t have to miss out on the flavor of meat on a plant-based diet.
Some meat alternatives still contain dairy and eggs, so make sure to check the packaging if you are following a vegan diet. For those who are just vegetarian, you have more options as far as plant-based meats go.
Some people cannot distinguish between meat alternatives and the real thing! Meat substitutes contain most of the spices added to regular meat to make it tasty. So don’t fret if you struggle to give up meat because of the flavor. You have options.
Vegetarian Protein Options
Many people worry about getting enough protein after they give up meat. There are some staple foods that vegetarians default to for their daily protein, proving that it’s entirely possible to get a healthy amount of protein on a plant-based diet.
Some of the best sources of protein from meat-free foods are:
- Protein powder
These additions to your diet will ensure you get a hefty serving of protein with each meal. Some vegetables also include small amounts of protein that, when consumed together, add up to increase your daily intake. Potatoes, rice, and leafy greens can be excellent sources of protein and vitamins.
The advantage of tofu is that it takes on whatever flavors it is cooked with. You can season it to your taste and add sauces, vegetables, and starches to make it a complete meal. This is true of seitan and tempeh, although they do have distinct flavors on their own.
There are plenty of vegan protein powders on the market if you have cut out dairy and eggs, as well. These protein powders use plant-based sources of complete proteins to deliver your daily requirements directly.
When you are following a plant-based diet, you need to supplement with some vitamins and minerals. In general, a healthy whole-food-based vegetarian diet will get you most of your essential nutrients. However, some important vitamins (for example, B12) are not present in most vegetarian foods.
Protein is an essential part of our body’s defenses since it helps form the cells that operate in our immune systems. If you’re starting a plant-based diet, consider immune support like AHCC® Platinum or AHCC® Gold made with researched proprietary mushroom extract.
Vitamin B12 is essential for many body processes, and it can be dangerous if you become deficient. Vegetarians and vegans are more likely to develop B12 deficiencies, so you must take a daily supplement if you’re cutting meat out of your diet.
B12 is important for your nervous system and red blood cells. Without enough B12, you can suffer from nervous system ailments and other dangerous health problems. This can be easily avoided by taking a B12 supplement every day. It can take years to experience deficiency-related symptoms, so don’t wait to take care of your B12 levels.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Compounds like EPA and DHA are important for eye, brain, and immune system health. These fatty acids are primarily found in animal products like fish oil or high-fat fish. It is crucial to supplement Omega-3 fatty acids with a plant-based compound like algae oil. This will keep your brain health and eye function healthier over time.
Iron is primarily found in meat, so cutting meat out of your diet can produce an iron deficiency. It is essential to supplement iron if you have low levels because iron is essential for your blood cells. Iron helps carry oxygen throughout your blood and keep your immune system healthy. With that being said, it is best to check your iron levels before supplementing because too much iron can cause health problems.
Vitamin D is a vitamin that most of the population is deficient in. Vegetarians and vegans are more likely to be deficient, as very few foods naturally contain vitamin D in the first place. Sun exposure can produce vitamin D in your body but is often not enough to meet your daily requirements. Vitamin D can improve your immune health, energy levels, and mental clarity.
Enjoy Your Favorite Meatless Snacks
Giving up meat can feel restrictive and challenging, but we encourage you to adjust your mindset. Instead of mulling over all of the foods you can’t eat, try to focus on your favorite meat-free snacks that you can enjoy. There is no need to cut out all of your favorite foods to thrive on a meatless diet.
A lot of popular snack foods are vegetarian by nature. Foods like potato chips, trail mix, guacamole, and even cookies are vegetarian options. It might be easier to ease into this health transition and remove the pressure to eat healthy all of the time. You can enjoy various meatless snacks on a vegetarian diet.
Going Vegetarian Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
With all of these tips and tricks in mind, you can start thriving on your meat-free diet. There are a lot of health benefits to cutting out meat from your diet. Once you get used to checking ingredients and preparing your favorite vegetarian dishes, it will become second nature to avoid meat.
It is important to supplement essential vitamins and minerals that you may be missing on a meatless diet. You should regularly check your blood levels to ensure you are not deficient in anything. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to indulge in meat-free “junk foods” from time to time. This will make your transition a lot easier and less stressful.
As you begin this new year, keep your motivation strong to remain vegetarian. Going vegetarian does not have to be boring and tiresome. Your health will thank you for this decision down the road.