The first thing I want to say is... labels are not for me. I don't consider or call myself a vegan because I feel as though that label goes far beyond just what you put in or on your body and represents an entire lifestyle choice. While I have converted my diet to predominantly plant-based, I slip up, I still cook meat for my family, I still use products that while they may be cruelty free, aren't completely vegan (some of my favourite products contain Royal Jelly which is derived from bee.... ahh poop - yup, that's a story for another day - but it's amazing). I have never been an all or nothing kind of girl, and this is no different.
What I do know is, the more plants I eat, the better I feel. Why am I discussing this here? My skin as been brighter and clearer than ever since converting to a plant-based diet. I get asked a lot about my skin and a lot in recent months about my transition to a plant based diet, tips I have, recipes I recommend etc.
So I thought, why not share it right here with you?
So I am going to give you all of the tips I wish I had when I was getting started on my plant-based journey.
Moving from one diet to another is never an easy thing; whether you’re doing it for health reasons, or taking it up as a lifestyle change. It’s even more challenging when you have little or an overwhelming amount of advice to ride on and are basically bootstrapping the whole process while picking up tips on the fly. You could run into challenges such as sourcing some of the ingredients (this was my biggest challenge when I've dabbled in the past) you might need for a certain plant-based recipe, or letting go of cravings for foods that are not of plant origin.
Can you relate?
I know most of you can - if you've attempted a plant based diet before.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that vegetarian life can be tough. I still have my weaknesses when it comes to maintaining a plant-based diet. Prior to starting my plant-based journey, I had been vegetarian for about 6 years prior to that. So eliminating meat wasn't something new to me, but I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to live without cheese.
Initially I wasn't looking to transition to a plant-based diet at all, I was really just looking for more vegetarian recipes that would help me maintain a more balanced diet (it's easy for this not to be the case when avoiding a major food group) without the backlash from my kids. I decided to go old-school and get a couple of cookbooks - the interesting thing was, that there are a lot more vegan cookbook options out there than there are just vegetarian. At least that caught my eye.
The first book I got (and honestly my initial inspiration for trying out a plant-based diet) was The Fuss Free Vegan by Sam Turnbull (PS this is not sponsored). Instead of just picking a recipe and just going for it, I decided to do something I had never done before - actually read the cookbook. You know all the stuff in the beginning that you typically skip right over. As it turns out, there was some pretty game-changing information there that helped set me on the right track. More on this later...
After the initial inspiration... these are the 3 main reasons why I decided to convert to a plant-based diet:
- I have struggled with IBS for years and eliminating dairy is one avenue I had never tried before - I was willing to try anything.
- I was up for a new challenge. I wanted to see if I could overcome a belief that I had that I could never live without cheese. Spoiler Alert: I can and it's easier than I expected.
- I don't hate that I am contributing less to an industry that has increasingly prevalent downsides when it comes our climate, our health and of course the well-being of animals.
Before I get into the best tips that I wish I had when I started, please note... I am not a dietician, nutritionist or medical professional and as always, I suggest when it comes to your health, seeking the help of professionals is always encouraged.
So let's get into it, shall we?
1. Get Yourself a Vegan Cookbook
Why would I recommend actual cookbooks when there are hundred's, even thousands of vegan recipes online that you can get for free?
The main reason is that typically in a cookbook there is a common set of ingredients that show up in multiple recipes, and it will typically outline in the beginning everything that you need so you can prepare yourself in advance and not buy way more than you will actually need.
The other reason, is that when cookbooks are created so much time has been put into each recipe following by so much testing and tweaking, it's a pretty sure bet that it's going to be good - that's just my opinion.
I highly, highly recommend the Fuss-Free Vegan: 101 Everyday Comfort Food Favorites, Veganized by Sam Turnbull. She’s the best.
If you thought being vegan is all about a quinoa overload and protein bowls galore you’re wrong. There’s everything from vegan pizza, burrito's, Pho soup, pasta's, waffles, pancakes and even chocolate cake that taste amazing. I Know. It’s okay. You can now pick up your jaw from the floor and keep reading.
Sam’s collection of recipes is the ultimate guide for vegan cooking. I’ve done about 60% and counting of her recipes and I love. So much so that I even took it on vacation with me. You could be a longtime vegan or just getting into a plant-based diet but the Fuss-Free Vegan won't disappoint. It’s proof enough that being vegan doesn’t entail a complicated diet that requires out-of-this-world ingredients or complicated steps to prepare and cook your meals and you certainly don't have to compromise on flavour - this was the biggest aha for me (thanks Sam).
If you are considering a plant-based diet, this book is a game-changer. Yes, Sam has a blog too but I would start with this!
2. Order Your Ingredients Well in Advance
One of the things that has turned me off of trying a plant-based diet in the past is that I would go online, grab a recipe only to realize that I didn't have half of what I needed and even if I went out to the grocery store... I couldn't find them if my life depended on it!
I know I said that you don’t need extraordinary ingredients and foods to prepare your vegan dishes. But there are a few uncommon staples you need which isn't a problem when you take the time to get them in advance so they are just in your fridge or pantry as you need them. You may have never heard of liquid smoke or think to use miso paste, nutritional yeast or raw cashews when making a meal but they are so common in vegan and plant-based cooking.
And yeah, liquid smoke is a thing.
Where vegan cooking may lack animal proteins like meat and cheese, the right recipes more than make up for it in flavour when creatively using ingredients that may seem unconventional at first. The following ingredients that I recommend you stock up on.
- Nutritional Yeast
- Soy Sauce
- Liquid Smoke
- Miso Paste
- Natural Peanut Butter
- Tapioca Starch
- Maple Syrup or Agave
- Vegan Butter
- Plant-based Milk
- Vegetable Stalk
- A variety of other condiments like mustards, ketchup, BBQ sauce etc.
- Lot's of fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs, my favourites are cilantro and basil.
In The Fuss Free Vegan, Sam gives a thorough breakdown of the basic ingredients that should be in your pantry - which was so helpful as I began cooking my way through her book.
Quick Tip: Many of the dry ingredients are available on Amazon if you can't find them in your local grocery store... but we always suggest shopping small first but sometimes convenience wins!
2. Have an Open Mind - Plant-based Foods Don’t Have to Taste “Healthy" aka bad.
Do you ever see a vegan option on the menu and quickly make the assumption that that it's another quinoa-packed salad with no flavour? I did too, and in our defense there are a lot of restaurants that are still lacking in the vegan department - and it baffles me as to why... there are so many foods that can be veganized by swapping out just a few ingredients, without sacrificing taste at all - but please keep the protein bowls coming as our only option when eating out - sigh - ok I digress.
People choose plant-based diets for all kinds of reasons. Whether for health reasons, personal values or even the endorsement of plant-based foods by a celebrity, you name it - I've heard it all. Whether you are going all-in on a plant-based diet or just trying to eat more plants (I don't think anyone can dispute that eating more plants is a bad thing) you do not have to sacrifice on flavour at all.
I find that when I am cooking vegan or plant-based meals I can make them just as good if not better that the real thing... and this is said by the meat-eaters I've fed it to. This is because you have to use sometimes unexpected ingredient combinations with the intention of replicating a flavour but often-times, making it taste even better. I secretly like the challenge of making certain dishes plant-based at a gathering and not telling anyone, but seeing it swiftly get demolished by all of the meat eaters... it's very satisfying indeed!
Having an open mind and a willingness to try new recipes will help open you up to a whole new world of unexpectedly delicious dishes that will make eating plant-based a breeze.
3. Don't rely on Meat and Cheese Replacements
We’re living in an age where you can buy so many different plant-based "meats" and cheeses". Now, don't get me wrong, I am grateful for this because there are options even when you are in a pinch. But I find that these replacements don’t always taste that great (some are better than others). Plus, they are generally more processed with extra additives and preservatives in them - that aren't necessarily a good thing to have all the time. They’re not entirely bad, but I don’t rely on them. The plant-based alternatives I recreate at home are so much better and often a whole lot cheaper.
4. A Plant-Based Milk for Different Purposes
Each plant-based milk has different qualities, and I doubt that you’ll settle for only one type. I use different milks for different things, although my favourite by far is oat milk.
I love to have my coffee with oat milk. In my view, it’s the closest thing to coffee creamer. I don’t fancy almond and soy milk in coffee. When it comes to cooking, I prefer soy milk due to its neutral taste.
Almond milk works best with shakes since it's low-calorie, and the flavour jives well with my chocolate Shakeology. Almond milk also has no cholesterol, saturated fats, or lactose.
I don’t know about you, but I pretty much have all three at all times. Maybe you’ll find your sweet spot in rice milk or coconut milk. Go figure.
The point here is, just because you don't like one... doesn't mean that you won't find another that you'll love. You have to try them all to really find out what works for you. It's also worth mentioning that there is even some variation of flavour from brand-to-brand.
5. Give Tofu a Fighting Chance...
I am not the biggest tofu fan in the world. I used to seriously dislike tofu, then I realized its taste depends on the method used to prepare it.
Some call it bean curd. You make it by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into blocks of varying softness. So tofu can be firm, soft, or silken, making it have different variations.
Now I know that there are several options for cooking tofu. The Sweet Chili Tofu recipe from the Fraiche Food Full Hearts by Tori Wesszer and Jillian Harris is amazing. I highly recommend it. I used it to prepare some tofu for my kids and they instantly fell in love with the meal. They actually thought it was chicken.
The cookbook Bad Manners - Eat Like You Give a F*ck also has some amazing techniques to taking the ***yuck*** out of the tofu!
6. Be prepared
The easiest way to get off track when it comes to converting to a plant-based diet is not being prepared.
For me personally, it's when I am hungry or HANGRY that I am more likely to reach for the things I used to crave or don't really want to be eating. Or, when I arrive at a restaurant with little to no vegan options. So as best you can, prepare your meals a week in advance.
Make sure you are stocked up on the healthy things you enjoy eating... so you don't dive into a bag a chips just to satisfy your hunger. Make dressings in advance so it's easy to whip a salad together. Cook extra so that you can freeze or have leftovers. Bring snacks with you when you go out. Trust me there aren't a lot of healthy plant-based snack options out there so carry some some nuts or veggies with you.
Scope out restaurants that have plant-based options. As I said before, sometimes this is the hardest thing and my guess is you will at a certain point prefer to just cook it yourself (unless you have access to some amazing vegan restaurants). It just helps to know your options in advance and re-direct if necessary so you don't feel like you are the annoying one at the table sitting like a deer in headlights when you realize there's nothing for you to eat (I say it because I've been there)!
I based my plant-based journey upon having a healthier lifestyle and it worked. I am feeling better, my skin has experienced a lot less breakouts and I no longer have cravings for stuff that’s not good for me - most of the time (I am human). I am also having fun in the process. I've been pushed out of my comfort zone which ultimately revived my love for cooking in the process. I am really happy that I made the decision. Tip: Avoid perfectionism in your plant-based journey. You're not going to get it all right, but if you do nothing else but eat more plants than you did before... you are headed in the right direction.
I will be sharing a list of recipes that I suggest you try out first from the cookbooks that I am currently using. Again, there’s no sponsored content here.
Here are the top books I recommend and am continually cooking from:
- Fuss-Free Vegan: 101 Everyday Comfort Food Favorites, Veganized
- Plant Over Processed: 75 Simple & Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for Nourishing Your Body and Eating From the Earth
- Fraiche Food Full Hearts: A Collection of Recipes for Every Day and Casual Celebrations
- Bad Manners: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
There are so many more influencers out there to follow. My recommendation is to find a handful that you resonate with - and dive into their resources to help lead you along the way. I will add more to the list as I discover those who I personally love and follow!
One last thing:
I used to always break-out around my chin area and It's almost completely a non-issue now. I attribute my clearer skin to my dairy-free diet in particular but also to what I put on my skin. Once I got really consistent with my skincare routine and had a much cleaner diet, my skin is better than it's ever been before. To make this something that is super easy for you too, we have created The Ageless Skin Monthly Facial Membership that brings you everything you need to reset your skin using the same products we used on our treatment table. You get professional results right in the comfort of your own home!
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Did I answer all of your questions? Is there anything else you would like to you?
Let me know in the comments below!