What I wish I’d known my first year being plant-based
I’d make the choice to be plant-based again in a single heartbeat. I’ve loved how it’s elevated my spirits, heightened my awareness, and helped my body feel cleansed. I also love how it’s taught me and my family ways to live a more ethical compassionate life – we feel good about the choices we make on a daily basis.
Now that I’m knee-deep in my second year of my plant-based lifestyle if you’re just starting your plant-based journey or you’ve been in it a while and just can’t find your groove, I’ve got some tips for you.
And hey, I’m not a doctor or licensed nutritionist, so please don’t take anything I say and run away with it. My tips here are based on what I’ve learned through daily experience and If they help validate or strengthen your lifestyle, then, awesome!
Minerals. You need em.
I’ve had my blood drawn each year so far, and neither times did my vitamin levels, in general, raise much of a concern – so that’s awesome!! (pat on the back for that) – however, cold and flu season hit this year and I got slammed, for the first time since toting my “haven’t gotten sick since going vegan!” phrase. Yeah, so much for that, when this fall hit!
So I took a good hard look at my lifestyle – I’d gotten way busier, less creative with meals, and had been burning both ends of the day and night, working late and up early with the kids. It was easy to see why I was getting hit with so many viruses!
But still, I tracked my daily meals into Chronometer for a few days to see what my nutritional pallet looked like. Sure enough, since eating a higher volume of warm, cooked foods in the winter, and consuming less fresh foods, my minerals were lower. As well as my Vitamin E. What do these have in common? They help boost your immune system!
I also noticed my hair, skin, and teeth, were slightly less robust than normal. So immediately I upped my calcium, vitamin D, Zinc, and B Complex, (selenium and iodine through foods) both through a low dose supplement and consciously getting back into the habits of purchasing foods with these vitamins and minerals.
A month later now, my body is THRILLED with the difference. I already feel back to normal. Please note: this issue is not isolated to vegans and vegetarians. Not in the least. Omnivores, check your vitamin and mineral levels!
watch the daily values of vitamins and minerals in any supplements you’re taking, including your protein powders! You don’t want to double up on any fat-soluble vitamins, so just be smart, and check the daily values listed on any packaged/health items or supplements you consume.
A simple rule to follow – you don’t need to track any labels on fruits and vegetables. They’re ALWAYS a-okay! 🙂
Yep, I need more protein
In the beginning, I listened to primarily one school of thought in the vegan community – you could go high carb, low fat, you don’t need to track your protein, etc. I was 90% raw for my first three months of being vegan and I felt FANTASTIC!! Can’t wait to do another raw cleanse. But that being said, I decided no to sustain it long term. For my lifestyle, and when I monitor how I feel, I do need to make sure I’m taking in enough protein.
This is very easy though, don’t worry. I now simply make sure I take in a nut, seed, or legume at each meal or a little of each.
Here’s one sample of a typical day in our household:
Breakfast: Steel cut oats with hemp and chia, goji berries or other dried fruit and a flax or coconut milk (this breakfast is high in protein, iron, selenium, calcium, Omega 3s, and many other things we need!)
Lunch: Sprouted bread sandwich with black bean mash filling, fresh tomato, lettuce, maybe some sprouts, with fresh fruit (high in protein, sustains my hunger, vitamin C in the fresh veggies… )
Snack: Fresh Smoothie with berries, spinach or romaine, and a protein and greens powder, or a cold-pressed green juice with raw veggies and hummus (the greens during this mid-afternoon snack keep me from crashing on the couch for a nap! Although sometimes that’s what we really need, am I right!?)
Dinner: A warm legume soup of some kind, or roasted veggies and a salad with beans and a tahini dressing
On a day like this, I’ve probably consumed about 60-70 grams of protein, as well as a decent amount of my vitamin and mineral intake. I feel great! Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for anything. 😉
This is a tough one to talk about, guys, but if any other plant-based newbies out there struggle with this, I hope we can help each other out.
Right away on a plant-based vegan diet, I dropped all my unwanted weight, easily and relatively quickly. It was great. I felt absolutely awesome! I was also vigilantly eating a higher volume of raw fruits and veggies – something I’ve gotten away slightly from during the cold months.
I don’t encourage calorie counting. I’ve struggled with severe calorie restriction growing up and I’ve had years of paying for the residual effects of that! However, recently when I tracked for minerals, I also tracked calories, because I’ve been slowly gaining back one pound at a time.
Sure enough, I believe I am eating more calories than I need to. Here’s the strange thing – these calories are ALL from very healthy, whole food sources!! No joke! I’m not just flattering myself. It’s just that often I’d feel hungry, go in for another bowl of soup, or simply have too many servings of nuts /nut butter/seed butters for the day – it happens, folks! Plant-based food is YUMMY, and also sometimes very calorie dense.
I always want to make sure I’m getting all my nutrients – but I’m finding I don’t need to pack it in quite so much if you know what I mean. Just enough! The real key here is fill up on all the vegetables first – and have your smaller portions be your protein heavy hitters, for example, such as your servings of legume, nuts, or seeds.
So simply being aware of this, and hearing from just one or two other vegans that they’ve experienced the exact same issue, I think it’s safe to say I’ll be tracking my calories every once in a while again, just to make sure I’m on track (as always, factor in your activity level, too!) For your reference, I was consuming over 2000 calories a day of very healthy, clean, whole food choices, but I didn’t need that many calories for my current activity level. Next month when I start training again, though, I probably will!
I’m interested to hear from other plant-based families out there what have been your first struggles, your wins, your favorites?
Leave a comment, I’d love to connect!