When we follow the path of yoga, it seems inevitable that we will eventually come to the part that involves the food we eat. The practice of Ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence and non-harming, including treating our bodies with kindness, becomes something that we pay more attention to as we question what we put into our bodies.
The importance of proper nourishment is undeniable when we understand how food affects our behavior, our energy levels, our mental state, our physical stature and even our relationship with our environment. Some turn to a plant-based lifestyle because of their connection to animals. Choosing to follow this type of diet can also be a simple choice of wanting to provide your body with healthier options, or wanting to avoid hormones and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Whatever your reason may be for wanting to include more plant-based meals in your diet, there are likely some questions you may have. Although there are some who have become vegan cold-turkey (pun intended) in an effort to make it a smoother transition, I would advise anyone intrigued by this lifestyle to take it one step at a time.
Purchase Some Good Cookbooks
Do some research and take the time to find some good plant-based recipes. The key is being prepared. I have always had one or two vegetarian meals a week that I already knew my whole family enjoyed. Knowing this helped make it easier to incorporate more of them into my weekly meal plan. Have fun looking online and visit vegan or vegetarian forums where people share their advice and experience. You can also have fun at your local bookstore and select a cookbook that speaks to you.
Switch Some of Your Favorite Ingredients
Adding new items into your pantry to help make the transition to a plant-based diet easier may seem challenging at first as there are a lot of ingredients that may appear very foreign to you; and similarly, you may be unsure of how to use them. This is why having recipes picked out ahead of time is helpful, as well as taking the time to research what you need to expect.
Words like quinoa, nutritional yeast, sprouted wheat, almond meal, hemp hearts and the like, may seem intimidating; but you don’t have to rush out and buy everything all at once. Start with similar recipes that call for a few different items. If you have always liked eating healthy salads, then purchasing some hemp hearts, which are essentially shelled hemp seeds, is a great way to add some protein when sprinkled on your favorite salad. Take some time and walk through your wellness aisle in your grocery store and ask questions if you are unsure.
Tips and Reminders
During this transitional time, you may find that it is not a small change and that it will take a physical and emotional toll on your body. Our bodies go through detox when we eliminate foods like meat and dairy and this can lead to a variety of symptoms that include fatigue, headaches, skin changes, and mood swings. Don’t worry, this shall pass and is your body’s way of letting go of the toxins found in the animal-based foods you are used to consuming daily.
If you are worried about how letting go of meat and dairy will affect your body, ease into it. If you normally eat five to seven meat-filled meals a week, cut back one or two each week. Also, if you regularly have milk in your cereal each morning, in your yogurt, and in your hot beverages, start eliminating the amount of dairy you consume. Make the switch to oatmeal with almond milk, or toast without butter, but keep the dairy in your coffee for a little bit longer.
We develop emotional attachments to the food that we eat, and holding onto the memory we associate with a meal is very common. Remind yourself that you are not losing the memory or the people you associate with the meal, just the meat or dairy that comes with it. This is difficult, so allow yourself time to grieve.
Have faith and don’t give up if you have only been on this diet change for a week or two. Persistence is key and even though you may be feeling signs of detox, such as fatigue and headaches, your body is not yet ready to process the good changes that will come after only one week. If you want to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet then you will need to stick with it and stay strong.