Lesson 3: 6 Mistakes to Avoid on a Vegan Diet
When you transition to a vegan diet, there are lots of things to get excited about. You are doing the planet and the animals a massive favour and it can be hugely beneficial to you as well – as long as you do it properly. It can be easy to make errors, so in order to help you along your journey, we will have a look at six of the most common mistakes below.
1. Thinking vegan is automatically healthy
A common mistake people make when they transition to a vegan diet is thinking that everything is automatically healthier. Although there is a vast array of healthy foods to choose from, don’t be tricked by thinking that everything labelled ‘vegan’ is good for you.
Some of the products out there are heavily processed (think meat or cheese replacements and sweet treats). It’s fine if you want to eat these every once in a while and they can help you transition if you miss meat and cheese, but they shouldn’t become a cornerstone of your diet. Processed foods often contain added sodium, sugar, fats and preservatives and although they may taste great, it is best to eat them in moderation.
A rule of thumb is that the less processed, the more whole foods you eat, the better it is for you, as they will be a lot more nutrient and vitamin dense.
2. Sticking to the same portion sizes
You may have noticed, if you switched to a plant-based diet, that you get hungry quicker or don’t feel as full after a meal. This might be because you are not eating enough calories.
Meat and cheese are a lot more calorie-heavy than vegetables, so you can easily have an extra serving of the latter! It is completely normal to have larger portion sizes in order to feel full. Don’t just leave foods like meat out of your meals without replacing them, but make sure to swap them for something nutritious (a bean or lentil burger, for instance). Another good way of feeling satisfied after a meal is to include fibrous foods, as they take longer to digest.
3. Rotating the same meals every week
If you’re not used to cooking vegan meals, you may stick to the three recipes that you’ve mastered. However daunting it may seem to switch things up, it’s important to stay creative and try new things. Eating the same meals over and over, on whichever diet you’re on, isn’t going to give your body the wide variety of nutrients that it needs to function properly.
Fortunately, there are tonnes and tonnes of plant-based recipes out there. You can get some great vegan cookbooks (such as Bosh! or Deliciously Ella: The Plant-Based Cookbook) to help you along the way and of course, our platform is another cracking tool to browse for some exciting new meals, with plenty of step-by-step recipes that are easy to follow.
4. It’s everything or nothing!
Don’t feel like you’ve got to go cold turkey right from the off. Just because you’ve told your family or friends that you’re switching to a plant-based diet, doesn’t mean you have to go all-in straight away in order to prove yourself.
It’s about finding what works best for you. It can be a little scary to give everything up at once, so go easy on yourself and take things step by step. You could start with your breakfast, or cutting animal foods on certain days and build it up from there. It’s entirely up to you.
5. Underestimating the importance of B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for multiple reasons. It helps the body maintain proper brain function, healthy nerve cells and it is needed to make use of protein. It assists in the production of both DNA and RNA and it is essential for energy as it helps the blood carry oxygen.
Approximately 39% of all people are B12 deficient, no matter what diet they’re on, so it is important to make sure we get enough of this nutrient. You can either eat a good amount of fortified foods (such as cereal, milk and yeast flakes) 2 to 3 times daily or take a supplement to meet the average adult’s RDI of 2.4 µg/day.
6. Not planning ahead
It is helpful to plan your meals in advance, especially when you first start off on a plant-based diet. Adopting a new diet can take some time to get used to, so it’s good to get into a habit of knowing what you need and keeping your kitchen stocked with some essentials like nuts, seeds and whole grains.
It is much better to cook your meals from scratch, with fresh ingredients, than relying on a takeaway or ready meal (which oftentimes won’t have the same nutritional value). You could also try cooking larger batches and freezing some portions, which will come in handy on those nights you lack time or inspiration.
Still unsure where to get all your nutrients from? Try sticking a vegan wall chart to your kitchen wall, which serves as a good reminder to know which foods to get your vitamins and minerals from!