Adam Stansbury, AKA The Plant Powered PT, shares his tips for how to go vegan anytime!
- Find a strong WHY
If you’re going to make a big life-changing decision that will be tested by society’s norms, your pre-existing habits, and other people with opposing views, then you need to have a strong WHY. For me there was no stronger reason than wanting to live a life that reduces suffering and trauma, it trumps all arguments, but you must find one that works for you.
- Take it slowly
Any nutritional habits we wish to change in our lives, should be changed slowly over time. Our bodies need time to adapt to new sources of nutrients, and our minds need time to reprogram our long-held habits and belief systems. Changing things overnight works for some but in my experience as a nutrition coach most people fall off the wagon and return to their previous state, as with most diets. We don’t want this to be a “diet” change, it goes much deeper than that, so take it slowly eat, learn and repeat.
January and Veganuary though is the perfect time to submerse yourself in the vegan movement and to make the change, ensuring you have all the support you need over the month, which will make this change a sustainable one.
- Make progress not perfection
It’s better to do a little than nothing at all. The temptation to be a perfect vegan overnight is strong but I’ll let you into a secret…vegans aren’t perfect, we mess things up, we say silly things and we all die eventually, no matter how much kale we eat.
Use that new-found empathy and compassion on yourself, as well as the animals and the environment.
- Connect with others
Whenever you adopt a major change in your perspective of life, it can make you feel alone. Your friends and family may not share your new views on the world and you may feel like you have no one to talk to.
So attending vegan events and seminars will introduce you to a big group of inspiring and compassionate new friends, you won’t feel alone for long and you’ll be inspired to carry on being the change you want to see in the world.
Check out http://www.vevolution.co/ one of the most inspiring vegan events and communities in London.
- Educate yourself
Read, watch and listen to all the inspiring and thought-provoking plant-based advocates you can. There is a lot of information out there, so it’s even more important to take things slowly, so you can read, listen and absorb it all and make up your own mind.
Some of my favourite online resources are:
- Understand macronutrients
Protein, carbohydrates and fats, there you go, those are the macronutrients. But do you know which plant-based foods to find them in?
I made this Venn diagram to show you where to find those protein, fats and carbohydrates. Click on the image for the full sized version.
7. Focus on natural whole foods first
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of vegan junk food now and again. It would be a pretty dismal existence if we didn’t have some comfort foods to keep our taste buds tingling.
But as the vegan movement grows, so does the access to more and more vegan junk food products. Be aware that you can still be vegan but eat a very unhealthy diet of sugary and processed foods, which will not do your health or waistline much good if you consume them every day.
Get yourself a few good vegan cookbooks and learn to make delicious, colourful and nutrient-dense meals. Here’s a couple of my favourites with links to Amazon:
- Know the potential deficiencies
You may be hounded by non-vegans telling you that you’re going to become nutrient deficient, asking how you will survive and where the hell will you get protein from!
Trust me, you don’t need to worry about protein if you eat a nutrient-dense and diverse diet, more on that below.
The most common potential deficiencies are (I say potential because we are all built differently):
- B12 – Can only be found in fortified foods and supplements on a plant-based diet. Fortified yeast flakes will hit the spot for flavour and nutrients.
- DHA (Omega 3) – Algae Oil. The only plant-based source of DHA which the body does not have to convert from ALA to use. ALA can be found in chia, hemp, flax etc.
- D3 – The sun is the best source, of course, but in the winter months you might need to supplement. Make sure you get a vegan D3 supplement, as they are often made from lanolin, found in sheep’s wool.
- Iron – There’s plenty of iron to be found in leafy green vegetables, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal. Help increase its absorption by consuming these foods alongside Vitamin C and avoiding tea and coffee while you eat (they reduce nutrient uptake).
NOTE: A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that it’s really hard to get all the essential vitamins and minerals from food alone. This study analysed 70 athlete’s diets. Every single one was deficient in at least three nutrients.
So, supplementing is just sensible.
- Focus on Nutrient Diversity
“Eat the rainbow” is the best bit of advice when it comes to eating a diverse plant-based diet. All the different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different levels of different nutrients, which means if you eat a diet that is varied in colour, then you will be eating a diet that is varied in nutrients.
10. Focus on nutrient density
It’s very easy to eat a calorie-dense diet that is also lacking in nutrients. Most of the time these are higher fat foods such as nuts, nut butters, oils, and avocados. These are not necessarily bad for you, but they must be eaten in moderation.
Not that I recommend the following but as an example, 500 calories of oil would have a massively different calorie, nutrient and satiety ratio than 500 calories of broccoli, meaning you could eat a crazy amount of broccoli compared to the oil, and it would fill you up with nutrients and fibre, which will keep you full for longer.
- Fill your cupboards
This little tip will make it much easier for you to stay on track and to experiment with lots of different ingredients and flavours, making sure your diet is delicious and nutritious.
Do a weekly or biweekly shop and fill your cupboards, fridge and freezer to the brim with plant-powered foods, then on a daily basis experiment and create. Here’s a shopping list to get you started. Click on the image for the full sized version.
- Experiment with food
Now you’ve got a kitchen and pantry that’s full of food it’s time to experiment. Try to make sure you create meals that are both nutrient dense and diverse. Here’s my 6 step process to creating a fantastic plant-powered meal:
- Don’t eat today what you ate yesterday
- Choose a protein source – beans, legumes, tofu
- Choose a fat source – nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, oils (coconut oil and avocado oil to cook with and extra virgin olive oil, hemp and flax seed oil to add to dishes)
- Choose a carbohydrate source – starchy root vegetables, grains and fruit
- Choose up to four different coloured vegetables – the more colours the better!
- Choose a combination of herbs and spices.
13. Support, educate and encourage others
When something is not mainstream, confusion and fear often surrounds it. The more we share our experiences and educate others about how they can make the change, the more we reduce the limiting factors towards entering this lifestyle. And that’s how it becomes mainstream…
…and then we’ve hit the jackpot!
- Don’t be a pushy shouty vegan
Shouting at people and shoving graphic pictures into their faces and Facebook feeds, doesn’t seem to be very effective, and in fact can turn people away. How do I know? Because I still know many non-vegans who have given me feedback at some point or another on the vegan community from an outside perspective, as to why they won’t go vegan.
Now don’t get me wrong, we need people to do the shouting and the hardcore activism but we need many more people to let their actions and non-judgemental education do the talking.
Trust me, I let a vegan documentary sit in my YouTube watch list for over 18 months because it had been pushed on to me before I was ready to go vegan. It didn’t make me want to watch it; it made me want to rebel.
- Remember where you came from
Not that long ago, I ate steak for breakfast and was a massive pusher of the Paleo diet – animal protein before anything else (oh how I cringe). I couldn’t get enough of it, until it finally made me feel like a prisoner to my eating habits.
So how can I judge other people who are at different points on their journey? Yes it can be frustrating to see people making the same poor choices that inflict trauma and suffering in the world that I also once did. Lead by your actions, educate others and try not to judge but support them with good knowledge and avoid vegan pseudoscience at all costs.
After all, we are all on the same team, right?
- Tell your story and inspire others
Because no one else will, and we all have our own unique journey and perspective that might just resonate with other people. So get on social media, reach out to others, make videos, write blogs and inspire others to start their journey.
- Be your own kind of activist
One of the questions asked of me in an interview was what activism meant to me.
There’s the obvious hardcore getting-in-your-face kind of activism, that disrupts corporate and governmental organisations. But activism comes in many forms. Mine has taken shape using my years of knowledge and experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach, combining that with my passion for plant-based nutrition, the desire to make a difference in the world and reduce the suffering inflicted on animals.
I coach and educate clients, write blogs, am active on social media, speak at events and educate others on how to transform their body and the planet…what’s your form of activism that is authentic to you?
- Be the change
If we want to change the world, we need to start by doing the work and changing ourselves first. We make at least three food choices per day, that’s over 1,000 food choices per year. That’s a lot of opportunities to make a difference.
Then start looking beyond our individual choices and to the ripple effect they may have influencing friends, then family, then communities, then towns, then countries, then…
- Sign up to Veganuary
Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year. Participation grows every year with people all over the world registering to take part. Why don’t you join them?
- Buy Veganuary’s book, How To Go Vegan
I’ve got a copy and it’s awesome, well written, easy to read and follow.
The guys at Veganuary have been doing this for years, so you can guarantee this book is full of all the best hints and tips, to make your plant-powered journey an effortless and enjoyable one.
PAGE UPDATED MAY 2020