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How to change your diet to be vegan. Plant-based diet 101

Going plant-based diet has becoming increasing popular in recent years. In my practice, I see some clients ditch animal products overnight, and some gradually transiting. People change their eating habit for many reasons, some for animal rights, some for the environment and some for health. Indeed, evidence suggests that a plant-based diet reduce the risk of diabetes (1) and some forms of cancer (2).

If you are thinking about going vegan, one way is to break up the transition step wise so make it an easier transition.

Step 1: Start learning about plant-based protein food sources. Try them in different recipes.

Plant-based protein foods are different types of lentils, legumes such as red kidney beans, chick peas, tofu, tempeh, seitan (gluten), seeds and nuts.

Step 2: Explore different spices and herbs.

To make step 1 a long term option, start learning spices combinations.

Step 3: Find alternatives to your usual dairy favourites.

Dairy alternatives are easy to find these days. Supermarkets now stock a good variety of plant-based milk drinks, coconut based or soy based yoghurt and ice cream, and some even stock vegan cheeses. Your local vegan shop or health food store may have more variety.

Step 4: Get new appliances if you cook often.

Pressure cooker and slow cooker is going to be your new friends as the cooking time for some lentils can be quite long if you opt to prepare them from scratch. Whipping up a black bean pasta sauce will take no time (alright around 20 minutes) if you have a pressure cooker.

Step 5: Learn label reading the the E-numbers

Some ingredients such as gelatine is derived from animal bones so it is not vegan. Some number such as the natural red colour E120 is derived from an insect so it is not vegan. The alternative of course is beetroot red.

Step 6: Vegan eating out

Now this is where it gets interesting. Some restaurants and cafes now have vegan options which is wonderful. Ask for suggestions and make enquiries so you are prepared.

Finally, ensure your diet is adequate and the nutrient most at risk is Vitamin B12. Supplementation may be required depending on your eating habit. Seek advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian with interest in plant-based diet for personalised advice.

Referces:

(1) Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. Satija A, Bhupathiraju S , Rimm E et al. PLOS Medicine. 2016

Obtained from: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002039

(2) Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Yessenia Tantamango-Bartley, Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, Jing Fan and Gary Fraser. 2013.

Obtained from http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/22/2/286.long


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Shirley Chan

Consultant Dietitian 

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Shirley Chan Consultant Dietitian ABN 41 009 192 602