Let us face the facts - changing your diet can be tough. Just like moving across country to a new, foreign city, can cause some anxiety and pose challenges - both expected and unexpected - changing to a plant-based diet can be as equally frustrating.
Fortunately, much like the analogy of someone moving across country, we have to keep in mind all of the positives that come from such a move - expanded horizons, potential for better jobs, ability to experience new things, and the ability to feel like you are making the best out of your life (just to name a few). Adopting a plant-based diet provides similar results - you can experiment with new foods, expand your taste pallet, and reap positive nutritional benefits that impact your body and mind for years to come.
Sometimes in all of the excitement to share what the plant-based diet is all about with others, we can forget how difficult it can be at times to make this change. Much of this is personal as I only recently (in the past few years) have been adhering to a plant-based diet - for the majority of my life, the "Standard American Diet" was par for the course.
Let's discuss 10 challenges you may face when transitioning to a plant-based diet:
- The food can seem boring. At first glance, a plant-based diet can seem a little bland. There are only so many variations of fruits and veggies that you can eat, right? To the uninitiated who just decided to make a change to this diet, your first meals will likely be pretty boring - but even vegans can't just eat salads every single day. The first step for resolving this is investing in some good plant-based recipe guides - there are many available for purchase. This is where I started out, in addition to some freely available recipes online, too. Soon, you will see how it is easy to change your diet from boring to very interesting and rewarding.
Check out The Plant-Smart Living Recipe Guide, too!
- You don't really like fruits and vegetables. This is going to be a tougher challenge - and I don't think I have the best answer in mind if you do not like eating any fruits or vegetables. Fortunately, most people will eat least eat a couple of them, and that may be sufficient. In addition, there are other dietary staples that may be more suitable for you such as a variety of grains and pastas like whole wheat spaghetti and quinoa.
- You have a lack of desire for food. Plant Pure Nation put together a little piece that opened my eyes to how it can be difficult to feel that desire or craving for food we once had. It can be difficult to overcome the desire for a steak or eating straight out of a carton of icecream, in part because you may not have a new, healthier food to replace these desires with.
- Trouble socializing with friends, family, and peers if it involves food. This one is a legitimate problem for many people. The social aspect of our diet can be frustrating - even more so when our friends and families do not understand our decisions, and even mock us for becoming vegetarian or vegan. It is one thing to not understand and ask questions about the lifestyle, and another thing entirely to poke fun and put down people who are trying to make their lives better.
- Trouble finding compliant foods at restaurants. Another tough area for a plant-based diet is finding foods easily without causing a big scene at restaurants. Fortunately, vegetarian and vegan options are becoming more readily available and easy to identify, but still it can be a struggle for some - especially when you do not have control over the restaurant you are going to. I put together a list of 10 Ways to Follow Your Vegan Diet at a Restaurant that should help you to get this one under control.
- Doing the plant-based diet "wrong." Unlike what you may have thought, it is possible to have an unhealthy plant-based diet. For example, you could go the route of having a lot of high fat foods making up a bulk of your diet - which comes with it's own set of consequences not unlike eating the Standard American Diet. The good news is: this is more difficult to do than eating an unrestrained diet as so many Americans do.
- Early transition pains and woes. At the start of my transition, there are some side effects that can take some time to get over. Generally, these are simple and can be attributed to the nutritional changes. For example, a plant heavy diet is overwhelmingly going to provide more fiber content than a diet you are probably used to. As a direct result, more gas and restroom visits will be inevitable. In time, these become regular and less frequent as your body adapts, but the early moments of the diet can be tough in this area.
- The apparent need to spend more time in the kitchen. One of the struggle I can really understand is how a plant-based diet seems to rely heavily on the kitchen - and more importantly - enjoying acting like a chef. As one can imagine, we are not all professional chefs, and some of us don't even really like being in the kitchen for long periods of time. As you get more invested in the plant-based diet, you will find easy workarounds and ways to decrease the amount of time and energy required to prepare good tasting and satisfying meals.
I should add, having the right kitchen tools can go a long way to making this possible!
- Uncertainty of what the future holds for your health. Any time we make significant changes to our lifestyles, we come to it with some hesitancy. We ask ourselves things like, "What if this doesn't really work out for me?" or "What if I don't get the benefits I am expecting? These are legitimate questions to be asking of any diet - especially in our modern world where so many bad diets are sold to people. While it's not the end all be all, I would like to encourage you to see how a plant-based diet has impacted my life over the course of 3+ years. I went from feeling like I was dying and unhealthy, to reinvigorated and healthier than ever.
- The potentially higher cost. Many people stay away from "healthy foods" because of the price tag - or what they perceive as higher price tags. I can admit, it can be discouraging walking through the organic section of the produce department and seeing some sky high prices. A few factors play into your budget, though, including quantity of food needed (you will often not need to buy as much compared to the SAD) and quality of food (whole foods are going to make you feel full quicker, meaning you don't need to load up on unneeded processed foods). There are a lot of long-term savings too, such as health care costs which reduce by virtue of you becoming healthier. Additional savings can also be had if you learn how to become self-sustaining by growing your own food.
Related: 11 Plant-Smart Ways You Can Save for Your Retirement!
A whole food, plant-based diet can be a challenge - but virtually any significant life change will come with it's set of hurdles. In this case, the benefits significantly outweigh the costs - so much so that you can turn your life around and reclaim your health.
Have you tried a plant-based diet? What were some challenges you faced in the process?