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Friday, October 22, 2021

Myth-busting the plant-based diet for beginners

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How can we take all the guesswork out of a plant-based diet for beginners? By dispelling all the clichés and misinformation that make it seem harder to start than it actually is.

Eating a plant-based diet is good for you, great for the environment and offers a wealth of benefits, but getting past the awkward “newbie” (does anybody else hate that term?) stage can seem like an uphill struggle. It’s not helped by all the myths and clichés that surround veganism either, so let’s take the power away from a few of them, right now.

Here are some myths debunked about plant-based diets for beginners.

You have to be a good cook

Here’s a hot take: you can be an average kitchen-fancier and still enjoy a fantastic vegan diet. We know that Instagram is awash with incredible home chefs whipping up black bean brownies that taste like the finest chocolate ganache, but you know what else tastes good? Potato waffles, straight out of the toaster, sprinkled with a little balsamic and some sea salt. Is it gourmet? Hardly. Does it still satisfy? Absolutely.

Meals on a plant-based diet, just like any other recipes for beginners, can be as complicated or as simple as you like.

It’s all lentils and tofu

vegan mythsFor some of us, sure. A nice bowl of dal and some tofu chunks sounds great right about now, but it’s not everybody’s dream meal, and that’s okay. If tofu is an unknown ingredient or you’ve tried it before and it’s not for you, you won’t be kicked out of the plant-based club. The same goes for lentils too. After all, they might both be good sources of plant protein, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with them long-term.

Don’t like tofu? Try seitan. Loathe lentils? How about chickpeas instead? If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the suggestions, so don’t give up on finding your perfect ingredients.

A plant-based diet for beginners should include lots of supplements

This is a strange one. On the one hand, a high-quality vegan supplement won’t do you any harm at all and could be a good way to ensure you aren’t missing out on anything while you transition. On the other, should you really need a supplement? No.

A balanced diet, whether omni- or plant-based should give you everything you need, though there is one notable exception for us animal-free types and that’s vitamin B12. This you absolutely will need to add, but you can do so with nutritional yeast, rather than tablets.

We like to think of supplements as an easy backup or a mental safety net. Sometimes, just taking a multivitamin is enough to make you feel better, and if it tops you up, why not? Just remember that they aren’t essential and the majority of supplements available have been created with omnivores in mind. That could tell us something.

Find out all you need to know about vitamin B12 as a vegan.

Weight loss will hit, fast

vegan myths debunkedWhenever a conversation starts up about vegan and vegetarian diets, weight loss is included. We know why, of course, because the myth is that when you’re switching to a plant-based diet, the lack of meat and dairy will instantly result in a lower calorie intake. Less fat, and boom! Guaranteed weight loss. In reality, this is not the case.

Yes, you will be cutting bad cholesterol from your diet completely but there are plenty of delicious goodies that will keep your jeans fitting exactly as they do now. Sweet potatoes are a delicious and carb-heavy treat that with a tahini dressing taste incredible and won’t shift the pounds.

Likewise, the increase in processed vegan options means that cutting meat, eggs and dairy doesn’t have to mean a reduction in calories. The real secret here is that this is absolutely nothing to be disappointed about. Love yourself, treat your body well and don’t focus on the scales. Health isn’t a number.

You have to love vegetables

It helps, but it’s not critical. Junk food veganism is absolutely a thing, and honestly? It still means you’re contributing to a demand for more animal-free options, so you’re still making a positive contribution.

If you don’t live for spinach smoothies, who cares? If the thought of courgette bread makes you heave, you’re not alone. And though some might say that sprouts are for every meal, not just Christmas, that’s not an opinion everyone shares.

Don’t punish yourself by trying to eat what you think a plant-based diet looks like. Make it your own and enjoy the process of coming up with tasty meal plans.

Protein shakes are unavoidable

vegan myths debunkedNo, no and no again. Some of us shudder at the thought of clumpy, powdery shakes with a weird synthetic sweetener aftertaste, which is why we don’t use them at all. Plant-based proteins are not only easy to come by, they are varied too.

If you do like vegetables, focus your attention on the green and leafy varieties for the biggest protein hit. Pulses are all amazing for energy, as are nuts and then there are the meat substitutes. Tofu, seitan and tempeh are all powerhouses of animal-free protein, and if you serve them with a side of brown rice, you can up your intake even more.

Say no to bad protein shakes, people!

Check out our showdown of the UK’s best vegan protein powders.

It costs a lot to care

We saved the biggest myth for last. There is a school of thought that eating plant-based foods costs more than an omnivore diet and yes, if you want it to, it can. If you buy all the big brand items, go through 15 cartons of oat milk a week and refuse to live without artisan vegan cheese shipped directly from a small indie business 300 miles away, you should expect to see your outgoings increase.

If, however, you shop with a budget in mind, find the products you enjoy the most and stock up when they are on offer, you’ll more than likely discover that your money goes just as far as it always has. If you stray into the whole foods plant-based diet arena, it might even go a little further, because traditionally, it’s all those pre-prepared and processed treats that cost the most.

Forget what you’ve heard and enjoy making your own progress with a plant-based diet. You’re only a beginner when you first start and before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned expert.

Read our look into why people think veganism is expensive.

Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and their beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor, before moving into her external content director role. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.