The Pitfalls of Plant-Based Eating: 8 Rookie Errors to Avoid
If you’ve decided to completely eliminate animal products from your diet, congratulations first of all! Going plant-based is a decision you won’t regret - you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t make the switch sooner.
Motivations for going plant-based vary significantly from one person to the next. Some are all about living a cruelty-free lifestyle, while others are more interested in the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
But what’s interesting is how regardless of motivations, the vast majority of newcomers to veganism encounter the same issues along the way. Or more specifically, make the same commonplace rookie errors during that all important initial transition.
A Case of Trial and Error
Make no mistake about it - one of the following is to be interpreted as a scare story. Making major lifestyle changes almost always involves a period of trial and error, as you get used to the whole thing.
In which case, why not learn from the errors of others, and avoid making the same mistakes yourself?
Everyone’s journey to plant-based living is unique, though brings the same overwhelming satisfaction when you finally make it stick. But if you’d like the transition to be as smooth and straightforward as it can possibly be, do your best to avoid these 10 rookie errors along the way:
1. Becoming preachy about your lifestyle choices
One of the genuine joys of going plant-based is being able to dive into healthy and productive debate and discussion. You learn an absolute ton along the way and there is something genuinely satisfying about sharing important information with others.
However, there’s a big difference between discussing your lifestyle choices and becoming downright preachy. Even if you’ve never been prouder of yourself or more satisfied with your eating habits, there’s no excuse for attempting to shame others for theirs.
Try to remember that there’s basically no way you will ever successfully bring most other people round to your way of thinking. Attempting to do so only breeds frustration and confrontation, which are best avoided for obvious reasons.
2. Trying to persuade others to adopt the same eating habits
This ties somewhat in with the above, though is a little closer to home in nature. Even if going plant-based means the absolute world to you, this doesn’t mean you can or should attempt to persuade others in your household to do the same. Just because your spouse has no intention of going vegan with you does not mean that he or she loves or respects you any less.
The simple fact of the matter is that you cannot force someone to go plant-based. Unless they genuinely want to go vegan and have the right motivations for doing so, it just isn’t going to work. Even if they attempt to join you for the ride at first, they’ll quickly fall off the wagon.
Going plant-based is something you do for yourself and to support the wider cause. It is not something you do with the intention of making others see things from your perspective and instinctively follow your example.
3. Shopping for needlessly expensive artisan products
There’s a questionable connotation between plant-based living and spending excessive quantities of cash at the supermarket. If you really wish to do so, you can spend a small fortune on the most overpriced artisan organic vegan products on the face of the earth. Nevertheless, these represent just a fraction of the products available for plant-based living.
Eagerness and enthusiasm often get the better of those who have recently made the switch. You suddenly find yourself surrounded with thousands of seriously tempting vegan products, which despite not appearing on your shopping list find their way into your basket. After which, you’re faced with a pretty painful bill and may even question whether you can afford to eat exclusively plant-based.
The answer is yes, you can - you simply need to shop a little more sensibly and proactively. Vegan staples are comprehensively affordable - seeds, nuts, pasta, pulses and so on are hardly going to break the bank. Moreover, shopping for whatever is in season at the time means never having to spend a great deal at all. By contrast, making things up as you go along is a recipe for needless overspending.
4. Not weaning yourself gradually
There are two reasons why attempting to go ‘cold turkey’ when cutting out animal products isn’t a good idea. First of all, you’re far more likely to make your new lifestyle stick if you take things quite slowly at first. Rather than deciding that it’s plants-only from tomorrow, it’s far better to give yourself a period of time to make the necessary adjustments.
Secondly, you’ll also be looking at the kind of catastrophic waste (and subsequent expense) that’s hard to justify. If your kitchen is currently stocked with a wide range of non-vegan products, the worst thing you can do is throw them all out. This really doesn’t achieve anything positive for anyone or anything - you may as well use them up.
If you’re planning on going plant-based for the rest of your life, what’s the rush? Even if it takes a good few weeks for you to burn through the rest of your non-vegan stash, it’s hardly the end of the world.
5. Believing everything plant-based is good for you
Statistically speaking, vegans and vegetarians are more likely to be thinner and have a lower BMI than their carnivorous counterparts. Likewise, evidence suggests that plant-based lifestyles can reduce the risk of a long list of serious and potentially deadly diseases.
However, this should not be interpreted as a green-light to eat pretty much anything and everything you come across that is plant-based. Just because something is vegan-friendly doesn’t mean it can’t be catastrophically bad for you. A towering pile of chips with a bucket of vegan mayo being a prime example - a potential recipe for seriously poor health.
Never forget that the exclusion of meat and animal products does not necessarily make any specific recipe any healthier. It all depends entirely on the ingredients that go into the item in question, so sensible dietary decisions are still essential.
6. Expecting to feel an immediate healthy glow
This is one of the most common reasons why some of those that attempt to go plant-based subsequently switch back to their prior eating habits. They quickly or gradually eliminate animal products from their diet entirely, eat an exceptionally healthy vegan diet and expect to instantly feel on top of the world. When this doesn’t happen, they assume it’s not actually doing them much good, and fall well and truly off the wagon.
Major transitions like these take the human body quite some time to get used to. In fact, it is not uncommon for newcomers to plant-based living to experience fatigue, weakness and mild to moderate digestive discomfort for a short while at least.
Truth is, it takes a while to truly understand what the vegan ‘glow’ really feels like. It isn’t something that happens overnight, but is nonetheless worth waiting for when it finally kicks in!
7. Being pointlessly critical of meat replacements
Let’s be honest - just because you’ve decided to go vegan doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily developed an immediate and major distaste for meat. Countless vegans and vegetarians are more than happy to admit they miss certain meats and have nothing against the look, feel and flavour of animal products.
If this applies to you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with switching meat for the incredibly realistic faux meats on the market right now.
Some understandably criticise these replicas for supposedly justifying animal exploitation and condoning cruelty. But if it genuinely makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to give up meat entirely, that can only be a good thing.
8. Not rewarding yourself generously enough
Last up, going plant-based should be more of a pleasure than a challenge. If you have the right reasons and motivations for making the switch, you should get nothing but joy out of the whole thing. But this doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the occasional (and generous) reward for doing such a fantastic thing.
It’s entirely up to you how you interpret and administer these rewards, but the sky’s the limit. Gut-busting takeaways, weekends away, nights out at (vegan-friendly) restaurants - whatever it takes to remind you you’re doing good.
Challenges and temptations are inevitable along the way, but it should never feel as if you’re punishing yourself into something you don’t really want to do. If this is the case, it could be time to revisit your reasons for cutting out animal products and make sure you’re motivated enough to make it happen.