Whether you are a vegan for ethical reasons or for health benefits, it is not uncommon to find yourself confused when embarking on a vegan journey. Here are five common mistakes new vegans make and tips to avoid them:
#1 If it is vegan it is healthy: This is not always true. Most processed foods are 100% vegan, but are loaded with chemicals, calories, and are low in nutrients. Examples include potato chips, veggie burgers, and veggie hot dogs. Although these foods are sourced from plants, they are certainly altered from their natural state. These foods have been stripped of their natural nutrients and are presented in a form that is mostly devoid of antioxidants, dietary fiber and other beneficial compounds. All you are consuming are foods that will pack on the pounds with little nutritional value.
Tip: Consume whole, real, fresh and unprocessed foods.
#2 Not consuming enough water: If you switched from a predominantly meat-based diet to a vegan diet, your body will get adequate fiber from the variety of vegetables, fruits and legumes consumed. Drinking water helps the body to efficiently handle the dietary fiber, promoting regular bowel movements. When water intake is poor, it may result in discomfort while on a fiber-rich diet. The general recommendation is to consume at least 8 cups of water per day, but it is not necessary to adhere strictly to this recommendation. Consuming water-laden foods like watermelon, cucumber and so on can automatically take care of a healthy water intake.
Tip: The key here is to stay well hydrated without overdoing it.
#3 Not consuming enough food: Plant-based foods are not high in calories and are easier to digest. These are the two factors that distinguishes it from non-vegetarian food groups. Most often new vegans make the mistake of consuming the same quantities of food as they did during their pre-vegan diet. Plant-based experts recommend consuming whole and natural foods whenever hunger strikes, however it is important to note that the food should be wholesome and unprocessed, or less processed.
Tip: Reach for healthy, 100% unprocessed foods like raw fruits and vegetables for snacks to fill up in-between meal times.
#4 Giving-up prematurely: While on a new diet our bodies require a minimum of 3–4 weeks to adapt to the new style of eating. Most often people get discouraged while their body is still adjusting to a completely plant-based diet. Food cravings do not mean that you are craving for a particular food like meat, it is more often that body did not receive a particular nutrient such as fat. In such cases, consuming heart-healthy, whole nuts such as almonds, walnuts or seeds such as pumpkin or flax either as part of a meal or individually will certainl helps.
Tip: Practice mindful eating and listen to your body signals.
#5 Not keeping your doctor informed: While on a plant-based diet you may not need the same dosage of a given medication that you were taking before. This especially holds true for individuals that are on blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Please be aware that if you are still consuming foods that are processed, you might still be consuming additional sodium, sugar and calories that have little to no effect in helping to lower medication doses.
Tip: It is a good idea to speak to a registered dietitian or a nutritionist regarding your food choices and also keep your doctor informed about your dietary changes.