By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
There has never been a better time to go vegan than right now. Yes, now. For most of our country, and most of the world, the safest place to be right now is our homes, hence our country leaders have urged us to stay inside, keep safe, and by doing this we will be ‘doing out bit’ in limiting the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. With practically every area of our daily life being off-limits, from gyms and movie theatres, to coffee shops and beaches, how we use this available time to our advantage can be positively life-changing.
In this week’s extended Gulf Times piece, I am going to take you through exactly how you can begin your vegan journey during this period of home isolation.
You have the time to research, understand, and prepare yourself for starting a vegan journey — so that when we are all safely out and on the other side of this pandemic, you can look back knowing that you used this time to heal and transform yourself, your body, your diet and your way of life via veganism.
I’m lucky enough to be asked to speak, and give lectures at schools, universities and education institutions on a regular basis, and the number one, most re-occurring reason people tell me for not exploring veganism properly is that vegan dishes take longer to prepare, perhaps require more thought, and in our fast-paced world, they didn’t really find the time. Well, the time is now.
Furthermore, caring for your immune system has never been so important. Our immune systems are our safety nets, and I want to be very clear: while there are all kinds of claims online, the fact is that the only diet that is genuinely full of vitamins and minerals essential for boosting your immune system is a plant based diet. In fact, a whole foods, plant-based diet contains 64-times the amount of immunity-boosting antioxidants compared to a diet that includes meat and dairy. Cut out the antioxidant-depleted animal foods and start rewarding your body with actual sources of goodness.
This opportunity can be great for families, and also a great way to introduce children to know more about their foods, and learning a more honest, real approach to how we eat.
It’s going to take time, effort and research, but I hope my tips and advice will help tackle the questions you may have, and help shape the journey for you. It’s important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to starting to introduce veganism into your life. It’s a personal experience, tailor made for each and every one of you and defined by your commitment to it.
First things first: Education. While you are relaxing during your downtime at home, start watching these must-see videos, most of which are available on YouTube or Netflix. The Game Changer, Forks Over Knives, What The Health, and Cowspiracy are essential documentaries to first of all open your mind to the realities of the food world.
In terms of essential reading, the following books are a must read: The Beauty Detox, How Not To Die, The Kind Diet, Eating Animals, and How To Go Vegan.
If YouTube is more your thing, I would recommend the following vegan doctors:
Dr Neall Barnard, Dr Garth Davis and Dr Thomas Campbell. These gentleman are great at explaining the common questions we all have on vegan journeys, including health and medical questions and how veganism can be part of helping your body.
Now it’s time to stock up on groceries that can kick start your vegan journey. If you’re visiting the supermarket, go at a quieter time, wearing mask and gloves and practice social distancing. You should also wipe down everything you’ve purchased when you return home, just for extra peace of mind during this pandemic period. In terms of the food, make sure these are on your list: Fruits and vegetables, a variety – including leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes. Grains, including brown rice and quinoa, nuts, such as almond and cashew, and if you can (although it’s fine if you start on these further into your vegan journey) raw cacao, maca, spirulina — three superfoods with immense health benefits.
Replace your regular milk (cow’s milk has long been branded as the go-to source for calcium. But look deeper into it and it’s easy to conclude milk does a body bad) with almond milk, or cashew milk. Snacks such as kale chips, nuts and seeds, healthy vegan crackers, hummus, can also be part of your list. Vitamin B12 (from a vegan source) is a great supplement, that complements a healthy vegan diet.
The other great thing about commencing this journey is that any kitchen will work. No unusual or fancy machines are necessary. If I had to recommend investing in one utensil for the kitchen, it is a good blender — which can be key in starting how you introduce vegan foods into your every day. For me, I found the most effective way was to start with a green smoothie. Making one in the morning with: spinach, pineapple, apple, and half an avocado. It was my green juice, and still is today. If you start with that every morning, it will help the body to start adapting to the new, increased level of fibre. You can keep your regular breakfast at this ‘juice only’ intro stage.
Then, as you proceed to the next ‘level’ – you should start with one vegan meal a day. This means replacing your ordinary breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a vegan meal. If you’re able to stick to creating a dish that consists of plant based foods that are organic (for extra goodness), that’s a bonus.
Once you’re ready, ramp up your journey by replacing the second ordinary meal of your choice, with a vegan dish. Before you know it, two thirds of your daily meals will be vegan, which will set you on track for a stronger journey.
Managing temptation to consume snacks you are used to consuming is going to be a factor for anyone spending a lot of time at home, so try to make sure there is enough food, snacks, kale chips, nuts and seeds, healthy vegan crackers, hummus, peanut butter and apple slices, fruits to keep you going.
With this advice, I also want to make it clear that you can create your own approach to this. Committing to this will be key, but it isn’t necessary to jump from zero to 100.
Step by step, day by day, progress can be made. Good luck, keep at it, and as always – I’m available to respond to your questions via Instagram.
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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