Transitioning to a plant-based diet

Two months ago, I had some lab tests done at home c/o Hi-Precision Diagnostic’s Home Service Testing and I encouraged Ralph to have a blood test done right then and there because his gout is bothering me. You see, he’s had gout for over a decade now and time and time again, he refused to have a blood test done to check his uric acid levels. Thankfully enough, he conceded, and later that afternoon, the results arrived in my email. True enough, his marks are so high and this got me worried even more, so I did a lot of research about gout and hyperuricemia.

According to Healthline, Hyperuricemia occurs when there is too much acid in your blood. I’ve since learned a lot about the topic of gout, and I will discuss this in another blog post. The point is, we have decided to go on a plant-based diet because vegetables are the best low-purine foods. What about beans, you say? In recent studies, it is shown that plant-based purine sources have a low bioavailability, which means that these purine-rich sources are not easily converted to uric acid. (As an added note, foods containing high-fructose corn syrup is hell on people with hyperuricemia!)

Going plant-based

This is where I had a tough time. I was the kid who grew up not eating vegetables, and I have a pretty good repertoire of meat recipes under my belt. That said, I don’t cook vegetables really well. I’m not even familiar with some of the vegetables that are found in the wet market. My husband is an Ilokano, and he loves his vegetables. In the course of our relationship, I slowly learned how to appreciate and actually like eating veggies – but I still don’t know how to cook them. When changing your lifestyle, I figured that it’s best to consult the people who already has that kind of lifestyle. I am grateful that we have quite a handful of vegetarian and vegan friends, so I contacted them for resources and tips. Our goal is to be 80% plant-based, for now. What matters most to me right now is getting rid of sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy ingredients.

“Eating well is a form of self-respect.” (1)

We’ve been transitioning for almost two months, and we have encountered a lot of victories, but also some pitfalls in this journey. Based on what we have gone through, here are some tips on helping you start a plant-based diet:

Know your why

As with the case of going through life-changing events, you really need to find your motivation and determination before easing yourself into something new. Ask yourself “Why?” over and over again for at least five times. Write down your answers and post it somewhere you can always see. For me, I like seeing this kind of reminder upon waking up. I also got a bracelet that I wear every day as a reminder of the change that we are undergoing as a family.

Educate yourself

Knowledge is key. Books and reliable websites, blogs, and articles are your best friends. After gathering enough determination to start this change, it’s time to hit the books. Know the facts on why this benefit you or your loved ones. I found out that going on a plant-based diet is very healthy, exciting, and more affordable. Also, learn to read labels. I know that going organic usually has an expensive price tag attached to it, but try going to your nearest market and you will be surprised at the wide selection of vegetables at your disposal. Find out ways how to effectively clean those vegetables and rid them of harmful toxins. Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of creativity to keep things going.

Clean your pantry

This can be a wasteful process because the food is always sayang to throw away, but you can try giving them to friends or the needy. I started out ridding our pantry of the junk that contains a lot of sugar and additives – goodbye Nutella, goodbye processed foods. Figure out healthier snack options and load ’em up in your pantry. If you like to cook, you may want to find some snack recipes that you can just refrigerate or freeze then just reheat when it’s time to chow down.

Know your style: Go slowly – or quickly!

I know myself, and I know that jumping into the cold water or going cold-turkey will never work for me. That kind of style required more determination on my part, and with that comes lots and lots of frustrations. My kind of style is to ease into this lifestyle gently. For me, it’s a more sustainable approach to a successful change in lifestyle.

Prepare in advance

The Philippines is not a friendly place for vegetarians, vegans, and organic-conscious people. We have limited choices, and one way to succeed in this change is through careful planning. If you’re not the type who sits down and writes a schedule and monthly and weekly plans, now is the time to start. Trust me, I’m not that type, too, but writing your plans down can be a real life-saver. We started this with meal planning. Every start of the week, we write down our meals and snacks for the week, make a list of the things and ingredients we need, then go to the grocery store, sticking to the list that we made.

Plot out your day and know your itinerary.  Research in advance the establishments around that area and figure out which ones have a food selection that is right for you. Planning well is essential if you want this kind of change in your lifestyle.

Be kind to yourself

Give yourself room to breathe. So you fell off the wagon because you just couldn’t resist it – so what? At the end of the day, reflect on what you did then strengthen your resolve. Sometimes, I let myself be driven by guilt, and it’s not such a bad thing in this situation. I also let myself loose at times. I will not compromise getting light-headed and hungry if there are no other options around. At the start of your journey, give yourself some margins and set your parameters. What are the factors and situations where you will allow yourself to divert?

I keep in mind that I am transitioning and that I’m allowed to make mistakes. This kind of change will not happen overnight.

Do not go hungry

Feeling hungry is depressing. Do your research. Buy healthy snacks that fit in your lifestyle change. Make snacks in advance. Learn how to cook meals. If you’ve exhausted all efforts in planning and you have no other option available, it’s ok. Eat when you’re hungry, reflect, strengthen your resolve one again, then move on. I accept that I live in a developing country and that it’s tough to find good vegetarian/vegan options. Going plant-based is not mainstream here.

Find support

Doing this kind of change is hardest when people around you are not supportive – and not everyone will be. Your new journey can be the butt of jokes and raised eyebrows, so finding a group of people to support you is essential to your success. In my case, joining a Facebook group called Manila Vegans is a great help. Going vegan is not my goal, but this group is very supportive and has plenty of experienced members whom you can ask for help and tips.

So there you have it. This is a tough change that our family decided to undergo, but I know that it will be worth it since this is one of the best investments that we can make in this lifetime.

3 thoughts on “Transitioning to a plant-based diet

  1. I’m planning to go vegetarian in the future as well. I find it challenging in that meats is so common in foods here in the Philippines! So whenever I’m out I have very limited options and I have to eat the same dishes again and again. I told myself I’ll start proper transition once I learn how to cook. For now I’m just avoiding pork, fast food and chichiria.

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  2. I think this requires a lot of discipline and strength to fight temptations… as much as I want to change my diet to a guilt-free meals like this, i really find it hard to live without meats and rice… but like they said, if you really want something, there is always a way to achieve it… all it takes is that full dedication and extreme discipline

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  3. These are all great tips to help those who want to switch to a plant-based diet. Honestly, I think we all should. I am planning to go vegetarian again when I turn 40, to ward off age-related diseases and just so I can live a healthier longer life for my little one.

    I agree that we ought to educate ourselves about eating health and vegetarianism. It is good that we live in an age where information is just at a tip of a finger. There are also loads of beautifully-curated accounts on Instagram that features colorful and healthy veggie meals and how to prepare them.

    Good luck on your journey to a plant-based diet and cheers to being healthier!

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