Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live food pyramid is probably the best graphical guideline to follow. It will be difficult for many to adapt to overnight, though. So, to get started, these are a few tips and ideas that helped Lynne (our most-recent "convert"):
- Evolution Not Revolution! Start simply by replacing a few meat/dairy meals per week with vegetarian options. It's easy enough to do-- ordering a salad without chicken or a baked potato from the fast-food drive-thru; or trying some of the Amy's brand of frozen vegetarian entrees. Try also to eliminate all red meat (or limit to rare occasions once a month or so). As you start discovering new vegetarian recipes and foods, you're likely to start wanting to try more and more of these as they'll be new and exciting to your taste buds!
- Get a Health Assessment.
If you're currently taking any medications, you'll want to consult with your doctor before radically changing your current diet. If you're not taking any meds, you can quickly get a cholesterol & glucose screening test done at the nearest corner drugstore that has an onsite clinic (such as Walgreen's or CVS). I went to a Walgreen's clinic and got my test results instantly along with 20 pages of helpful health information. No better motivator for a major dietary lifestyle change than to see your bloodwork numbers, blood pressure, and weight all on teetering on the edge of descending into healthcare hell.
- Educate Yourself.
Learn more about the foods you eat and the benefits (or harm) they do to your body. Our Resources Page for numerous ideas, but I'd recommend you start with the video "Forks Over Knives" and Dr. Joel Fuhrman's "Eat to Live" book. Both focus on nutritional medical research from physician perspectives, and highlight their patients' real-life outcomes.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind!
Before your official start date, begin clearing out your pantry and fridge of all processed box foods, sweet and salty snacks, and as much dairy, meat and caffeine as possible. From the pyramid above, Dr. Fuhrman says that a small portion of meat, dairy, or sweets on occasion is fine, but he recommends avoiding them for the first 6 weeks to truly "de-tox" yourself and eliminate the yo-yo effect that sugar and caffeine cause.
- Track Your Progress Daily for the first few weeks. Jot down your daily weight, note your daily meals and feelings. For me, losing 4 lbs during the first week and immediately noticing improved energy and mental alertness levels was extremely motivating.
- Surround Yourself with a Support Team!
If other friends and family are not participating in this lifestyle change with you, join an online community for support and encouragement such as the Vegan Vagabonds Facebook Page, MyFitnessPal.com, or other sites.
- Try It, You'll Like It! Remember that old TV commercial? Well, it's true. A year ago...even 3 months ago, I'd never have thought going vegan was desirable or even possible. But I committed to giving it a try for a couple of weeks. I've now discovered that eating whole foods (for the first time in my life) is much more pleasurable and filling than the processed foods diet I used to eat. My energy levels are terrific, and I'm losing weight without any hardship. That's motivation enough for me to continue!
So, give it a shot! What have you got to lose?