You’ve decided to become a healthy vegan.
Tell your doctor what you are doing so any medications you take can be monitored.
Clean out your pantry and fridge. Get rid of:
- All meat products, including beef, poultry, fish, eggs, pork, lamb, and anything else with a face or a mother.
- All dairy products, including milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, kefir, cream, butter, etc.
- All oils, including olive, coconut, fish, canola, and flax, as well as those from other seeds and nuts.
- All junk food and refined or processed food, including cookies, chips, crackers, fruit juices, margarine, microwave popcorn, etc.
- Anything with high fructose corn syrup. You’ll need to read labels for this one because it’s in almost all packaged foods.
Go grocery shopping.
- Head for the produce section. Unless you have the “Dirty Dozen” memorized, carry a card to remind you of the fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residue, and either buy these foods from your local farmer’s market or buy the organic choice in the produce department of your grocery store. Next, check out the bulk bins. It’s possible 90% of what you eat will come from these two areas of the store.
- For the other 10% in your grocery cart: It doesn’t matter what it says on the front of the package; you must pick up the bag/box/can/jar and read the list of ingredients on the back or side. If you don’t know what a listed ingredient is, put it back on the shelf. If the ingredient list includes high fructose corn syrup, artificial or “natural” flavorings or color, unbleached or enriched flour, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, preservatives, or oil of any kind, don’t buy it.
- If you stop buying prepared foods, animal products, and processed and junk foods, your grocery bill will decrease dramatically. If you buy bulk items when they are on sale and stock up when produce is in season (then freeze, can or dehydrate the surplus), you will save even more money.
- There are several good Tucson stores which have a wide variety of options: Aqua Vita Naturals Food Market, 2801 N. Country Club Rd.; New Life Health Centers; Trader Joe’s; Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market.
Restock your pantry and fridge. Fill your newly-emptied shelves with:
- Dried (or canned) beans and other legumes, including black, pinto, lima, kidney, garbanzo, white, azuki, and lentils.
- Whole grains, including 100% whole wheat pastas and bread, brown rice, polenta, quinoa, faro, barley, organic rolled (not quick) oats and other cereals.
- Vegetables. Don’t forget the important leafy greens!
- Fruits. Do not include avocados if you have heart disease or high cholesterol or are trying to lose weight.
- Nuts. If you have heart disease or high cholesterol or are trying to lose weight, leave these off your shopping list.
- Seeds. If you have heart disease or high cholesterol or are trying to lose weight, leave these off your shopping list too.
- Herbs, including dried and fresh varieties.
- Spices. If you buy spice blends, choose brands which do not include salt, such as Mrs. Dash.
Reacquaint yourself with your kitchen.
- Yes, if you expect to eat more healthfully, you are going to have to spend more time preparing and cooking your own food. Plan your meals for the week in advance. After experimenting with lots of new recipes, find several “go-to” meals you enjoy and make them frequently.
- If you don’t already have them, consider investing in a powerful blender (such as a Vitamix), a rice cooker, a steamer basket, a heavy-duty food processor (such as a Cuisinart) and/or a veggie chopper.
- If you don’t know how to prepare something, go online. Google “how to cook (fill in the blank).” Or go to YouTube and search for cooking demonstrations. See the Resourcespage. Remember, not all vegan choices are healthy. Sugar, oil, and salt (SOS) are notorious for showing up in all recipes, so choose wisely.
- Make your own treats. There are many healthy dessert recipes online and in plant-based cookbooks.
What about eating out?
- You might choose not to eat out during your initial weeks of transition. By preparing your own dinner and packing your lunches, you have total control over what you’ll be eating. (The money you’ll save by not eating out is an added bonus.)
- Of course, you’ll eventually want to eat out. Do some advance work before going to a restaurant. Go online to check out the restaurant’s menu choices or call the restaurant before you go to discuss your options. Let them know that for health reasons, you don’t eat meat, dairy or added oil and ask what they recommend.
- Lovin’ Spoonfuls and Urban Fresh are two Tucson restaurants that have a variety of delicious whole food, plant-based dishes. Some additional eating-out options are ethnic restaurants. Mexican, Indian, Thai and Ethiopian restaurants always have something delicious on the menu for healthy-vegans: beans, rice, tofu, veggies, lentils, and salsa. Although you might think a steakhouse is the last place you’d find something healthy to eat, all have baked potatoes and vegetables on the menu. Ask for a plain baked potato or sweet potato topped with steamed veggies and salsa.
Important resources: To assist you on your journey, the following can be especially helpful or inspiring:The China Study Cookbook, The Engine 2 Diet, The Vegan Cheat Sheet, The Starch Solution, Forks Over Knives (DVD) and fatfreevegan.com. We highly recommend you sign up for the free newsletters on these websites: DrMcDougall.com and JeffNovick.com.