By Nick Mongeon
I remember it like it was 2018. July 1st in the midst of a blistering heatwave, I was soaking up the Northern Ontario summer. I remember eating a badly cooked beef burger from a Walmart 12 pack, engaging in a drunken Canada day conversation with my friends about the plant-based movement. In dramatic fashion, I put down the bone-dry sandwich, it’s bad taste sheltered by a liberal amount of hot sauce, and spoke up to make a sweeping declaration.
I was officially converting to a plant-based diet. I had been researching the subject for quite some time, even producing a small podcast about the benefits of lifestyle change as a school project. Naturally, I was met with disbelief and ridicule from my friends and family. It’s been nearly 2 years since that day, and this is the knowledge I’ve gained. This is what you should expect when considering the life-altering switch. I have divided my knowledge into 5 seeds of information, ready to be planted. Clever, right?
Seed number 1 – Get Ready for Some Hazing.
We all have family members and friends who are reluctant to change. My sudden change to the plant-based diet was the subject of discussion at the dinner table for many moons. For instance, my parents treated my declaration as a quarter-life crisis move and did not take me seriously. I was met with an artillery of questions and insults coming from my friends. Some of which included; “good luck getting your protein levels high enough”, or “aren’t you going to miss steak?”. In general, most people will have a hard time understanding your decision. Even without doing any of the research, the armchair dieticians will gladly make their opinion heard.
It’s easy to drown out the noise if you are dedicated. What makes it easier, is having someone by your side during the process. My girlfriend and I started at the same time, and having her change her eating habits with me came with relentless moral support. Eventually, people will come around and respect your decision. The hard part was going to be how to find decent plant-based family recipes!
Seed number 2 – Becoming more in tune with your cooking.
For some, this new diet includes a period of stocking the pantry and refrigerator with new and intricate ingredients. There is certainly a learning curve to plant-based cooking, but the learning has given me the opportunity to fall in love with cooking all over again. Preparing meals becomes a creative task, a chef-d’oeuvre of meat substitutes, B12 vitamin, and deliciousness. I learned how to use certain plants to create some Friday night favorites, such as nachos with plant-based queso, black bean burgers, Southern-fried cauliflower, and waffles.
There is room for experimentation, room for creativity, and an opportunity to decide yourself to improve your craft. Starting to cook plant-based meals is like discovering food for the second time.
Seed number 3 – Finding new sources of protein
One question you will never get tired of hearing is: “how do you get your protein?”. In order to make sure that your diet becomes sustainable, you will need to fulfill your daily recommended intake of protein. In Canada, it is recommended to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, if you weigh 70 kilos, it is recommended that you consume 56 grams of protein per day. Without your usual portions of meat, it is important you make sure to get the appropriate dose. I found it was interesting finding new ways to obtain those levels.
Here are my favorite protein-packed plant-based ingredients:
- Nutritional yeast.
- Chia Seeds.
- Green vegetables.
Seed number 4 – Be ready for a change in your social life.
There has been many a wing night where my barstool was left empty. I have noticed a pretty drastic change in my social life. First off, I lost invitations to meat specific outings. Though it didn’t bother me very much, it was a change in lifestyle.
Barbecues required me to bring my personal picnic basket and did not let me enjoy the fruit of the labor of friend’s grills. Although bringing your own food to events can be a hassle, it guarantees that you will eat exactly what you wanted, every single time.
Your social life will alter itself in a positive manner. I befriended interesting people who shared similar lifestyles and interests as I did. This was all as a result of changing a simple factor in my life, my diet.
Seed number 5 – Finding a sense of community
This is your opportunity to discover a whole new network of restaurants, stores and activities that match your philosophy. In my experience, most establishments will try to pander to the plant-based audience, but the food almost always disappoints. The minute you step into the restaurant that does it right, you will feel right at home. I’ve developed a network of neighborhood joints that have become community hubs. There is no better feeling than food making you feel like you belong.
I think converting to a plant-based diet altered my way of living dramatically for the better. Although some of these factors that need to be considered are negative, I can say that I’ve never felt better, never slept better, and never looked better. The thing to remember is that there are no guidelines for this diet. There is no higher power holding you accountable for your diet. You do this for yourself, the environment, to amplify your health or other personal reasons.
Changing the way, you eat comes with a chance to keep evolving to better yourself. Before you make this decision, inform yourself. Read studies on the matter, watch documentaries from both sides of the coin, speak to others who have adopted this way of life. Finally, never forget to eat deliciously.
For great resources on how to begin your journey, check out kevcooksplants.com.