Ask Margaret #5
Margaret Gambardella gave up eating animal products many years ago. Margaret says: “When you have made the choice to eat a vegan diet its not always easy to know what to eat and what to expect. There is so much conflicting evidence about nutrition. Luckily I found macrobiotics and trained through personal transformation to teacher level over a 2 year period. Since then I have tried out various recipes and foods and kept up to date by research. If I’m not sure i look for the science. Websites such as www.nutritinfacts.org are a free resource with research backed information.”
Firstly I would like to congratulate you on making the choice to adopt the vegan way. There is some information that I would like to have had when I changed my diet.
The first piece of advice I would give is to take a good, vegan probiotic. If you have been on the regular western diet you will have certain strains of bacteria in your intestine. We have all heard of the friendly bacteria. But they are not all friendly. These bacteria need to have a certain environment, food and temperature to exist. Your intestine is perfect for the growth of these bacteria but how do we encourage the good guys? When changing your diet the bacteria already present in your intestine is going to cause you to crave your usual diet. So when you have these cravings know that it is probably these existing bacteria demanding their food. So that’s where a good probiotic comes in to establish a culture of the good bacteria that will help to keep us healthy. Home made miso soup can help to provide a hospitable environment for these good guys and the fibre from your plant based diet feeds them. So this may cause a little discomfort in the beginning but its worth it as the good bacteria become established then those cravings will become less.
Learn to cook 1 new recipe each week
I have also met many people along the years who have been vegan or vegetarian for many years only to give it up. I think that’s because they are confused what to eat and they don’t have support.
Try to eat plants, beans, whole grains, nuts and fruit. That is our species specific food. Find 1 recipe each week and learn how to cook it. Tweak the recipe ingredients to suit your own tastes perhaps by adding some chilli if you like food a little more spicy. You can cook double the amount and freeze half for that day when you’re too busy or too tired to cook. Its better than a take away – unless there’s a great vegan take away where you live. I was a working mother with 2 chidden and I found that having a healthy nutritious meal in the freezer was a great help on the days when I was tired and pushed for time.
Minimally processed meat alternatives, tofu and tempeh can all form part of a long term diet. Soya products are often more processed and may even have GMOs unless they’re organic and some contain eggs. So do read the labels or look at the information on the websites. If you make a mistake just remember it for next time and move on. You’re doing your best and that improves with experience!
There are lots of chat rooms on Facebook and Meet ups certainly all over the UK. If your need advice or just moral support, then these are the best places to go. You will meet many knowledgeable people who have probably been through the same as you. If there isn’t a Meet up in your area how about starting one? You can meet new like-minded friends in your area. Your meet up could be in your home or contact a local restaurant and talk to them about a vegan night if there isn’t anything that is vegan friendly in your area.
When we’re hungry we tend to just grab what we usually eat and that’s not always what we would really choose. Plan in regular snacks of fruit and nuts or a quality seed and nut bar or humus and vegetable sticks. Plan your meals and shop for the ingredients. Keep it simple to begin with. You can be more adventurous when you have several recipes that you are confident with.
Remember that studies show it takes 30 days to break a habit, 30 days to start a new habit and 30 days to consolidate that new habit. So that’s 90 days in all!