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Five tips for going vegan and common misconceptions about the vegan diet.

If you’re thinking about revamping your diet and going vegan, put down the tofu and listen up: We got the answers to some of your burning questions, and tips from an expert for first-time vegans.

Elizabeth Rider is a certified holistic health coach (integrative nutrition), international blogger, TEDx speaker, wellness expert and host of “Elizabeth Eats” on Food Matters TV (FMTV), the first health and wellness on-demand streaming TV service that provides holistic health content for the everyday wellness warrior. Creators James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch spent a decade researching food as medicine for the body, which turned into a documentary (“Food Matters”) and now, Food Matters TV.

We asked Rider to share her own experience eating a mostly vegan diet, and the most important things to know about going vegan (including busting a few myths).

24Life: Do you follow a strict vegan diet? 

Elizabeth Rider: I’d say I’m about 90 percent plant-based these days. I love vegan food! I’ve been eating plant-based for so long that I naturally crave it now. I occasionally eat fish or chicken if I feel like I need it, and I do drink bone broth for the collagen and added protein. I mostly avoid dairy and gravitate toward plants. I also travel a lot and sometimes have to be more flexible with what I eat.

In general, I teach people to aim to prepare 80 percent of their own food to have more control over their health, but if you end up with a canceled flight and have to eat at the airport, just choose the healthiest thing on the menu and move on. Life isn’t meant to stress over one meal.

24Life: What is the biggest myth or common misconception about being a vegan or eating a vegan diet?

ER: The biggest myth is that people sit around and only eat salads. Certainly, salads are naturally a core piece of a healthy daily diet, but they don’t have to be boring! There are salad recipes for every palate. Plus, vegan eating is so much more than just salads. You’ll be surprised to discover how yummy the vegan versions of your old favorites can be, and stay open to trying new dishes that will have your taste buds asking for more!

I think most people’s fear is that they won’t enjoy the taste of vegan food. That couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, the fresher, more whole food you eat, the more your taste buds adjust to the subtle, amazing flavors of food in its natural state. And beyond that, there are countless cooked and baked vegan foods that would have any meat-eater’s mouth watering.

24Life: Do you think a vegan diet is for everyone? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

ER: I think anyone can thrive as a vegan. It is a personal choice, for sure, but every human body thrives on the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, good carbs, healthy fats and natural proteins, and built-in hydration found in plants.

24Life: What are some pros and cons of going vegan?

ER: The major pros are being able to watch your body, energy levels, health conditions, skin conditions, mood and more shed their compromised states to varying degrees and have you feeling more alive than you ever may have felt before. Most people also feel lighter and less bloated thanks to all of the fiber naturally found in plants.

The cons are the simple truth of possibly going through a withdrawal period as you break free from your old unhealthy eating habits. Change takes time, but if you stick with it, your entire life can shift for the better.

24Life: What if I have children—how do I make the vegan diet work for my family?

ER: The biggest thing is to create weekly meal plans and be prepared. Choose a day—most people choose Sunday—to grocery shop and prepare healthy meals and snacks for the week. And, as I’ve mentioned, vegan eating is delicious! Choose fun, interesting and yummy vegan meals and snacks you can make for your kids. If you aren’t sure where to start, dig into the vast number of recipes offered through FMTV.

24Life: I work out a lot; can I still be vegan? What do I need to do to ensure I’m getting proper nutrients and properly fueling my body?

ER: Absolutely. If you have any doubt whether or not athletic ability or exercise goals align with going vegan, do a quick Internet search for plant-based diets and professional athletes such as Venus Williams, Mike Tyson and Rich Roll. To ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients each day, align yourself with an expert nutritional resource like FMTV and participate in its community to receive guidance and support.

24Life: What if I want to go out to eat and I’m vegan? How do I prepare for that?

ER: Most restaurants pride themselves on offering unique and delicious salad options, but you also may want to familiarize yourself with the vegan and vegetarian restaurant options in your area. When going out to eat at a non-vegan restaurant, just be prepared to ask a few questions of the waiter or waitress when needed. People everywhere deal with dietary restrictions for a variety of reasons, so don’t hesitate to speak up and ask for what you need. I promise, they’ve heard it all before.

24Life: Besides FMTV, what are some great resources that you’ve found for anyone going vegan?

ER: Do a quick search for vegan cookbooks on Amazon and choose one that resonates with you. My favorites are Chloe Coscarelli’s “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen,” and Ella Woodward’s “Deliciously Ella.” “Thug Kitchen” is also a great one.

I have more than 100 free, plant-based recipes in my recipe archive on my blog, and most of my recipes on FMTV are vegan, too.

24Life: Tell us about FMTV’s “Food Matters 21-day Program.”

ER: The Food Matters 21-Day Program is designed to reverse symptoms like fatigue, stubborn weight, thinning hair, low libido, irregular periods, gas/bloating and brain fog. The program holds the key to transforming your health and your life using the three principles of nutrition, movement and mindset. By following the program, participants can experience improved digestion, more mental clarity, drop a belt size, have abundant energy, glowing skin and hair and a body that repairs itself again like it was made to do.

Elizabeth Rider’s top tips for going vegan

  1. Make a plan: “Plan out your grocery trips to include a full spectrum of nutrient-rich, plant-based foods. I also recommend planning ahead for eating on the go or midday snack times when you might tend to eat off-plan. Having some trail mix with you or a smoothie in a handheld cooler bag can go a long way toward helping your body get what it needs while you transition to a new way of eating. Balanced nutrition reduces cravings.”
  2. Smoothies and juices: “Smoothies and juices are a great way to give your body an easily digestible nutrient boost any time of day. Keep fresh and frozen fruits and veggies on hand, a variety of greens (such as spinach, kale and romaine) and your favorite non-dairy milks (e.g., rice, almond, soy, cashew). Blend or juice and enjoy!”
  3. GBOMBS: “As coined by nutritionist Dr. Joel Fuhrman, GBOMBS are essential to a healthy vegan diet: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds.”
  4. Protein-rich vegan foods: “Be sure you get plenty of protein. Some of the best sources of plant-based protein include beans and legumes, nuts and nut butters, seeds, spirulina, quinoa and tempeh.”
  5. Focus on real food, not just vegan substitutes. “Vegan junk food is still junk food. Real vegan is delicious! Don’t spend another moment worrying if you’ll find anything yummy to eat once you go vegan. Food Matters has a ton of amazingly delicious, plant-based recipes for you to explore.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of elizabethrider.com

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