Since creating Mindful Chef I have become much more aware of where my meat and vegetables come from and the impact we as humans are having on the environment. Being a self confessed meat lover it was hard for me to even contemplate a vegan diet. However, we simply cannot ignore that most forms of animal agriculture are ruining the planet.

Livestock agriculture is contributing to manmade climate change and it requires a lot more land than plant based agriculture, land which is becoming more and more scarce.

While I will never stop eating meat because I enjoy it and there are so many health benefits that come from eating meat, I am making a conscious effort to reduce my intake and eat more vegan meals each week. Luckily Mindful Chef makes this easy for me as I can choose one vegan meal along with my other meat based meals.

With more celebrities like Jay Z, Beyonce, Natalie Portman and the Williams sisters all championing a plant based diet I’m sure we will see more people incorporating plant based dishes into their weekly regimes. I don’t intend to preach about plant based diets on this blog but simply to educate and help those people who would like a little more information and help around a relatively sensitive subject. Here are 5 things you should know before switching to a plant based diet.

1. Protein sources – you will have to find new ones. Animal protein is one of the easiest and most efficient ways of getting nutritious protein into our body. Protein contains amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle. Amino acids help promote cell growth and repair.
Best plant based protein sources – lentils, beans and quinoa.

2. Vitamin B12 deficiency – the most naturally occurring form of Vitamin B12 is found in animal protein and helps to keep the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy. If you are going to switch to a plant based diet you will need to find alternative sources and unfortunately there are very few, if any, from plants. You will therefore need to find a B12 supplement. Deficiency in Vitamin B12 can lead to tiredness, weakness and a loss of appetite.

3. Iron supplement – there are two forms of iron found in food: heme and non-heme. Heme is made up from animal protein and is easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme can be found in plant based sources but is less readily absorbed by the body and therefore you may need to add an iron supplement to your diet just in case.
Good food sources include legumes, sunflower seeds and dark leafy greens.

4. Take it easy on the Soy – if there is one thing that has grown in popularity over the years it is soy based products. Not only is soy one of the most sprayed crops in the world with pesticides and fungicides but also as a result some of these chemicals can end up in the body accumulating in the fat tissue. If you eat toxic foods, the body’s natural defence when it can’t get rid of it all is to store it in the fat cells. It also contains phytoestrogen and if you’re a guy you want to stay clear of soy all together as this feminizing agent can lead to droopy breast tissue. Soy products can also interfere with thyroid function, which if not checked a drop in thyroid function will eventually lead to fat gain.
Healthiest sources are tofu and edamame.

5. Don’t swap meat with junk food – just because you are thinking about going on a plant based diet it shouldn’t give you the excuse to eat rubbish food. Meat contains a lot of protein, vitamins and minerals. Don’t replace meat for processed foods like white bread or white pasta with little nutritional value. This can only result in weight gain and a decrease in mood levels.

If you need ideas for healthy vegan recipes take a look at three of our favourite recipes.

white bread, white pasta

You don’t have to make the switch to a plant based diet all at once. You should start by adding more vegetables into your diet and think about possibly replacing one of your meat based dinners with a plant based one. Lots of people have started trying meatfreemondays and it seems to be a great success. If you think eating plant based meals has to be boring then you are wrong and if you need inspiration then we are here to help.

A lot of our customers have realised the importance of reducing their meat intake in order to help the environment and we can see the evidence in the amount of people we have opting to choose a plant-based meal. Try making gradual changes and see how your body reacts and feels. Remember you don’t have to do it all at once and it may even open you up to certain foods you have never eaten before.