People become plant based eaters for a lot of different reasons. I experimented it with it myself a number of years ago, and actually ate completely vegan for probably about a year and a half. There are many reasons people do this, some people may be concerned about health and longevity, there may be religious reasons, or they may just love animals.
Some people are maybe focused on the environment and making sure that our food sources are sustainable. Other people may just not like the taste of meat or the idea of where that comes from. For me, it was a health and longevity question that I wanted to experiment with.
People also have different definitions of what plant based eating means to them. For some people, that just means that ⅔ of their plates are plants, and there may be a little bit of animal protein on their plate. For other people it means they're vegetarian, or strictly vegan. Some only eat dairy, or only eat chicken, or only eat shellfish. You can really define it for whatever fits for you. But to me, the main point is that we're really focused on getting a lot of vegetables.
I encourage you, if you're interested, to try this out to do some experiments with yourself, and see how you feel and how you react. Just be careful and don't have too many rules or restrictions, just really switch the focus to getting lots of really good foods into your body and into your system.
As far as what to include in the diet, I would encourage making sure that you include beans and legumes because they're both good sources of protein. Be careful with these, there’s a lot of fiber in them and that could cause some intestinal distress. You may also want to look at higher protein whole grains like quinoa. A good rule of thumb as you're starting is try to limit soy products as much as possible. Again, focus your base on the plants and the beans and only have soy products in moderation.
You may also want to consider some supplementation. A good start would just be a good multivitamin, there are also algae based omega three fatty acids that you can use instead of fish based products. You can also purchase plant based protein powders, they have a different flavor than the milk based ones but I think they are palatable.
If you’re looking at experimenting for a longer period of time, you may want to get some blood testing done.
If you're a strength athlete, I recommend supplementing with three to five grams of creatine each day. You may also want to consider taurine and beta alanine, as these are useful for people who are 100% plant based athletes. Lastly, if you're getting into this and you're really sticking with it for a period of time, you want to just keep your eyes open for any hormonal disruptions that could affect your energy balance. For example, if you're eating a lot of processed soy, this can affect your thyroid and sex hormones. The same thing can actually happen if you're eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables. So kale, cauliflower, broccoli, things like those can also affect your hormonal health and even your nutritional nutrient status. All that fiber binds to fat based substances like steroid hormones, and then pulls them out of the body with that fiber when you go to the bathroom.
Another thing to keep an eye on with this kind of diet is undereating. Keep an eye on calorie intake and make sure your calorie intake is appropriate for your body size and your activity level. The other thing is, if you end up getting into some processed foods, or eating a lot of like nuts and nut butters for your protein source, then you may find you’re overeating. You want to keep an eye on those things.
You know, when I started eating a vegan diet I did enjoy it and I did feel good.
For me, what I found over time was it required a whole different skill set in the kitchen to prepare food. Preparing food when I was vegan was extremely time consuming, labor intensive, and expensive if the meals were going to be appetizing. After a certain period of time, my schedule just wouldn’t allow this amount of food preparation time.
When this happened I began going to the store and picking up convenience foods that were labeled vegan, but were extremely processed and filled with things I didn’t need. At this time 7-8 years ago, pre-cooked healthier items became more available such as pre cooked chicken breast, so the convenience foods I was eating to stay vegan were less healthy than the animal based products available. So it dawned on me that I was actually starting to eat less healthfully than if I would just have a chicken breast. That's when I migrated back to, a more moderate style traditionally balanced diet.
The key when experimenting with these diets is to know what you are getting into and plan accordingly, stick to healthy options and keep your health in check.
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