Added more tips on September 7, 2012.
I've read a lot of books that have given me tips, plus I've learned the hard way with some things. Here's what I've learned that can help you start eating a more plant-based diet so that you can feel better, have more energy, less pain, and beat disease!
1) Start by eating 1/2 cup of beans with your dinner. By the time the gas comes, you and your significant other are asleep! No one will ever know the better! Good news is that as you eat more beans regularly, your stomach adapts and creates more beneficial bacteria that aids in digestion. Also, if you cook beans from scratch, soak them overnight, then rinse them well before cooking, then rinse them well again after cooking (it removes the sugars that make beans so hard to digest).
2) Have Beano handy. You can always take a few before meals with beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. In fact, I don't eat beans and broccoli together in the same meal! Go easy on your stomach. I've now worked my stomach up to where I can eat 3/4 cup of beans or lentils with no stomach issues!
3) Start by eating all cooked vegetables. They are easier for your stomach to digest. As you get more accustomed, cook your veggies less, or eat them raw whenever possible, because raw veggies are loaded with enzymes that die when cooked over 118 degrees F.
4) Avoid big salads loaded with sprouts. I made the mistake when I first wanted to eat more veggies. I made myself a big salad loaded with sprouts (alfalfa and black bean sprouts). I felt really nauseous and threw everything up! Sprouts can be very hard to digest in the beginning (although they are touted as being "easy to digest"), so if you want to eat them, wait and build up your stomach, and don't eat a lot at once. Start out with small salads loaded with dark leafy greens, veggies, beans, etc, then make them bigger. Then add sprouts after some time, if you'd like. Although I eat salads, I'm not a big salad person. I prefer soup!
5) Which bring me to my next suggestion! Eat veggie soup! It fills you up and makes you eat less calories when eaten before meals. Here's my recipe for a serving of one:
This soup contains 5-6 servings of veggies, depending on how many veggies you use!
--Tomato soup or veggie broth as a base (there are low sodium options out there). Start heating this up, then throw in the following:
--1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
--1/4 teaspoon Morton Lite Salt (if you're using low-sodium tomato soup only!)
--a dash of black pepper
--1-2 organic carrots, unpeeled (nutrients are in the peel! BUT peel if not organic), and thinly sliced diagonally (diagonally keeps them from falling on the floor!)
--1-2 celery stalks, finely sliced as well
--2-3 leaves of kale (organic if possible). Chop the kale's stem into one inch pieces, then tear the kale into smaller bite-sized pieces...grab a bunch and scrunch them in your fist before throwing them in the soup; it releases their cancer-fighting properties (Super Immunity by Dr. Joel Fuhrman suggests this). Once all the kale is in, stem and all, stir it in, then occasionally stir so that all the kale immerses into the soup.
--The final touch is a handful of grape, cherry, plum, or mini heirloom tomatoes into the soup and cook for the remaining 3-5 minutes. Caution: Do not eat the tomatoes first. They will burn your mouth! This is from personal experience! Let them cool off for sure!
*Cooking time varies. Cook more if you are starting out and want to be able to easily digest this soup. Cook less as time goes on (cut your carrots and celery very thin because they will be crunchy). Cooking less and at a lower temperature will help to ensure that all those helpful enzymes in the veggies remain alive and intact. Remember, cooking destroys enzymes, so if you can cook less and/or eat raw, try to do so.
Add your favorite beans for protein. Then the soup becomes a meal on its own.
OR start out by cooking lentils for about 15 minutes, then add the base and veggies for a lentil-veggie soup!
You can experiment with the above recipe by adding your favorite veggies. I've changed it up and added cucumber slices, zucchini slices, broccoli, and basil, but you can add virtually any veggie you want! Have fun!
6) Switch from cow's milk (which increases mucus production, leading to more allergies and colds and sinus problems...why do you think people say to avoid dairy when sick with a cold? Because it makes the cold worse!) to non-dairy milk!
Cow's milk is also hard for most people to digest, can be spoiled and cause a stomachache (ew, the smell of spoiled milk, yuck!), and can cause excess vaginal discharge (this is from personal experience, yes, it was a sad sight).
The good news is there are a lot of options of PLANT-BASED MILKS! You can try these and find your favorites (make sure they are calcium-fortified): coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk (can be hard on the stomach if you're sensitive to soy, which I am), almond milk, hemp milk, and flax milk. I personally love almond and flax milk!
As Jane Velez-Mitchell (vegan for over a decade, HLN host of "Jane Velez-Mitchell," and author) says, "Cow's milk is for cows!"
7) With your new favorite plant-based milk, have a morning smoothie and get in 1-3 servings of fruit! Since most plant-based milks are low in protein (except soy milk), add a protein powder such as whey (considered dairy, but it's very easy to digest for those not going fully vegan), brown rice protein, hemp protein, pea protein, or a brand that contains a combination of these vegan proteins. Then add your favorite fruit and try different combinations. I usually stick with blueberries and bananas.
8) Here's a fun way to get in more cancer-fighting, leafy green vegetables. Have a "green" smoothie as part of your lunch, or a refreshing afternoon drink. Here are some ingredients to play with:
OJ (is tasty and tart with spinach, banana, and apple, and a dash of stevia!)
Kale (is great with coconut water, banana, apple, avocado, and a dash of stevia!)
9) As you start to eat more high-fiber beans, nuts, fruits, and veggies, you MUST drink more water so that the fiber can expand and move through your digestive tract nice and easily. If you don't drink enough water and are dehydrated, the fiber can get stuck in your digestive tract and cause problems like constipation, stomach pain, etc. Be sure to drink a cup of water with meals, and drink at least 8 cups of water a day, if not more. I average between 9 and 12 cups of water daily.
For more of my tips to eating a vegan diet, click here: