Going Cold Turkey when Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

Removing all meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs at once can feel like a dramatic change, but on the other hand, this method keeps things pretty simple — no fuss, no muss. Some people, when they make a decision, need to hurry up and implement it before they change their minds. Going cold turkey has its benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits to going all in for a plant-based diet

Switching 100 percent to a plant-based diet can pay off for your body, mind, and spirit. Check out these advantages:

  • When you go cold turkey, improvements in your health and overall wellbeing generally appear quickly. Your body is likely to respond well to eating more fiber- and nutrient-rich foods.

  • Switching over immediately creates a dramatic example for your friends and family to see. It not only makes you publicly accountable (if you’re the sort who thrives on external motivation), but your level of commitment may even inspire others to take on a plant-based diet, which means you may have company.

    Extra bonus: If you’re making the switch for animal-rights or environmental reasons, your example can set off a positive chain reaction.

  • This method gives you something to fully focus on and keeps your mind (and body) busy with what to eat next, what you need to buy, and what you need to figure out about nutrition. Going cold turkey gives you the opportunity to really “sink your teeth” into something!

Drawbacks to the quick switch

When you make a sudden change, you may experience unexpected consequences. In most cases, you can overcome the drawbacks if you just give yourself some time to adjust. Here are some drawbacks to suddenly converting your diet to a plant-based approach:

  • Your body may not match your mind — you may have made the decision to change your lifestyle, but your body may not be ready for it. Often when you drastically change your diet, you begin to detox. This may sound good in theory, but it doesn’t feel so good when you’re experiencing constant headaches, bloating, and discomfort, so be sure to consult your doctor or naturopath about whether this method is appropriate for you.

  • Your wallet takes a beating. Not only is replacing your kitchen inventory a significant cost, but it may end up costing extra because you aren’t used to your new food-purchasing patterns. You may aimlessly try to fill in the blanks of your new meals without knowing quite what to buy, which may lead to some expensive mistakes.

  • When you jump into something too fast, you may not really understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You may be eating foods that aren’t even that healthy or in line with your new philosophy because you haven’t done your research yet.

Sometimes taking a big staple out of your diet abruptly can make it more likely that you’ll get off track. Before you try the cold-turkey approach, make sure that you have enough resources to get you started so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Steps to making the switch to a plant-based diet

After you’ve decided to eliminate all foods that aren’t plant-based from your diet, you need to have a couple of conversations with near and dear friends and family. Then you need to take some strategic steps to ensure that you maintain your new lifestyle and realize some success quickly.

  • Tell your family or housemates about your plan and discuss whether the whole household will be going plant-based. If so, set some time aside to clean out your fridge, pantry, and cabinets together. (Think about donating those items to your local food bank.) If not, talk about distinguishing certain areas of your kitchen or certain pots and pans as “plant-based,” if needed.

  • If you’re not sure whether something you have in your kitchen is entirely plant-based, read the labels and “added ingredients” thoroughly. If you’re still not sure, search online for unknown ingredients.

  • Talk to your doctor or naturopath about any health concerns you may have and how to go about the transition properly.

  • Go shopping for new plant-based goodies to fill your fridge and pantry back up.

  • For your first plant-based meal, plan something easy or go out to eat. Don’t put added pressure on yourself to make an extravagant meal.

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