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Overcoming Common Pitfalls of a Plant-Based Diet

Part of making a big change in your eating habits is facing challenges and overcoming them. Although everyone is different and has his or her own struggles, it may help to consider these common obstacles and how to tackle them. Half the battle is knowing what to expect and being ready when the time comes. There’s nothing you can’t surmount!

Having little or no experience in the kitchen

Many people feel like they have to have a culinary education to start eating more healthfully. People tend to get overwhelmed at the idea of eating more meals at home. Don’t let this stop you. When you start anything new — especially when you’re taking full responsibility — it can present a challenge. However, you just need to start.

Get yourself a partner and make a cooking date to start tackling some recipes together. You don’t even need a partner who is plant-based — all you need is someone who knows his or her way around a kitchen and may even enjoy giving you some basic help.

Make it fun by getting a group together at your house, where everyone can share cooking tips, strategies, and even favorite utensils and tools. Work together and create a meal as a group so you can watch and learn — take notes if you want! Keep it low key and social by making sure the guest list includes your best friends and family.

Another option is to go to a cooking class and get to know other people who are in the same boat. As you build a foundation of basic skills and recipes, you start to feel more confident and willing to take on more challenging recipes. Don’t forget to find someone who will be an encouraging taste-tester and cheerleader!

Feeling intimidated by new foods

Quinoa, arame, Swiss chard? These words may feel like a different language to you. That’s okay. At one point you didn’t know what a tomato, apple, or tangerine was, either. The best thing to do is jump right in.

Start by choosing just a couple of new ingredients and do some research on them. Look them up, watch videos on how to prepare them, and find restaurants that serve them so you can experience them before you take them on yourself at home. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the food is prepared! Practice, experiment, and try all sorts of preparations to find ones you like.

When you feel confident with a food, move on to a new one. New foods (which may actually be ancient varieties) are introduced to the market all the time. Get to know them, and hopefully you’ll come to love some of them in new favorite recipes.

Keep your eyes open for “seasonal” or “market” vegetables and fruits on restaurant menus and always order them (especially if you don’t know what they are or how to cook them). It’s a wonderful, non-threatening way to expand your veggie repertoire while sampling produce at the height of its deliciousness!

Feeling like the odd man out

It can feel strange when you take something on that no one else seems to understand. Sticking to your guns can be especially challenging in social settings, such as going out to restaurants with friends and family members, eating a meal with work colleagues, or even discussing food topics with your neighbors.

If you feel strange or awkward, just remember that you’ve made the decision to take this on for a reason (or many). Instead of feeling left out, you can be inspiring! Be the trendy, cool person who suggests new restaurants or makes a killer tempeh stir-fry. Leading by example can even cause others around you to join in.

As you host dinner parties or go out to eat, it may be helpful to invite a plant-based buddy to join. Maybe it’s someone you meet in a cooking class or through an online message board for vegetarians. Or maybe it’s a really good friend who goes plant-based for one night to keep you company.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help — you’re doing a great thing for yourself, and many of your loved ones want to support that. Just tell them how they can.

Be careful not to preach to others that what you’re doing is the “right way.” This approach only ostracizes folks and makes you seem like . . . well, a know-it-all jerk. And nobody likes that. Instead, be silently content with the way you live and the way you eat. In time, others will come to you with questions.

Fighting food fatigue and boredom

To keep your meals interesting, continue to add new foods, new recipes, and new preparation methods to your repertoire. Even in the non-plant-based world, it’s easy to get stuck in a food rut. It’s important to expand your horizons — as with anything in life.

You can’t eat brown rice or veggie burgers every day and feel inspired. Keep trying new cookbooks, new cooking classes, and new restaurants. Go to different stores to do your shopping.

You don’t always have to change up the food itself; you can find many ways to prepare the same food, so experiment with different techniques and seasonings. For example, try steamed kale with garlic and olive oil one night as a side dish, but the next day try baked kale chips with sea salt as a snack!

It’s always nice to go to farmers’ markets and specialty shops, as they usually have a high changeover of product and also work with the season. You’re virtually guaranteed to see things you haven’t seen before. This may push you outside your comfort zone to get reconnected to your plant-based goals and excited about new food items.

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