Gradually Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet - dummies

Gradually Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

By Marni Wasserman

Some people prefer the softer approach of easing into a plant-based diet. Generally, the longer it takes to get into a habit, the longer it sticks.

Benefits to taking the slow approach

Taking a slow, cautious approach to implementing a plant-based diet means you get the chance to not only absorb the physical and logistical changes that occur but also to slowly digest all the new foods and information along the way. Other advantages include:

  • You’re not as likely to feel anxious that familiar foods have to be taken out of your diet right away. The goal is to focus on adding things in that can help you experience new foods, meals, and recipes and how they impact your body and your overall approach to food.

  • Your body enjoys the process more as it begins to adjust to fiber, different greens, and seeds. All of these things take time for your body to get used to. Doing this gradually means you won’t likely feel harsh detox symptoms, as you would if you went cold turkey.

  • Your grocery-shopping experiences may be more pleasurable and less stressful than with the cold-turkey approach. You have time to find out about new things, experience them, test them out, and see what sticks and feels right for you. You can also enjoy the process of understanding why plant-based foods are so good for you and your health. It’s a whole process, so embrace it with ease.

Drawbacks of a slow process

Sometimes when you strive to create new habits, going too slowly can negatively affect your transition. A move to a plant-based diet is no exception, so here’s what you should watch out for:

  • You may lack accountability. When you do this process little by little, you may be more likely to fall off the wagon or “cheat.” Because you’re taking a more relaxed approach, it may be easy to say, “Oh, I’ll have my plant-based meal tomorrow.” Find ways to keep yourself focused on your decision to transition, such as making a calendar that you display on the fridge.

  • You won’t feel the expected health benefits right away, and you may give up as a result. You may be hoping to have more energy, get better sleep, and lose weight — but these things take time! You have to motivate yourself until the physical results eventually start to reveal themselves.

  • It’s hard to form a new habit for the long term if you haven’t given it a solid few weeks of immersion. Experts say it takes 21 days to form a habit. If you go too slowly, you’re more likely to deviate from the plan.

  • If you only buy a few new ingredients at a time to restock your pantry, you may find that it’s hard to make new recipes. For example, if you don’t have the right sweeteners or alternative meat options for your meals, it may be more difficult to make them. A total shift in your pantry can help you make sure you have the ingredients needed to keep you on track.