Today I would like to share an interview I had with Alena about her vegan diet experience. Alena and her husband, Lars, are the creators of nutriciously.com and they offer great tips, motivation, and guidance for starting a plant based diet.
In this interview you will get to know Alena and her experience eating a vegan or plant based diet. If you like this post, please share!
Vegan Diet Experience – Interview
Please give us a little background about yourself and why you began a plant based diet.
I became a vegetarian at the early age of 6 when I started to understand what this piece of meat on my plate was and who it came from. But it wasn’t until I turned 20 years old that I got exposed to a couple of videos about the dairy and egg industry which were really shocking to me – I thought I had avoided all animal suffering due to my vegetarianism. I then transitioned to a vegan diet over a couple of months by replacing most animal products in my kitchen with their vegan counterparts.
Where I couldn’t find a decent replacement, I just cut out the food completely. About 1-2 years into veganism, I got to know many of the famous plant-based doctors whose lectures I watched over and over again – their information was mostly about health, the prevention and even reversal of chronic disease by eating a whole foods plant-based diet.
This inspired me to take a look at my diet again and make some smarter food choices so ultimately not only the animals and the planet, but also myself could profit from my diet. You could say that I turned vegan for the animals and later became a health enthusiast and environmentalist.
In your own words, how would you describe a plant based vegan diet?
A plant-based vegan diet isn’t just free from all animal products but also does not include heavily processed foods. Here’s where the definitions get a bit tricky in my opinion: a vegan diet includes oreos, margarine, and coke. A plant-based diet is focused on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies, but can also include small amounts of animal products (mostly honey or having some animal products when eating out).
Veganism is an ethical standpoint and doesn’t have anything to do with health, those who eat a plant-based diet are usually concerned with their health but still buy things like leather, silk, or tickets to the zoo. I think the combination of veganism and plant-based eating is optimal!
What experiences and benefits did you get from starting a healthy vegan diet?
Even though it might sound complicated in the beginning, eating a healthy vegan diet ultimately made my life so much easier. I had a clear idea what the food on my plate should look like and I only shopped plain ingredients, staple foods. I didn’t worry about questionable additives anymore because there mostly weren’t any ingredient lists to begin with. At the grocery store, all these packages try to win you over but if you fill up your cart with fresh produce and add some grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, you can experience a true peace of mind. And this stuff is way less expensive, too!
From a physical perspective, I dropped a couple of pounds effortlessly in the beginning. It took me a bit, though, to figure out what exactly to put on my plate so that all my nutrients have been taken care of and I was feeling satisfied (more on that later). Since I was ending puberty around the age that I started a healthy vegan diet, I’m not sure whether the positive outcomes are attributed to one or the other – but my skin cleared up around this time, my sleep was improved, and I just felt lighter in general.
How did you plan your diet in order to lose weight?
I mainly followed the principles of calorie density and nutrient density. This is the main approach you’ll find in the plant-based movement: filling your plate with water- and fiber-rich foods to have a lot of bulk but only a few calories in your belly. This frees you from having to count calories because there’s only so much broccoli or spinach that your stomach can hold, overeating on calories is pretty much impossible if you choose the correct foods.
Apart from eating a lot of vegetables and cutting out oil, I didn’t have any flour products or added sugar, and only very few nuts. Instead, I ate whole starches in the form of brown rice, millet, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, and beans for my energy and satiety. Whenever I was hungry, I allowed myself to eat more food so I never felt restricted or had too little energy. Oh, and I also didn’t consume any liquid calories, not even juices or smoothies. I just ate all my food.
In your opinion, how does a plant based diet differ from other diets for weight loss?
Like mentioned above, you can have a lot more food on your plate and in your stomach compared to those diets that focus on smaller portions and counting calories. These never helped me to get and stay slim, they were such a pain and way too complicated in my opinion. At the same time, you flood your body with essential nutrients from plant-based sources instead of counting points which allow you one candy bar per day that you swap for some healthy oatmeal or something.
You can prevent or even reverse health issues while eating these delicious filling meals, it doesn’t even feel like a “diet” after a while. Plus, you can follow this way of eating forever which will result in your being slim and healthy forever (pretty much).
Note from Lisa: Check out their Vegan Starter Kit to learn more.
What was the biggest obstacle when transitioning to a healthier diet?
Getting used to the new taste, texture, and way of preparing my food I guess. When you come from a past of eating jelly sandwiches, cheesy pasta, and lots of chocolate – having some plain oatmeal with fruit, baked potatoes with salad or even grilled veggies takes some getting used to.
Our bodies and brains want calorie dense foods and especially those foods, we have been eating over years and years. Retraining myself to view these new foods and meals as the new normal was the most crucial part of how I was able to eat a healthy plant-based diet for years on end.
What keeps you motivated to continue eating lots of fruits and vegetables?
Mostly that it makes me feel so good, both physically and mentally. I love simplicity and real food, shopping on farmers markets, knowing what’s in my meals. Even if I eat a bit more than I need to at a given meal, my digestion can handle it pretty well and I know I will stay lean because my food is mainly water and fiber.
I have also gotten used to the taste of whole plant-based foods and it’s what I naturally crave these days – rich and overly flavored foods aren’t really appealing to me anymore. I like to say that your life is the product of your habits… and I just created different habits to have this kind of life right now. It’s possible for everyone.
Could you give us your top tips for vegan diet success?
Start where you’re at and make reasonable changes. For some people, it works well to go all in right from the start but most of us get overwhelmed soon and listen to the part of our brain that just wants familiarity. So, replace those foods that you won’t miss as much anyways. Make a plant-based milk taste test with all the different varieties you find at the store. Explore your options and try new foods you never had before.
Think of your new food groups as: grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. There are so many delicious ways of eating these! Focusing on variety and adding new foods to your plate instead of thinking what is now “forbidden” helps with your mindset. And please don’t think that all you can have are fruits and veggies or juices!
A properly planned vegan diet is very satisfying and filling, you can (or need) to eat a larger volume of food to get the same amount of calories, so keep this in mind. Lastly, don’t get discouraged if you slipped up or accidentally had some animal products. It happens to all of us, especially when eating out and relying on what another person cooks up for us. It’s a journey and you can always learn and improve.
Lars and Alena put all their knowledge, recipes, and meal plans into one amazing eBook that will guide and help you start a healthy vegan diet. You will even find a transition guide to make your transition as easy as possible and the pre-planned meal plans will make it super easy to follow a new eating style.
If you are struggling with weight loss, gut issues, or any other health issues, I highly recommend trying a healthy plant based diet!