Veganism isn’t just a fad– it’s a lifestyle. Despite the recent increase in its popularity in the media, plant-based living has been around for a long time. According to The Vegan Society, evidence of people choosing to avoid animal products can be traced back over 2,000 years.
Not too long ago, my family made the decision to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. We are making our transition with open hearts and minds and taking it one step at a time. Right now, we identify with vegetarianism, but the future goal is to become vegan.
I recently connected with Chef Quiana “Que” Broden from Cooking with Que. Que is a joy to talk to and will brighten your day with her bubbly personality and humor.
Que shared with me a few simple tips for how a person can easily transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
QUE’S TRANSITION TO A PLANT-BASED LIFE
Que made the transition to veganism about six years ago after being diagnosed with sarcoidosis— a disease which affects the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes, skin, heart, and other organs.
Sarcoidosis is also very common in African American women. “A lot of people have it and don’t realize it,” Que told me. According to the American Lung Association, sarcoidosis occurs more often in African Americans than in Caucasians, and African Americans may experience more severe symptoms.
Before becoming a vegan, Que says she was always sick. From doctor office visits to being hospitalized, the chef said she spent a lot of time seeking medical help for various illnesses. She always had eczema, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections, and pneumonia. Que even discovered she was allergic to dairy.
Soon her doctor did a biopsy on her lungs and discovered she had sarcoidosis. After learning of her illness, Que made the decision to become vegan cold-turkey (no pun intended).
“I went from finding out I was sick and then the next day it was completely different” she explained. “I wiped everything out and went cold-turkey.”
QUE’S 8 SIMPLE TIPS FOR TRANSITIONING TO A PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE
For a person who wants to become vegan, Que says she likes to give advice in small morsels so she doesn’t set someone up for failure. She says it’s key to be realistic and start off by making small changes.
Here are a few tips Que shared with me on transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle.
MAKE SMALL CHANGES.
Even though Que decided to become vegan the very next day after learning of her illness, she advises people to make small changes. “Learning how to make small changes make a bigger difference,” she says. “It’s not as complicated as everybody makes it seem.”
Start with small things. Switch out your dairy-based mayonnaise and ranch. One meat-based dish that Que loves is macaroni and cheese and it was meal that she thought she couldn’t have once she became vegan. So she created her own dairy-free mac-and-cheese recipe.
Laughing Que said to me, “That was the first thing I wanted to figure out how to do. How can I make mac-and-cheese that is completely dairy-free and that I would want to eat it?”
Now Que’s vegan macaroni cheese is a big favorite for guests who attend an event catered by Cooking with Que!
LEARN HOW TO CREATE A SIMILAR RECIPE.
Que says making the transition to veganism is really mental. You may think you will miss eating meat or dairy but it’s really the flavor that you are missing. You can learn how to make a similar meatless recipe. “You just take the things that you remember [are meat-based] and find a way to make them vegan,” she says.
For example, before becoming vegan, Que really loved Buffalo Wild Wings’ spicy garlic wings. She recreated the meat-based meal by making spicy garlic sauce to put on a vegan recipe.
PREPARE FOR IT.
Que jokingly said you shouldn’t decide to become vegan on Monday and then on Tuesday realize you don’t have any groceries in your refrigerator. It’s important you are prepared for eating plant-based meals.
Do your research and find vegan recipes that you would like to try. Create a vegan-based grocery list and shop for the groceries you will need. You can find many food blogs which feature vegan grocery lists like this one from the blog “I Love Vegan”.
Bloggers Brittany and William share healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and legumes to help you get started on your journey.
DON’T ALWAYS EAT PASTA AND POTATOES.
Yes, pasta and potatoes are very filling, but if you eat too much, it can ultimately lead to weight gain. To curb your appetite, try reducing your salt and oil intake. Use olive or coconut oil in small quantities. Season your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Focus on your protein intake by eating more plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. One Green Plant offers a Plant-based Protein Guide to help you understand what foods have protein and the recommended amount you need.
Of course, if you have a nut allergy, then you will need to choose another source of protein. Here is a guide from PETA to help with being vegan with a nut allergy.
FOLLOW THE 70/30 RULE.
Que says she likes to follow her 70/30 rule when preparing her vegan meals– 70% fruits and vegetables and 30% everything else. “Look at your plate. Is it 70
“Veggies are amazing,” Que says. “Eat the rainbow!” Fruits and vegetables like arame, rambutan, and bitter melon are a few healthy foods that are good for you. In this article, CNT Carly Dolan lists 19 healthy foods you may not have known existed.
TRY NEW THINGS.
Something else Que recommends is for people to try new foods and recipes. “Try different things that are eaten in other countries,” she says. “Try all the different things that you never wanted to try when you were a kid.”
This tip also goes along with Que’s 70/30 rule. There are many delicious recipes that are just waiting to be discovered. For me personally, I like to refer to Pinterest to find new vegan-based recipes. It keeps things fresh for me and I don’t get bored easily with my new plant-based lifestyle.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU HAVE A DIETARY RESTRICTION.
It’s okay to let family and friends know you have dietary restrictions. When you are eating out at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to let your server know, as well. “Don’t fell you’re a bother. Don’t feel like it’s a problem,” Que says. When she goes to a restaurant, she asks if there are vegan meal options.
If there are not any available plant-based meals, then Que will ask to talk to the chef and see if he/she can make something vegan. She says most chefs are happy to accommodate patrons and may even feel excited to create a new dish!
READ FOOD LABELS.
When you change your diet, it’s important to read the food labels. This way you are aware of what the ingredients are in your food. My husband Travis loves refried beans, but a few months ago he found out that a lot of canned refried beans are made with pork. So now he gets vegetarian refried beans.
Something else to keep in mind when reading food labels is discovering ingredients that you aren’t familiar with. Que says, “If you can’t read the words on the label, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. If you don’t know to pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t digest it.”
Special thanks to Que for taking the time to share her advice on
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