Struggling With a Plant Based Diet? 10 Common Plant Based Diet Struggles and Solutions
Struggling on a plant based diet?
Starting a plant based diet could change your life for the better in a lot of ways.
It can help you lower your risks for certain diseases, or improve conditions you already have.
A plant based diet can also help you lose weight and feel better about the footprint you leave on planet Earth.
But here’s the deal.
It can also be a source of frustration and confusion for some people. And what good is a new and healthy lifestyle if you quit before you get used to it?
I struggled with a lot of things (and still do sometimes) when I started a plant based diet and I have learned a lot. So now I’m going to help you with the most common problems people have with starting plant based diets. That way you don’t have to quit before you can see the many benefits.
By the end of this article you will see that a plant based diet is nothing to be afraid of at all.
Ready? Let’s go.
1 - Jump all in or ease into it?
You may find that going to a full plant-based lifestyle all in one day is the best way for you to do it.
For others, it’s not that easy though.
Whether you choose to go all in at once or start out slow, at least you are making a change..and that’s awesome, right?
So what should you do?
How to decide how fast to start a plant based diet?
If I were you, and I was once, I would go all in and get started. After reading this article you will know everything you need to start a plant based diet.
If you feel like you need to go a bit slower you can start by going plant based as much as possible.
Can you do 1 day a week to start? How about 3 days, or even a few meals?
There is no secret club here that you get into if you go full plant based right this second. Do the best you can and in no time you will want to eat more plant based foods.
2 - Information Overload
Have you ever tried to learn so much about a subject that you felt like you didn’t know anything about it after a short time?
There is so much new information to learn when you start a plant based diet that it can make you feel stupid.
It goes a little something like this…
You try to learn about this new way plant-based way of eating and all of a sudden you are learning about “super foods” and maybe even super duper foods.
Then you read something about the benefits of maca root and how great it is, then you find information on how much salt is really ok to have.
It can bog your mind down with information that isn’t very important right now.
There are no magic plant based foods. Keep things simple and don’t worry about the rest for now.
Eating a bowl of kale is not going to turn you into a superhero or give you an extra 100 years of life! You will get a lot of lutein which is good for your eyes, but you will not have X-ray vision.
How to cope with information overload?
All you need to worry about is eating foods that are as close to their natural state as you can get them. Fresh vegetables, fruits and unprocessed whole foods.
Avoid foods that come in a box or with a lot of added fillers, sugars and other ingredients and you will be fine.
You can learn about superfoods or exotic fruits or other plant based foods you’ve never even heard of later.
If you get started on the basics and get going you will start feeling better very soon. When you feel better you will be more motivated. Until then, it’s best to keep things simple.
3 - Is a Plant Based Diet More Expensive?
This depends on who you ask, and how that person looks at their world. You can look at it a few different ways.
- It can be a bit more expensive to buy only organic fruits and vegetables from premium grocery stores.
- Eating foods that aren’t healthy for you may cause you to have health issues, which can cost you money later.
- Growing some your own fruits and vegetables can save you a lot of money and improve your health.
There aren’t many / any studies on exactly how much money you can save by growing your own vegetables vs buying them. A lot of people agree that there is a huge benefit to growing your own food if you can though.
It’s definitely going to depend what you buy. Eating fresh foods can be very cheap if you keep things simple.
Foods like goji berries and fancy exotic fruits as well as all organic vegetables can end up costing you a lot.
How can you save money on a plant based diet?
First, you have a choice between eating all organic, no organic or some organic. Which one you pick is going to make a small, medium or huge difference in how much you spend each week.
No organic – Some people think all this organic vs non-organic stuff is a scam. If this is how you feel, then you’ll be eating a lot of non-organic foods. I don’t want to sell you on organic vs non-organic right now…it’s not important in the beginning.
If you do not want to bother with organic produce to begin with you will be fine. Organic farms also use pesticides so no matter what you eat there are some risks.
The most important thing is you are eating unprocessed foods. This is better than eating a piece of cake!
All organic – If you decide to eat only organic foods you will spend quite a lot at the grocery store each week.
You might pay twice the amount for an organic Honey Crisp apple as a non-organic Red Delicious apple. If you find yourself in this situation, the Honey Crisp apple is way better, but these things are personal.
The best advice is to try different things and eat what you like best. Simple, right?
Some organic – If you stick to the dirty dozen list of fruits and veggies then this will give you a great head start.
So, what to do?
If it will get you going faster and with less confusion, then I would stick to eating fresh foods and worry about organic vs non-organic later on.
You may find that eating a lot of fresh food makes you feel great. When that happens you may want to only put the highest quality food in your mouth, and that may mean more organics.
What’s the bottom line?
Eat something other than junk food as soon as possible and you are off to a great start!
4 - Will I Get Enough Protein?
If you are a lover of science like I am this may get a bit tricky.
I am a huge fan of science and facts. I am also a fan of using common sense. When it comes to weight loss, science seems to be playing catch-up. If you are like me then you’ve found a lot of weight loss advice out there to not work very much.
You will have to eat as much protein as you think you need and see how it makes you feel. You may need more or less. You are going to learn how much you should have, how much is possible and then some common sense.
Somewhere in that mix of information will be your secret to getting enough protein on a plant based diet.
How much protein should you eat?
The amount of protein that you “should” eat everyday has traditionally been 0.8gm/kg. If you weighed 180lbs, that would be about 82kg, which then would mean you would need 65 grams of protein per day.
If you were on a meat based diet, you could get a good amount (38g) of this from one cup of chicken
A new study is suggesting that you may need even more protein to be lean and healthy. In the study the people that ate a diet of around 25% protein did have better weight loss results.
The study recommends that you eat 25-35 grams of protein in every meal. This would come out to 75-105 grams per day of protein.
If you were on a meat based diet you would need to eat 3 chicken breasts per day.
This is crazy…
You would have to eat about 8 pounds of spinach if you go plant based to get the same daily amount of protein.
Do you think it would be easy to eat 8 pounds (3.6kg) of spinach per day?
How much protein can you get from plant based sources?
Lucky for you there are plant based protein sources such as lentils that will give you 18g of protein per cup. So you don’t have to worry about eating 8 pounds of spinach every day.
What about complete proteins?
You may have read that you can not get “complete” proteins from plant based sources.
The truth is, you will get the protein that you need from a plant based diet
Do you need to spend your time worried about protein?
If you are anything like me, then no. You do not need to spend any amount of time worrying that you are getting enough protein.
A lot of people have an opinion that if you don’t eat at least 0.8gm/kg of protein per day that you will melt away and disappear.
You can get a lot of daily protein from a plant based diet if you eat a variety of foods.
How to make sure you get your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein
If you believe that you will not be a complete person without the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of protein here are some plant based foods that have protein in them and taste great and will put your mind at ease.
Lentils – 36%
Black Beans – 30%
Broccoli – 7%
Quinoa – 8gm / cup
There are also a lot of plant based protein powders you can buy. Many of these are complete proteins and are an easy way to make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet.
And no, they do not taste like grass at all 🙂
5 - Will I Feel Hungry?
Are you worried that you are going to starve half to death on a plant based diet?
Are you worried that you’ll have to eat nothing but salads?
There is no reason to feel hungry while switching to a plant based diet. You are not on a “diet”, as in the kind where you limit how much food you eat.
When you switch to a plant based diet, you are feeding your body with the nutrition it needs to live and thrive. If you eat foods that your body is craving, you will not be hungry.
There are tons of plant based foods that are great for your health and that are very filling. There is no good reason to think that you can only eat lettuce and carrot sticks.
Can you imagine the freedom you’ll feel to make a huge batch of guacamole and eat it without guilt? Or a delicious lentil and bean chili?
Or you can make some Mexican quinoa that only takes 15 minutes and will blow your mind.
What’s the bottom line?
A plant based diet is not about starving, doing without or feeling guilty for eating. What it is, is a very easy way to eat delicious foods that can help you be healthier, live longer and enjoy food again.
Tip: Try this awesome chocolate / peanut butter / almond milk shake!
6 - Can I Go Out to Eat?
Eating out while on a plant based diet can be pretty hard to be honest. There are a growing number of vegan / vegetarian / plant based restaurants in a lot of towns, but there still aren’t many choices.
If you go to a traditional restaurant it can be hard to find something to eat that is plant based and good for you.
It’s usually easy to find a salad, but those can get boring. And a lot of times the salad dressing has a lot of sugar in it. Some restaurants don’t have any plant based options at all.
If you eat out at restaurants a lot this is going to take some getting used to. But soon enough you’ll learn which places have options for you and which ones don’t.
If you generally do not eat out a lot, then you have nothing to worry about.
So, how can you go out to eat while on a plant based diet?
You can make that day your cheat day and do the best you can. Do your best to avoid salad dressings made from dairy (ranch, blue cheese) and don’t order the burger.
The worst case is that you won’t eat perfect foods for one day and you can start over the next day. You should not have to feel regret for eating some french fries if you are out with friends.
Do the best that you can when eating out for now. One day you may not even want to eat at restaurants anymore!
7 - Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is as important to life and good health as the air you breathe. You can not live without it.
If you go without it long enough it can cause major health issues, including:
- Heart disease
Vitamin B12 also only available from animal sources in nature. There are no plant foods with B12 in them. There are multi-vitamins with B12 in them, but experts say that you really don’t the amount of B12 you need in them.
So, do you have to still eat meat?
No, there are still other options.
You can get a regular B12 injection from your doctor, or you can find a B12 mist spray that you can use once per day and have your levels checked when you see your doctor once in a while.
8 - Vegan Vs. Plant Based Diet
According to the Vegan Society, the definition of
veganism is “
a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose
So vegans avoid anything that is an animal product. This means no meat, or leather, or products that test on animals.
For vegans, the choice to be vegan is an ethical and moral choice, and it can also be a health choice.
But there are plenty of unhealthy vegan foods, so being vegan does not mean automatically eating healthy.
If you adopt a plant based diet lifestyle, you will only focus on eating food sources that are plant based. If you want to wear leather and eat plant based foods, then you are free to do that.
Can I eat cheese?
Cheese is not part of a plant based diet. If you are a cheese lover then this may be hard at first to adjust to. But there are a growing number of vegan / plant based cheeses available, and many of them are quite good.
And some are not.
So what you’ll want to do is try them and find the ones you like.
Here’s the deal.
Until you’ve tried a really good homemade pizza with sauce and toppings only, don’t assume it’s not good. You would be shocked at how good a cheese-less pizza can be.
9 - What Are These Exotic Foods?
Have you ever tried goji berries or maca root?
If you search the internet for new recipes for plant based foods you may become frustrated. You will likely find a lot of ingredients you’ve never heard of before.
Some of these foods are delicious, and some are expensive and awful tasting.
Goji berries are very good, but a little bit expensive. Papaya tastes like a foot to some people, and smells worse…and is very expensive.
If you are a picky eater, then by all means try new things, but start slowly.
What’s the bottom line?
Just because certain plant based foods seem trendy or popular doesn’t mean you will like them. Try new things often and decide what is good for yourself.
10 - Are All Plant Based Foods Healthy?
One issue people have when starting plant based diets is the idea that all plant based foods are healthy.
What is healthy?
Is it food that with “organic” on the label?
It might be. It depends on the food item though.
It’s hard to figure out what food is “healthy” when so many people have a different idea of what healthy is.
Some people think a steak is healthy. Some people think plant based cookies with organic sugar is healthy.
So, how can you figure out what is healthy?
One way is to eat food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Spices and many ingredients in a recipe are fine, but if you can avoid a lot of processing you may be better off.
An apple is healthy…an apple pie may not be as healthy for you.
I hesitate to tell you to use common sense, because there are people that go on hot dog and cookie diets. But if you stick with foods that are close to their original state (fresh vegetables, fruits, spices etc) you will be doing well.
The only way to know if a plant based diet is for you is to try it. There’s nothing scary about it if and I know you can do it.
It’s not a magic cure for every health issue known to us. What it is, is a simple and delicious way to eat that may make you feel better than you have in a long time.
There are endless recipes and new foods to try, so one thing is for sure…you will not run out of options!