January presents a fresh opportunity to look inward and determine where there is room to grow from a health perspective. In my holistic nutrition practice, January is a period to sit with my clients and establish new lifestyle changes to help guide them on their journey towards optimal wellness over the new year and beyond.
Hands down, the most effective and common strategy discussed with my clients for better health, is a shift towards a more plant-based lifestyle (for those who are not already completely plant based).
After so many years of encouraging this powerful transition with my clients, I have developed some useful guidelines and expected benefits of a more plant-based journey.
Gradual Change vs. Elimination
The method of transition from animal to plant foods is extraordinarily important and unique to each individual. However, I have found that the vast majority of my clients are more successful when they make the shift gradually rather than eliminating all animal-based foods at once. While some people can certainly be effective in making the jump “cold turkey,” it is typically far less intimidating to begin the process by swapping out specific foods or food categories one at a time.
For this reason, I always recommend writing down a list of animal-based foods that you consume most often. Perhaps it is the creamer in your morning coffee, bacon for breakfast, chicken on your salad at lunch, or ground meat on your dinner plate. After you have the list of your most commonly consumed animal foods, you simply research healthy plant-based alternatives for each item. For example, there are numerous vegan options for healthier, but still delicious, creamers to choose from. I love Light Life’s tempeh bacon as a replacement for pork bacon. You may find that you are just as fulfilled with a salad topped with various legumes as the protein instead of chicken, and when seasoned the same way, even lentils can fulfill the same craving as ground beef.
Be careful not to simply replace each item with its vegan alternative because plant-based foods can still be ultra-processed and low in nutrients. It is still important to check nutrition labels and be sure there aren’t high levels of saturated fat, sugar, or additives.
A little preparation ahead of time can make all the difference when hunger strikes. One of the hardest parts of transitioning to a mostly or fully plant-based diet is not knowing what to eat when you are hungry or in a rush. Meal preparation solves this issue.
My favorite foods to prep on Sunday for the week ahead include tempeh (a fermented plant-based protein powerhouse), lentils, a variety of beans, brown rice, quinoa, faro, and various chopped up greens and other veggies. With these few plant foods, you can make seemingly endless combinations of meals throughout the week.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Lifestyle
The shift away from animal-based foods results in numerous health benefits — physical, mental/emotional, and energetic. My clients have reported feeling more rested (a direct result of better sleep), more energized, and less sluggish. You may also experience improved digestion, glowing skin, and stronger hair. Many people also feel less anxious and generally more positive after going plant based.
As a holistic nutritionist, my job goes beyond physical and emotional health. I also believe that deep energetic transformations can arise with a shift from omnivorous to plant-based eating. It is a challenging truth to face that Western food systems are devastating to animals and the environment. However, when you cut out more animal foods, you are personally affecting a change towards more positivity and less pain, which for many can be a strong motivator to stay the course. Equally, I believe we all receive energy from the food on our plates, and I have found that when my plate contains, at least mostly, plant foods, my resulting energy is noticeably lighter. Start taking stock of how you feel after certain meals and perhaps you will notice the same.
Vitamin B-12 is the only supplement that you must take if you are completely plant-based even if you are eating a whole food and highly varied diet. Other potential deficiencies that you should be cognizant of include vitamin D, iron, and omega 3s. Consider taking a supplement if you realize that you are not getting enough of these nutrients.
Some resources to help you on your plant-based journey include my S.O.U.P. Cleanse for those who live in the Los Angeles area and my 7-Day RESET Cleanse for those outside of LA. My biggest tips for you are to be open minded and patient. Do not expect the plant-based bacon to taste exactly like the pork-based bacon; it is simply meant to be a healthier alternative to it. Over time, I promise you that your tastebuds will change, you will start to crave the healthier option, and you may even forget about animal-based food. And if you goof up one day and give in to a carnivorous craving, it is not the end of the world. Just do your best and always have fun with the process.
Elissa Goodman is a Holistic Nutritionist and Lifestyle Cleanse Expert. After being diagnosed with cancer in her 30s and then losing her husband to his own fight with cancer, Elissa quit her job at Vogue to study holistic nutrition. Fast forward a number of years, and she has helped thousands of clients manage their own health issues, created several successful cleanses, is regular contributor to major media outlets including Huffington Post, Goop, and NBC LA. Elissa is also the author of best-selling book, Cancer Hacks, and is currently working on her second book called Autoimmune Hacks.