How to adopt a plant-based diet

·6-min read
Photo credit:  Erik Madigan Heck for Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck for Harper's Bazaar

As we arrive in January, it's highly likely that you might be feeling a little over-indulged and groggy after Christmas.

Like many, your New Year's Resolutions might involve eating more healthily, doing more exercise or just generally improving your lifestyle - but with so many varieties of diets and styles of workout to choose from, it's hard to know what's actually worth doing and which are just fads.

One particularly popular January trend is Veganuary, where you follow a vegan diet for the month, to help you feel healthier after December's excess.

Plant-based eating, of which veganism is one of many forms, can at first seem an overwhelming concept. We spoke to Camilla Fayed, founder of the popular plant-based restaurant Farmacy in Notting Hill, who shared her tips on how to successfully adapt your lifestyle to accommodate your new plant-based diet.

"I believe that food is medicine and think that, separately to following a vegan diet, we should try to eat as many natural, organic and whole plant-based foods as possible.

"Try to avoid eating junk foods that contain any kind of chemical, even if they are vegan friendly. These don’t contain the same health benefits as natural foods and so don’t tend to make you feel as great when you eat them.

"Source organic produce from local farmers markets or to try to grow your own - even if it’s just herbs in a window box. It's always best to avoid supermarkets where possible, as organic food is usually overpriced and covered in plastic."

"As with all change, it takes time for both your body and mindset to adapt and different approaches work for different people. Don’t feel pressured to have to simply wake up one morning and never eat a bit of cheese or have a tiny piece of cake with egg in it again.

"Start with cutting out the things you find easiest to be without and then slowly begin to avoid the other animal-product based foods as your body gets used to it. You'll find that after a while you begin to lose a taste for these things and crave them less. The important thing is to approach it in your own time in a way that works for you.

"If you are a few days or even weeks into following a plant-based diet and then eat a chocolate bar one day - don’t beat yourself up about it and decide you can’t do it. Each day that you choose to eat more plant-based foods is a step in the right direction and a positive change for both your own health and that of the planet."

Photo credit:     Farmacy
Photo credit: Farmacy

"There's a common misconception that people who follow a plant-based diet struggle to get enough iron and protein. Try to eat at least one meal a day that contains three or more of the following foods groups; carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and of course - lots of fruit and vegetables.

"Make your plate as colourful as possible- a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. This way, you'll avoid filling up on too many beige foods that tend to be less nutrient-dense and more processed.

"You can maximise the number of nutrients by taking the time to prepare dishes in certain ways. For example, grains are much more nutritious and easily digested when they've been soaked first or sprouted. In the same way, activated nuts will also be much more beneficial for your system than normal nuts."

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

"Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t. A lot of people expect plant-based food to be boring, but Farmacy shows it can be delicious, exciting, easily prepared and enjoyed on a daily basis. Especially with the dessert recipes, as we use ingredients such as cacao in place of cooking chocolate, or dates instead of refined sugar.

"Learning to enjoy a plant-based lifestyle is about focusing on all of the colourful and natural whole-foods that you can enjoy, not dwelling on the processed foods that you're trying to avoid.

"My latest cooking hack is to use the magical Aquafaba (chickpea water) instead of eggs. It’s very cheap to buy as it's simply the liquid left over from a can of chickpeas and means no waste! You can recreate the fluffy texture that eggs give you with this substitute, so you can make everything from meringues to ice cream."

"Always carry around a few snacks, like a banana, handful of nuts or dried mango. This way you always have something to keep hunger at bay between meals, or if you are craving something sweet.

"If you have time either the evening before, or on the weekend, you can also make a big batch of one of my favourite sweet treats - our White Macadamia Cookies. They are gluten and refined sugar- free, perfect for enjoying as an afternoon snack at home, or on-the-go."

"A lot of people expect plant-based food to be restrictive, but people can follow a plant-based diet and still enjoy classic comfort foods and indulgent desserts. My advice is to be experimental, try new things and old things too - but made in new ways.

"The plant-based movement continues to build momentum, with increasing numbers of plant-based restaurants across the globe and a huge number of plant-based snacks now available in coffee shops, gyms, local food shops and delis.

"At Farmacy, we count chemicals not calories. People enjoy a treat every now and then and, in fact, one of my main reasons for opening the restaurant was to help make healthy eating fun.

"Aside from online research, there are a number of great documentaries that you can watch, such as Cowspiracy and What The Health to learn more about the impact on our planet."

Photo credit: Farmacy
Photo credit: Farmacy

"Go plastic- and fast fashion-free. Plastics now pollute every corner of our world, from the local river to the Arctic sea. They are even in our food chain. We actively try to avoid using any plastics at all. By using suppliers such as Vegware to source plant-based packaging alternatives, we know that all of our packaging is not only 100 per cent recyclable, but also in many cases 100 per cent compostable too.

"In the introduction to our cookbook we in fact have several sections on 'Conscious Choices' that outline how you can adopt these principles at home. From recycling, stem-to-root eating and conscious packaging choices - once you have an awareness, it’s all very simple.

"We also have a pesticide- and chemical-free environment on-site; all of our produce is either grown in our biodynamic Farmacy Kitchen Garden, delivered via an electric van, or sourced from certified organic, local suppliers. Our cleaning products too, are all eco-friendly.

Photo credit: Farmacy
Photo credit: Farmacy

"These days eco-friendly homeware products are readily available everywhere from Amazon to Waitrose. For those keen to trial their hand at making their own, our Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook also includes several home-made organic beauty and homeware recipes.

"The wellness movement in general is booming. People are finally becoming more conscious and it has become increasingly popular to look after your body by keeping fit and eating healthily, while also being mindful of the world we live in and looking after the planet."

Order the Farmacy cookbook here, or visit the restaurant at Farmacy, 74-76 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5SH

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