Here are 5 tips to help you practice intuitive eating as a vegan, from a registered dietitian.
Being vegan doesn’t mean you need be restrictive with food. Having a restrictive mindset around food is in fact linked to a higher risk of disordered eating and can negatively affect your relationship with food and increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies. Instead of following a restrictive diet, I encourage to learn more about intuitive eating and focus on improving your relationship with food, while using gentle nutrition. In this post, I’m sharing 5 tips to help you get started.
What is Intuitive Eating
If you’re not familiar with intuitive eating, it’s an evidence-based approach that prioritizes eating by listening to your body’s internal cues of hunger and satiety instead of external cues, such as dieting and weight loss rules. It encourages you to make peace with food, rediscover the pleasure of eating and freeing yourself from chronic dieting.
I highly recommend that you read Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works if you haven’t already. This book was written by the two dietitians that developed intuitive eating in the 1990’s and it’s a must-read for those interested in learning more about intuitive eating.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating:
- Ditch the diet mentality
- Honor your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Respect your fullness
- Honor your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Movement – feel the difference
- Honor your health with gentle nutrition
5 Tips to Help You Practice Intuitive Eating as a Vegan
While veganism does exclude animal products, it is possible to eat intuitively on a vegan diet. Eating intuitively as a vegan can make veganism more sustainable and it promotes a healthy relationship with food.
If that sounds good to you, here are 5 tips for eating intuitively as a vegan.
1. Ditch Plant-Based Diet Mentality
Veganism is not a weight loss diet. Adopting a vegan diet for the sole purpose of weight loss can make it less sustainable. Plus, it distracts from its benefits to our planet and animals. This post by Taylor Wolfram explains this very well.
Plus, weight loss diets don’t work for most people and can negatively affect your relationship with food, increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies, disordered eating and more. To become an intuitive eater, it’s important that you commit to give up dieting forever. This includes restrictive forms of plant-based diets, such as raw vegan diets, low carb vegan diets and more. Diet culture is all around us and it’s unfortunately very present in the vegan community. Ditch the diet mentality.
2. All plant-based foods fit
Vegan diets don’t have to be low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free, oil-free, raw or whole foods only. Try to limit restrictions as much as possible. Restrictions will only lead to increased cravings, followed by overeating and guilt. Break the cycle. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat all (vegan) foods.
This is part of principle 3 of intuitive eating: Making peace with food. It can absolutely be applicable to a vegan diet.
Enjoy a variety of vegan food and include fun foods regularly. Don’t be afraid to try vegan meat alternatives or new store-bought vegan products. Using these can make a vegan diet exciting and more sustainable long term. We all need quick meal options sometimes and meat alternatives or packaged meals can help.
Try focusing on what you can add to your diet, instead of what you can take away from it.
3. Focus on how you feel (honor your hunger, feel your fullness)
An important part of intuitive eating is to prioritize listening to your body’s internal cues of hunger and satiety instead of external cues, such as dieting and weight loss rules.
To do this, it’s important that you ditch diet mentality and give up dieting forever. This will allow you to listen to your body’s internal cues. If you have a long history of dieting, you might not feel your hunger and fullness yet. It often takes time and practice, but you can get there.
Eating enough is important and will help you meet your nutrient needs and will help support your overall health. If you struggle to eat enough on a vegan diet, it can help to work with a registered dietitian.
4. Support Your Health With gentle nutrition
Gentle nutrition is the last principle of intuitive eating. It encourages you to honor your health with nutrition, while enjoying the foods that you love, without guilt.
It’s okay to choose foods for their nutritional quality. Just ask yourself:
- Am I enjoying these nutritious foods? Don’t force yourself to eat nutritious foods that you don’t enjoy.
- Do I have a medical condition that will be helped by paying attention to nutrition?
- Does thinking about nutrition feel neutral or does it trigger old diet thoughts?
- Am I able to eat pleasurable, but less nutritious foods, without feeling guilty?
Eating a variety of nutritious plant-based foods is important, but make sure that you enjoy the food that you eat. Remember: All foods fit.
As a vegan, it’s also important to support your health by taking supplements. Most vegans will need a B12 supplement and many will need a vitamin D supplement. You can learn more about supplements on a vegan diet, as well as tips for new vegans in this post. And here are my tips to prepare balanced vegan meals.
5. Work with a Non-Diet Vegan Dietitian
Becoming an intuitive eater is a journey and it can help to have the support of a non-diet dietitian. If this is accessible to you, I highly recommend working with a vegan dietitian that uses an intuitive eating and weight neutral approach.
If you’re located in Canada and you’re looking for a dietitian, you can book a free 15-minute discovery call or an appointment with me here.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace individualized nutrition or medical advice.