Veganout guide: reintroducing animal products
Last week, I wrote an article about vegan guilt, where I talked about taking the decision to reintroduce animal products into your diet and not feeling bad about it. This time I would like to give you a quick, practical guide on what to do if you finally made the decision to become omnivorous again and to reintroduce egg, fish, poultry and red meat in your diet after having been on a plant based diet for months, or maybe even years. In this article, I want to share with you a few principles of nutrition and how the gut bacteria work in order to support you in this journey of reintroducing foods in your diet.
The first principle you must follow during this journey is to listen to your body and to connect to how foods make you feel. We all have a different gut bacteria and your bacteria changes over time. You will find that what you could not digest yesterday you might be able to digest today and would love to eat tomorrow. This is a lengthy process which requires patience and a lot of self-care.
The second principle I need you to understand will explain to you why you need to follow the first principle. The reason why you might find yourself struggling to digest animal products is because when we stop eating foods completely we can lose the bacteria required to digest those foods. The process of reintroducing food in your diet is very similar to weaning a baby. When babies start eating solid foods parents give them one teaspoon of a new food the first day, then a little more at the next meal, again a little more the following day, and they build it up like this so that the baby has the bacteria to digest this new food. I want you to think of yourself as a baby who is eating new foods. You must have that patience and take this process very slowly.
The third principle I want you to understand is the fact that the gut bacteria changes all the time. So if something doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to give it up for life, as you can try a few weeks later. Unless you have an allergy to a certain food or dietary requirements linked to a health issue, I would not advise cutting things out completely from your diet.
How can you introduce new foods?
- Always have very small quantities for the first meal and increase the quantities during the subsequent meals and days. For example, if you want to reintroduce eggs, first day you can scramble one egg and eat half of it. The next day you can have a whole egg and the following day maybe two eggs, if your body reacted OK to it.
- Listen to your body. If you feel bloated, if you have gas, stomach ache, feel nauseous or have a feeling of not digesting something do not increase the amount until you feel fine with it. If necessary, give it a break of a few days.
- Within the same category you might find that some foods might be easier to digest than others. For example, maybe egg is easier to digest in my paleo cakes, or bread, than on its own, maybe salmon is easier to digest than tuna: play around with it and slowly increase the diversity of what you are eating.
- Chew, chew, chew. Mastication (chewing) makes your body produce digestives enzymes in the mouth, stomach and small intestine. Look at your food, as even looking at it will make your mount salivate and produce those enzymes. It is important to chew well in general, but even more so when you introduce new foods.
- Start by introducing animal products that are not mammals (like fish, chicken, turkey, eggs) as they are easier to break down than beef and lamb.
- A good tip to reintroduce animal products is to cook them slowly. Slow cooking helps break down the food and makes it easier for your system to digest it. In Chinese medicine slow cooked foods support the spleen which is the organ responsible for good digestive function. You can try my slow cooker chicken soup, which is the only thing my body could digest when I was seriously ill with ulcerative colitis.
If you have been vegan for over three years, I would strongly suggest seeking the help and support of a nutritional therapist in order to help you reintroduce such foods in your diet.
I hope you find this quick guide helpful!