A Small Guide: How To Go Vegan
I've been vegan for almost three years and surprise, surprise I'm still alive. Somehow I haven't withered away because of protein deficiency. I'm alive, feeling well and thriving of plants.
I figured out it's been long enough to share some tips from my own experience when it comes to transitioning to a vegan diet and lifestyle. It wasn't easy in the beginning. The hardest part for me was being judged by other people and that's what kept me back for so long. Other people shouldn't be the reason you stop going vegan, that's for sure. I hope the 10 things I'm about to share will make it a little bit easier for you. Here we go.
It might be a good idea to start a new vegan life by eliminating all animal products in your home. This way you won’t be tempted to go nibble on that cheese or have a piece of that milk chocolate. Start fresh instead. To begin with I would just focus on the food you’re eating and once you’re comfortable with that you could think about what veganism is to you and how far you’re willing to take it - are you going to eliminate animal products out of everything you use? For example a lot of makeup and body products contain some sort of animal products or are tested on animals. How about your leather shoes?
It might be tough turing vegan when everyone around you are questioning your decision. My tip for you is to educate yourself in a way that interests you. Watch documentaries, youtube videos, listen to podcasts, read a book or search for information online. There's so much information out there waiting for you. A few good sources down below:
Forks over knifes
What the Health
So You're dating a vegan
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
How Not To Die, Michael Greger M.D
Whole, T. Colin Campbell
In order for you to stay vegan long term you must find your WHY. Without a why you'll fall flat and find it hard to be inspired to stay vegan. With a why comes the passion for veganism and the ethics behind it. It could be your health, the animals or the environment. For me it's all three of these and thanks to the why I'll never look back.
I do need to point out that I am not a nutritionist. The things that I share here are things I've learned by doing my own research. I highly recommend that you do your own or talk to a qualified nutritionist.
This is probably one of the most important steps when becoming a vegan and one that many worry about. Make sure to eat in abundance and mostly wholefoods. A vegan diet can be unhealthy if you only eat a bunch of processed junk. An easy way to keep track of your nutritional intake in the beginning of your vegan journey is with the app Cronometer. You simply add in everything you eat and it will tell you what you're getting enough of and what's missing. Other things to think of:
How will you be getting your B12?
I get mine through a supplement. I prefer one that comes as a spray, but there are heaps of different ones. Just check what one works for you. I also tend to eat nutritional yeast as well as some products with added B12.
What about protein?
We don't need as much protein as the meat and supplement industry tells us, too much protein can actually cause some serious damage on our bodies. Someone said to me that it's good to rethink the way you eat protein - don't see it as the main component of your meal, get your protein through snacks instead. You will get enough protein when you eat everyday things such as:
spinach, broccoli, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, soy, rice, legumes, hummus, seitan, spirulina, nuts & seeds, peanut butter, chia seeds, tofu, tempeh, hemp seeds
What about calcium?
It's a myth that we need to drink cows milk to get calcium. There are other much less cruel ways to get our daily need of calcium. I've named a few down below:
calcium-fortified milk & yoghurt alternatives, blackstrap molasses. kale & collard greens, broccoli, dried apricots, tahini
Other things to keep in mind?
Keep an eye out for vitamin D, omega 3 fats, iron and iodine. These can easily be taken as supplements if you're missing out on them through your foods. Omega 3 fats can for example be taken through supplements containing microalgaes. Iron rich foods are for example blackstrap molasses, nuts and seeds, legumes and dark greens. Iodine can for example be added to the diet through iodized salt. Of course you might be missing something else too, but this can easily happen on any 'diet'. I take for example a magnesium supplement at the moment and I don't know if it's because of my vegan diet.
It’s all about taking things slow. You need to be comfortable with the changes you make in order to successfully become vegan. For some people it might working switching things overnight by a radical change, but others will need to take small steps in order to reach the big picture. Maybe start by eliminating meat, then the following week you’ll get rid of eggs and in your third week you’ll stop consuming dairy products. Remember to keep an eye out for what vegan replacements there are for your favourite foods on the market. I also think that when you take small steps you’ll notice how your taste buds change and you’re less likely to crave animal products.
We live in a culture that is heavy on animal products. We don't question the fact that a meal is supposed to consist of some sort of animal protein as the main component. Well my friend, it's time you start questioning this. For me a meal is so much more. It's supposed to be vibrant foods that fuel me and fill my body with nutrients. I don't need chicken breast or a cut of a cow to do that. You'll notice that you will get more creative in the kitchen as you're going vegan. Don't see it as a hard challenge, see it as something fun! For inspiration to begin with there are tons of amazing food bloggers and cookbooks out there. I'll share a few of my favourites below. Another tip is to follow vegan foodie accounts on Instagram for inspiration.
Thug Kitchen - Eat Like You Give A Fork
Eat Smart, Niomi Smart
Frugal Vegan: Affordable, Easy & Delicious Vegan Cooking
Vegan Bowl Attack!
Green Kitchen Travels (Various)
Smith & Daughter's: A Cookbook That Happens To Be Vegan
That's right, most things can be veganized. I've had ice cream, 'chicken' nuggets, sausages, chocolate, cheese, you name it. If you can't find it in the store there's most likely a recipe for it. Did you for example know that chickpea water (aquafaba) makes the perfect vegan meringue? Or that you can make cheese out of nuts? Crazy! Also many 'normal' products out there are vegan by accident, for example everyone's favourite Oreo cookies. Just learn to read food labels and you know what's a no and what's a go.
Eating out with friends and family who aren't vegan can be a tough one, at least in the beginning. My tip here is to prepare beforehand and do your own research about places. If you can't find anything vegan on the menu call the restaurant. Most restaurants are happy to cater for vegans nowadays. The craziest experience I've had is a fish restaurant that made me a three course vegan dinner. If the restaurant isn't willing just suggest another restaurant for your family and friends. There's one out there that will suit you all. One tip is to follow Instagram accounts that explore the vegan scene in your city or keep a list of vegan friendly places on your phone, this way you'll never run out of options. If you're invited over to someone and you know there won't be vegan food, bring your own and don't make a fuss about it. Note: Remember to bring some extra with you, because people are always curious to try!
It can be very lonely when no one in your surrounding seems to understand you and it's easy to build up anger as a new vegan. The whole world seems so evil and cruel. My suggestion is that you try and make some vegan friends. I've met some lovely souls through Instagram. Other options is probably through groups on Facebook or by attending vegan events in your city. Once you're hanging out with other vegans it's such a breath of fresh air as you can finally relax and just enjoy the company of likeminded people and not be questioned about your belifs.
No one is perfect and we all make mistakes during our vegan journey. I've drank milk and had a piece of chicken without realising it until afterwards. If you fall back to old habits or have something non vegan by accident don't hate on yourself. It's a new day tomorrow which means you can start fresh.
I hope these tips were helpful in some way. At least I think I would have been happy if someone had told me them when I started my vegan journey. If you have any questions don't hesitate to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm more than happy to chat and help you!