Did you ever think you’d eliminate ALL animal-based foods and products? The transition may have seemed pretty challenging a few years ago, but today it’s easier than ever for people to switch to vegan diets.
Suddenly, you can find tons of plant-based restaurants, vegan ‘meat’ and dairy substitutes, and plenty of non-leather leather-like accessories.
In 2013, the number of American vegans ballooned to 2.5% of the U.S. population.
That’s an increase of more than double the vegans there were in 2010. On top of this, vegan food products and businesses are on the rise. And vegan foods are getting really tasty. Vegan celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Usher, and Al Gore have all embraced the lifestyle and are making great efforts to get the word out.
Read on to learn about the best foods to look for as you head out on the vegan path — or if you’re an omnivore wanting to simply eat fewer plants. You’ll also learn how to cook and shop the vegan way.
What is Veganism, Exactly?
Committing to a vegan life means avoiding any and all animal products. Many vegans choose to practice veganism because of their ethical beliefs or concerns about the environment. It’s true, certain farming practices and operations have drastic, dangerous effects on the environment. But, if you don’t have a moral objection, is there still a point to the vegan lifestyle? You bet.
Several studies have shown promising results when it comes to the benefits of veganism. You may notice that many vegans tend to look thin. And it’s no surprise that vegans do tend to have a lower BMI index than non-vegans.1
Some studies also suggest that vegan and plant-based diets can be more effective than control diets or calorie-restricted plans. Studies also show plant-based diets can support glucose control and promote better heart health.2,3,4
Now, is going vegan a guarantee that you’ll lose weight or become super healthy? Of course not. Often, vegans are already interested in their health. However, a vegan diet does make you more likely to include certain “good-for-you” foods chock full of valuable nutrients.
The potential result… your diet may become more balanced, right off-the-bat.
Top 10 Vegan Diet Tips
Practicing veganism is about more than the shift in your diet. It’s about how you think about what you eat. Lots of these tips have to do with more than just what you eat. How you buy and prepare your foods also matters.
1. Understand Your Options
There are categories within the vegan lifestyle. For instance, you may want to become a…
Raw Vegan — This means you’ll focus on raw foods like fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods cooked below 118°F.
Whole Food Vegan — Of course, here you eat only one-ingredient foods sourced directly from the earth — no processing or manipulation.
80/10/10 Vegan — Here, you try to avoid fat-rich plant foods like avocados and nuts.
But, as a beginner, it’s best just to focus on…
- Finding the foods you like best
- Learning to make dishes that fit your lifestyle
- Handling your nutritional needs
2. Think About Adding, Not Subtraction
If you’re a major carnivore or junk-foodie, the number of foods you dump may be staggering. The list of foods to ditch goes beyond meat, dairy, and eggs. For instance, even honey is an animal byproduct. Even beer, wine, and certain chewing gums may have to go.
Instead of looking at the loss, think of “crowding out” those old favorites. Find substitutes for some of your old favorites. For example, choose almond or oat milk over traditional milk. A green smoothie before breakfast or fruit with dessert is a good way to try new vegan options too.
3. Change How & Where You Shop
While some stores have dedicated vegan sections, you’ll still want to play things safe. Get in the habit of reading labels because things that may appear vegan at first glance could still include animal products.
Also, explore new ethnic options you may not have been familiar with. Vietnamese food, Indian food, and Ethiopian food are all delicious and consist of many vegan options.
4. Be Patient In The Kitchen
When it comes to those first vegan dishes, be patient with yourself. Give yourself a little extra time to cook and have one or two “backup” options in the fridge, just in case the dish doesn’t quite work out.
Also, focus on versatile veggies like beans and legumes that fit in any type of meal.
5. Lean On Your Vegan Friends and E-friends
If you don’t have vegan buddies, you can find a whole community online. Just type “vegan recipes” into your search engine and see what pops up. You’ll be shocked at the sheer volume of results.
The vegan lifestyle invokes a lot of passion from those who have adopted it. As a newcomer, you can really use this to your advantage.
Vegan cookbooks are another great way to learn about new recipes. Facebook groups, podcasts, and forums are all great sources of advice. You can even share your own stories about the latest dish you made.
6. Preparation Matters
Sure, lots of restaurants have vegan menus and options, but you don’t want to be caught ill-prepared. traveling. Take a few vegan rations with you if you’re going to be on the road for a while. A simple salad, some fresh fruit, or trail mix can go a long way.
At home, set aside a prep day each week to cut and wash all your fruits and veggies. Furthermore, try planning out your meals. You’ll want your pantry packed with staples like chickpeas, quinoa, vegetable broth, and non-dairy milk.
7. Go Easy on Yourself, Bumps In The Road Are to be Expected
Falling off the wagon is a reality. If a pizza craving hits, it isn’t the end of the world. Of course, you want to adhere to your new diet as well as possible, but life happens. If you prep, you can minimize the need to go astray. But if you slip, don’t dwell on it. Just target the behavior that led to your accident, correct it, and move on.
8. Mind Your Protein
How do vegans get their protein? Do they get enough? Well, calm down. The Recommended Daily Value for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.5 Turns out you don’t need as much as you think you do. And there are plenty of plant-based proteins out there.
Look to popular vegan proteins like tofu, seitan, and tempeh. Legumes are great sources of protein.6
9. Don’t Be Afraid Of Supplements
When it comes to including iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, look no further than supplements. Vegans can easily help meet their calcium needs by eating green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. But it might be tough to get other nutrients into your diet as frequently — supplements can help bridge the nutritional gap.
Before taking dietary supplements, be sure to consult with a doctor. For one, your doctor will help you determine where you are deficient.
10. Practice Matters Most
Vegan living does have the potential to do a lot for your body. However, the anticipated benefits won’t all happen at once. Take things easy and let yourself adjust to your new diet. If you’re easy on yourself, you’re more likely to stick with it. Make your goal to eat a balanced vegan diet over a prolonged period of time.
In The End…
It won’t be easy. No important life change is easy. But becoming a vegan can mean lots of fun. Look at new foods, new cooking techniques, and new discoveries as an adventure!
The rewards are well worth it for your body and mind. By applying these tips, you’ll be in a great position to implement and stick to these changes and find long-term success.