I firmly believe becoming a vegan is the best decision a person can make for their health, well-being, the environment and the animals. Vegan diets can prevent diseases, are full of fiber and micronutrients, and if done right, can help you lose weight. Factory farming is one of the biggest atrocities humans have inflicted on this planet. More than 50 million land animals are killed each year by humans for food. By becoming a vegan, you are making an ethical decision with your wallet and your stomach that will no doubt lead to a paradigm shift in how we view food and other animal species.
When someone finds out that I’m vegan, many times they are curious and want to know what I eat, how I did it and how they can make the transition. While I extol the virtues of this lifestyle to anyone who wants to listen (and even some who don’t!!) I know firsthand that it can be a daunting process to someone who is eating a diet heavy laden with meat and dairy.
To the uninitiated, a vegan diet may seem extreme. After all, most of us have been conditioned by society to view eating the body parts of dead, mutilated and abused animals as normal. We have even been conditioned to think that eating corpses and animal byproducts is healthy. Milk does a body good, remember? However nothing could be further from the truth. So many people in the western world are riddled with preventable health problems, obesity and chronic, non-communicable diseases. It’s all down to what we are putting in our mouths.
Some people think vegans live off iceberg lettuce, carrot sticks and tofu (I love tofu, btw), when in reality vegan food is so varied and tastes effing awesome! You can have pizza, burgers, ice cream – all without harming animals and having a gentler impact on your health and the environment.
Read on and I will show you how to go vegan step-by-step.
How to go vegan the right way
- Educate yo’self. When I first became interested in a vegetarian (now vegan) lifestyle, I did what I always do when learning about a new topic. I researched the **** out of it. I scoured the internet for recipe ideas, the health benefits of not eating meat and how to go vegetarian. But I didn’t stop there, I also read a lot of peer-reviewed medical research which showed that many plant-based eaters had lower incidences of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension) and those who adopted a plant-based diet after getting one of these diseases had a higher rate of recovery than those on a standard diet. I also found that on average, vegans and vegetarians live longer than omnivores, another win. Additionally, through my research I found humans can get almost all the nutrients we need from plants if eating a well-rounded diet, but there is one supplement vegans need to take – B12. You can also find it in fortified plant milks or nutritional yeast, all of which I use including a daily tablet. Moral of the story is, if you’re going to do something, do it right. The Vegan Society’s website is a good place to start.
- Clean out your closets and pantry. Once you decide to go vegan, it’s time to clean out your fridge and pantry of anything containing animal products. The way you do it is up to you. You can wait until you eat all the meat and dairy you have on hand, as well as all the packaged/frozen food containing animal products. Or you can donate these items to family, friends, or a food bank. I don’t recommend throwing away anything unless it is something spoiled or half-eaten, etc. Food waste is a serious problem in the developed world while there are so many people going hungry and starving in other places. If you choose to eat through your stored food before making the switch, set a timeline for yourself for the transition and stick to it. In the meantime, avoid purchasing meat and dairy products for your home. You should also extend your purge to your beauty and cleaning products. Use up any cosmetics and toiletries that were tested on animals. When making new purchases, look for things which have not been rubbed or dripped into a bunny’s, dog’s or monkey’s eye. The leaping bunny symbol or the words cruelty-free on the back of the product are things to look for. Same goes for your leather and fur (shudder) items. Some persons continue to wear used leather after going vegan but I think that sends a mixed message. Donate them to a charity and buy sustainable vegan alternatives in the future.
- Experiment in the kitchen. As you start your vegan journey, focus on adding not subtracting. When people first make the switch to veganism, too often they think about what they are giving up instead of what they are gaining. Trust me, a whole new culinary world will be opened up to you. You will learn that you can bake without eggs and dairy and your desserts and baked goods will come out the same, even better sometimes. You can make ice cream with bananas, coconut milk – even avocados. You will learn that soft tofu is a perfect dupe for eggs in a scramble and you can even make omelets and cheesecake with it. Raw cashews can be soaked and blended to make vegan cheese and sauces, the list goes on. And you will begin eating an array of vegetables and fruits you never thought of before as you expand your palate. Sure you can subsist on fries, potatoes, Coca-Cola and mock meats, and all those things are vegan, but you want to thrive, not just survive. Buy vegan cookbooks, watch vegan cooking tutorials on YouTube, try some of the recipes on this blog (shameless plug) and embrace your new world.
- Tell your friends and family. A good way to hold yourself accountable as a new vegan is to tell friends and family what you are doing. To be honest you will probably feel so great in the first few weeks (improved digestion, weight loss, more energy and feeling lighter) that you will want to scream from the rooftops that you are vegan. I found when I became a veg, many of my friends were supportive. When I’m invited to parties people do think of me and try to have something vegan there, even if they aren’t too familiar with the lifestyle. And by spreading the word, you may open the eyes of more people about the health benefits of going vegan, thus saving the lives of more animals. Win, win!
- Research menus before dining out. Eating out. Perhaps the biggest fear of a new vegan. What will I eat? Will they have anything on the menu besides a garden salad? Will the waiter and my friends judge me for asking about the ingredients of dish after dish? Just because you are a new vegan, doesn’t mean you have to hole yourself up in your apartment eating plate after plate of veggie curry, watching Netflix and turning down dinner invitations. (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience). But eating out will be tricky unless you are going to a vegan place. The best bet is to call ahead or Google the restaurant where you will be eating and scope out their menu. See if they have vegan options, or anything that can be veganized. Or if you show up to a place unexpectedly with no vegan options, you can always ask the waiter if the chef will make something vegan just for you. Most places should be able to do a simple pasta with veggies in oil or tomato sauce. And if all else fails, just order fries and a small salad and try not to think of all the amazing vegan food you have at home, while hating your friends.
- Dust yourself off and try again. I have been a vegan for just over three years and was a vegetarian for 10 years before that. I am far from perfect, but every day I try to make choices for the good of animals, my health and well-being. But there have been times when I have inadvertently eaten meat or dairy. Cheese hidden in pasta that I thought was vegan. Or chicken in a Chinese dish even though I specifically told the waiter no meat. I do not consider these things food or healthy, but I did not beat myself up about it. If you make a mistake, whether you knowingly or unknowingly eat an animal product, it doesn’t do anyone any good to hate yourself over it. Just recommit yourself to the path that you are on and realize this is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Be ready to defend your choices. I said earlier that when I went veg, many people were supportive of and open to my decision. But there were those who chose to deride my choices, make fun of me at work or social gatherings and for some reason shout at me that they could NEVER, EVER give up meat. I have even had a person tell me at a dinner party that not eating animals was not solving anything and my lifestyle wasn’t doing any good. I was so angry that I started to shake. But getting into a shouting match with people over being a vegan doesn’t help anybody (been there, done that), however you should have about five talking points memorized for those uncomfortable conversations. People will ask you why you are vegan and tell you how good bacon or steak tastes and that they don’t care if animals are murdered. They will say these things because your choice not to exploit animals scares them and shakes the core of their pre-conditioned thinking. And because of limited diets, many people don’t realize how good vegetables can taste and all the amazing things you can do with them. They have yet to be enlightened. Instead of being flustered when you encounter a person like this, having a well-thought out response with some statistics will show that you are serious and on the right path. It will also shut up those ignorant people who just want to troll you. And if not, you will still come out looking like the better, more educated person.
- Stay healthy. Another stereotype of vegans is that we are all twig, waif like things that will blow over in a slight breeze. In truth, there are vegan body-builders, athletes and performers who go against this cliche. And while some vegans are thin and yoga-toned, it is beneficial to remember that we come in all shapes and sizes, cuz we’re human. I would love to lose ten vanity pounds and I am working on that, but my main goal every day is to be healthy. I don’t worry about dieting, but focus on eating as many whole, plant foods as possible with a few vegan treats here and there. I also try to get a lot of sleep (which is hard since my day job is in journalism which is full of anxiety and adrenaline), drink lots of water, exercise and take vitamins. When you get sick as a vegan, there will be people who will gleefully say it’s because you need to eat a steak. In actuality, I hardly ever get sick and my digestion is much better than when I ate dairy, which often made me bloated and gassy. Stay in tune with your body, if you are feeling sluggish on a vegan diet, try upping your intake of leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, etc and also eating more plant-protein. Don’t rely on processed foods (anything in a package) but eat organic foods from the earth. I also take a mix of supplements which I rotate in my smoothies such as maca, Spirulina, wheat grass powder, and ground flax. I also take magnesium, B12, and a vegan probiotic. Your health and how you look will become a reflection of this lifestyle to society. I take care of myself because I care about myself, duh, but also because I want to show those around me the benefits of this way of life.
I hope these tips have helped you. If you enjoyed this post, please like and follow my blog and share this on social media. xox