If you want to go vegan, you may have tons of questions. Giving up animal products can be an overwhelming decision for some people and maybe you don’t know where to start. Continue reading this quick guide to help make your transition easier.
Veganism is a lifestyle that is growing fast.
I’m constantly surprised by new vegan product releases. Restaurants incorporate more options in their menus, and people are more interested to go vegan or trying vegan food.
The world is changing and that’s a great thing!
However, not everyone dares to go vegan.
I think that there are some reasons why people hold back from going vegan. Maybe they believe it will be extremely difficult. Also, they may think that the food is going to taste horrible or they simply won’t find anything to eat.
This is the thought that I had the first time that I considered stop eating meat.
But going vegan is easier than it seems. However, it requires planning, motivation, and conviction for the values in which you believe.
Now, I want to make something clear. This post is not intended for any reason to force someone to be vegan or to judge people for their decisions. I just want to show you how easy it can be, the benefits it can have and how I came with my decision 🙂
My Vegan Journey
I want to tell you a little about my story. I never thought that one day I could stop consuming animal products.
All my life I had eaten meat; I enjoyed it. Also, I thought I needed meat in order to get all the nutrients I needed to be healthy. I believed it was something inevitably necessary.
I remember that I always had a moral conflict. When growing up we always had pets at home, including chickens. I would rescue them when I could and make them my privileged pets so they would not become dinner.
But then, there began my dilemma … How could I call myself an animal lover if I was eating them? This situation was too contradictory!
One day I finally made the connection and decided to finally stop consuming all kinds of meat and milk. I eliminated cheese and eggs eventually too.
It all started in Europe
More than 5 years ago I had the opportunity to live in England. It was very common to find all kinds of products for vegetarians, but I never paid much attention.
I was watching television one day. In the show, a man killed a rabbit with his own hands while I was eating a meat lasagna. That day everything in my life changed. I felt utterly disturbed and there was no way I could see what was on my plate as “food” anymore.
On another occasion, also on TV, they presented a show about life in the countryside. In this case, there was an auction of calves from the dairy industry. They explained in the show that male calves are worth nothing to farmers because they don’t produce milk. Farmers sold them at prices as low as 1 pound sterling. The fate of these little creatures was to be pet food or cheap meat.
It didn’t happen overnight
Before making my final decision in England I had already considered the possibility of becoming a vegetarian before. But they were only weak ideas or attempts.
I feel that on those occasions I failed perhaps because of very bad planning on my part, or because I was simply not ready yet.
Besides, I still had that chip in my head that eating animals was part of the “law of life” … that it was not normal to try to avoid it.
Until that day came when I decided to analyze all these reasons, which I believe were a justification for consuming animals. I did not find ANY valid one. There was absolutely nothing that allowed me to eat meat again.
But meat tastes so good though, you may be thinking. Well, of course!
I asked myself : “But does an animal deserve to be tortured and die horribly, just because I liked the taste?” … My answer was no.
I want to be honest in this post, I wasn’t one of those people who became vegan overnight. And that’s fine. If you became vegan overnight that’s amazing too!
It would have been nice for me to do the change earlier. But I’m glad I finally did it and I don’t regret a single day.
Veganism is a process and the time it takes will depend on each person. It’s not a philosophy of perfection either, but rather of compassion and to do the best we can to cause the least damage possible.
What is Veganism?
According to the Vegan Society
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Veganism’s main motivation is from an ethical point of view. Being vegan goes beyond a diet. It is a lifestyle.
Vegans exclude any product that comes from an animal. This includes clothing, products that are tested on animals, and activities where an animal is abused.
It is not a cult, or a trend or a diet for weight loss.
What’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian?
A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat animals, but can consume some animal products such as honey, dairy (lacto-vegetarian), eggs (ovo-vegetarian), or both (ovo – lacto vegetarian).
Many people first start out as vegetarians and then go vegan.
Vegans are known sometimes as strict vegetarians and as I described above excludes any product that comes from an animal (including leather, feathers, wool, etc).
In the category of veganism, there are also sub-groups:
- Fruitarians: Their diet consists primarily of fruits, greens, veggies, seeds, and nuts. It excludes grains, tubers, cereals, legumes and other vegetables that need cooking.
- Raw vegan: They carry a vegan based on a large quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables but nothing is cooked above 48 ° C (118 ° F); They include vegetables, some tubers, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains.
Neither vegans nor vegetarians consume fish or seafood products. A person who follows a diet that is mostly vegetarian but includes fish is called pescetarian.
Reasons to Go Vegan
For the Animals
Many of us develop that sense of caring for animals. We don’t like to see them suffer. Nor that they are in cruel situations.
But every day billions of animals are slaughtered for human consumption. These animals are born, live and die in deplorable conditions. They have been mutilated and mistreated and lived crowded and sick during their short lives. Animals feel the same fear and pain as they head towards the slaughterhouse. Although it does not seem so, the dairy and egg industry causes the same pain and suffering.
Veganism is based on opposition to such abuse and on the defense of animal rights.
For the environment
The damage caused by livestock and animal agriculture for human consumption is enormous. This is contributing to the destruction of the planet and ecosystems as important as the Amazon. If you want to know more about the subject I share this link with you.
Finally, the consumption of animal products is linked to the increase and risk of many cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and obesity.
The American Dietetic Association’s position is that properly planned vegetarian diets, including strict vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy. Including that they are nutritionally adequate and can provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
According to the association, a plant-based diet, if well planned, may be appropriate for people at all stages of their lives. This includes pregnancy, lactation, childhood, adolescence, and even for athletes.
What you need to know if you want to go vegan
Some of the reasons why people consider that they could never go vegan are related to doubts about nutrition, ethics, and society.
It’s important to read a lot about basic nutrition. I think this is something we should all do even without being vegan.
Knowing about nutrition helps us plan our meals and to have a balanced and healthy diet.
There are various sources on the internet with extensive information about how to obtain the different nutrients we need on a plant-based diet.
I invite you to read as much as you can about it.
Protein on a vegan diet
We have a very deep thought that the best or only source of protein only comes from animal products.
Since young, it’s the only thing we’ve known and in each talk or nutritional campaign, they tell us the same thing.
But, the reality is that the plant world is full of proteins!
Half a cup of lentils adds 9 grams to your diet in addition to almost 16 grams of fiber. So believe me, vegans are not going to die from protein deficiency.
Good sources of plant-based protein:
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans, lentils.
- Soy products: Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame.
- Whole Grains: Brown rice, spelt, buckwheat, wild rice, teff, oats, sorghum, millet, barley, rye.
- Green peas
- Seeds: Hemp, pumpkin, chia, sunflower or sesame seeds.
- Dark leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, spinach, etc.
- Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.
- Nutritional yeast
The best of the case is this kind of protein doesn’t have the cholesterol of those that come from animal products.
Currently, society is used to eating a higher amount of protein than the daily requirement. This is not only unsustainable in the long run for our planet but it is also not good for our health.
Keeping a balanced diet
It should be noted that being vegan doesn’t automatically make you healthy. You can still be vegan by only eating processed foods, fats and sugars. Hello, french fries and vegan cakes!
By following the Plate Method, we can make sure we are incorporating every basic food group in our diet.
- 50% of your plate should be veggies, leafy greens, and fruit. Add some nuts or healthy fats.
- 25% Plant-based protein
- 25% Grains and starchy veggies
Make sure to incorporate a wide arrange of colors from fuits and vegetables. Always add some leafy greens!
A vegan diet abundant in fresh produce and unprocessed food, low in processed oils and refined sugars can lead to big health benefits if it’s well planned and can be suitable for any stage of life.
In addition to finding vegan sources of protein, the plant kingdom can also provide us with essential nutrients such as zinc, calcium, iron, among others.
By including a variety of products in our diet every day we are going to make sure we get everything we need.
Supplements in a vegan diet
At the moment the vitamin that is usually supplemented is B12.
This vitamin is produced by microorganisms and there are foods fortified with it or you can buy a supplement. Just make sure the B12 supplement you buy is vegan, as many companies may include gelatin or other animal ingredients.
Learn more about vitamin B12 with this link.
If you live in a place where there is not a lot of sunlight or you barely go in the sun, then a Vitamin D supplement can be helpful.
Everyone can suffer from deficiencies – even if they eat meat – but just being vegan is going to raise a cry of alarm. Getting to such a point that some people go back to eating meat because they feel that the vegan diet made them sick.
In fact, perhaps it is due to improper planning that someone can get sick.
It’s important to have medical examinations at least once a year and try to eat healthy so as not to get sick.
Remember that this also applies to people who eat meat. If they have a bad diet they will still get sick. The same thing happens in the vegan lifestyle if you eat badly.
Don’t forget the calories!
Not many people mention the importance of calories. We live in a world where they are counted down to restrict them in order to not gain weight.
Plant-based foods are less dense in caloric content so it’s important to take that into account and create your menu making sure that you’re not consuming less than your daily requirements.
Adults require a minimum of daily calories.
Approximately 2500 kcal for men and 2000 kcal for women. This value will varies depending on your metabolism, age and the amount of physical activity you do.
If you do not consume enough calories you may feel weak and without energy
For those who would like to lose a couple of pounds, perhaps this sounds tempting, but if you’re already a thin person the purpose is not to disappear.
An application that helped me a lot is Cron-o-meter, and like this one there are other apps that can help you a lot with this lifestyle.
Make sure that you consume high-quality calories because it’s not the same 100 calories of potato chips or Oreo cookies to 100 calories of almonds or bananas.
It’s expensive to be vegan
There is a belief that to be vegan you must have a lot of money because all vegan products are expensive and on top of that they taste like cardboard.
This is far from reality, you don’t need to be a millionaire to eat well and in fact, from my own experience, I can say that my food costs are much lower now.
It all depends on what kind of things to buy and where to buy them.
Generally, legumes, cereals, fruits, and vegetables are much cheaper than a kilo of meat. When I go to eat at a restaurant and they have vegan or vegetarian options most of the time the price is lower.
Some recommendations to eat vegan and cheap:
- Go to your local market to buy fruits and vegetables instead of at the supermarket.
- Buy local and seasonal produce.
- Consume legumes, grains, and cereals instead of vegan meat substitutes. It’s much cheaper and healthier.
- Make your own plant-based milk, sauces, veggie burgers, etc.
- Eat the least processed products as possible.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll never go to a vegan restaurant, nor that you should never buy vegan yogurt, mock chicken or cheese. These products are ideal for when we have cravings but not as part of the day to day.
Substitutes for animal products are quite useful when you are starting the transition because it makes the process more bearable, also to be part of social activities such as a barbecue with friends or family, and they are also convenient for a quick meal or when we wake up reluctantly to cook anything.
Vegan food is gross or tasteless
Another common thought is that meat-free food is boring and tasteless. But would you eat a piece of raw chicken and without any type of seasoning?. No, right!
The same happens with vegan food. If it’s poorly seasoned or the ingredients are not good quality then it could taste like grass and leave people with this bad impression.
If someone had told my parents 20 years ago that I was going to be vegan they would have never believed it.
I was that girl who didn’t anything that came from a plant, except for the occasional salad with lettuce and tomato and some fruits such as pears or apples.
Our taste buds are adaptable and as I’ve mentioned, I hated vegetables and now I love them even on their own without any dressing. There are a few that I simply got used to and ended up liking eventually.
I also experienced the reverse effect and can’t stand the smell of meat or dairy now. Everything is up to getting used to it.
Cooking meatless meals will open the doors to a new world of flavors. There are so many things that I didn’t even know existed and are now an important part of my dishes.
Tips and Recommendations
Research, research, research
Research everything you can, the more the better. Watch documentaries, follow pages and blogs related to veganism, read about nutrition and whole foods plant-based diets.
Look for recipes or get a good vegan cooking book
Try a new dish at least once a week, one that is simple for you and with ingredients you can get where you live.
If you’re a person who is no fan of vegetables or fruits then I suggest you start step-by-step. Try to integrate them with foods that you like such as pasta, curries or in juices and give them a chance one at a time preparing them in different ways until you find which one suits you.
It may be that you are never going to like some, no matter in how many ways you try (Yes, I’m talking about you olives!) so if you have a blacklist of things you have tested in different forms and that spinach simply doesn’t go with you, well it doesn’t matter! Try to integrate other things that you do like.
You’ll be wondering if you need to know how to cook. Honestly, there are many things that can be done easily and even if you don’t like cooking. There are plenty of recipes from basic to more complex, everything will depend on you and your research.
Try meatless Mondays
If at the moment you feel that giving up meat 100% is too hard then try to gradually reduce your consumption. Meat-free Mondays are a good choice.
Plan your menu in advance
A good way to always have something to eat is by organizing your meals every week. You can even do some things beforehand like cutting vegetables. Freeze fruit for breakfast smoothies. Make hummus for your sandwiches, etc. Also, that will help you when shopping and focus on the things you need.
This will also help you make the grocery list to focus on the things you need and make that visit to the supermarket more efficient.
Visit your local market
Markets are one of the best places to get your fruits and vegetables. You’ll get better prices and fresh products direct from the producer most of the time.
Focus on the local and seasonal goods which will be cheaper and have better flavor.
Veganize your favorite foods
There are certain dishes that have a special and emotional meaning to us.
If you feel bad because you will never be able to eat the lasagna or Mac & Cheese that you like so much then try to make a vegan version of it.
Sometimes it’s very simple and you’ll discover that you can still enjoy them without the need to add animal products.
Join your local vegan groups
The group of vegans and vegetarians in my country helped me immensely.
It made me feel that I was not the only one or an alien in the middle of a meat-loving country. I also learned many things about where to find ingredients, doctors or nutritionists with experience in veganism, tips to handle certain situations, among other things.
Once you go vegan it can shock some people. You can receive a lot of questions, challenges to try to make you reconsider your decision, as well as criticism and jokes.
Some get little acceptance from family, friends or society in general. But don’t worry, whenever someone goes against what society considers normal and standard there is going to be judgment and disagreement.
Just try to ignore people who try to bother you. Remember what made you make the decision and feel sure that it’s the best thing you can do for the animals, your health, and the environment.
Prepare back up plans
If you are eating out and it’s not sure that the place you’re going will have vegan options contact them ahead of time and ask them on the matter. In case they don’t have anything, ask them if they could do something simple for you.
If you go on day trips take some sandwiches, snacks, nuts, fruit and energy bars just in case you can’t find anything reliable on the road.
Don’t give up
Veganism is not about perfection or becoming the vegan police by thinking you are better than others.
You may make mistakes along the way and eat something that you were assured had no eggs but when you see better it turns out it did have. Or surrender to a craving for extra cheese pizza another day. We are all human and it can happen.
The thing is to not let the guilt eat you, move on and just be more careful next time. Try to keep vegan food at hand so it helps you to avoid falling into temptations.
We live in a world in which there are animal products practically everywhere, even on things that one would never imagine, so we will sometimes accidentally end up using something that is not technically vegan but the important thing is to be aware of our actions and that we are making an effort to not contribute with animal exploitation.
Do it at your own pace
If you decide to take this lifestyle do in a way that makes you feel comfortable and at your own pace. Don’t compare yourself with others or feel disappointed because XX person became vegan overnight without any kind of temptation but in your case you are still struggling.
Once you see the reality of animal suffering and what happens so people can eat meat, the deforestation and environmental damage occurring as a consequence of factory farming you’d wish everyone including your partner, friends, acquaintances, and relatives would feel the same as you, ditch animal products and go vegan.
But the reality is different, you could feel frustrated to see that it doesn’t matter to many people even if they know the facts. Try to be comprehensive, and remember that many of us one day were in that same position.
Once you go with the flow you’ll see that it’s one of the best decisions you could’ve made and thousands of animals will thank you.
Do you have any other questions about veganism and how to get started? Or if you are a vegan, tell us about your experience!
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