I could never be vegan. I like ____ too much.
Chances are most vegans have said this at some point in their lives. Unless you are raised vegan, converting to a lifestyle free of animal products is a big change. Our society uses animal products in almost everything we eat, especially processed foods. Did you know that marshmallows and Jell-O have animal products in them? They both contain gelatin, which is derived from collagen obtained from various animal body parts. What about wine? Some use fining agents to help clarify the wine that is made from animal products.
In the past few years, there has been a lot more awareness being brought to the practice of animal agriculture, including documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, What the Health, Cowspiracy, and Vegucated. Although some of the claims that the documentaries make should be taken with a grain of salt, it is impossible to ignore the appalling conditions the animals are forced to live in, as well as the lack of sustainability of a meat-centered diet.
Becoming a full-fledged vegan is not mandatory in order to make a difference. Even cutting down the amount of meat that you eat will still have an impact. However, if you have been considering going vegan but keep telling yourself that you can’t do it, think again!
1. Focus on your motive
What is your reason for wanting to become a vegan? Whether it is your concern for your health, the environment, animal welfare, or all of the above, they are all valid and admirable reasons for changing your lifestyle. Keep your motivation in mind, especially in the beginning, when implementing change can be the most challenging, and the temptation is difficult to resist.
2. Educate yourself
Learn about what it means to be a vegan and what types of ingredients are go-to’s for substitutes and delicious vegan dishes. Watch movies, read blogs, and talk to other vegans about the advantages and challenges of this lifestyle. Learn how to read ingredient lists and become familiar with less obvious animal-derived ingredient names that may show up in unexpected products.
3. Add to your diet first before subtracting
Focusing on all of the things that you CAN’T eat is probably one of the main reasons people decide against becoming vegan. However, before eliminating all animal products from your diet, try eating more vegan-friendly foods instead. Fill up your plate with beans, whole grains, tofu, and of course, plenty of fruits and vegetables. Being vegan does NOT mean you have to eat salad for every meal! I personally don’t like many salads and hardly ever eat them. Find vegan recipes that appeal to you and get comfortable preparing a few of them. Switch to non-dairy milk, yogurt, and even cheese for your everyday use.
Interested in a free Vegan Pantry & Fridge Checklist? It’s in my Resource Library![convertkit form=5209681]
4. Do it in stages or all at once: Go at your own pace
You don’t have to become vegan overnight. You can start cutting out one or two things at a time if that will make the transition easier for you. For example, if you already don’t eat much red meat, commit to cutting out all red meat first, and then add something else in a week or a month. However, if you want to jump in head first, go for it!
5. Stock your fridge and pantry
Fill up your fridge and pantry with versatile and delicious vegan-friendly ingredients and snacks. Always keep a full stock of your favorite vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans, a variety of grains, tofu, dried fruit, dairy-free milk, pasta, bread, and plenty of spices. Some of my favorite guilty but vegan snacks are Snapea Crisps, Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, Oreos (believe it or not), Cauliflower Puffs, and Chickpeatos.
6. Bring backup meals and snacks
Because a vegan diet is not considered the “norm,” many restaurants and people’s homes will not be accommodating to your diet specifications. Never assume that there will be something you can eat (or want to eat), especially when on the go. Bring energy bars, nuts, fruit, veggie chips, trail mix, and other portable vegan-friendly goodies to help curb your hunger. You’ll be grateful for your backups when you encounter not so vegan-friendly dining situations.
7. Don’t worry about protein
This is one of the biggest concerns people have about becoming vegan. To be honest, most omnivores have much more protein in their diet than they even need. And animal products are not always the best sources of protein. A lot of plant-based foods are great sources of protein, such as beans, vegetables, whole grains, rolled oats, and nuts. Another concern that has since been debunked was that only animal products contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. As long as you incorporate a wide variety of foods in your diet, there is no need to worry about nutrition.
8. Try more ethnic recipes and restaurants
Becoming vegan does prove to be challenging when eating out at certain types of restaurants. When eating out with friends at places with typical American-style fare, there are at most one or two things on the menu that are vegan-friendly, typically a pasta or salad (hold the cheese). This is the perfect opportunity to branch out and try different types of cuisines, both at restaurants and at home. Asian cuisine is typically my go-to (Thai, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese) because many of their dishes are tofu-friendly and loaded with veggies. Indian food is also a great option because the menu is already so vegetarian-friendly. Other cuisines to check out include Mediterranean, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern.
Are you considering becoming vegan? I would really encourage you to give it a try. There are so many worthwhile benefits that a vegan diet will bring, and, despite what many people believe, there is no need to sacrifice flavor or deliciousness!
I was a vegetarian for a year, and on a 70% raw food diet for almost that long. And I’ve got to say, my vegetarian year was one of my most unhealthiest. I wasn’t educated about what to eat – ate too much tofu (in my opinion) and tried to compensate with carbs.
The raw food thing was actually kind of crazy because I stopped cooking (as you might imagine) and ate simpler foods. I swear my senses improved.
These days I try to eat things in moderation. After living in Asia for as long as I’ve had, you start to realize how many calories the typical Western diet has. And yes, I totally agree, if folks would limit our meat consumption, the world would be a much more balanced, environmentally happy place!
But I’m curious, why did you decide to become a vegan?
Thanks for sharing about your experience! It’s definitely a misconception that becoming vegan or vegetarian automatically means you are eating healthier. It’s way too easy to fill up on processed and junk food, filled with carbs, sugar, and sodium. A raw food diet is pretty extreme! I like cooked food way too much to commit to that, but it does eliminate a lot of potential bad food. The Western diet is so loaded with meat and carbs, and the portions are ridiculous! It really skews the way we think about eating and cooking, even at home.
My husband decided to become vegan first, which I wrote about here. He did it mostly for health reasons, but the environment and animal welfare were big factors as well. I was resistant for a few months because I didn’t want to give up so many of my favorite foods, as well as miss out on the opportunity to try new things in the future (FOMO). But I slowly came to realize that my reasons for not becoming vegan were not great and certainly didn’t justify the killing of so many animals. My husband was very happy when I became vegan because we were on the same wavelength when it came to eating food at restaurants and at home. We didn’t have to eat different things, and we were also on the same page when it came to raising our son vegan.
Thanks for your great tips! I watched Forks Over Knives and it really inspired me to reconsider how we were eating. I, too, worried about the protein because I once knew a girl who went vegetarian and then her hair started to fall out because she didn’t have enough protein. But that’s because she wasn’t eating well and educated about her diet. Now there are a lot more non-meat protein options available than ever before!