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There’s no better time to make the switch to veganism than right now! And it's never been easier, so we'll explain how to go vegan step by step.
Chronic health issues like heart disease and obesity are big issues in our healthcare system, and poor diets are at the forefront of that crisis. We're also looking closely at how humans are destroying the oceans and the earth, and the way we eat is a major contributor to environmental damage. The more animal products we demand, the worse it's going to get.
So no matter why you're choosing to go vegan, one thing remains clear: our current eating practices are unsustainable. Veganism is one of the best chances we have to safeguard our health and the future of this planet that we call home. So it's no wonder that so many people are making the switch.
The idea of going vegan can be a little daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to become a vegan.
What Is Veganism?
Veganism is the practice of eliminating animal products from your diet. Vegans do not eat meat or include products like dairy, fish, eggs, or honey on their grocery lists.
There are also a couple of different subsets of veganism that can further characterize the vegan diet. For example, raw vegans will eat only plant-based and uncooked foods. In contrast, low-carb high-fat (LCHF) vegans will focus on minimizing their intake of carbohydrates in addition to eliminating animal foods.
In addition, veganism can also extend beyond the foods that you eat. Many vegans also do not use animal products in other areas of their life like textiles. This means that materials like leather, fur, and skins are not suitable for vegans.
Why Go Vegan?
There are various reasons that veganism is skyrocketing in popularity. Many people choose to go vegan in protest of the unethical treatment of livestock raised for food. Others may choose veganism for religious reasons or to improve their health and wellness.
Here are some important health benefits that can come from switching to veganism:
- Veganism can lead to improved cholesterol levels, lowered blood pressure, and overall better heart health.
- Eating a diet heavy in plant-based foods can help you manage your weight.
- Eliminating animal products could reduce excessive inflammation and even be protective against certain cancers.
We're also seeing an increase in the number of people who choose to be vegan to reduce their contribution to climate change. The current agricultural practices of breeding and raising animals to keep up with the global demand for meat is one of our biggest drivers of global warming. It takes a huge amount of natural resources to fuel this process, so going vegan is a great way to minimize that impact. A widespread vegan movement is one of the best chances of fighting climate change and global warming on a large scale.
How To Become A Vegan
No, being vegan doesn’t mean that you’re resigned to a life of boring, unappetizing salads and “rabbit food.”
Here’s everything you need to know about how to go vegan successfully.
What You Need To Know
Because veganism can feel like a foreign and even extreme lifestyle choice to those who have never tried it before, there are plenty of falsehoods misconceptions out there. So before diving into a vegan diet, here are some things that you should know:
1. You can eat a fully balanced diet as a vegan
Many people are concerned about making the switch to veganism because they are unsure whether they'll get all the nutrients they need. The good news: you can get every necessary nutrient from plant-based foods alone!
2. That said, you may need to supplement certain nutrients
Certain nutrients are most commonly found in animal products, which can make getting enough of them in your food a little more complicated. Some of the nutrients that vegans need to pay attention to include protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin B-12. Luckily, plenty of vegan-friendly supplements on the market can bridge that gap.
3. Some non-vegan foods might be surprising
It’s easy enough to recognize meat and cheese as animal products, but there are also several other items on your normal grocery list that might not make the cut. For example, some dyes are made from insects, and the gelatin found in some jams and desserts comes from animal collagen. Even some beers and wine use animal products in their processing! Learn how to read nutrition labels and identify animal products so that you can always decipher which foods are vegan-friendly.
4. “Vegan” doesn’t automatically equal “healthy”
Eliminating animal products is a great way to improve your health, but this doesn't necessarily mean that all vegans are healthy. Many vegan foods that you find in the grocery store are highly processed, which can take away some of the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Consuming many of these commercial vegan foods can also drive up the cost of your grocery bill. Stick to whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts more often for the best results.
Transitioning To Veganism
Ready to make a change and go vegan? These tips and tricks will help you transition from omnivore to vegan. They’ll also help you make mindful changes that will allow you to stick to your plant-based lifestyle for the long run!
If you’re feeling ready and prepared, you may be able to successfully go vegan right away by simply cutting all animal products out of your diet at once. This might be an easier transition if you’re already eating minimal animal products (for example, vegetarians making the switch to full veganism).
But if you're brand-new to plant-based eating, it might be a better idea to take things a little slower to begin with. This will help you ease more comfortably into the change. It may also be better for your long-term adherence. Too much change at once can be stressful, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed and give up too quickly under such an adjustment.
Try eliminating your animal products one by one, rather than all together. Cut out your animal products over time (for example, eliminate beef one month, chicken the next, etc.). Meatless Mondays are also a great option for getting acclimated to vegan eating, or you might try starting with vegetarianism for a while to get used to the absence of meat. If you have a particular favorite food that you're not ready to get rid of quite yet, save that elimination for last so that you have time to find suitable substitutes.
However, you decide to transition to veganism, move at a pace that feels comfortable for you! Remember, your comfort and long-term progress are more important than immediate perfection.
Think more, not less
Another major obstacle that people face on their journey to plant-based eating is their resistance to eliminating some of their dietary staples. It’s easy to think about veganism as the kind of lifestyle that minimizes your food options and gives you fewer foods to work with. But in reality, the opposite is true: when properly planned, veganism opens up your diet to a ton of new plant-based possibilities!
Before you even begin “taking away” the animal products, start experimenting with nutritious plant-based foods so that you can broaden your culinary horizons. Every week, add an uber-nutritious vegan superfood to your diet like acai berries, flaxseed, and seaweed to maximize your nutrient intake. Branch out and find recipes that incorporate plant-based goodies like whole grains, seeds, nut butter, and tempeh. Trying all the various plant foods out there before eliminating animal products will give you a good grasp of how you can eat a satisfying and enriching diet without meat or dairy.
As the modern culinary landscape becomes more and more vegan-friendly, we even have plenty of vegan meat substitutes! These products closely mimic the flavor and texture of meat, allowing you to satisfy your cravings and make the transition to veganism even more seamless.
With all the new delicious options you’ll gain as you make the transition, you may not even miss the foods you eliminate at all.
Experiment with vegan substitutes
Even though veganism can sound like a significant change when opposed to your current diet, it doesn't necessarily have to be. Rather than going the overwhelming route of completely overhauling what you eat regularly, you can instead find ways to "veganize" what you currently eat.
To do this, simply take inventory of some of your favorite go-to recipes and make appropriate vegan substitutes. For example:
- Mushroom and jackfruit can mimic the texture of meat
- Nut milk or oat milk are good substitutes for milk and cream
- Using vegetable oils instead of butter in cooking
- Nutritional yeast is a salty, tasty stand-in for cheese
Get familiar with some of these plant-based nutrition basics to empower yourself as you make the transition to veganism. You can enjoy the same dishes you always have with just a few ingredient tweaks.
Be ready for comments and criticism
Meat is traditionally the main attraction in the majority of our modern Western diets, so it can feel like a rather extreme lifestyle change to stop eating it completely. Because of this, people tend to have plenty of opinions about veganism, and not all of them are positive. You may find that well-meaning friends, colleagues, and family may offer you plenty of unsolicited opinions and bad “advice” when you announce that you’re deciding to go vegan.
So part of making veganism a part of your life is learning how to filter out those negative comments and opinions from others. You may not be able to change their views, but you'll at least be able to make peace with yourself and the dietary choices you're making that are helping you live a happier and healthier life.
You can also show your friends just how delicious vegan eating can be and break some of the negative stigmas around plant-based diets! Cooking and sharing some of your favorite dishes can show them just how satisfying, delicious, and rewarding a vegan diet can be. It may even inspire them to make some changes of their own.
Remember your “why.”
Finally, you may need to figure out ways to stay motivated so that you can stick to it long-term.
As with any dietary change, it can sometimes be hard to break old bad habits and establish new ones. When you feel like your motivation is waning, remind yourself of why you began this lifestyle in the first place. Whether the reason was health, ethics, environmentalism, or all of the above, it'll help you remember the bigger picture.
On a similar note, don't be too hard on yourself if you do end up eating something non-vegan. Simply use it as a learning tool and commit yourself to moving forward whenever this does happen.
After all, veganism isn’t a short-term, superficial diet. It’s a lifelong commitment to improving your own health and the health of the planet.
Supplements To Consider When Going Vegan
Because you’ll be cutting out some of your dietary staples like meat and dairy, you may need to start taking a couple of dietary supplements to round out your nutrition intake.
Some supplements that you may want to include in your daily health regimen as you make the switch to veganism include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin K-2
- Vitamin D
When shopping around for supplements, make sure that you're looking for vegan-friendly capsules. Some capsules may be made from gelatin, while others may source their nutrients from animal products. For example, fish oil supplements are a popular omega-3 source, but a vegan alternative would be algae oil pills.
Before taking any dietary supplements, be sure to consult with a physician. It may also be a good idea to talk to a dietitian or certified nutritionist that specializes in vegan diets so that you can make a game plan that ensures you’re getting all of your necessary nutrients.
Going vegan is a long-term commitment to eliminating meat, dairy, and other animal products from your diet. It's a better choice for your health and your carbon footprint, but the process itself can feel overwhelming if you're used to eating animal foods regularly.
To become a vegan, work on a slow but steady transition off of meat and other animal products, familiarize yourself with the whole delicious wide world of plant-based foods, and remind yourself of your initial motivation whenever you feel your commitment flagging. It may be a big change at first, but your body and your spirit will thank you for it!