Why Change to a Vegan Lifestyle?
A vegan lifestyle is more mainstream today than it ever has been. That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people to discourage you, or that it’s the easiest change to make, but in the end it’s worth it. You’re not only reducing your carbon footprint, but helping to take a stand against inhumane factory farming. Together, we will let the industries know that we have had enough and we’re going to start doing something about it.
When I first wanted to take the steps to become vegan, I had already been vegetarian for three years. After watching a few documentaries, I knew that I had to make the change. However, whether you’re like me and are already vegetarian, or are switching from an omnivorous diet, the idea of going vegan can sound intimidating.
How to go Vegan?
Step 1 – take it one step at a time
For me, the best way to transition to a vegan lifestyle was to take it one step at a time. I recommend starting by cutting out certain things. If you’re an omnivore, start cutting out meats. If you’re a vegetarian, start experimenting with different vegan cheeses; not all vegan cheeses are created equal. This will take time.
Step 2 – don’t beat yourself up
Remember not to beat yourself up if you mess up some days. There have been times I forgot to switch from dairy milk whilst ordering coffee or when I’ve had a bite of a friend’s dessert. What matters is that you keep working on it.
Step 3 – find your motivation
What made it easy for me to make the change was finding my motivation. Whether your motivation is personal, environmental, or for the animals, it is important to keep learning. Don’t stop at the first documentary you watch, follow vegan pages on social media and keep reading.
Step 4 – learn new recipes
The next step I took after knowing I needed to make the change was to learn new recipes to make at home. I started with easy things like rice dishes with vegetables, or pasta and veggie sausages. Find a few things you like and incorporate them in different ways to help change things up, so you don’t feel like you’re always eating the same thing. I like to stock up on certain things that have a long shelf life such as rice, beans, pasta and frozen veggies. That way, I always have something ready to make at home.
Look up vegan recipes online or in cookbooks when you’re ready to start trying new things. Seasonings are going to become essential in your cooking and luckily last a long time, so start building up your spice rack as soon as possible.
Don’t forget to give your tastebuds time to adjust. When I first started eating vegan, there were things I tried that I thought I hated, but after giving it time and trying it again, I realized I actually liked it. Some of the things that were hardest for me to adjust to were vegan sour-cream, protein shakes, and eggs. (Back to seasonings: if it wasn’t for discovering black salt I never would have been able to enjoy vegan eggs.)
Step 5 – plan in advance when eating out
When going out to eat with friends I learned to look up the restaurant’s menu before and if there weren’t any noticeable options, then I would call and ask if they had anything to offer. I learned that it is always easiest to have a plan, so if you get there and don’t find many options it doesn’t ruin your time. There have been occasions when going out with friends where I had to get creative and make an entrée out of different sides, or sometimes the only option I had was french fries.
Don’t let this discourage you, all things worth doing take practice. I noticed that after my friends realized I was making the change for real and this wasn’t a phase I was going through, they started to be more thoughtful about where we would eat if we were going out together. You have to stay positive and remember what you’re doing isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
Step 6 – focus on your nutrition
As with all diets, you want to make sure you’re getting the proper nutrients. Making sure you are eating a healthy balanced diet, as well keeping fit (check out this awesome vegan personal trainer), is incredibly important. Anything you’re not able to get through food sources should be ascertained so that you can take the correct vitamins.
Omega 3 and vitamin E can be found in nuts and seeds, B12 is found in Marmite and nutritional yeast, and vitamin D is found in mushrooms and fortified plant milks. Vegan sources of iodine can be found in seaweed, but if you don’t get enough of this in your diet, then it is recommended that you take supplements for this as well. Along with my multivitamin, I make sure to always take a B12 supplement and vitamins D and E. If you are unsure about what vitamins to take, it is helpful to get advice from a registered dietitian.
Step 7 – start thinking about your overall lifestyle
Becoming vegan is more than just a diet. It is a lifestyle. Once I was able to change my diet and get more comfortable, I could start thinking about other aspects of being vegan. This meant paying attention to what makeup I buy, looking at what is in my hair and skin products, and no more purchasing things made with leather. Luckily, today it is easy to find vegan alternatives with a quick Google search. Even big brand names and stores are starting to create their own vegan products and sections.
Still Worried About How to go Vegan?
Don’t let the rules of being vegan scare you. Take it one day at a time. If you mess up, start again tomorrow. Ask for help. If you don’t know anyone, go online – join Facebook communities and get inspiration from the many vegan blogs or vegan news sites. The best part is being able to try new foods. If you aren’t having fun, you need to change things up a bit.
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Graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in journalism and communication. She has been vegan for about a year now, and is very passionate about educating people on the impact of a vegan diet.