Most omnivores think becoming a vegan is impossible and can’t even begin to imagine how they might be able to survive, let alone enjoy life without typical flavors they have been used to. They’re just not being creative enough! With a positive attitude, a desire to make a change in a healthy direction, and some diligence in grocery aisles, it is possible to discover a whole new world (possibly a better one) and reap a multitude of physical, mental and emotional benefits (not to mention financial savings!).
Method 1 of 3: Doing It the Healthy Way
Plan it out. Just because a vegan diet is low in calories and fats, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietitics says a vegan diet is only healthy if it’s well-rounded and planned out. If it’s not, you’re missing out on vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to function. So do yourself a favor and do it right.
- Do your homework. The food you’re about to cut out is full of good stuff, too — calcium, vitamins, protein; you can’t subsist on lettuce alone. What foods that you like (that are vegan-friendly) do you need to start putting in your diet? Nuts? Quinoa? Beans?
- Get online. There are tons of websites catered to budding vegans that are full of recipes, quizzes, fun facts, and interactive tools to get you on board. They’ll even do a week’s worth of recipes for you! Utilize what you have at your disposal to ensure you’re partaking in a balanced diet.
- Ask your doctor how to maintain a balanced diet with your new eating habits. They’ll be able to shed some light on how to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals you need to function on top of your game.
- If there’s a particular essay, picture, or quote that reinforces your desire to become a vegan, print it out and put it in a place where you’ll see it often, like your refrigerator.
- In case anyone asks, the vegan diet is appropriate for all lifestyles (as long as it’s done well). Athletes, pregnant women, children, and seniors all can benefit from a healthy vegan diet. No need to defend yourself when the in-laws start the inquisition. You’ve got science.
- You’ll still get your protein if know what to look for. Luckily, plenty of plants are high in it: tofu, beans, nut, seeds, quinoa and whole grains are all protein-packers.
- When you buy soy, almond, or rice milk, make sure it’s fortified with calcium. Same goes for orange juice!
- Avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are all good sources of healthy fats. Those are necessary too!
Ask questions. Real vegans (or a buddy with similar interests) can help you on your new adventure. Surf for communities online or look for a local club or group in your area. The easiest way to do this is to find a new favorite vegan restaurant, a favorite table, and go from there.
- The Vegan Society has a great website that’s full of resources, news, and even helps you shop. Talk about an exciting, addictive hobby. Who needs Pinterest?
Method 2 of 3: Forming the Habits
Ease into it. Make a plan to give up one kind of non-vegan food per week. Not only will this make for an easier lifestyle adjustment, but it will also help your body make the transition as smoothly as possible. Any sudden, drastic change in your diet would likely wreak havoc on your body, especially if you go from being an omnivore to being a vegan.
- Listen to your body and be easy on yourself. Don’t force yourself to completely change everything at once without guidance. You need to know how to properly substitute for certain elements such as protein and fats before thinking that a head of lettuce is all you need for the rest of your life. Start by removing meat, then eggs and cheese, then all dairy products, and then worry about diligence when it comes to ingredients lists (some get pretty sneaky)
Know the difference between live foods and life-less products consumed as food. It’s much trickier for vegans than for vegetarians. You already know that you can’t eat cheese because cows are exploited in order to generate the milk to make cheese, but did you know that even most cheese alternatives contain casein, a milk protein? Do your homework and read ingredient labels to prevent accidental consumption of non-vegan food.
- You’ll soon find that vegan websites will endorse certain brand name products. Knowing what to look for in the aisles will cut down on turning grocery shopping into a tedious chore.
Learn better uses for tofu (and soy products in general). It’s a good source of both protein and calcium, and you can prepare it in a variety of ways but it’s not as healthy as one might think. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you’ve never eaten much tofu before, but give it a chance.
- Tofu, along with soy or rice milk and other non-meat alternatives, can be your best friends in the vegan world. Name a product, there’s a tofu version of it. And it doesn’t taste bad either!
- There are many vegan cookbooks and online recipe sites nowadays to provide you with inspiration. Investing of your best energies and mental capabilities to the daily task of cooking vegan meals can enhance your enjoyment and satisfaction of re-training your taste buds to savor new, even strange flavors. Who knew this path was going to be so exciting?
Maintain balance. If you find yourself constantly fatigued or groggy, you may be missing something imperative to your diet. It can get pretty easy to eat the same things day in and day out, but with a vegan diet, that’s not kosher. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, calcium, iron, vitamin everything…the list could go on, but it would exceed your bandwidth usage.
- Taking a supplement is a good idea. A daily multi-vitamin will ensure that you’re getting everything you need. If you have questions, talk to your local pharmacist or get in a quick chat with your doctor.
- There are no reliable plant sources of B12 (B12 found in plants is usually due to contamination with animal feces), which can lead to deficiency. You should take a B12 supplement. Deficiency in best cases can cause significant fatigue/debility. In worst cases, it can increase heart disease risk and anemia and may also cause severe irreversible damage to the nervous system. A good tip is to eat foods that are fortified with B12 (check the label) such as yeast flakes, cereals and nondairy milk.
- If taking Omega-3 supplements, keep in mind that most are made from fish oil, and are not vegan. Vegan sources of Omega-3s include flaxseeds, flax oil, and walnuts. 1 tsp of flax oil meets your daily needs.
Reward yourself. After learning how to cope with the extreme makeover in your kitchen, your budget, your past time, your health, and your appearance, make it a point to treat yourself to a new wardrobe, a vacation, or a new kitchen. You’ve earned it!
- That being said, those around you take into account your dietary needs, so take into account theirs. Not everyone will be thrilled when presented with a tofu steak.
- Find vegan remakes of your favorite non-vegan recipes so that you don’t feel deprived.
- Don’t give up! Being persistent despite your failures, disgust, or the discouragement of others is the strength of your will to succeed and live up to what you already know to be the best for you. And don’t hate yourself if you happen to fall and find yourself gobbling down a cheeseburger or two. Forgive yourself and indulge yourself regularly with a sinless dessert like luscious tofu cheesecake, trimmings and all!
- Sampling a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, cereals, ethnic flavors, and endless brands dedicated to the wholefood experience will teach you what you can incorporate into your daily array of delicious meals.
- Visit vegetarian restaurants and challenge yourself to learn their menus. If they will not share their secret recipes with you, try to imitate what you’ve enjoyed eating by looking for it or something similar to it in books or online.
- Many Asian foods are vegan-friendly. When it doubt, to the east you go.