I thought i would begin a series on how to transition to a vegan lifestyle as i get asked weekly about this topic. I will do different posts with different focus and in this one it is about the diet change and my top 6 tips, but there will be more to come, so hope this helps you if you are considering going vegan!
Going vegan can seem very daunting to some and even impossible to others. How difficult it may be depends on many factors such as how much animal products you eat before you change, your mindset i.e if you know why you want to be vegan or if its just a trend or a diet then you will be more likely to “cheat” and not make it a lifestyle change, but also where you live and if your friends and family support you or not. All those things can make it easier or harder to go vegan.
First off, don’t go vegan just for the name/label. But also remember that vegan is the whole lifestyle, where you try to limit your contribution to animal suffering in all areas of your life, as much as is practical anyway. It means you don’t buy products which contain animal products, nothing with honey, carmine, milkpowder, gelatine, but also no shoes or clothes or furniture with leather, wool, snake skin etc
Plant based eating is just the diet where you don’t consume any animal products but you might still wear leather jackets or wool socks etc
So, let’s get into my tips and advice.
- Make the changes over time. Most often it doesn’t work to go from very little vegan food to completely eating vegan. It will be too much of a shock, not to mention most likely too much fiber at once which can cause you to have stomach pain and you might just eat the same thing over and over and get tired. Or you might miss certain non vegan foods too much. You need to make it a lifestyle change and that takes time, so successively make changes such as instead of buying diary milk begin buying plant-based milk. Then do it with yoghurt and cheese and chocolate. Then starting eating a vegan lunch everyday or every second day. Begin adding more beans and lentils and veggies to your meals, start trying tofu and tempeh (if available) and try fake meats if you want to do that.
- Do your research. Instead of thinking about what you can’t eat, see everything you CAN eat. I think one of the worst things you can do is begin thinking about what you can’t eat…. because the truth is, you can….. you can always eat meat and dairy if you want to, but when you realise that you truly don’t want to eat those things then it makes it easier. But also when you see all the options and things you CAN eat as a vegan. Before i made the change i wrote a huge list with maybe 50 different vegan dinners and lunches i could cook. This made it easier when i began getting tired of eating the same thing or just wanted to try cooking more vegan. Also try veganizing some of your favourite dishes… you can make vegan pizza, vegan lasagna, vegan mac and cheese, vegan chocolate cake etc etc Watch youtube videos with recipes, follow vegan foodies online, try new recipes, find vegan foods in your area/stores. Don’t feel restricted or limited because you really aren’t… sure sometimes you can’t buy that fast food pizza or fast food burger and instead need to go home and make your own, but that’s worth it in the end if you think about it! And home made is usually so much better! Write lists of snacks and meals you can eat as a vegan so you have that when you begin getting tired of eating the same. Also add seasonings and spices to make the dishes even more flavourful!
- Bring snacks with you wherever you go. You never know how your day might turn out and you don’t want to be put in a position where there is nothing vegan to eat in the first few weeks of your transition. After a few months you would rather not eat than to eat something non vegan, but the first few weeks that might not be the case…. so come prepared. Bring food you know you can eat when you leave the house. Also if you go to restaurants and there is nothing vegan on the menu, ask if they can make something vegan if not… order from the side menu i.e salad, fries etc And when going to social events or parties, bring a vegan dish or have snacks in your bag, just incase! Also doesn’t hurt to make an awesome vegan dish to inspire everyone else at the party/event that vegan food isn’t boring (just make sure that you get to eat some of it, as it has happened that i brought vegan food with me to a christmas party and i barely got to eat any of it as everyone else ate from it before me, hahah!)
- Research about food nutrients, macros and protein combining. As a vegan you can eat so many different ways… vegan diet doesnt mean eating healthy, you can eat chips, burgers, chocolate and ice cream and be a vegan. Or you could eat just raw or just fruit…. but either of those aren’t so healthy. Food is energy and keeps you healthy, and on a vegan diet there are certain nutrients you need to be more aware of such as b12 (get a b12 tablet or spray!!), omega 3 and 6 (from chia seeds, walnuts, flax seeed oil & certain margarines), calcium (you can get from fortified milk, tofu, dried fruit, beans, sesame seeds), iron (you can get from beans, legumes, tofu, chickpeas, lentils, black molasses, nuts, dried fruit etc). And if you eat balanced, enough and eat beans, lentils, grains then protein really shouldn’t be a problem as long as you aren’t eating just rice or pasta or only potatoes. By doing your research you should hopefully eat enough, eat balanced and not feel tired, hungry or end up with nutrient deficiencies (also lets remember, even people who eat animal products have nutrient deficiencies so don’t blame a vegan diet… just blame an unhealthy and unvaried diet, doesn’t matter if it contains animal products or not)
- Meal prep! Vegan cooking shouldnt take longer to cook than non vegan cooking – depending on what you make of course. But i definitely recommend meal prepping, the first few weeks you don’t want to come home tired from work and realise you have to stand and cook lentils and potatoes. So maybe have store-bought beans, some vegetables, humus, bread etc ready as well so that if you havent meal prepped you will still get some good food into you!!
- Slowly increase the fiber intake and give your body a few weeks to adjust and keep track on how you feel/your body feels. If you make the changes over time then your body should naturally adjust to the higher fiber intake, but you might need to give it some time for your body to adjust fully. Also keep track of how you feel when you eat, just incase you are sensitive to certain foods so that you don’t think it’s the vegan diet causing you pain or tiredness when it might just be a certain food(s).
These were my 6 top tips for transitioning to a vegan diet! I will continue on in this series with more food tips such as cooking hacks but also more lifestyle like vegan products, household, make up, clothes and other things you can do/think about as a vegan!! I hope this helps and comment below if you have any other tips or advice!