A Beginner’s Guide to Going Vegan
Author: Michelle Annie
2019 is here and with a new year comes a new beginning! This may be the perfect time to finally commit to that whole “vegan” thing you’ve been thinking about. You’ve seen the horrifying videos, tried the food, and listened to your vegan friend rant about the chickens. So now what?
First, and most importantly, you must ask yourself: Why? What is your motivation behind it? Finding your motivation may require endless nights of tears as you binge-watch documentaries, infinite google searches about protein, and even multiple attempts that result in failures. Allow yourself the time to explore veganism and find out where your motivation lies. Every vegan has a different story. Do your research, take your time, and be passionate.
Going vegan with the intent to be healthier is completely understandable, however your progress may be easily derailed if you are your only motivating factor. Contrary to popular belief, veganism is not a diet. Considering the well-being of animals, the environment, along with your health and body, provides a better appreciation for all benefits that come with a vegan lifestyle. This encompassed understanding is what will keep you on track. Remember; we live in a pre-dominantly non-vegan world, meaning temptation is all around you! This lifestyle requires immense mental strength and unrequited purpose.
So, you’ve figured out what motivates you and you’re certain that you want to go vegan. What next? Transitioning from an omnivorous diet can be quite complicated. It is important to remember that all bodies are different, and you must listen to your body to figure out what truly works for you. When in transition, your health must be a priority. This may mean slowly adopting a vegan diet over the course of a few weeks. Consider beginning by cutting dairy out of your diet. Afterwards, the consumption of meat products may be limited to every other day. Eventually, completely remove both categories of animal products from your diet. Making a slow transition allows you to feel and understand the changes going on in your body.
Others may prefer to quit cold turkey (pun intended). Be sure that you are making the transition at a point in which you have enough spare time to dedicate to trying new vegan foods and recipes. Going vegan does not mean restricting your diet to fruits and vegetables; be sure to include an abundance of various food groups into your diet. Incorporating new foods in your diet is a proactive way to ensure nutritional requirements are met. Here are just a few ideas:
- Protein: Tofu, mock meats, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, almonds, oatmeal, lentil pasta, vegan protein powder/bars
- Iron: Spinach, lentils, tofu, brown rice, cashews, chia seeds, kale, quinoa, soybeans, beans, chickpeas, seeds, sundried tomatoes, potato skins, mushrooms
- Calcium: Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, pure orange juice, collard greens, kale, tempeh, tofu, oats, almonds, broccoli
- Vitamin D: mushrooms, fortified plant milks, sunshine!. Or consider vitamins.
- Vitamin B12: Look out for B12 enriched-food labels, primarily found on fortified cereals, meat substitutes, and plant milks. Can also consider vitamins (available as vegan gummies!)
Notice that multiple foods overlap within the various nutritional categories. Focusing on adding these super-foods into your diet is a convenient, easy way to stay healthy!
Keep in mind the transitional period can be tough and perhaps discouraging as your body may crave the animal products that it has grown accustomed to. But with perseverance you will reach a state in which you feel physically, emotionally, and ethically better than you ever have before! Visiting the grocery store and stocking up on vegan options, avoids the possibility of resorting to non-vegan foods. Also, do not be afraid to buy vegan junk food to help get you through your cravings. Nearly all grocery stores offer mock meat products that are very helpful during the transitional period. Let’s not forget an honourable mention to some other secretly vegan products: Oreos, sweet-chili Doritos, Skinny Pop popcorn, thai-chili Crispy Minis, original Pringles, Maynards candy, classic Lays, and so many more! Not to mention, the vegan options at nearly all fast food restaurants; veggie burgers, bean burritos, (most) bagels, hash browns, and of course, fries, fries, and more fries!
Lastly, do not quit trying! If you find yourself consuming something non-vegan (either purposefully or not), accept this failure and persevere. Take this as an opportunity to re-consider what went wrong and how you can improve. One of the hardest components of learning a vegan lifestyle, is the mental discipline that it requires. Continue to feed your mind different forms of motivation. Try joining a vegan community through social media to connect with other motivated individuals. Expose yourself to information regarding the agriculture industry through vegan books and documentaries. Most of all, believe in yourself and your purpose!