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How to go Vegan | Complete Beginners guide.
Practical tips for going vegan | Easy Transition.
The questions have been pretty consistent ever since I shared my weight loss progress photos on Facebook and Instagram. While I personally did not start this lifestyle change for weight loss, it was an inevitable by-product. I will admit that I was, however, definitely hoping that I would lose some weight as I was severely overweight at the time of making the plant-based switch. I made the transition overnight, I went from being a heavy meat and dairy consumer to a full-fledged vegan.
The typical questions I get are from people who are interested in losing a few pounds following a plant-based diet and are circulated around the diet portion of veganism so the tips will be focused on food and how to transition for someone who struggles with food. Vegan and cruelty-free products will be left for another post. :)
Vegan Transition tips.
I am not an expert, I am not a nutritionist or health professional. I'm simply someone who gets numerous questions about the vegan/plant-based lifestyle due to the fact that I lost about 75 pounds in about 7 months without exercise on a plant-based diet so...Without further ado, I decided to put together all of my beginner vegan tips in a clear, quick and concise post that you can refer if you're trying to go vegan or to share with your friends if you are a vegan and are trying to do some converting. :D
This post was made for the average person, not an already established hippy or health foodist.
1. Establish your "why."
At this point, I'm assuming you already established why you want to go vegan, and if you need a little extra push on all the great benefits I will be sure to dedicate a post to that topic alone. There are countless great reasons to go vegan, from Animal cruelty, lessening your carbon footprint, becoming more eco-friendly, our water, world hunger, wildlife, the rainforest, peace, saving money, (yes! I said saving) overall health and well-being, to weight loss and looking your best. Find your "why?" and keep that mind going forward.
For me personally, I went vegan for all of the above. I couldn't find a reason NOT make the switch.
2. Find vegan alternatives. There are vegan alternatives for everything you're currently eating.
There are vegan alternatives for everything these days. There has never been an easier time to transition. This is especially true if you're from a large city or in the US where you have a huge variety to choose from in standard grocery stores. Vegan bologna exists, of all lunch meats, vegan bologna is available in most grocery stores. You van find vegan cheese, burgers, bacon etc. right in everyday grocery stores here in Canada and in the US and I'm sure it's the same in the UK and Australia. You no longer have to make special trips to health food stores so excuses are hard to come up with. I made a vegan poutine recently and when I first went vegan I would eat chicken burgers, hamburgers, and pizza every day. If that's what you're eating now you would benefit greatly by substituting. Taking this approach will allow for the easiest transition. If you feel it's unnecessary you can skip it but taking this approach will show you that being vegan can be easier than you thought. Everything you're eating now is available through vegan alternatives.
Start with the basics. Find a vegan milk you love, find a vegan butter, a cheese, and a few vegan meat products. For milk don't be afraid to try multiple. Jjust because you don't like almond milk doesn't mean you won't like cashew, rice, coconut, oat or soy. I personally prefer soy, it doesn't have an odd after taste, it's creamier and often has more protein than your average nut milk.
3. Experiment with new meals that you actually love.
Many new vegans begin their journey by eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, and salad, then end up feeling unsatisfied with their meals, thus decide veganism is just too "hard" or too much and inevitably give up. Eating this way for someone who already eats a pretty healthy diet or who was already vegan may be able to do this effortlessly, just look at all the raw foodists on social media. But if you're a new vegan who before ate a standard American diet you are more than likely going to struggle with this method of eating right off the bat.
Find a few whole food staples like sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal etc. filling hardy foods to start with and experiment with preparing these meals in new ways until you find a few combinations of delicious meals that you actually really enjoy and would choose to eat over anything, else. Don't pick meals that you have to tell yourself you like, actually find foods that you genuinely love and crave when you're hungry. You may have to do some experimenting which leads me to my next tip...
4. Watch vegan youtube videos and follow vegan blogs.
Find a few YouTubers and bloggers and try a few of their favorite recipes, most vegan YouTubers and bloggers have been vegan for quite some time so they've done all the bad tasting and combining for you and are left sharing what doesn't taste like dog shit. This can help for finding the best alternatives and recipes. You will have to try things for yourself of course, but it will at least give you a pretty nice idea of where to start. This can also be great for inspiration if you can find someone who inspires you it's a lot easier to stick with when you consistently see them thriving.
5. Find vegan friends or a vegan community.
Join a local vegan community on facebook, it could be helpful knowing that what you're doing is not weird or extreme and can remind you that there are vegans everywhere and if they can do it, you can do it. I mentioned local because it could also be a great resource for knowing what new alternatives are out, what vegan restaurants have opened in your city recently, and you might even make some new friends to eat out with. This can a great support system if you're finding your first month to be challenging. You shouldn't find it challenging, but I know a lot of people do and I think it's because they don't go out of their way to educate themselves or find food they actually love. So many people literally think all vegans have to eat is salad.
6. Let your family know but don't preach...
At least not at first... If you're lucky enough to have a really supportive family then this type might not apply to you. I myself did have a very supportive family, (for the more part) but it still wasn't as easy when I was visiting them back home compared to when I was home with my very supportive boyfriend. Family members might mock you or try to convince you that what you're doing is unnecessary and all you can really do is educate and lead by example. The more you argue the more they will argue and try to turn you off. You just don't need the stress at the very beginning. Having people support you will make it easier.
Lead by example, show them how great you're doing and how healthy you're becoming. Once you know what you're talking about and you know for sure you're not going to quit, start educating. Which leads me into my next tip.
7. Educate, Educate, and Educate yourself some more.
You may have had 1 reason for going vegan but there are countless reasons to make the switch. If you're coming for weight loss alone you may view it as a diet, and cheat whenever you feel like you deserve it. The reason why this isn't recommended aside from the obvious environmental, cruelty and health reasons, is that you will loose some very important aspects of why people get in shape after going vegan; The accomplishment of succeeding and taking 90% of unhealthy food off the table as even an option. If you allow yourself to cheat... then you will. Just like you have on other diets, which brings all those unhealthy options and makes them available for you whenever you feel like you want and/or "deserve" them. It will be easier for you to cheat because you don't have the satisfaction of being able to say that you've been vegan for a full month or for a full 6 month "so why ruin it?"
Watch a few vegan documentaries. Check out Forks over knives, cowspiracy, earthlings and vegucated to start. Educate yourself so that when a meat eater jumps at you and criticizes you, you will have solid arguments to put down any point they come at you with. Educate and debunk anything you aren't sure about or that you feel like is holding you back in anyway. Whether this is weight loss concerns, whether or not it's the best diet for weight loss, fitness, muscle gains, whether it's truly healthy or cost effective, if it's actually going to do any good, what people are going to think. etc.
8. Remind yourself of why you're doing it whenever you need to.
If you watched the documentaries and educated yourself as much as you could have, you should now have a pretty solid backbone of why you're skipping out on the Pizza and chicken wings on super bowl Sunday. You should be able to take on an argument whenever someone hassles you and you will have those reasons at the back of your mind when the pizza is just looking too good pass up on. If you're educated you probably won't even look at those foods as something you'd want to eat.
9. Meet with a vegan nutritionist or at the very least download Cron-o- meter.
You need to do research or meet with someone who is educated on your nutritional needs as an adult women or man. Everyone has different needs based on their gender, body weight, exercise level, and lifestyle. You need to make sure you have a source of iron, protein, omega 3s, calcium etc. These nutrients are not hard to find on a vegan diet, in fact, I'm going to dedicate a full post on different sources very soon so sign up to the newsletter to make sure you catch it. In the meantime, a quick google search will help you out. Use cron-o-meter, it will give you a guide to what your needs are and what you should be eating in a day. It allows you put input your daily food intake and it calculates the nutrition you got out of those foods for you.
10. Eat enough
Depending on the type of vegan diet you are following it could be easier to undereat. I would personally recommend not sticking to any specific vegan diet when you're starting out. I would say just be vegan, get used to it, make sure you're meeting your nutritional needs and if you do feel so inclined to follow a specific vegan diet do so once you're used to it. If you do decide to eat a fruit based diet, go fully raw, go on 80/10/10 or even just eat particularly healthy...it can be easy to undereat so maybe count your calories just at the beginning to get an idea of what you're eating. Many vegan bloggers will give you calorie amounts to eat, I wouldn't follow this either as every person has varying caloric needs. If you use cron-o-meter they will give you some estimates of you need in a day for for your body weight, height, gender and lifestyle.
This is a new blog so there isn't much content live, but feel free to subscribe to the newsletter to be notified when I put up new content. I'm currently still establishing a schedule but I'm hoping to publish a few times per week. If you are vegan and have other tips that you think would help people add them in comments! :)