I wanted to compose a quick guide to benefit those looking into switching over to a meat-free/animal-free lifestyle. I have a few friends/family members making the change and wondering where to start, so look no further!
I in no way advise my information over a certified medical professionals. Consult your doctor or nutritionist before drastically altering your diet. Get blood tests annually to assure proper health and maintenance.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated – Gandhi
“A vegetarian diet consists of mostly plant-based foods and no animal flesh. Some vegetarians consume eggs and/or dairy while others do not. A vegan diet, the most strict form of vegetarian, eliminates all animal products and animal by products.”
Before changing your lifestyle I feel it’s vital to truly become aware of exactly what you’re doing and why. Not everyone is the same. Some may only transition for weight-loss reasons, whereas others for cruelty or both. Understanding where you stand and how far you’re willing to go with this change is crucial. The base should always be knowledge, so I recommend a few reading sources; The Kind Diet, Eating Animals and Vegan For Life. A few very informative documentaries I recommend (all on Netflix) are; Forks Over Knifes, Hungry For Change, Food Matters and Vegucated.
Cutting The Meat
After establishing an understanding of what you’re doing and why, the first step to changing your diet would be to slowly wean out any meats (and/or dairy products) you’re currently eating. When I started this change I dropped a different meat (and/or dairy product) every week-month. You can go at any pace necessary. Typically I would advise finding a substitute to replace said meat (and/or dairy product) just to adjust smoother. But we’ll talk more on this in a minute. So cutting out meats, and getting to meat alternatives. You may have better luck quitting cold turkey, but I feel like its easier to fall off having not taken the time to detox and make the adjustment at a comfortable pace.
Today there are SO many meat substitutes and alternatives! It’s easier than ever to find one you’ll love. It may also take some time trying out different products until you find the one. For me, I started with the most basic/easy to find anywhere brand, MorningStar and Boca. Now this is where vegan and vegetarian go different ways. MorningStar is not vegan, at least everything I’ve ever had/read and Boca is only 50/50 on vegan products. So make sure you read everything!
My personal favorite brands of meats (for vegans) would have to be LightLife, Gardein, and Tofurky.
Along with all the mock meats, some great brands for dairy-free/vegan products would be Daiya (cheese), Earth Balance (butter, milk), Toffuti (sour cream, cream cheese) and So Delicious (coconut milk yogurt, ice cream).
Try New Things
I rely heavily on my fruits/veggies. Always keep a stock of fresh/frozen items you love, on hand. You are far more likely to gravitate towards better options if thats what you stock up on.
When I first started on the culinary journey of eating vegan, it definitely took time, I had to challenge myself to try a bunch of new foods, some that I didn’t love at first (like tempeh, which I can’t get enough of now!). I bought tons of cookbooks, scoured the internet for vegan recipes, and did a lot of trial and error. The result? I’ve fallen in love with this way of life, and this diet! I actually wake up each morning excited to eat! I never feel deprived or unsatisfied. It does take some work to live this way, but it is worth it in the end.
Vegan Recipes & Blogs
Namely Marly // http://www.namelymarly.com/category/food/
VeganFling // http://veganfling.blogspot.com/p/recipe-index.html
The Vegan Stoner // http://theveganstoner.blogspot.com/
Vegangela // http://www.vegangela.com/category/vegan-recipes/
Oh She Glows // http://ohsheglows.com/categories/recipes-2/
Once you’ve found your collection of favorite foods/brands, I recommend tracking what you’re consuming for a bit of time. Just to make sure you’re eating balanced enough and not becoming malnourished in any area. If you completely change your diet to a vegan lifestyle it’s easy to either become reliant on junk foods and/or malnourished. You need a variety of everything, in moderation. It’s taken me many months to finally say I’m healthy and what I’m consuming is adequate and still nourishing. I still use an app (My Fitness Pal) to track all my meals just to be sure. Whether its for weight-loss or not you still have that diary to look back on to reassure yourself what exactly you’re consuming so you hold yourself accountable for bad and good days. Also, it helps if you feel inclined to show your doctor if for any reason you need/want to.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “Where do you get your protein?!”. As irritating as it is, I remain calm and explain. Protein isn’t only found in meats/dairy. I get my protein from plants/veggies, beans, grains, lentils, non-dairy milks, etc. Protein is in tons of foods!
For example; Veggies: Yep, good old greens will pack a protein punch. One cup of cooked spinach has about 7 grams of protein. The same serving of French beans has about 13 grams. Two cups of cooked kale? 5 grams. One cup of boiled peas? Nine grams. You get the idea.
A mere 1 cup of soy or almond milk can pack about 7-9 grams of protein. Eat with some fortified cereal and you’ve got a totally vegan-friendly breakfast.
Four ounces of tofu will get you about 9 grams of protein. And at about 2 bucks a pop, it’s a cheap vegan’s BFF.
With lentils, you can make rice dishes, veggie burgers, casseroles and more. One cup cooked delivers a whopping 18 grams of protein!
With one cup of pinto, kidney or black beans, you’ll get about 13-15 grams of protein, a full belly and heart-healthy fiber.
I just put this here to emphasize that you don’t have to stress as much as you think you do about the protein factor when you go vegan. Broccoli has, calorie for calorie, more protein than a piece of steak! Trust your veggies and nature to help you on your way with finding ample daily protein.
I love my technology, so keeping apps that help me stay focused and knowledgable are vital to my success. I’ve already mentioned My Fitness Pal, but I also use;
You can look up restaurants with vegan options, check what beers are vegan, keep informed on news regarding animals. Overall, it simplifies everything in terms of accurate resources to help you.
Last but certainly not least, a support system will keep you strong. I have been incredibly blessed with a family that’s encouraging and supportive by nature. I’ve also reached out to fellow vegan bloggers and IGers. Reading/seeing there progress gives me so much motivation to stay focused and happy. My Instagram is PlantStrongVegan, if you’d like to follow me along my journey. I love posting my meals/recipes and daily life.
So find someone that supports your changes, make new friends and share your journey!
Happy Cow // http://www.happycow.net/becoming_vegetarian.html
Mind, Body, Green // http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4771/10-Vegan-Sources-of-Protein.html