Happy New Year!!! It’s #Veganuary so I’ll be sharing lots of guidance and recipes to help you start or recharge your vegan journey all month long. As I complete my 9th year of being vegan I’m in awe of how much this movement and lifestyle has grown. When I became vegan in 2011 most people had never even heard that word, and those who knew about the lifestyle were often hostile to vegans like me. There weren’t nearly as many vegan blogs, not as many amazing cookbooks, were only a couple dozen restaurants, and certainly weren’t not as many vegan products as there are today. We might be reaching that 10% tipping point where this movement picks up monumental momentum. We need it so badly, especially as we watch our planet literally burn. Billions of animals are born each year just to die for our consumption. These chickens, fish, cows, and pigs live their short lives in hell, and die under the most heinous of circumstances. Even more, animal agriculture is the number one contributor to carbon gas emissions in the world. Climate change is happening, and if we don’t take immediate action the most vulnerable among us will suffer the most.
Now is the time to go vegan, and if you’re reading this then you and I are on the same page. Let these tips and the video below guide you as you get started with your vegan diet. Going vegan may be difficult at first (as most things are), but I assure you it gets easy, and will eventually become second nature. There may not seem like there’s much we can do to change the world we live in, but we can actually have a huge impact by giving up animal products.
How to start a vegan diet
IT STARTS WITH ONE MEAL
Having a little structure during your transition makes it easier to plan out your meals and track your progress.
Start by swapping out one meal a day for a vegan meal, OR eat 100% vegan for one day a week, adding on a day each week. That would look like: 1 vegan day the first week, 2 vegan days the second week, and on and on until you’re at 7 vegan days the seventh week. If you decide to swap one meal a day, you can up your vegan meals each week so that you’re still 100% (or nearly 100%) by the 3rd week mark. That would look like 1 vegan meal a day the first week, 2 vegan meals a day the second week, 3 vegan meals a day the third week.
Stick with the 80/20 or 90/10 rule: Eat 80-90% (or more) wholesome unprocessed vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and limit processed vegan food to 10-20% (or less) of your diet. The benefits of a vegan diet start with removing animal products, but the payoff really comes when you eat a nutrient dense whole food diet.
READ FOOD INGREDIENT LABELS
Animal products make their way into all sorts of packaged and processed foods. Get used to reading labels on everything, and get comfortable asking “what’s in this”. On food labels look out for eggs, milk, casein, gelatin, rennet, whey, and milk byproducts. Many brands like Quorn, Go Veggie, and Morningstar make both vegan and non-vegan products, so read the ingredients even when it seems to be marketed as “plant-based”. These days lots of products clearly say VEGAN to make it easier to navigate this often confusing world of processed food labels.
Of course, you’ll also need to ask waiters at restaurants to verify that what you order is vegan. You might have to explain that that means no dairy, no egg, and, of course, no meat.
VEGANIZE YOUR FAVORITE MEALS
Just because you stop eating animal products doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite flavors. Spices that are used to flavor meat are vegan, and cooking preparations (like smoking, frying, grilling, etc) are also vegan-friendly. I wrote a whole cookbook sharing vegan versions of the very best soul food, southern, and creole recipes. If I can veganize these down home classics, then anything can be made vegan!
If you feel like you’ll be craving something in particular, look up a vegan recipe for it. These days there are vegan alternatives for EVERYTHING! And be willing to try more than one recipe before you find a winner.
Meal prepping will help you stay on track with healthy vegan eating. When you are prepared you can succeed! I recommend meal prepping at least once a week. On that day prepare a bunch of foods that can be eaten in the coming days.
EXPECT DISCOMFORT AT FIRST
If you aren’t used to eating a large amount of fiber, then it may take your system a little while to get used to it. Fiber is incredibly important. Diets high in fiber are linked to better digestion, healthy weight, lowered risk of some types of cancer, lowered risk of heart disease, and more. Fiber should ideally come from a whole food like beans, vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, or whole grains, and not from fiber supplements. Introduce fiber slowly using my advice from the first tip.
If you find beans difficult to digest, then that’s a good sign you need to eat more beans. Beans are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They provide us with fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Introduce beans into your diet slowly. Eventually they should be eaten abundantly!
TAKE CERTAIN SUPPLEMENTS
B12 is the one supplement we should all take as vegans. You can take it as a pill, chewable tablet, spray, or injection. Doesn’t matter. As for other supplements, ask your doctor to test your levels of certain vitamins and minerals before beginning supplements. You’ll have to request that the doctor test specific vitamins or minerals like iron, b12, folate, calcium, vitamin D, etc.
STICK WITH IT
Choose a path and stick with it. I promise it gets easier with time. There are so many different opinions about what diet you should follow, but don’t get caught up in all of that. Choose a path, like a whole food vegan diet, and commit.