Monday, February 3, 2020

5 Tips to Go Vegan

I went vegan on my 25th birthday in July of 2018. Leading up to this point there were various times throughout my high school and college life where I had played around with the idea of being vegetarian. I always knew that I was not meant to be eating animals and felt very passionately about not wanting to eat something that was once alive.

As someone who loves animals, knowing that an animal had to be killed for my own consumption was not something that I felt okay with. Not only that, but I never knew how bad my body was feeling - until I realized what it felt like to have my body running well. These two reasons, coupled with my love for the Earth, ecosystems, and conservation led me to go fully vegan.

For a further in-depth look at these common reasons for going vegan, check out my prior post on my top three reasons to go vegan here:

Vegetarianism is cutting out meat products from your diet but going fully vegan means removing anything that is an animal by-product. That means no meat, no fish, no chicken, no eggs, no milk, no cheese and I won't even consume honey. To take it a step further, my cosmetics are vegan-friendly and I also use shampoos, products, and clothing that have not been tested on animals or made with animal products.

Veganism doesn't have the stigma it had back in the '70s and has become popular and mainstream. Here are the 5 steps that you can use to begin your transition to going vegan!

Start Out Easy

First of all, if you are even thinking of cutting out animal products from your diet then right now stop what you're reading and give yourself a pat on the back! Here in America, our traditional diet is so "meat-heavy" that cutting it out can be intimidating so the fact that you're even considering it deserves praise! 

Now going vegan does not have to happen overnight! In fact, it rarely does. You can start implementing one meal a day or even one meal a week into your routine that is a fully vegan meal. Breakfast is super easy to convert vegan now that there are so many plant-based milk options!

Also, food is expensive whether it is vegan or not and throwing away everything you have in your home that is not vegan is a waste of money. Just because you've decided to become vegan doesn't mean that you're a "bad vegan" because you choose to eat the meat and dairy that you already have in your home. As you eat your way through the products you can begin to buy new groceries to take their place. Soon enough, your home will become vegan-friendly if you choose to use what you have and only purchase vegan products moving forward. 

This leads to my next step...

Begin With Substitutions

If you have grown up on certain kinds of foods, of course, it's going to be hard to simply stop eating them! Fortunately, it's 2020 and there have been long strides made for vegans to eat a "traditional American diet" that's completely free from animal harm. 

Probably the easiest substitution is milk! There's coconut milk, almond milk (my top two preferences), rice milk, oat milk, soy milk, cashew milk.... and I'm sure there are others that I'm not mentioning. 

Because there are so many milk substitutes you can get substitutes for pretty much all dairy products like yogurt, ice cream and cheese... yup, I said cheese! And if I'm totally transparent, I think you would actually be surprised by the taste of these too.  

Finally, if you're just starting out as a vegan, probably one of the easiest ways for you to transition is with meat substitutes while you get accustomed to your new way of eating. There are so many companies out there now creating imitation meats - and though that doesn't sound appetizing I assure you, you may not even be able to notice a difference! One that I used a lot when I was first transitioning was Gardein. They have burgers, chicken tenders, fish fillets, wings, meatballs, breakfast sausage - anything you could really think of and all vegan

On the flip side though, these imitation products can often be highly processed and may not be the healthiest option, but if you get a craving at least they are there to give you that quick satisfaction while also maintaining your vegan lifestyle. 

Cook What You Know And Plan Ahead

When I first went vegan, I felt so proud of myself and the fact I was no longer going to be eating any animal products that I jumped online and found so many vegan recipes that looked delicious. I was so ready to begin making them all until I saw the ingredient list - Ummm, what is a chia egg?

Though you may feel like you have to cook all of these fancy vegan dishes because you're now a vegan just know that the only person judging you is yourself! When I realized I wasn't cooking these vegan dishes to impress anyone I just started cooking what I knew. And for a long time, it was rice and beans every night - which was fine, because I was learning and so are you! My advice is to use the recipes as inspiration to try new cooking but you should take comfort in knowing that most of the meals you make now can actually be veganized with a few minor tweaks! 

That brings up the 2nd part of this step which is to plan ahead! Take some time on a Sunday, or whichever day works for you, and figure out what you're going to eat each night for the rest of the week. When you plan it out you'll avoid repeat dinners which makes you feel like you're eating the same thing over and over and can also help you to plan a grocery list so you know exactly what to get. 

Not to mention, if you use dry beans, you'll know which nights they need to be put out to soak (which is usually done the night before they're intended to be eaten) so that they're ready to be cooked! 

Find Vegan Buddies

I was extremely fortunate in the fact that at my place of work there were already people who were vegetarian and vegan. It was great because if I had a question or wanted to grab an opinion I had someone I could turn to. 

For a while, I was calling myself the "baby vegan" at work but they took me under their wing and guided me! Even during company events like our Thanksgiving Feast (which came just 4 months after I went vegan), my vegan coworkers made sure I knew where the vegan food was and what to avoid! 

It was incredible having that kind of support around me, especially considering there were people I was close to like friends and family who just didn't quite get it. Let's face it, not everyone is on board with this decision, and they'll be sure to voice it to you! But having someone in your corner who understands is beneficial and this goes way beyond just being vegan here folks! Real-life-lesson: finding people that resonate with you and surrounding yourself with them inherently makes you happier and stronger. =] 

Know Why You Want To Become Vegan

This may be the most important step of all. There will be times when people will question your decision, there will even be times when you question your decision. You have to know why you want to be a vegan and why it's important for you to eat a plant-based diet. 

Many things change when you become vegan, not only is it a diet and a different way of eating, but it's also a different way of thinking. When you go out to eat with friends and family you'll always have to think "Is where we're going vegan-friendly?" "Will there be more than just a salad for me to eat?" Or if someone brings in yummy, delicious, creme-filled donuts for the office while you're sitting there watching everyone else eat them you'll be thinking "damn I wish those were vegan" - you will question yourself!

Temptations are real and if you have gone your whole life eating one way, as I mentioned, it will feel so much easier to just revert back to old habits of eating. If you have a strong reason for why you chose to become vegan then you'll be able to hold onto that during these minor difficult moments. Remember, being vegan will do so much more good and is really an ultimate form of compassion.

Take care my friends - Namaste

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