You’ve eaten meat, eggs and dairy your whole life. It’s how you were raised. It’s how your friends and family eat. And it’s what you were taught was necessary for a balanced diet. But now you’re questioning things. You’re hearing about growing concerns regarding meat, dairy and egg production’s impact on the planet, the animals, and on human health. Now you’re wondering how you might make the switch. And you have questions:
Is a vegan lifestyle healthier?
A well-planned vegan diet, rich in whole plant foods, has been shown to have several health benefits including the prevention of some deadly diseases. But vegans can be unhealthy, too. There are many highly processed vegan foods, particularly meat-alternatives, and eating a diet based primarily on processed foods (vegan or not) is not balanced. Focusing on whole foods, and leaving processed foods for occasion treats, is the best way to reap the great health benefits of a vegan diet.
How do I make sure food is vegan?
It’s pretty much a no-brainer that fruits and veggies are vegan, but when it comes to packaged food it can be a little less obvious. Reading labels is important in order to spot hidden animal-based ingredients such as eggs, milk powder and gelatin.
What products to vegans avoid aside from food?
Vegans avoid products tested on animals and products with any animal-derived material such as wool, silk, leather, fur, down, suede, beeswax or lanolin. Vegans also do not pay to attend circuses, zoos, marine parks, rodeos, or any place using animals for entertainment purposes.
So, you’re ready to make the move to a plant-based life, but all this new information can be overwhelming. While going vegan can feel like a monumental task at first, there a few tips to help make the switch a little smoother:
Dive into the vegan world
Speak with family, friends of colleagues who follow a vegan lifestyle. Seek out vegan-friendly restaurants and stores in your area. Join vegan social media groups and local activist groups. Watch vegan documentaries. Get fully immersed in the vegan culture to help you learn, and to stay committed.
Add, don’t subtract
Don’t think of it as giving up something, but rather crowding it out. Learning about the abundance of plant-based proteins and other food sources that make up a balanced vegan diet will help you to fill your plate so there is simply no more room left for animal products. Whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu and meat alternatives will now be a big part of your diet. Collecting and experimenting with new recipes is a great way to learn how to cook with these new foods, and to see what you like.
Plan your transition
There is more than one way to transition from eating meat and dairy products to avoiding them all together. Some people start slowly, and some go all in. As long as you have your end goal in focus, the journey need not be perfect. You can start out going vegetarian first, cutting out meat but taking more time to ease off eggs and dairy. Or, you can commit to going fully vegan for certain days of the week, or certain hours of each day. Try a one-month challenge, to get kick started with less overwhelming commitment. Or dive headfirst, ensuring you’ve done all the necessary research to start off successfully.
Don’t forget why you decided to become vegan
If you have made the commitment to go vegan, it always helps to be reminded along the way of your reasons for making the switch. Whether it’s for the animals, the planet, your own health, or all of the above, revisiting the info source, the documentary, the person etc. that motivated you in the first place is a good way to prevent being deterred.
Re-learning how to eat, shop, order, cook, and to think about food and animals differently is no small endeavor. It takes heart and guts and time. So be easy on yourself and be sure to set yourself up for vegan success.