If you clicked on this article, you are most likely considering a vegan lifestyle, or know someone who is considering a vegan lifestyle. Whether you are here to optimize your health and well-being, to reduce your environmental footprint, or for ethical reasons, we all share the same goal. So I would like to take this time to thank you and welcome you to the lifestyle of health and compassion!
Before you embark on this lifestyle change, please do not let negative stereotypes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yes, a vegan diet is much different then your typical “all-american diet”, which can make it quite overwhelming at first. You may be asking yourself questions like: “What will I be able to eat?”, “All vegan food sounds gross and bland.”, “I don’t want to just eat vegetables”, “All vegans are so skinny and weak”, etc. But lucky enough, those are all misconceptions. While eating vegan, you will soon discover a love for food that you have never experienced before. Eating vegan can mean eating only raw foods, junk-foods, whole foods/paleo, high carb, high protein, or it can be a healthy combination of different foods. Whether you’re testing out new recipes, eating out of your comfort zone, experimenting at new restaurants, or sticking with modified versions of the foods you already know and love, your body (and your tastebuds) will thank you.
Through this page I will be trying to break down veganism into simpler steps that will make the overall goal much more obtainable. I do think that introducing new foods into your diet is going to make the process much easier and more long-term. I mention a lot of fake-meats in this page, and yes fake-meats can be extremely helpful. But, I believe that these meat alternatives should be used as more of a bridge to veganism rather than your only source of food. But keep in mind that this is just my opinion. I’m not trying to tell you that fake-meats are evil and should never be eaten. I just simply think that everything is good in moderation. 🙂
My biggest tip is to take things slow. Personally, I would recommend cutting out meat for approximately 2-8 weeks before you cut out any other animal products like dairy, eggs, etc. Just so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Contrary to popular belief, going vegetarian is not hard at all. Meat substitutes are available pretty much everywhere (depending on your location), and there are more resources than ever before.
I became vegetarian overnight when I was 12 because of a video I watched called Meet Your Meat. Mind you, I come from a Greek family where meat is pretty prevalent in the majority of our dishes. So when I told my parents, they just sort of laughed and told me I wouldn’t last. But my 12-year-old self would not accept defeat that easily.
I haven’t eaten meat since that day, and I can honestly say that giving up meat was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in my life.
But I do understand that not everyone is able to just give up meat overnight, which is why I created this post!
Step One: Fish
If you want to do it in steps, I would suggest cutting out 1 type of meat at a time and introducing a new food into your diet.
For example, first try giving up fish. Depending on where you live you can find meatless-fish to try as a substitute. (Gardein makes amazing fake-fish, along with an extensive variety of other meatless-alternatives) You could also try vegetarian sushi, seaweed, fish taco’s, etc.
Step Two: Red Meat
Then I would try cutting out red meat (anything that came from a 4 legged animal). You can make amazing bean burgers to replace old burgers with.
You can also try experimenting with seitan or tofu!
If you live in an area that sells meat-substitutes, you could try those (but try not to ONLY eat meat-substitutes, because they are heavily processed and also tend to get expensive if you buy them on a regular basis) Instead, try looking up recipes online.
Step Three: Chicken
By now, you should feel comfortable enough with not consuming meat. Chicken should be no sweat! Though, if you are having a little difficulty giving it up, I would highly recommend you try veggie chicken nuggets/burgers. The majority of grocery stores that I have shopped sell at least veggie chicken nuggets. If you’re looking to start to branch away from the fake-meats, you can try scouring through the internet to find vegan recipes.
Like this AWESOME Eggplant Parmesan dish from Oh She Glows!
Or try these awesome cauliflower wings (above)
Read if you live with your parents/guardians:
Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to buy our own groceries. If you still live at home, it can be a challenge to get your parents/guardians/food-suppliers to understand veganism, let alone cook vegan meal.
So first of all, I would try to have conversation with them. Explain to them what your goals are, show them videos, send them electronic resources with facts and other information. Be sure to talk to them about what you can and can’t eat. Talk about new recipes that you can try together. (A vegan cook book makes a really good present btw) You could even show them documentaries like Earthlings, or Forks Over Knives, or Cowspiracy, etc.
I do understand that families aren’t always supportive of vegan/vegetarian, but it’s always worth a shot.
At first my mom was confused about why I was eating the way I did, but over time she definitely understands it more. Now when she makes dinner, she will usually set aside something vegan for me. Like if she’s making pasta with meat sauce and butter, she’ll just put the plain pasta in a separate bowl, and I can do what I want with it when I get home. She’ll do the same with rice, steamed veggies, potatoes, etc. She sometimes even makes me vegan versions of dishes!
So all in all, I think communicating with your parents is very important when it comes to changing your lifestyle and food choice.
Cutting Out Dairy
So after you have established yourself as a vegetarian, you can now start cutting out other animal products.
For example: You could start off by cutting out yogurt. Try experimenting with more smoothies as a replacement, or give coconut yogurt a go.
Once you feel like it’s time to move on, you can try cutting out ice cream. I know, I know. Ice cream is amazing, how will you live without it?
Good news for all ice cream lovers; there are soo many mouth-watering vegan ice creams on the market now. My personal favourite dairy-free ice cream is the Cashew Milk Frozen Desserts made by So Delicious. The consistency is so thick and creamy and it just melts in your mouth. Soy and coconut ice cream are just as good though!
Another alternative to ice cream is nice cream. What’s nice cream you ask? Well, it’s basically just frozen bananas that have been blended/processed into a super rich, creamy consistency. You can add berries, cocoa powder, nuts, or pretty much anything else you would want. It can be eaten as a treat or even as a meal. (Plus it’s 100% guilt-free)
Now, throughout the next week/2 weeks, try cutting out milk and replace it with soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, the list could go on. My personal recommendation is to stick with a fortified soy milk. Why fortified soy milk?
It’s a an excellent source of protein, vitamin A, B12, vitamin D, and potassium.
Soy milk contains almost as much protein as cow’s milk, yet is lower in calories.
It contains zero cholesterol, which is important for those with heart conditions and many other health conditions.
It contains the same amount of calcium as dairy milk
But honestly, it’s completely up to your taste buds.
Now if you’re ready, we’re going to cut out eggs. *shocked gasps* Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you think. If you’re worried about baking, use the picture below as a reference for egg substitutes! You can also try making a tofu scramble (basically just like scrambled eggs but with tofu). You could also dabble in making a tofu-omelette! There are even vegan egg replacers on the market now.
Congrats you’re now almost vegan! We just have to cut out cheese. Cheese can be a difficult thing for some people to cut out. The reason we all love it so much, despite it smelling like dirty socks, is because of the protein called casein. Casein is unfortunately very addictive because of the casomorphins found in it. When our bodies digest these casomorphins, opiates are released which can cause addiction. (Opiates are analgesic alkaloid compounds found naturally in the opium poppy plant Papaver somniferum. The psychoactive compounds found in the opium plant include morphine, codeine, and thebaine.) This makes it a little bit harder for people to cut the cheese. 😉 But it’s definitely not impossible, especially if you do it over say a few weeks! BUT don’t feel too bad about losing out on cheese because studies have shown that casein is very relevant it cancer cell growth, so it’s probably better that you’re passing on it! To replace cheese in your diet, you could try fake cheeses like daiya, boomoo, tofutti, etc. You could also invest in some nutritional yeast, which gives the “cheesy” flavour without any cholesterol.
There are SO many vegan/vegetarian recipes online. I’m signed up for meatless-mondays and they send me a free weekly recipe that is completely vegan.
There are tons of pinterest posts, youtube videos, blog entries, etc, about the wide variety of vegan recipes that there are. You just have to play around with what type of food you like.
And surprisingly Buzzfeed has a ton of vegan recipes as well.
All in all just try to keep yourself motivated through your whole journey and think about all of the benefits you will be producing for yourself and the rest of the planet. Your risk for chronic conditions goes drastically down, (if you are vegan) you barely have to worry about cholesterol (because dietary cholesterol only comes from animals). There are TONS of other health benefits.
Not to mention the countless lives (of animals) you’ll save, or the pollution that you will help prevent.
I am so happy you want to live the life of compassion, and I wish you luck on your journey.