People go vegan for a number of reasons. For some, it starts as a part of their need to make healthy changes, especially for those who have health conditions that restrict or prohibit the consumption of food from animal sources. Others go vegan from being vegetarian, primarily because of moral and ethical considerations; that is, going against any form of animal cruelty and exploitation, including avoiding the use of animals as food sources.
Veganism, unlike the various types of vegetarianism, is quite strict in this regard, so that any animal-derived products such as honey, eggs and dairy are not allowed. Moreover, ingredients from animal sources are also restricted, including shellac, gelatin, rennet, and whey. Vegans do not use clothes, soaps, and other products that have animal sources or ingredients.
This major lifestyle shift is why embarking on a transition from being an omnivore or carnivore to vegan can be quite a struggle, especially on the dietary side. So, to help you with this change, we put together a few simple tips on how to start a vegan lifestyle:
1. Look to add more plant-based foods to your diet.
Instead of focusing on removing food groups that are not allowed in veganism, start by adding more plant-based food sources to your current diet. Add more natural whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and tofu to your diet. Do your homework, and find the best methods of preparing and storing these, as well as their cooking and nutritional applications.
As you collect more vegan recipes, start cooking simple vegan meals. Remember what you enjoy, and get yourself used to preparing these recipes. Also, gradually start drinking soy, almond, or rice milk as a non-dairy milk alternative.
2. Try going vegetarian first.
Transitioning from being a carnivore is likely to be harder than if you’re already an omnivore. Either way, however, you need to approach the process methodically to ensure you do not feel deprived and help you adjust to your new diet. Start by gradually removing all meat, including fish and poultry, from your diet. Then slowly restrict your intake of eggs, honey, and dairy.
Note that this can be a lengthy process, and you should phase out food groups one at a time. For example, remove beef and pork products first, and then later move on to fish and poultry. Move on to the next group only when you are done with the previous one.
3. Make vegetables the centerpiece of every meal.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t have on a plant-based diet, make a deliberate choice to prepare meals that bring out the best in vegetables. There are plenty of recipes available that you can try which not only feature vegetables exclusively, but are also delicious and filling.
4. Aim to eat a wide variety of plant-based foods.
If you think you can’t keep track, keep a notebook or use phone reminders. Start with your favorite fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, root crops, and vegetables. Including a wide variety of foods will not only keep your meals and snacks appetizing and interesting, but will also ensure you eat balanced meals with all the necessary nutrients your body requires.
5. Always read food labels.
To help you adhere to being strictly vegan, always be mindful of food ingredients and how animal-sourced ones may be included in what you assume to be vegetarian or vegan products. Reading food labels can also help you keep track of the nutrients you are having and what you need more of.
These are just a few beginning tips. However, as you continue your journey to veganism, the most important thing to remember is to always go back to what motivated you to go vegan in the first place, as it gives you the reason to stay on track.