I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the vegan diet is that it is difficult. Balancing a book on your head while trying to walk a straight line is difficult or finding a parking spot in Times Square is difficult. More seriously, dealing with a health related disease that could have been prevented is the most difficult of all. As I addressed in my last article, African-Americans are disproportionately affected by many diseases that can be prevented and in many cases reversed by adopting a plant-based diet. However, many believe that veganism is arduous, lacking variety and flavor and boring at best. I happen to be one of the many who are living proof that this could not be further from the truth! As with most things, your experience is what you make it and as long as you’re equipped with the proper information and tools, you can slide into the vegan lifestyle with ease. So, you’re convinced, but don’t know where to begin?
Here are some tips on how to make your transition a smooth one!
Do Your Research
Now, you wouldn’t go to take the last exam in a course without studying first would you? Okay, some of you would, but to maximize your chances of success, it’s best to be prepared so that you can pass with flying colors! The same is true when changing your eating habits. You want to be sure to educate yourself as much as possible so that you know what to eat and what you should be avoiding. It may sound pretty simple (and it is by the way), however, there are sneaky ingredients that aren’t vegan as well as certain vitamins such as B-12 that you want to be supplementing.
There is a plethora of information available which can seem a little daunting, but I encourage you to take one day at a time and soak it up gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you don’t need to overwhelm yourself and expect to know everything about veganism in that time either. I encourage you to find a few vegan blogs that you enjoy reading and become a part of the community so that you can be connected with others who are on the same path. This will provide you with encouragement on your journey and also assist you with ideas and planning.
I also recommend the book The 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. This book is very comprehensive and she does a phenomenal job of answering many questions many new vegans have. There are tons of other books out there, but this one I have personally read and it helped me even as a seasoned vegan.
Lastly, do a search in your area to see if there are vegan meet-ups or groups in your area, as this is another way to connect and learn.
This is one of my favorite words as of late. This is one thing I always tell people who are starting off on the vegan path. Think about what you currently eat and creatively remix it into a vegan dish! Now, some things might prove to be more of a challenge in which to do this, but with many things it can be done. For example, if you like spaghetti and meatballs, you can still have it, but instead of the meatballs, replace it with tons of your favorite veggies and make a primavera!
If you’re a fan of mushrooms, you can add the portobello variety to give it the “meaty” texture you might be missing. These are also a great alternative to burgers as well, as I make Portobello burgers often! You will have to experiment and be willing to try new things.
There are many vegan meat substitutes out there you can try while transitioning as well. I would not build your diet around these, but I think when you’re starting off they can serve their purpose, just don’t overdo it. At the end of the day, you want your vegan diet to be healthy, not one centered around processed foods. It is possible to be an unhealthy vegan, so always think about whole living foods, so load up on your fruits and vegetables! One of my other favorite dishes are black bean burgers. These are simple and inexpensive to make and carry a great amount of protein as an added bonus! VegWeb is a great source of vegan recipes broken down by category which is my frequent go-to source.
Take it One Day at a Time
As I’ve already mentioned, do not expect to wake up tomorrow knowing all the answers and doing everything correctly on the vegan diet. It is a new lifestyle and it will take patience, practice and much preparation. In the end, it is all well worth it. When you start feeling lighter and having increased energy and vibrancy, any growing pains you may have felt will be a thing of the past! Some people are able to dive right in and stop eating animal products at once, while others like to dip their toe in the plant-based waters first.
Whatever type of person you are, know that the answers, support and delicious recipes are out there for you. I say even if you can start by limiting your consumption of meat, dairy and fish to even three times a week, that is a step in the right direction. Remember, should you decide to make the vegan switch, this is your journey and it can be done however it works for you.
Finally, be strong in your choice. You may be faced with family and friends that don’t understand you new way of eating at first, but exercise love, patience and understanding with them as well. You can do anything you put your mind to and putting your mind on eating better for yourself and the planet is always a great choice. Here’s to your new vegan lifestyle!