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!
Solid information. Can I get a request because I’m scared that I won’t be able to become a vegan without soy. Is there a way to eat vegan sans soy or a least a little soy? Where would I get my protein?
@Antoinette: all the vegans i know DO eat soy and if your looking for a less processed version go with tempah still made from soy beans but not as processed, also every food has protein in it if you want to up your protein have chickpeas (or hommus) lentils, or beans like butter beans or navy beans, i like to cook beans mash them add she herbs then make them into patties for some yummy burgers :). Im a new vegan myself but i havnt had any trouble with low nutrients, intact because veg has become to biggest part of the diet i have great levels, oh also for protein pack everything with mushrooms (the “meat of the vegan”) and spinach is a great source of iron and when you feel a little off make a fresh juiced juice with oranges and apples and kiwi fruit and pineapple and fresh carrot and fresh beetroot (sounds odd but seriously taste amazing) don’t add sugar though 😉 oh and if you would love a few recipes that i have made while exploring all the wonderful food you can email me here firstname.lastname@example.org
@Antoinette: I recently became a vegan. I do not consume any soy products. The main reason I try not to is because I recently did a paper on the connection between soy and breast cancer (there wasnt a strong correlation, but I just rather steer clear.) The only time I really run into it is at restaurants when there is a vegan option or on processed foods. I cut out processed and most packaged foods, so that really isn’t a problem. I don’t eat mock meats, or mock anything – because some (like boca) are chemicals, and others just aren’t appealing. Anyway, its possible.
@Antoinette: by recently, i mean 4 1/2 months ago..yay!
You can get protein from lentals, beans, nuts……. It can be done.
As Bronze mentioned, beans and lentils are great sources. You should also try quinoa which is a superfood known for its high protein content.
Very nice article. We teach similar things in our Conscious Vegan class. Dr. Opare my co-leader also stresses that protein is NOT something you need to worry about. Most people get TOO much protein, and this is a major contributing factor in the diseases that plague our communities. All whole food has protein so if you are eating plenty of unprocessed fruits and veggies and eating enough calories then you will get enough protein. Broccoli is a great high protein food.
Thank you for your emphasis in this article on whole, unprocessed foods!
Yes, I agree! “Veganize” your diet to help protect your health and prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol to name a few!
This is a great and informative article. I agree you can do anything if you really want to do it; also like the fact that you can make the difference in your life if you are willing. Keep up the good work!!
Really ive been 15 days vegan and it really isnt hard at all. Everyone worrys about protein, believe me you get plenty of protein. I love juicing and so i am doing alot of juicing. It wasnt hard at all to transition. I fell in love with almond breeze new almond/coconut milk. I also found an vegan almond pepper jack cheeese, i added to both to broccoli soup and it made the best broccoli soup. One of my new favs is doing garbonzo beans by scratch and not canned, when i boiled them up i added garlic,onions,salt and pepper, when i drained and rinsed them afterwards it gave them such a great flavor, i put in sandwich bags and its a great grab and go snack, i actually ate them for a whole meal the day because they were so tasty. whats odd is that in the last 15 days of just eating fruits,veggies,nuts and legumes, i have had no cravings for sugar, im a sugar addict and cant even be around a cupcake without eating one, we had crap at work all week and i truely did not want one. my husband refuses to do this, so i am still cooking something everynight for him and i really and truely dont want. i feel great. tonight we are going out to dinner at a steak and fish house, i checked out the menu and they only had 2 salads to choose from that didnt have seafood in it, so tonight i will order both salads and im going to bring in my grapeseed vegenaise and use for my dressing. If people on knew how wonderful you feel. Im actually going to do a juice fast for the next 15 days this week..so excited to get toxins out of my body. i had no problems going cold turkey at all. i just wished i could get my hubby on board, he just never grew up on vegetables, so he is not a veggie eater at all, but im going to slowly when things are used up in the house, like his regular mayo, will have him go to the veganaise. I will make him meatless chili, i think if i just slowly throw in meatless meals once a week for a month, then go twice a week for a month, just maybe i might be able to convert him, it just sucks that his mother never raised her children on veggies just because her husband didnt like them, but really for someone that does like veggies, you can do this without any probs and you will feel wonderful…its all about creativity and believe me, you can save money being vegan if you are creative. i couldnt believe the amount of garbonzos i got from the small package of dried beans i got, i would have had to buy 5 cans to produce the amount i spent on dry beans, i saw a price savings of 5 dollars…just go for it guys, you will love how much energy and how great you feel….