A vegan lifestyle is more than just a diet. It's about eliminating all animal products and animal based materials, such as leather and wool, as well as animal foods.
This can be a bit daunting. Some try to go vegan overnight, which works for some, but many find it easier going at their own pace, starting with eating less meat.
You can go at your own pace, and if you wish, adopt a vegan diet without following a whole vegan lifestyle. It doesn't have to be all-or-nothing.
Benefits of a Healthy Vegan Diet
It helps to keep motivated by remembering the health benefits of eating plant based foods.
A vegan diet can help you lose weight. It also helps control blood sugar to prevent type 2 diabetes. Better heart health, lower cancer risks, and better kidney function are other advantages.
Tips for a Beginner Vegan
Start gently, and focus less on eliminating foods, and more on adding foods, for a plant-focused, healthy whole foods diet, before cutting out animal products. Many find emphasizing a plant based diet, as a natural progression from whole food diets, gradually creates less room in your daily meals to eat non vegan food.
There are lots of excellent substitutes, like coconut milk whipped cream, nut-based vegan cheese, and cashew milk ice cream. One of the easiest switches is replacing cow's milk with plant based milks.
Next, try gradually dropping meat-based meals until you won't miss them. Some people find it easiest to be vegetarian for a while before going vegan.
While finding good substitutes helps, make sure you focus on enjoying new plant foods and vegan recipes to break some of the ties to your old eating habits. Some people find that vegan burgers, although delicious, can make them miss beef burgers, so prefer to avoid them. Try new foods, like tempeh, tofu, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha, if you haven't already, and find some new favourites.
If you have one 'barrier' food that puts you off going vegan, don't worry about dropping it until last, when you're ready and armed with new delicious foods and habits.
Keep It Simple and Organized
People often have go-to recipes to fall back on when tired or busy. Until new ones become second nature, shop for and plan your vegan meals ahead of time.
Start off with just a few, simple vegan recipes and get really comfortable with them, before getting more creative. You'll start to have some easy favourites that you can easily do any night of the week.
Take a Break
Especially early on in your vegan journey, be sure to treat yourself sometimes. Find some vegan friendly restaurants, and enjoy new delicious food! There are more options nowadays, and even non vegan friends can enjoy eating at these places. Regular restaurants are also getting better at offering vegan options.
Foods To Avoid
Especially early on, many turn to convenience foods, but some are just vegan junk food. Watch out for less-than-ideal vegan alternatives to your old favourite foods; some are heavily processed vegan foods that don't fit well in a balanced diet.
Less Obvious Animal Products
You may not have considered some less obvious animal product foods, such as honey and bee pollen, whey, casein, lactose, albumen, and gelatin. Always check labels carefully.
You may worry about getting all the nutrients you need; however, many people have nutrient deficiencies before going vegan. Get tested before and after you go vegan, and consult with your doctor.
A well planned vegan diet contributes most of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need, but supplementation may be needed. A wellness app to track food and vitamin and nutrient intake can help with monitoring.
You can get fortified foods with vitamin B12, like fortified plant milk and nutritional yeast, but this is one supplement that is generally needed by all vegans.
Many people are deficient in vitamin D, regardless of diet. You can get some from the sun, but supplementation is often necessary. Always check to ensure your brand is vegan-friendly.
You can get omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds, or vegan algae oil supplements. You can usually get all necessary omega-6 fatty acids from nuts, seeds, and sunflower oil.
Iron deficiency is common even in non-vegan diets; choose iron rich foods like dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes. Using an 'iron fish' can help. Eat foods high in vitamin C to increase iron absorption, but only take extra iron if a deficiency is confirmed.
Iodine can be found in iodized salt, or kelp or iodine supplements.
A sufficient calcium intake from kale, broccoli, and fortified plant milks is possible.
You can supplement with vegan protein powder, but you can get enough protein from plant based protein sources, such as beans, greens, tofu, nuts, and peas.
La Dee Da Sauces can simplify your move to veganism; our easy, ready-made plant based meals, like these soups, are nutritious and great to have on-hand. Delicious sauces and jams and jellies are critical for easily spicing up vegan dishes to add flavour and variety.
Don't forget to check out our recipes for some extra inspiration!