Trust me, I have been there. Going vegan? Are you kidding?? Isn’t giving up meat hard enough??? Well, I hate to break it to you, but unfortunately the egg and dairy industries are some of the most cruel. Don’t believe me? Do some research, if you dare. Have you ever asked yourself what happens to male chicks at an egg farm? Or baby calves at a dairy farm? Butchering animals can be relatively quick and painless, but keeping them alive in awful conditions is, in my opinion, even more horrendous.
Now before you start to think that I am some hippy on my vegan high horse, let me assure you that I do indulge in dairy products. (We have our own chickens, so we don’t buy eggs, but I would also buy those as well if we needed to). I am not without blame. But I am aware, which is the first step. We do the research and fork over the money to buy local and from farms that we trust to treat their animals well, which is something everyone can do. One of my friends once told me “I am not a vegetarian or vegan, I consider myself more of a conscious consumer”. I love this approach! You don’t need a label to be aware where your food is coming from and minimize the suffering of animals.
However, if are considering the switch to a plant based diet, let me share our experience with you and give you some tips to help the transition.
- You will feel really hungry for a while. Your body is adjusting to a whole new diet, and vegetables don’t have as many calories as meat and butter does. Eat frequently and try to pack some extra calories in with vegan desserts or energy bites while you are transitioning. It will be worth it!
- Get advice from more experienced vegans. Reach out and join the club! Experienced vegans, especially ones near you, will have tons of hacks and recipes to share with you. And they are generally happy to do it! I would never have survived without my vegan friends cheering me on and sharing their food with me. If you don’t have any plant based friends, there are so many blogs and Pinterest recipes you can find.
- Try easy and uncomplicated meals. I found that it is hard enough to make any dinner, let alone one with fifty steps and twenty obscure ingredients. Keep the meals simple and easy with a few complicated ones mixed in if you have enough time for them. The harder it is, the more likely you will fall back on old and easy habits.
- Find a local vegan restaurant. I mention below that plant based meals require more food prep, so inevitably you will want to eat out once in a while. Try and find a really great vegan restaurant near you for those days that you don’t want to worry about it or you are looking for some new ideas. Mexican, Indian, and Thai restaurants usually have some vegan options as well. If all else fails, French fries are vegan! (Ps. If you have a Yumm Bowl near you, their yumm sauce is vegan and you can buy it by the bottle. It is delicious and you can add it to almost everything!)
- Vegan food can be flavorful and delicious! My biggest surprise after eating plant based has been how delicious the food can be. I used to think vegans ate salads and raw veggies all the time, which is so NOT true. I have found that we have become so dependent on meat to complete our meals that we have forgotten the power of spices and unique combinations.
- You will start to feel cleaner and better. All of those cheesy things they say are true. You really DO feel better when you are eating a plant based diet. Have you ever had a long bout of eating junk food and just feel like you need an apple? That is what being vegan is like, that constant good feeling of eating clean.
- Stick to a few snacks that you love. Chips with salsa or guacamole, roasted chickpeas, peanut butter and apples, and banana smoothies are some of our favorite go-to snacks. Oreos are also vegan! (Your welcome)
- Beware of sneaky non-vegan products. You will really have to pay attention to the ingredients in packaged food or foods in restaurants. Milk powder or eggs or animal fats are used in so many products. And even though many restaurants cook their foods in oil, some will use butter.
- It will take longer to meal prep and cook. Chopping vegetables and preparing vegan sauces generally take longer prep time. In order to make the food diverse and keep it interesting, you are going to be spending a bit more time on your meal planning in general. If you are a really busy person I recommend Hungryroot (no, this is not an advertisement.) Hungryroot is an all vegan meal kit service like Blue Apron. We love them for their delicious combinations, quick prep time, and no-hassle snacks and lunches you get with your weekly subscription.
- Beware of being vegan with kids. Our daughter just happens to not like meat, but we have never imposed a meatless diet on her. Toddlers are hard enough to feed already with their ever changing taste buds, so restricting their diet even more can be dangerous to their health. If you are serious about going vegan with your children, I would definitely consult a nutritionist and make sure they are getting a multivitamin.
- You don’t need to be sugar free, gluten free, oil free, and peanut free to be vegan. I look at those people sometimes like I used to do with vegans and think “what DO you eat??” You can still eat bread or a peanut butter sandwich if you are a vegan, it’s ok. A lot of vegan recipes have other omissions like sugar, cornstarch, or flour substitutes, but it’s fine to use whatever ingredients you have on hand. Being vegan does not have to be complicated.
- Don’t be afraid of backslides! Eating meat and animal products is a habit. Sometimes you just want an ice cream cone or a crispy piece of bacon, and that’s ok! Eat your cheat and get back to it the next meal. But beware! The longer you are vegan, the more you will feel crummy when you do indulge in the occasional treat.
If you have any other questions about the vegan lifestyle or would like some encouragement, feel free to ask me anything! Best of luck!