***I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL OR NUTRITIONIST. I HAVE NO MEDICAL TRAINING WHATSOEVER. ANY CHANGES TO YOUR DIET AND/OR LIFESTYLE SHOULD BE REVIEWED WITH YOUR DOCTOR, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN, OR A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE MAKING THE CHANGE. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH.***
On July 23rd at 1:40 in the afternoon we welcomed our sweet daughter, Lydia Grace, into the world. She was 10 lbs (!) of sheer perfection. By July 25th we knew something wasn’t quite right. Nothing life threatening – but she was crying like she was in pain almost all. the. time. And she was clearly having some bad digestive issues. This began our journey into evaluating what we eat and its impact on our health. Don’t worry, I will answer the question “how do I start being vegan”, I promise!
It turns out, any amount of animal dairy in my breastmilk really bothers Lydia. Like makes her cry and scream for hours because she is in so much pain. It was heartbreaking, but also so relieving to finally find out what was wrong and to know that it was something we could easily fix.
As I started working on making more and more dairy free foods, Lane and I also started having some serious conversations about our health. And of course, I started doing some research. I love doing research – honestly I think Hermione Granger and I would have been best friends. Or at the very least frenemies. The more we researched the more we found extremely compelling information that the very best diet out there – for our health, for the environment, and certainly for animals – is the vegan diet.
How do I start being vegan?
I will leave the research for today – right now I want to answer the question, “how do I start being vegan?”. The answer is simple and complicated – just like life (ha!).
The simple answer to the question “how do I start being vegan?” is you simply cut out all animal products. BOOM. You’re a vegan. This means you remove:
- All other meats
- Animal-based dairy (cow’s milk/cheese, goat’s milk/cheese, etc)
from your diet. And instead you eat only plant-based foods like:
- Nuts & Seeds
- Maple Syrup
OK, but HOW?
Now that you know what you can and can’t eat, let’s talk about how you make this happen, because it’s a big change. To answer the question, “how do I start being vegan?”, I would say you have several approaches:
- Slowly overtime
- Cold tofurkey (get it??)
Becoming Vegan Slowly Overtime
This approach allows you to slowly integrate veganism into your life. You might start by replacing one meal a week at a time. Then, in about 21 weeks you would be eating a full week’s worth of vegan meals – you’d be a vegan.
Another way to become a vegan slowly overtime would be to switch to vegetarianism with the goal of eventually becoming a vegan. This could be as quickly or as slowly as you would like it to be.
And of course as you use up your food ingredients at home you could just swap in their vegan counterparts – once that carton of 2% milk is gone buy some vegan plant-based milk instead. When you run out of eggs try subbing in some vegan egg substitutes for baking or a tofu scramble instead of buying more eggs. Pick up a bottle of agave instead of honey the next time you are at the grocery. Slowly you will build yourself a vegan pantry/fridge.
Becoming Vegan Overnight
If you would rather just go the cold tofurkey approach, that’s cool too. That’s basically what Lane and I did. We ate up most of our animal-based foods, donated or gave away the rest, and started fresh. The challenges of this approach are that you pretty much have to learn a whole new way of cooking – and if you’re already not super confident in the kitchen that can be hard. But the great thing is that you get to see the health benefits pretty much right away.
Already Lane and I feel fuller longer, we are eating less, we have more energy, my nails are growing like crazy, and we just overall feel better and less sluggish. And we have only been eating this way for a short time. Imagine what a lifetime of this diet can do for you!
10 Steps to Becoming Vegan
To help answer the question “how do I start being vegan?” I came up with 10 simple steps for ya:
- Talk to your doctor/primary care physician and/or a nutritionist who specializes in vegan diets: As I said above, I have no medical training whatsoever. I’m just a gal with a computer that has access to Google. Before making any big changes to your diet or lifestyle you need to speak with your doctor or primary care physician or a medical professional. I also highly recommend talking to a nutritionist who specializes in vegan diets as many doctors/medical professionals do not fully understand veganism and are part of the thinking that we need animal protein to survive and thrive (we don’t). I would highly recommend doing your research before you go talk to a medical professional so that you can distinguish between actual facts and what they have been taught to believe are facts. But, it is still a good idea to talk to them nonetheless.
- Do your research: You will stick with veganism once you do your research and determine why you want to make this lifestyle change. Maybe you are in it for the animals. Maybe you’re becoming vegan for your health. Or maybe you want to be vegan to help the environment. It could be a combination of all three. Whatever the reason is, research the benefits so you can remind yourself why you’re doing this when you feel tempted.
- Start swapping out your non-vegan food items: As you use up foods in your pantry and fridge, start swapping in their vegan counterparts. Meat, milk, cheese, and eggs are the obvious ones – but there are some things you wouldn’t even think about. Like Worcestershire sauce, your coffee creamer, salad dressings, and even sugar (yep, sugar! don’t worry, there are totally vegan sugar counterparts).
- Get some quick vegan meals ready on hand: I’m not going to lie, eating out will be harder, so get some quick vegan meals on hand for when you’re in a pinch. Some of our favorites are a hummus and veggie wraps, chickpea salad, black bean and sweet potato bowls, and freezer falafel.
- Eat the rainbow every day: We’ve all heard the stories about your friend’s aunt’s neighbor’s cousin who tried the vegan diet and got so malnourished that she almost died. She almost died, y’all. Chances are that this person probably was not eating a well balanced vegan diet and/or taking her vitamin. Yes, French fries and Oreos are vegan. No, you should not only eat French fries and Oreos every day. You are going to have to eat your fruits and veggies. Otherwise you will become malnourished. Set a goal to eat fruits and veggies of every color every single day. You may not always hit your goal but if you’re aiming for it you will get close!
- Take a vegan vitamin: Here’s the good news, you can get just about every vitamin, mineral, and nutrient you need to survive from a vegan diet. Here’s the bad news – its really hard to get 1 vitamin, B12. You can still get it organically if you eat nutritional yeast everyday, but its much safer, quicker, and more effective to just take a vegan vitamin everyday. We don’t need all that much B12, but without it our health can really go haywire. So just take your vegan vitamin.
- Start swapping in vegan meals: Pick the easiest meal you can think of. For example, if you can’t imagine not having 2 eggs for breakfast every morning then don’t start with breakfast. If you go out to eat with your coworkers for lunch every day, then don’t start with lunch. But find some meals that you could easily make a big change to and start making those meals vegan.
- There is no shame in eating leftovers for breakfast: Breakfast without eggs and cheese can be hard, so if all you have in your house for breakfast one morning is the leftover Kung Pao chickpeas, go for it. No shame in that game y’all.
- Don’t expect everyone else to understand: In fact, expect them to not understand. The thing you may come to notice is that eating animals and their products is really ingrained in our society and in many cultures. People have emotional attachments to food – its how we share histories, experiences, and how we bond with others. Friends and especially family members might see your new vegan lifestyle as an attack (somehow?), even if they may not fully understand that themselves. Just be patient, be calm, ignore crazy and/or snide remarks and carry on. They will see your health benefits for themselves in time.
- Let go of the old “food rules”: If you are eating a balanced and varied diet, trying to eat the rainbow every day, and taking your vitamin then you can let go of all the food rules we have been taught. Stop calorie counting. Stop trying to schedule your meals. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, eat when you’re hungry again. All this new fiber will probably fill you up so you may find that you are eating smaller meals and needing more snacks between meals. That’s OK. Forget the old food rules and just enjoy eating.
- BONUS TIP: Learn to make some vegan versions of your favorite foods – this will make becoming a vegan so much more fun! If you love queso, learn to make vegan queso. If you’re thing is fried chicken, find a vegan fried “chicken” recipe. Whatever you love, do some research and learn how to make it – then when temptation strikes you’ll be ready!
So, if you’re thinking, “how do I start being vegan?” and you want some delicious recipes to help you along that journey, stick around. I will be posting new vegan recipes each week. If you have any other questions about how to start begin vegan that I can help you with, feel free to share them on Instagram or Facebook! I hope you will join us on this journey for your health, the environment, and the animals!