The word “vegan” may bring to mind weird health food and strange practices that deprive you of all the pleasures in life. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The transition to a vegan lifestyle is the best, easiest, most common-sense health decision you can make. It’s totally natural and with a few precautions, you can expect improvement in your health and well-being. In addition, it will also have a huge impact on animal suffering and help stop many of the greatest manmade environmental disasters known to man.
Finding a vegan diet has been the greatest decision of my life. It has changed how I view life itself, and made me focus on the good in the world everyday. While it was hard for me to transition, I want to share with you exactly how I made that jump and forgot all about meat. Make no mistake though, I’m not forcing any change on you. It’s a personal choice which you must make by yourself. However, as one who has been vegan for a while now, I want to share some of my tips to help make your transition into a vegan lifestyle worth it, if that is what you are considering.
Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is easier than you think
The transition to a vegan lifestyle is easier than you think. It may take time and effort to get used to cooking and preparing your own meals, but it can be done. It is important to inform those around you when you do decide to make this decision, so that you can get the support necessary to make the switch. There are many people who can help you along the way, whether those people are friends, family members or even complete strangers on social media sites such as Facebook groups or Instagram.
You may have to give up some of your favorite foods, but there are many substitutes for meat such as soy products or bean-based proteins that when cooked correctly gives the same flavor as meat.
The most important thing is that you’re willing to make changes in order to live a healthier life with fewer animal products in your diet.
That being said, here are some recommendations if you are actively trying to make this transition.
Go for the Iron
Source your iron. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, and it can be found everywhere that meat is removed from the diet. Iron is vital for brain function, red blood cell production and energy levels. If you’re not getting enough iron, you could suffer from symptoms like fatigue, headaches, irritability and poor concentration skills.
Add foods rich in iron to your diet or consider taking an iron supplement. You’ll find this essential mineral in dried beans, chickpeas, tofu, cashews, almonds and leafy greens such as spinach.
Aim for 18mg a day if you’re a woman over 50 or an adult man; 8mg a day if you’re a younger woman or child; 27mg a day if you’re pregnant; 11mg a day if you’re breastfeeding; and 8-10mg per day during childhood development. If you have anemia or another condition that causes excessive blood loss (such as chronic kidney disease), speak with your doctor about whether more iron intake is appropriate for your needs.
Getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can be a little more challenging for vegans than it is for those who consume animal products. We all need omega-3s to maintain our health, so make sure you’re incorporating plant-based sources into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are important to keep our hearts healthy and our brains functioning at optimal levels. They also help reduce inflammation, which may prevent certain chronic diseases from developing in the first place.
These essential fats are found primarily in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, but you don’t have to eat fish to get enough of them. Flax seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, walnuts and tofu are all good sources of the omega-3s that your body needs. Soy milk fortified with extra calcium is another easy way to boost your intake without even trying!
Omega-3s can also be found in dark green vegetables like kale and spinach as well as winter squash, broccoli and Brussel sprouts—but it may take a lot more chard than you want to eat before you get the recommended daily amount! That’s why foods like walnuts or flax meal incorporated into smoothies or baked goods are super simple ways of adding these life-improving nutrients daily — with minimal fuss or effort on your part!
How much do you need? In order for your body to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids those cells must convert ALA (alpha linolenic acid) into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). And sadly this conversion isn’t very efficient: about 5–10% for men and 0–15% for women. So it’s advised that adults consume 1 g/day of ALA from plant sources such as nuts & seeds or 2 g/day from supplements since plant foods alone aren’t sufficient to meet minimum requirements.
Go for the greens
Eat more raw food:
There are lots of delicious ways to prepare your favorite fruits and veggies to provide a variety of flavors and textures. Salads, for example, make it easy to eat a lot of the raw plant matter that can provide you with important vitamins and nutrients.
Eat more greens:
Along with leafy greens, there are plenty of other cruciferous vegetables that can make great additions to your diet. Dark leafy greens such as kale and collards are especially nutrient-dense. They contain iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber—all in addition to vitamins K1 (helps blood clot) and K2 (helps bones stay healthy). Broccoli is also full of nutrients—as well as indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which aids in detoxification by removing toxins from the body.
Increase your intake of beans and nuts:
Beans serve as an excellent source of protein while also providing fiber and folic acid—a B vitamin that’s crucial for brain health. And many nuts contain essential amino acids like lysine that help keep you feeling full longer after eating them (see our vegan bolognese recipe that is simply made with nuts!).
The same goes for seeds; chia seeds have been shown to reduce inflammation while also helping regulate blood sugar levels. Whole grains such as quinoa also provide important nutritional benefits like B vitamins without adding unnecessary calories or filling you up before you’re ready—and they taste great!
The key here is not necessarily what foods you’re eating; it’s how much time has passed since last eating them. If it’s been at least four hours since your last meal or snack session then go ahead with whatever sounds good right now–just don’t force yourself until tomorrow morning comes around again because then hunger won’t be an issue anymore!
If you’re going to mindlessly munch, go for fruits or nuts
Regardless of your vegan goals, it’s important to stay satiated in order to avoid mindless snacking on junk foods. Nuts and fruits are an excellent choice for a healthy snack. They’re low in carbohydrates and high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. As an added benefit, they also have the ability to aid weight loss and lower risk of diabetes and heart disease—just make sure that you’re not having too many portions per day.
If you want more guidance through your transition to a vegan journey, consider using a food tracker like HappyCow or Cowspiracy. They’ll help keep you accountable while giving you a way to search through thousands of recipes.
If you want to transition to a vegan lifestyle, take it one step at a time
Now that you know how to balance your diet and make sure you are getting enough nutrients, it’s time to explore some of the best alternatives for common animal products.
A common mistake made by people transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is to try and cut out all animal products from their diet at once. This can be overwhelming, and can cause you to lose interest in your new lifestyle quickly. Instead, take small steps that lead in the direction of being vegan.
Start by replacing just one item on your grocery list with a non-animal product alternative. For example, if you drink milk every day, start with substituting almond milk in your favorite recipes. When you become comfortable with this change, move onto something else; maybe replace dairy butter with vegetable spread or coconut oil when cooking meals or baking treats. Gradually replace items on your list until there are no more animal products left on it!
It may also help to set a date in the future when you will be fully vegan; this way, it won’t be as difficult because you will know exactly how long each transition phase must last for before the next one begins.
What are some changes you have started implementing in your transition to a vegan lifestyle? Sound off in the comments below.