7 Tips to Help You Go Vegan
Since becoming a vegan, I've received countless questions from friends and acquaintances asking how I made the transition to a vegan lifestyle. In an attempt to help everyone whose made an inquiry about becoming a vegan, I'm sharing the steps I took. I hope it helps to answer any questions you may have about becoming a vegan.
1. Educate Yourself & Find Your "Why"
In a recent podcast interview I did about being vegan, I shared that whenever I try something new I have to learn everything I can about the subject. It's an approach I take with everything.
Before I officially became a vegan, I read and strongly recommend you read the following books:
- Living Vegan for Dummies - This book is an easy read as well as a practical guide for anyone interested in adapting a vegan lifestyle.
- Fast Food Nation - This book is not about going vegan but it will remind you of you "why". I recommend this book because it opened my eyes to the exploitative nature of the fast food industry. Fast food fuels obesity, exploits workers and fools consumers with its low prices. Once you read this book you will never eat fast food again.
- The Omnivores Dilemma - Author Michael Pollan does a great job of taking the reader to task for disengaging from the food making process. When I read this book, just like Fast Food Nation, it reminded me of my why. While Mr. Poland makes a great case for being an omnivore, reading this book showed me that being vegan was the right choice for me.
- Main Street Vegan - I read this book months later. It provides a great step by step guide for new vegans. My favorite part of the book is the recipes at the end of each chapter. The chili recipe on page 80 is a must try!
I watched the following documentaries on Netflix:
- Forks Over Knives - discusses the link between dairy and heart disease.
- Food Inc. - demystifies the food industry; more specifically, GMO's, factory farming and animal agriculture.
- Cowspiracy - shows the viewer the cost of animal agriculture and the disastrous effects it's having on the environment.
- Vegucated - documents the struggles and triumphs of three omnivores attempting to adapt to a vegan lifestyle.
- Earthlings - don't watch this alone. This documentary shows how animals are slaughtered. If you can still eat meat after watching this movie, you're heartless. Seriously heartless!
After watching these documentaries and reading the books, write down your "why". Why are you becoming a vegan? Is it for the environment, your health, or the animals? My "why" includes all three. Whatever your reason, write it down immediately. Keep it close, perhaps in your cell phone or write it on a post-it. Place it on your refrigerator. Keeping your "why" in plain sight will help keep you on track.
2. Pick A "How to go Vegan" Strategy
Will you make gradual changes in your diet by swapping out non-vegan foods for vegan ones? Or will you go all in? Throwing out all your sweet, sweet dairy laden, buttery rich and sugary snacks, in addition to all your meat and products that contain animal flesh or fluid. That sentence sounds disgusting when you read it aloud. Yuck!
If you decide to use the gradual strategy, set a deadline. I plan to eliminate all animals food from my diet within 3 months or 6 months. Pick an end date and stick with it!
3. Plan Your Vegan Meals, Then Go Shopping
Look through your cookbooks and choose recipes to cook for the week. The cookbooks below are my favorite because each offer a diverse recipe selection:
- Happy Herbivore
- Thug Kitchen
- DIY Vegan
- Sticky Fingers' Vegan Sweets
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Slow Cooking
Make a list of everything you need to make dinner for the week. Try to make recipes that require the same ingredients to avoid wasting produce.
For example: I love curry chickpeas stew, click here to find the recipe on my Pinterest board, "Yummy Vegan Recipes to Try".
If I make the stew, I cook jasmine rice and make a green salad. Leftover rice and salad can be used to make a burrito with black beans and avocado. Leftover avocado from that meal can be used to make avocados toast for breakfast or lunch. You get the idea. Download my sample shopping list for help generating your list.
4. Make Nutrition A Priority
Eating an adequate amount of fruits and veggies, in addition to getting the recommended vitamins and nutrients, should be your priority. Add vitamins (i.e: D, B6 & B12) to your shopping list as it an essential part of a vegan diet. Consult your doctor first!
I'm severely vitamin D deficient, so vitamin D pills are something that appear on my shopping list every 10-12 weeks. I'm required to take an over counter vitamin D pill in addition to one prescribed by my endocrinologist. If you're African American, see your doctor to check your vitamin D levels to ensure your levels are within normal range, as we tend to have low levels.
Also, make sure your plate looks like a rainbow; you need to eat a wide selection of fruits and veggies daily. Try buying seasonal and local produce. Farmer's markets are one of my favorite places to go on Sundays in search of organic produce. If you have a greenmarket close to you, consider making trips to this market a part of your weekly routine.
5. Pack Your Lunch & Snacks Every Day
This tip saved me during my first weeks of going vegan. If you're not prepared for lunch or snacks it's so easy to skip the meal entirely or fall of the wagon.
I rarely buy my lunch. I try to make a stew, chili or soup on Mondays so I can have a prepared lunch for the entire week. It never gets boring to me but if this doesn't sound appealing to you, my advice would be to add an extra side dish to the meal to change things up. You can add baked or fried plantains, a kale salad, baked sweet potato or a cucumber and tomato salad.
I pack nuts or a fruit as a snack to take with me wherever I go. There are times when it's hard finding a healthy snack, especially when you're running errands. Keeping an apple, banana or cashews in your bag when you're away from home, reduces your temptation to eat unhealthy snacks.
Download my sample meal plan for help creating your own weekly menu plan.
6. Eat Your Greens!
You can chop it, sauté it or blend it. Kale, rainbow chards and spinach are a few of my faves. Spinach and kale are usually blended into my smoothies. I love me some green smoothies!
7. Helpful Vegan-Friendly Apps & Tips...
- Yelp - I use Yelp to find vegan or vegan friendly restaurants in my area.
- Whole Foods Market App- I save recipes on this app and the really cool thing about it is, all ingredients can be transferred to a shopping list to make grocery shopping much easier.
- Pinterest - use it to create boards for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Pinterest is another source I go to for delicious recipes. I don't know where I'd be without this app.
- PETA - whenever I go out to dinner at non-vegan restaurant, I go to the PETA's website for tips to veganize my meal. Click here to check out the PETA restaurant guide.
Bonus tip... drink lots and lots of water! You'll now be making regular trips to the bathroom, drinking more water and eating a balanced veggie diet will make those trips smoother. Pun intended.
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. What you read here is for informational purposes only. Before making any lifestyle change, consult a medical professional for guidance.