A complete guide detailing the concept of veganism, the reasons to consider going full-vegan and reliable tips to ease into and stick to a plant-based diet.
Have you been planning to go full tofu but struggling to cut down on your meat and dairy consumption? Or are you a rookie vegan looking for some extra inspiration to stay consistent? Let us help you figure out methods to reverse engineer the foods that you are accustomed to so that you can savor the vegan alternatives just as much. Going vegan should not mean that you have to commit to an unpalatable diet. We would never suggest anything that will kill your joy of eating. That’s purely criminal, by our standards. So be rest assured, by the end of this article, not only will you be convinced to go vegan for its ethical justifications but we will also have your head brimming with all sorts of exciting ideas to spice up your future (or current) vegan diet.
Before we move on to the tips, we will discuss what motivates so many people to change or want to transform their diet entirely. Some non-vegans may dismiss veganism as just a passing fad. And, most will challenge vegans about the perceived nutritional deficiencies of a vegan diet (more on this later). But veganism too presents a convincing case for itself.
Veganism is a practice that forbids the consumption of animal-based foods and promotes plant-based living. Vegans avoid both primary and secondary animal products that result from the exploitation of animals. You can easily count out the obvious primary animal products like meat, egg, fish, salami, sausages, ham, beef and so on. Additionally, animal by-products such as milk, cheese, butter, and yoghurt are also barred from a vegan diet. Vegetarians on the other hand are free to consume these animal by-products. It is important to stress that veganism is more than just a diet. It is a philosophical movement that urges us to reflect upon the rapidly debilitating state of the world today from an environmental, health, and moral point of view.
What’s going for meat is the amount of protein it has to offer (stick around, there are vegan alternatives for protein as well), but the red (meat?) flag is the excessive amounts of saturated fat it contains which can dramatically shoot up your blood cholesterol levels. You might imagine that not to be much of a worry, however rising cholesterol levels increase the likelihood of developing many life-threatening health conditions. Here is a list of ten health concerns linked to meat consumption. (It has all the frightening words you’d like to think you’re immune to. Spoiler Alert - Cancer makes the list as well)
Research has found that a plant-based diet high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and low in fats reduces the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
Joseph Moore, a food and environment researcher at Oxford University carried out a study that suggested that a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. The research predicts some promising developments that could come true if there is a definitive shift in our food production and consumption patterns. Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmlands could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union, and Australia combined – and still feed the world.
Currently, 83 percent of farmlands are used for livestock and amount to the production of just 18 percent calories and 37 percent of proteins. Here’s the shocker - all of this contributes to 60 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of greenhouse emissions for less than half of nutritious returns. Livestock rearing is the prime cause of wildlife endangerment as natural grasslands are being deforested to build farmlands.
Leslie J Cross was a pioneer in the vegan social movement in the early 1940s. He provided more clarity and moral context to motivate people to join the movement. He termed veganism as “the emancipation of animals from the exploitation by man." Adopting a vegan lifestyle is the ultimate statement you can make against animal cruelty. Animals are often stripped of their agencies for satisfying human needs whether it be food, clothing, transport, or entertainment.
Millions of cows, calves, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, fish and other animals are violently slaughtered for mass production and consumption. Even before they are killed, they are barely given the privilege of living a dignified life. They are kept in cramped sheds, cages, and crates deprived of veterinary care, optimal diet, natural sunlight, and exercise - and this is, to put it mildly. The knowledge of the ill-treatment of animals that result in your everyday meals is a tough pill to swallow. But the acknowledgment of this reality can keep you motivated and fully committed to your newly found vegan way of life.
There is no surefire way of going vegan. Firstly, sit down and do a mental check of the daily foods that you are now used to. Then, research all the available vegan alternatives that you can consume instead. The idea is to ease into veganism via a sightseeing tour of the world of vegetarianism. Today, vegan products are available in abundance in markets worldwide. Therefore, it is much easier now than ever before to deep dive into this lifestyle.
Unfortunately, Vegans are often mocked by their meat-loving friends and family members. The constant bullying at times convinces aspiring vegans to go back to their meat-consuming ways for the sake of social acceptance. However, developing a thick skin is very important to ward off negative and unsolicited comments. The best thing you can do is to be extra kind to them, take every negative situation, and turn that into a teaching moment. You know why you chose to go vegan, so educate people around you about its benefits. For dealing with the intolerable ones, you are better off ignoring them. As long as you are convinced of your decision to go down this route, you do not need external validation.
But before locking horns with non-vegans, change how you yourself perceive the vegan lifestyle. Instead of framing judgments like - “Vegan food does not taste good” or “Vegan products are too expensive”, try to think of it like “How do I make my vegan meals delicious?” and 'How do I go about finding affordable vegan options?'. Overcoming peer pressure and gaining self-conviction is paramount.
Many vegan influencers talk a lot about instant health improvements upon adopting a strictly plant-based diet. Better skin, better eyes, better digestion, better physical performance - such are the promises made. Not to say these claims aren't valid but it is fairly unrealistic to go through these transformations in a short period. If you remain dedicated to this lifestyle, the results will follow. Also, while newer and better vegan substitutes for animal products will keep cropping up now and then, know that if you have left meat only recently, the vegan options will not satisfy your taste buds right away. You will grow to enjoy these items with time. But do remember, the trade-off for the taste that you are making now is worth the trade-off for animal welfare and saving the environment.
It’s not the case that as a meat-eater you had completely avoided plant-based foods. It likely comprised only a smaller portion of your meals back then. Now, you should focus on having more! Increase your whole foods intake gradually. Fill your plate with a range of seasonal vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, all of which are easily accessible from farmers’ markets, supermarkets, and bulk stores. Include all colors of the rainbow on your plate to maximize what you get out of your vegan meals. These include red tomatoes for heart-nourishing lycopene; leafy greens for vitamins A, C, and K; blueberries for brain-healthy anthocyanins; oranges and carrots known for Vitamin A, responsible for good eye health. Swap out refined grains such as white pasta and white bread for whole grains such as brown rice, millets, and oats to retain iron and Vitamin B, in addition to fiber and proteins.
As the vegan community keeps growing, there is an incentive for the food industry to come out with vegan alternatives to meat and dairy products. Animal products are known to provide an ample amount of proteins. To feel just as replenished at the cost of discarding meat altogether, you must make the most out of plant-based proteins. Vegan sources of protein are plentiful - tofu, tempeh, soybeans, lentil, chickpeas, almonds, cashews, and a variety of other seeds. For dairy products such as butter, cheese, milk, and eggs, plant-based dairy substitutes are also easily accessible. For butter - use vegan butter or coconut oil. For cheese - use soy, nut, or tofu-based cheese. There are animal milk alternatives such as soy, almond, rice, or coconut milk as well. And lastly, to get the same nutritional value as from consuming eggs, eat flax eggs, chia seeds, bananas and applesauce instead!
Improve your ingredient detection skills. Despite there being many canned vegan food items, there are often milk and honey derivatives that are found in these packages. Before you decide whether it is okay for you to consume such a product, you must gain some knowledge about these derivatives. Whey, casein, gelatin, and isinglass are the common ones to avoid. Other than these, there are ingredients with scientific names and numbers next to them. These too usually include animal byproducts. You can use websites like this one to check if the additive is vegan or not. That being said, sometimes many vegan products have traces of animal byproducts but still considered to be safe for vegans. It then becomes your decision to consume these or avoid. On the safe side, choosing to buy fresh produce and whole foods over packaged goods will guarantee that you are entirely eliminating animal products and byproducts from your diet.
Vegan foods are known for their fiber, vitamin, and mineral-rich elements but fat is a crucial macronutrient that must be a part of your vegan diet. You can amp up your salad bowl by sprinkling a good amount of walnuts, tofu, and pumpkin seeds on the veggies. On top of that, add a few dollops of peanut butter to add volume and flavor to your salad bowl with the additional benefit of consuming a healthy portion of fats and proteins.
You might start feeling overwhelmed transitioning to a vegan diet from the get-go if you have been a meat eater all your life. A reasonable meal rotation plan is sure to be helpful as you begin on your journey to vegan-hood. Find 2-3 recipes that will be easy to prepare in bulk and can be accessed quickly. This may include vegetable stews, wraps, whole grain pasta, and avocado on toast. After some time, aim to expand your rotation. Refer to YouTube videos, vegan cookbooks, blog posts, and online communities. Try your hand at a few recipes till you master a couple and add them to your rotation. This is how you slowly but steadily become a vegan Masterchef.
To appease novice vegans, a variety of vegan junk foods are being introduced into the market. These processed food items have vegan stickers pasted on them but realistically, are not any better for your health than non-vegan junk foods. It is okay if you indulge in vegan chips or cookies every once in a while. However, if you add vegan ice creams, burgers, vegan pies, or garlic bread made with vegan margarine to your daily diet; you are not doing yourself a favor. Instead, try to make nutritious foods more flavorsome via combinations such as carrots with hummus or whole-grain tortilla chips with guacamole.
Supplementation is highly recommended if you plan to never go back to meat. We get Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins D, and B12 from animals. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fatty fishes like salmon. Vitamin D is also found in fishes like salmon and sardines. They are also found in dairy products like milk and yogurt. There are some fortified vegan options to consume these nutrients but Vitamin B-12 is almost predominantly found in animal foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Vitamin B-12 is a much needed nutrient as it helps transform food into energy in our bodies. Vitamin and fish oil supplements ensure a fully nutritionally balanced diet without ever having to turn back to meat and dairy. Here is a helpful resource by plant-based doctor Genna Newman about the necessary supplements vegans should consider. Our advice would be to first consult a doctor before you plan to start with a course of supplements.
Long gone are the days when you had to receive confused looks from waiters at restaurants if you inquired regarding their vegan options. According to Plant Proteins, 6 percent of US consumers claim to be vegan in 2022. Seasoned vegans are more likely to have unwavering commitment towards their plant-based diets. To make eating out a more inclusive experience for vegans, most restaurants now include a vegan section on their menus. Moreover, eateries known for their meat items also include vegan-friendly substitutes today. That is not all, many vegan food delivery services have emerged as well. The options are endless.
As a new vegan, it is difficult to keep your temptations in check. During these phases, as much as it is important to practice self-control, it is just as necessary to not beat yourself up too much if you happen to eat something non-vegan every once in a while. Brush it off and remind yourself of why you took this leap in the first place. When you grow in competence and confidence in your vegan recipes and make more connections with people on the same journey, you will find yourself more comfortable in your skin and feel the same way about your diet. Trust the process.
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The most important battle to fight in being vegan is staving off boredom. It’s not all raw salads and avocado toasts. With Nymble, you get to eat different customizable vegan recipes so you have adequate variety that doesn’t drive you away from your plant-based diet goals. Experiment with spices and cuisines that you love.
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