This blog post also is available in German.
Going vegan is easy, staying vegan not so much if you don‘t take yourself the time to grappel with the food produce you buy and put in your body. What I mean is; a vegan diet is super healthy, but only if done the right way. You cannot stop animal produce and substitute it with the remaining products you know, like pasta, bread, convenience products or processed foods. Same goes for junk food – and yes there is vegan junk food too – which is never healthy, not on a vegan nor on a regular diet. Do I eat processed food, like tofu sausages or vegan cheeses? Yes, I do, but I eat a lot of fresh, unprocessed organic food as well. The important message here is, you need to know how you provide your body with the nutrients it needs on a vegan diet, which is a tiny little bit different than on an omnivore one. But let me assure you it‘s a small change and you‘ll get used to it super fast, if you know your food. And that is where this blog post is going to help you.
Please note, that this article touches the basics of going vegan, there‘s still going to be another post, where I explain in detail what vegan products you can use to substitute eggs, cheese, etc.when actively cooking in the kitchen.
Be patient with yourself
Becoming vegan can be hard sometimes due to different factors. It takes time to get used to the new products, how to cook with them, how they taste or how to quit on things you used to like. It can be frustrating to go eating at a restaurant and they don‘t have any good options for vegans, besides the good old veggie platter. Don‘t be to hard on yourself! You don‘t need to go completely vegan from one day to another. Instead you can transition slowly into the new diet. That‘s just the way I did it. Took me 4 months, before I turned completely vegan. Honestly I think it`s way more easier to make a successful transition to veganism when going slowly. A lot of people actually fail by going completely vegan from one day to another, because they don`t know enough about their new way of eating. Take yourself the time to learn about a vegan diet and feel free to still consume animal products.
Don`t give up & be persistent
Never feel bad if you fall back into old habits and eat a piece of cheese or whatever other animal produce. Accept it and move on continuing with your vegan lifestyle. It can happen to all of us, especially for the ones who used to like dairy or meat. Embrace your relapse and most important stay persistent and never give up although there might be a bad day or two. But never use your relapse as a reason to ditch your vegan diet. According to the motto; I already failed so I should eat animal produce again. That`s the wrong perspective!
You will have to read labels
Well at least at the beginning of becoming vegan… Get used to read labels carefully to distinguish non-vegan from vegan products. Some of them luckily have a huge logo on them and you‘ll spot it at one glance, others you will have to read. Some of them will not contain animal ingredients, but state the following: might contain traces of eggs or dairy. Personally I buy these products, as it is mostly just is a legal term, so the company can‘t get sued. It means that the product has been produced in a facility or machine that also is being used to make other products that contain dairy or eggs. For me it‘s not a big deal as they use to clean the machines between different product batches, but it‘s a personal choice.
Be open to new things & experimenting in the kitchen
When becoming vegan you need to have an open mind. Be ready to try new foods, new ingredients, experiment in the kitchen and test the same products several times at different stages of your transition, as your taste buds might need some time to adapt to certain unkown and new flavors. For example I used to hate tofu or tempeh and now I love both of it. Also visit different restaurants, experiment with different cuisines and find out what works for you and what doesn`t. Nowadays we have such a broad variety of foods, that everybody will find something he or she likes.
Be prepared for criticism & grow a thick fur
It‘s a matter of fact that people will put you on the hot chair, they will confront you with questions about the why‘s and what‘s and all of that. Don‘t get upset or mad with these people. Just smile at them and clearly explain to them your motives why you turned vegan. If they try to tell you why veganism is bad just answer them with all the positive scientific facts you know about your new way of living. And just get ready to grow yourself a thick fur, because there will be people who never will understand veganism. Give your friends and family time to get used to your new ways of eating and most of all don‘t try in a fanatical kind of way to turn people vegan.
When people ask me why I turned vegan I used to tell them the impacts animal products have on our environment and I have to say most of them understand and don‘t go into arguing any further. Some of them used to go for the soy field argument, like „vegans cause tropical rainforests to disappear for their soy.“ That‘s when I tell them most of the soy is food for the cows they eat. Others will say „I only buy local and organic meat and dairy from animals that are grazing.“ I don‘t argue with these, because they built themselves a shell of believing what they do is ok, that it will hit them hard if you tell them that grazing livestock is even worse for the planet than the industrial kept ones. In the end don`t take it too personal, the people that attack you the most usually are aware of their wrongdoing and are just frustrated with themselves.
At the beginning it will be hard, but people will get used to it, they might make a joke or two from time to time, but secretly a lot of them will admire you for what you are doing. Also don‘t avoid going out for dinner or meeting friends that aren`t vegan. Most of the time there‘s always a vegan option in every restaurant and if not go for salad or fries or eat something at home first so you can go for a small salad or soup. You can also always order off the menue, which you should actually get comfortable with. Maybe one day your friends will even agree to eat at a vegan place if you slowly show them how good vegan food tastes.
Get your plantbased proteins:
Actually not a big deal, as there are a lot of good and protein-rich plantbased options. But if you stop eating animal products it`a valid information to know. The average dietary reference intake of protein is 0.8 up to maximum 2g per kilogram body weight on a daily basis. Legumes, soy/tofu/tempeh nuts and seeds are good plantbased protein sources. I usually try to incorporate protein-rich products in at least two of my three main meals. And I always try to switch it up a little bit to keep it diverse. Once I go for chickpeas, then for beans and the next time for soy, like tofu or tempeh.
Get your supplements
You will need to take a vitamin B12 supplement, there‘s no way around it. Why vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 gets built by microorganisms that are present in animals which later deliver animal products. As vegans don‘t eat animal products, they need a supplement for that very vitamin. And although you can find vitamin B12 in untreated soils, it rarely survives until it arrives on our table.
You will probably need a vitamin D supplement as well, if you live in a country that doesn’t have a lot of sunshine. But that‘s actually a good advice for every person, not only vegans. Vitamin D gets build in the skin if there‘s direct contact with the sun and is super important for our bones. As most of us don‘t get enough sun and it‘s actually not recommended to sunbathe without sunscreen most of us lack vitamin D.
Only problem; not all vitamin D supplements are vegan as it`s extracted from lanolin originating from the oil glands of lambs. So make sure to ask your pharmacists which products are suitable.
Keep in mind the following nutrients
As mentioned above, knowing your food is super important of you become vegan. You have to know where to get your iron, calcium, zinc or healthy fatty acids. So I highly recommend to track what you eat on a daily basis in an app, which allows you to see if you are reaching the recommended amounts. Another advice is to do a blood check up at the doctor once a year to see where you stand with your vitals. Actually this is something I would suggest to everybody not only vegans. You just want to know if your body is lacking something important.
The daily average recommended iron dose is 15mg for women and 10mg for men. Plantbased sources that contain iron are nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, some grains (amaranth, quinoa, buckwhear or oats) and some dried fruits. One important thing to know about iron is that it`s absorption into the body is quite low, but if it gets in our bodies it will stay there for a while. A good option in case you are not sure if you get enough iron, is to take a supplement based on spirulina, an algae which is rich in iron.
Again no worries, there are great plantbased calcium sources – like kale, algae, arugula, mineral water, broccoli, almonds, chickpeas or dried figs – or you just get a calcium fortified plantbased milk. For example I use rice milk that`s enriched with calcium.
You can find great amounts of zinc in nutritional yeast, a lot of seeds (sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds), tahini, lentils or some whole wheat, like spelt, or oats. Only problems the absorption of zinc into our bodies can be reduced if zinc-containing sources are consumed together with phytate rich foods, like legumes or raw wheats. Make sure to avoid eating zinc-rich and phytate-rich ingredients at the same time.
Omega 3 & the right ratio of healthy fats
Omega 3 is well known to be marketed as the reason why you should eat fish, but again you can find it in great amounts in plants as well. Omega 3 fatty acid is well known for it`s health benefits on the brain and the cardiovascular system, helping reducing cholesterol. But what`s even more important than the intake of omega 3 is the right ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids, which actually is 5:1. Not to mention that fatty acids from animals should be kept as low as possible. But back to the omega fatty acids. Good omega 3 sources are walnuts or walnut oil, flaxseeds or it`s oil, hemp seeds, micro algae, canola oil or chia seeds.
These are the things you need to know if you want to become a vegan. Starting a vegan life will be so much easier if you consider all the things mentioned in this blog post. Feel free to write me whenever there is a question popping up your mind or you struggeling with your transition or even after.
Read you soon,