Eating Vegan: Tips for Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
Ease into changes. New habits are more likely to stick if you take a gradual approach and employ them consistently. A gradual approach allows you to gather information, learn new recipes and techniques and make changes that will last. It will also help your friends and family understand your goals and hopefully provide the encouragement and support you’ll need for long term success.
Plan to keep changing. Some people cut out red meat as the first step, and then never move beyond that. Have a plan to keep your goal in sight and continue to learn and move forward. What changes will you make after giving up meat? What about chicken…fish…dairy…eggs…?
Don’t punish yourself if you fall off the wagon and revert to old omnivore habits. Get right back on that wagon and don’t worry about what others say. You are taking important steps, reward yourself for each one! The vegan police won’t coming knocking on your door if you knowingly or unknowingly eat something that came from an animal. Acknowledge the reasons and move on.
Get familiar with new ingredients. Ask questions at the store. Visit health food stores such as Mother Earth’s or Whole Foods. You’ll find staff in stores like this much more able to help answer questions about ingredients.
Experiment. Being vegan isn’t simply about removing the meat, it’s about looking at your meal planning in an entirely new way. Once you get going, you should have a whole new world of ingredients open up to you. Get creative, look at cooking like a new hobby, not a chore.
Don’t get intimidated. You may be inspired by all the new foods but feel intimidated about actually cooking with them. Understanding the basics about grains, beans, veggies, etc. helps you to feel comfortable in making substitutions, reinventing old favorites and just creating from scratch based on your favorite foods.
Read labels. Be wary of hidden animal ingredients. The more you start to familiarize yourself with a vegan lifestyle, the easier it will be to spot these ingredients. Casein and whey, for example, are both derived from dairy. Gelatin, which is made from bones, cartilage, tendons and skin of animals, is found in marshmallows, some yogurts and some frosted cereals. Some vegetable fats and oils are derived from animal tallow (fat). You can search online for a complete list.
Watch out for the “Vegan 15” (like the Freshman 15), where you start to put on weight because you begin to consume too many carbs like pasta and rice. Plan your meals – simple as they can be – and be sure to include a wide variety of healthy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, not just spaghetti!
Create weekly meal plans and try a new recipe each week. Before you know it, you’ll start to have a repertoire of vegan recipes that you feel comfortable with and should have many ingredients in your pantry for emergencies when you haven’t been able to shop.
Make extra! Always increase the serving sizes of the recipes you make, that way you can have leftovers for dinner or you can pack them for lunch. When making burritos, for example, make extra rice and beans. The next night, you can add some veggies and make a rice and bean dish for a slight variation with very little effort.