So, you want to go vegan or you're curious about how it works? Welcome on board, fam. I'm about to take you to vegan land, a magical place where we indulge in delicacies without an ounce of bad conscience. Jokes aside, going vegan is not difficult per se, but it does require a certain amount of education on the topic. Having made up your mind about trying (and then hopefully sticking with) this diet and lifestyle is the first phase. The second is reading lots of blogs and articles like this one and educating yourself about do's and don'ts on your journey to being a more compassionate and rational human being.
DISCLAIMER: Some statements in this text are exaggerated on purpose and meant to be thought-provoking. If you're easily offended, this may not be for you :)
For all the cool kids who stayed, here it goes:
HOW TO GO VEGAN
1. Research the shit out of the world wide web.
There's tons of resources out there that will solidify your decision to go vegan. Here are some I recommend:
- The China Study (THE book about the health implications of a vegan vs. an animal product-based diet)
- Earthlings (A compelling documentary about the use of animals in our economic system)
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (Documentary about the environmental impact of animal farming)
- Forks over Knives (Documentary about how plant-based diet can prevent and to some extent reverse chronic diseases)
- Vegucated (documentary about an experiment where three meat- and cheese-loving people were put on a vegan diet... and ended up loving it)
Your eyes will be opened to what really goes on behind the closed doors of carefully tucked away factory farms and you will think twice before supporting that with your money, promised. Apart from the documentaries I've listed there's hundreds of other great websites, blogs and movies that shine a light on reality. Get googling. If you're a complete newbie to the topic and don't even know yet why you should go vegan, you can start here.
2. Discover and collect vegan recipes.
Chances are you don't know many and that is a problem. You'll start out eating fruits for breakfast, a salad for lunch and by night time you'll be so hungry that you're going to feel like saying "Screw that, I knew veganism wouldn't work for me". Don't be that person. Be smart and make a plan beforehand. Make a list of easy and quick and some more sophisticated dishes that appeal to you and that you'd like to try. Think about what you're going to eat for all meals of the day and get accustomed to the fact that "yoghurt" is no longer a good afternoon snack, except if it's soy or coconut based. Most importantly: Don't become a junk food vegan. Vegan diets are not *necessarily* healthier than non-vegan ones. Nowadays, all the non-vegan junk food has a vegan equivalent; donuts, chocolate, hot dogs, pizza, ice-cream, you name it. So it is, indeed, all-too easy to fall into that trap of thinking "oh it's vegan, it must be healthy!" and limiting your food to what is essentially junk food. You can avoid that, as well as running out of meal ideas, by consulting some of my favorite vegan recipe sources:
- Oh She Glows: Vegan recipes that are freaking creative and delicious.
- Minimalist Baker: Amazing, amazing, amazing. You'll be hungry after looking at this blog.
- One Ingredient Chef: The name alone is a winner. Great food blog!
- Oh My Veggies: Huge variety of recipes.
- The Vegan Society: A wonderful resource for all things vegan, not just recipes.
- Kalel: This youtuber is gorgeous, hilarious and makes lots of "What I eat in a day [vegan]" videos.
3. Take yourself on a date to the supermarket.
Yes, you read that right. Schedule in at least two hours (trust me) and go through your entire local supermarket. Take out each and every product you usually buy or would like to buy in the future, turn it, and read the ENTIRE ingredients list. You may think that's crazy. But you know what's really crazy? Feeding your body shit without even knowing. Or worse, mistakenly thinking that what you eat is "healthy". If you don't have the habit of meticulously studying ingredient lists (which you should, vegan or not!!), you'll be surprised how many foods have sugar, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, stabilizers, preservatives, emulsifiers and other weird stuff you really shouldn't be putting in your mouth in heavy dosages. My rule of thumb is: If you don't understand the word and it doesn't sound like the latest craze in the world of "superfoods", put that food right back onto the shelf. Or, consider it a "treat" and eat it sparingly. That includes vegan meat replacements: For the most part, they are full of shit; sorry to say. They're junk food and definitely nice for the occasional treat, but they sure as hell shouldn't be on your plate everyday (to find out what should be on your plate everyday, read step 5).
And, you guessed it, the actual reason for that trip to the supermarket is finding out which foods are vegan. Some vegan foods are labeled, many are not, so you need to do your homework yourself and go through all the ones you usually buy. I guarantee it will be frustrating and you'll feel very restricted at first. That's when you refer back to those recipes from step 2! Just a tip: "can contain traces of milk and eggs" does not mean something isn't vegan, just that products containing milk and eggs are produced in the same factory.
4. Find vegan-friendly restaurants in your area.
I've made the following mistake once and never again: A friend suggested a nice-looking place to go for brunch; euphorically, I agreed, only to, once arrived, realize that all I could order was an eccentric compilation of side dishes (avocado and mashed potatoes, anyone?). That's not ideal and it's very tempting to "make an exception" in situations like these. Mind you, eating animal products out in a restaurant may be worse than buying them at the supermarket, because you have no insight or control over what quality they are. I am willing to bet that most restaurants, yes also the hipster and eco-friendly-looking ones, go for the cheapest ingredients they can get UNLESS they specifically state that their meat, milk and eggs are organic. If you don't read that anywhere, you can be 99% sure it's the cheapest produce they could find. Can't blame them for wanting to make money. But it's YOUR decision what you spend your money on.
So, what to do to avoid these situations? Google is your friend when finding new vegan-friendly places to try. Happy Cow is a good starting point too. Tip: On Zomato you can find most restaurants' full menus. For some reason this app does not exist in Vienna yet - someone fix that please!
5. Base your eating on the vegan food pyramid.
At least loosely. That means: Whole grains, vegetables, legumes & nuts, fruits and fats are your best friends in descending order. That, in turn, means the majority of your calories come from carbs and if that's not a dream come true, I don't know what is. I've been eating a high-carb diet for two years and I dare to say I'm pretty lean. So for those of you hyperventilating at the thought of carbs: There is no reason to be scared AT ALL. On the contrary, they give you energy and make you satisfied and happy. Second, for all of you wondering "where does the protein come from?!", the answer is of course legumes and whole grains which are both are high in protein. If you're not exactly body-building, you don't need more than that and even if you are there's lots of vegan supplements to take.
If you're serious about reading up on nutrition, which I suggest you do at some point, I recommend the book Becoming Vegan: The complete reference to plant-based nutrition by dietitian Brenda Davis. It is an easy read and the information provided on nutrients, vitamins and minerals and how to incorporate them into your meals is incredibly valuable. I still use the book's suggestions when cooking.
6. Find a source of B12.
Seriously, take B12 supplements, it's important. B12 is the only vitamin you cannot get from a vegan diet naturally and there's different theories as to why that's the case. I honestly don't care. I don't claim that humans are born to be vegan but in the 21st century Western world I have the privilege to make the choice and still be healthy, so I do it. As a vegan, you can get B12 from eating fortified foods (such as almond milk with added B12) or from taking a supplement directly. I take a supplement from the brand Pure Encapsulations and get my blood tested yearly to make sure my vitamin and mineral levels are in the norm - which they are, in fact, they are better than average and after 2 years on this diet I'm perfectly happy & healthy :) I recommend regular checks to anyone, vegan or not. The problem with deficiencies is that you generally only notice them when they're already severe, so better get check-ups regularly, rather than when something's wrong.
7. Find a vegan community.
Your community can be one vegan friend, a Facebook group (shoutout to Happy Vegans Vienna), a blogger, youtuber, podcast creator you identify with... Literally anyone who's living a vegan lifestyle and inspires you can be 'your community'. They will keep you motivated and will prove to you day in, day out that it's possible and that once you fully transitioned, it's the only way you can imagine to be. If they could do it, you can too.
8. Be easy on yourself.
Every beginning is hard. There may be people who turn fully vegan from one day to the other, but I don't believe that's usual or practical. You do not have to go 100% vegan from the start. Start with 1-3 vegan days per week and see how you feel. Slowly unlearn the notion that food is meat plus a side dish or that you *need* dairy and eggs; you don't. There's a whole new world out there, you just have to open your eyes to it. Also, once you've made the transition in your diet, you can look at cutting out animal products from the rest of your life, most notably: leather goods. I'll write an article about this in the future, but even just implementing a vegan diet is a HUGE step you should be proud of for taking.
If you have any questions, always feel free to message me. I'd love to be part of your community ♡
And never forget:
ISSA MOVEMENT. We're the future. ✌