Are you eager to eat plant-based meals more often, maybe even go vegan or vegetarian? Read on here for tips.
There are certainly many good reasons to switch to a vegan diet, and also approaches that can make the lifestyle work for you.
If you need medical advice about your health, ask your doctor.
How to Change Your Eating Habits
If you want to give up eating animals, consider moving in stages, learning to make vegan meals and trying Meatless Mondays before you cut yourself off from your longtime favorite recipes. This gives you time to discover exciting new options as you replace old habits.
For me this approach reduced the risk of burnout. I learned to love my new lifestyle and foods before I gave up on my old ways.
This can look different depending on your goals. I first gave up red meat and eventually went vegetarian 13 years ago. I decided to go vegan three years ago.
Knowing what I know now, I would have gone vegan much sooner. My hope is that this website gives you the resources you need to easily make the switch you want, as soon as you would like.
How to Eat Healthy as a Vegan
If you give up eating all animal products, you need to start paying attention to nutrition maybe more than you have in the past.
That is because there are a few basic nutrition facts you need to know to be a healthy vegan—so that you can stick with this lifestyle and not give up. These tips are easy to learn and apply once you know what to look for.
If none of your nutrients come from animal products, first and foremost, you need to get 2 micrograms (mgs) or more a day of B12. You can get this either in fortified food such as soy milk or as a supplement. All credible experts agree: your body needs B12, and plant-based foods don't have it.
At first I didn't like the idea of having to take a supplement, until I realized that all of us have been eating fortified food all our lives: vitamin D in milk, iodine in salt, folate, aka B6, in bread. Companies at the urging of experts added these items generations ago to avoid deficiencies.
Once I learned more about nutrition, I also started taking iodine drops in my morning glass of water. I do it because I usually cook with pink salt that is not iodized, so I'm likely not getting enough iodine.
It is better to add iodine drops than to try to increase the amount of iodized sodium you eat, according to experts. It's not a vegan thing, just something to keep in mind as you consider your health.
Your skin can produce vitamin D with full sun exposure, but not on days when you're indoors or there is cloud cover that blocks the sun.
Since I rarely drink fortified soy milk, when I don't get sun, I take D2, the vegan version not made from animals. Harvard researchers recommend 800 to 1,000 IU, or international units.
Other nutrients you think you may have to worry about, you actually get from eating a well-balanced, plant-based diet.
You can also get plenty of protein from plants.
You just need to work on getting a variety of plant foods to get the most out of our body and to stay healthy.
How to Get Enough Protein as a Vegan
A lot of nutritionists talk about the American stance on protein as overly enthusiastic, misguided even. We don't need as much as some people think, and we can get plenty from plants, they say.
Corporate marketers and lobbyists, for example, have spread misinformation that pushes some people to eat bacon or sausage at breakfast, chicken breast at lunch and salmon for dinner.
Experts agree this is overkill, and that you can easily get all the protein you need as a vegan from foods you know and love: baked beans, lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, and of course tofu and quinoa. Even vegetables have protein.
Experts agree you need about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means if you weigh 160 pounds, you would need about 58 grams a day.
Consider seeking a balance of vegan protein sources—legumes plus grains—for a healthy variety of amino acids that make up protein. You can also mix nuts and grains, such as in peanut butter and whole-grain toast, for the same benefit.
Other foods such as tofu and quinoa have all the amino acids in one.
Getting enough vegan protein is easy!
How to Cook Tasty Vegan and Vegetarian Meals
Just as you can with meat and diary, you can make plant-based meals that are either simple and easy or fancy and complicated, depending on your preference.
Have confidence that with just a bit of experience, you can regularly eat food that tastes great, better even, than what you're used to. You've got this!
My first vegan cooking experience started with a failed effort to make vegan nacho cheese, or “cheeeze”. From a cookbook I had never tried.
My husband will tell you that the result was foul smelling and greenish. Fortunately, we were both patient. Today my husband, and my picky father in law, will agree, we eat food that tastes “fantastic.”
I haven't experimented with any more cheese recipes but have found that there are some really strong options from companies like Follow Your Heart (which also makes Vegenaise) and Miyoko's.
Otherwise, I just kept my chin up and tried a few recipes before I eventually found my rhythm. Eventually you find new favorites, and quick lunches and dinners you can throw together without thinking. You soon learn which websites and books just work.
You can start with easy vegan meals and recipes here on this site. They include vegan fast food options, quick vegan fixes from Trader Joe's that require some reheating. We have some great burgers and one of my favorites, black beans with port cooked from scratch.
Advanced Options for Going Vegan
Some vegans give up eating animal products and then eventually decide they want to also stop wearing leather in favor of faux leather. The options are growing for vegan leather shoes and bags.
Vegan décor is emerging and a popular choice in some areas too.
For me, I went vegan because I wanted to help animals. I've been on a constant quest to learn more about them, how smart animals are, how animals live.
I even have looked into whether my dog can go vegan, and found that the answer is yes, and he is.
There are different levels of observance. You don't want to be so strict that you can't stand it anymore. But if you feel like it, consider trying wines you know are vegan or learning which of your favorite beers are vegan.
Treat yourself to vegan fashion accessories such as my Stella McCartney bag and more when it makes sense.
I also think that being vegan, and becoming more aware of how that positively affects the environment drives me to feel closer to nature. It makes me want to spend more time outdoors appreciating what we have today.
Enjoy your plant-based journey. Honor where you are with it and where you want to go. Have fun, and share what you learn.