Thinking about going vegan? Simple tips you can use today.

So you watched “What The Health” and it’s got you feeling all the feels. Or maybe you haven’t watched it yet (you might as well though, it’s on Netflix) but you’ve considered going vegan. Since the documentary “What The Health” has been on Netflix I’ve gotten an influx of questions from family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers about going vegan. Typically someone comes to me stirred up after watching the documentary, questioning logistics and myths about vegan diets. Many questions I receive revolve around how I made the switch and what I do to stay healthy while maintaining a vegan diet. I’ve noticed a few misconceptions and themes that usually come with the questioning….

Going vegan is hard. 

There is some truth to this, but who said good things come easy? Anything new is difficult at first, once you get into the groove of the vegan lifestyle it will become easier and easier! Eating vegan can be as easy (or as hard) as you make it.

Vegan’s only eat salad. 

Okay, in all fairness I LOVE salad. I’d say 6 times out of 10 I am actually eating a salad. But I also love tacos, pizza, smoothies, falafel… all the good things! Vegan’s have so much opportunity in what we can eat. I find satisfaction in taking taking recipes and making them vegan. It’s fun and I get to be creative. Did you know you can make “cheese” out of cashews or tofu? And pasta out of squash? Also there are so many vegan restaurants these days and vegan friendly options at grocery stores.

Maintaining a vegan diet is too expensive

It definitely could be if you live on cold-pressed juices and pre-made meals, but actually eating vegan can be a great way to save some green as meats and dairy (cheeses) tend to be the more expensive items at the grocery store (especially if you buy organic). Not to mention, meat dishes are are always more expensive on restaurant menus. Vegan staples (beans, legumes, nuts, grains, etc.) actually tend to be among the least expensive items – check that out next time you are grocery shopping. Of course, we can take advantage of sales and shopping wisely to save money on groceries.

       Just for fun, check out this study that details how vegetarians actually save money each year.

Vegan’s don’t get enough protein *Gasp* or calcium 

So many plants actually have a ton of calcium in them, and protein! Learn how to pair foods in order to optimize absorption of nutrients and you will be golden (look out for a post on this to come). Some great plant based sources of calcium include dark leafy greens, beans, chia seeds, tofu, blackstrap molasses, and plant-based milks. Some great sources of protein include lentils, beans + rice, hummus, grains (quinoa, couscous, amaranth), tofu, edamame… Plenty of options.

Eating out would be a nightmare, because vegans can’t eat annnnything! 

 I usually don’t have a problem when eating out, but I alway do my research before I go so I can have a game plan. Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but thats the fun of it.

Okay now that we’ve cleared that up and you see that going vegan is just as convenient (or inconvenient) as any other type of diet, I’d like to encourage you to try it on! If you’re thinking about trying a vegan diet, do it! Just take baby steps. Maybe try it for one day, or even one meal at a time. Or maybe you phase out foods one by one until you’ve become a full on vegan! Perhaps, you only want to be vegan on the weekend or weekdays. Whatever you choose, it’s great to explore and test it out knowing becoming vegan is not all or nothing. Making it what you want will help you stick with it, enjoy it, and live it healthfully and mindfully. I was a vegetarian for a long time before I began my transition to becoming vegan. For me it was a lot of trial and error to find what worked, we are all different and we have different bodies – listen to yours and your journey will be smoother. Once you get clear about why you want to become vegan (health, ethical, environmental, etc) you will be able to create a plan that works for you. Here are some tips and strategies that have worked for me…

  1. Keep it Simple. No need for fancy concoctions or trips to specialty grocery stores! The simpler the better, don’t overthink it.
  2. Start and end with veggies. I always keep veggies as the star of my show. I eat them with my breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everywhere in between. It’s important to enjoy the veggies that you love, but it’s also important to eat a variety of veggies to make sure you are getting a variety of vitamins. Try to incorporate different veggies by snagging a new or different one each time you go to the market.
  3. Don’t assume vegan food products/options are healthy. Just because a cookie is vegan, doesn’t mean it’s good for you or okay to eat more of them than you would a regular cookie and vegan “meats” can be packed with chemicals, oils, and sodium! Always check the labels and know the ingredients. And just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean the healthy eating concepts don’t apply, frozen pizza/burritos/tacos/meals are still TV dinners, chips are still chips and cake is still cake regardless of the ingredients. Indulge when you feel called to do so, but don’t be fooled into thinking “vegan” = “healthy” or “healthier” 🙂
  4. Eat a variety and try new things. Trying new fruits, veggies, grains, and recipes in generally will not only be fun but will keep you from getting bored and it will also ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients.
  5. Be prepared. If you’re going on a road trip or vacation, if you have a long day at work, or if you’re going to a wedding or a party (or any event/trip/experience), plan in advance. Take a few minutes to consider your plans and where you are going and pack a few snacks or know where you can go to get friendly food. If you are heading to an event, wedding, or party ask the host if there will be vegan options ahead of time so you can prepare as needed.
  6. Keep your pantry stocked. Always have some staples and favorite go-to’s ready and waiting for you if ever you are in a pinch.
  7. Above all else, keep an open mind. Get clear with yourself why you are becoming vegan and approach it authentically. You might just be pleasantly surprised with all the options and opportunity you have as a vegan! Be open to trying new food, taking more time, and exploring new ideas. Going vegan doesn’t happen overnight. Be mindful and kind to yourself, if you “mess up” don’t sweat it! If you have questions, ask someone (AKA EMAIL ME!), join a local vegan meet-up or plan a vegan potluck with your friends. Make it fun, don’t give up, and enjoy the journey!

Here is a sample of a very simple grocery shopping list of some basics that can help get you started…

  • Whole Grains/Starches
    • Ezekiel bread
    • Pita or tortilla
    • Brown rice
    • Quinoa
    • Oatmeal
    • Sweet Potatoes, Russet Potatoes, Purple Potatoes
    • Beets
  • Protein Sources
    • Tofu/tempeh
    • Edamame
    • Hummus
    • Beans (black, kidney, pinto)
    • Lentils
    • Chickpeas
    • Veggie burgers **check the ingredients here before you purchase!!
  • Veggies
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Peppers
    • Cucumber
    • Onion
    • Zucchini/Squash
    • Mushrooms
    • Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, arugula)
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Tomatoes
  • Fruits
    • Apples
    • Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
    • **I like to always keep a variety of fruits on hand, usually including dark berries and rotating through other fruits each week to keep a variety from week to week
    • Frozen fruits for smoothies
  • Healthy Fats
    • Avocado
    • Olive oil
    • Coconut oil
    • Nuts
    • Nut-butters
    • Olives
    • Seeds (hemp, chia, sunflower, flax)
    • Hummus
  • Miscellaneous
    • Nondairy milk (almond, flax, cashew, coconut, whatever you like best!)
    • Nondairy yogurt (soy, coconut, cashew)
    • Blackstrap molasses
    • Dried fruits
    • Fruit preserves
    • Salsa
    • Nutritional yeast
    • Vinegars (balsamic, apple cider)
    • Turmeric

Below are a few of my favorite go-to *simple* meals and snacks:

  • Beans and rice (+ stir fry veggies and soy sauce for an Asian spin, or avocado, salsa, and corn for Mexican)
  • Veggie-packed salad with chickpeas and tofu
  • Zucchini, carrot, beet, or sweet potato “Noodles” topped with veggies, tofu, nuts, and a sauce
  • Pita & carrots/celery + hummus
  • Oatmeal topped with berries, seeds, and nut butter
  • Avocado toast
  • Baked sweet potatoes, topped with anything from beans and avocado, veggies, or almond butter and banana
  • Stir fry veggies + tofu
  • Apple slices + almonds, sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Trail mix
  • Black bean burritos
  • Smoothies with vegan protein powder, berries, and flax milk
  • Almond butter + banana sandwich

The transition to becoming vegan is not all or nothing, use this information as a guide and ask questions! Try it on, test it out, and notice how you feel. I hope you find yourself pleasantly surprised with both how you feel and what’s on your plate.

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