I’ve noticed a trend in the rise of vegans/vegetarians lately. While a lot of people are making this conscientious lifestyle change, I noticed on my own journey that there are many sources that tell people what to expect, but not from a first person’s point of view. This post serves to do just that, I hope it provides you with much insight. Enjoy.
- Educate yourself: Before you decided to make this lifestyle change really understand the difference between your current eating habits and the ones that you’re considering picking up. Search the web, read books and watch documentaries. Also learn the difference in the terminology.
- Cold Turkey v. Weaning: Once you’ve learned the difference between the two, decide if you want to either go cold turkey or wean yourself off of meat and/or dairy products. Both are possible, it simply depends on your level of self-control and commitment. While weaning decides what would be the easiest to let go of and proceed from there. I personally started by cutting chicken and turkey out of my diet, then shrimp/lobster.. milk/yogurt.. (I was raised in a household that didn’t eat beef or pork, so I didn’t have to worry about eliminating those from my diet).
- Have Patience: Whether you’re going cold turkey or weaning yourself onto a vegan/vegetarian diet, patience is the key. While it is possible, most people don’t make changes a big as this one overnight. It’s ok if you slip up, it’s not the end of the world and you’re not going to get your veg-card revoked. The key is to remember your goal, why you made the change, and then get back on track. (Note: While you may slip at times, be sure to remain vigilant in your self-control and try not to make a habit of it.)
- Your Eating Patterns Will Differ: One of the biggest differences you’ll notice when adopting a plant-based diet is that you’ll become fuller quicker and hungry often. You’ll begin to be genuinely hungry every 2-4 hours, prepare for this by packing healthy snacks. You’ll thank yourself for this, trust me.
Difference number two (at least in my personal experience) is that you’ll realize your favorite junk foods don’t taste the same. After eating a healthy and fresh diet for a while, you’ll begin to crave processed foods less. Food will begin to taste too sweet/salty. You may even notice that instead of being able to eat a whole bag, a serving size or two to three bites will be enough.
- Dealing With Others: In my personal experience changing my diet to a plant-based one wasn’t the hardest aspect that I endured. In fact after a few weeks I began to enjoy it, once I noticed the difference it made in my life. One of the hardest aspects that I had to deal with was friends and family. It appeared that my decision to change my eating habits affected them the most. I’d constantly get asked, “What do you eat exactly?” “You sure you don’t want some chicken?” “What the heck is tofu?” “What do you put on your subs?” or my favorite “Oh, you’re hungry, why don’t you go make a salad?” You have to have tough skin, and often will end up educating your peers and kin. It’s aggravating at first, but once your friends/family see how serious you are, the jokes will eventually cease..or just happen less.
- Eating on the Go: Eating out at restaurants will be difficult at times. My advice is to find vegan restaurants or eat at restaurants that aren’t American based e.g. Thai, Indian, and Ethiopian. You’ll notice that these restaurants have a lot of entrees that are specifically for vegetarians. If you can’t seem to find any of the ones listed above, have no fear most restaurants are able to serve entrees without meat or have at least one vegetarian entree on the menu. If you’re a vegan however, it won’t be as easy, most entrees have cheese and/or meat as an ingredient. Be sure to ask your waiter about options for you; when in doubt ordering a side (rice, beans, veggies) is always a backup. (Note: Burger King, Burger 21 and Johnny Rockets do serve veggie burgers)
- Read Labels: It’s pretty self-explanatory, but you won’t begin to realize how centered around dairy and meat our food industry is until you’re trying to cut one or both out of your diet. Reading labels will become second nature, and often you’ll begin to notice that you can’t pronounce half of the ingredients, much less know what they are. Organic products are a bit more expensive, but they slowly become one of your best friends when changing your diet.
- Maintain a Balanced Diet: Understand that just because you’re cutting meat/dairy from your diet, it doesn’t mean that fruits and veggies are the only things that you will now consume. Your body needs carbs (brown rice, pasta) for energy. Your body still needs protein (beans, hummus, soy milk) and healthy fats (peanut butter, avocados). Find a balance and try to consume the daily recommendation for each food group. I personally try to aim for: 3+ fruits, 2+ proteins, 5+whole grains and 4+ veggies (dark leafy and red/yellow/orange).
- Meat Replacements: Newsflash, there is protein in everything that you consume. In America we tend to eat a very high protein diet, that’s not necessary. The average man only needs 56 grams of protein per day, the average woman 46 grams. I note this because when we first change to a veg-diet, most of us, including myself, tend to go heavy on meat replacements e.g. Gardein, Tofurky, MorningStar, Boca. You can eat meat substitutes, but those should not become the base of your new diet. Instead aim to get your protein from natural sources (tofu, peas, quinoa, nuts, edamame).
- Dairy Replacements: I personally have become a huge fan of almond, soy and coconut milk; everyone is different so I encourage you to find what works for you. In regards to cheese and yogurt, I haven’t quite found a dairy-free substitute that I like, so I tend to go without it. Dairy-free milks can be found at every local grocery store. The yogurts and cheese on the other hand, I’ve only been able to locate at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The price is a bit up there, but as most of us know, it unfortunately cost to be healthy.
I hope these pointers helped those of you currently considering making the change or those have already begun. The journey has its ups and downs, but I overall really love it. Before I sign off, the best advice that I can give you is to be creative and adventurous! Now is the time to try different things and retry old foods that you haven’t had in a while. Google recipes, open your fridge and simply let your instincts lead you to create a meal that you created on the spot. You can’t go wrong, and most importantly have fun and enjoy yourself. This lifestyle change isn’t supposed to be a hassle; its purpose is to improve the quality of your life and our planets.
Thanks for reading and if you haven’t already follow Black Vitality, more post are coming soon.