Eating Vegan for Beginners

Starting a vegan diet is not as complicated as you may think. I’m sure you already eat some vegan meal and you don’t even notice it. This is why eating vegan for beginners isn’t overwhelming, as long as you know what to eat and how.

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.
Today, we will focus on vegan diet and how to start eating vegan. We will see why vegan is better than vegetarian diet, how to develop your own plant based pantry and how to balance meals for best health outcomes.

What You Eat Matters

I’m sure you read articles that urged you to eat more fresh fruit, produce and cut down on meats.

American appetite for meat and dairy results in our health, the environment, the climate and animal welfare. This is because both, meat and dairy production uses large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fossil fuel, feed and water. It generates greenhouse gases, toxic manure and other pollutants that contaminate our air, soil and water.

What you eat matters on a bigger scale that you’d imagine.

environmental impact
Source: ewg.com

 

You may be asking yourself, why not switching to vegetarian then? I don’t eat meat in both cases, so why the big difference?

Dr T Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study has the answer for this question:

“What protein consistently and strongly promoted cancer? Casein, which makes up 87  % of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process. What type of protein did not promote the development of cancer even when administered in high dosesAll safe proteins were those of plant origin, e.g. wheat and soy.”

There are many studies that show health risks in connection with milk.

For example, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health in 2013, shows a very real picture:“92 % of toxic substances in food occur in animal products. Milk and dairy products make up the largest source of these toxins with a share of 54 %.” 

Eating vegetarian or eating vegan diet makes a big difference when it comes to your health. Vegan diet is considered the healthiest diet.

“92 % of toxic substances in food occur in animal products. Milk and dairy products make up

the largest source of these toxins with a share of 54 %.”

 

What is Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet is one that contains no animal products what so ever.

If you plan it well, and you know which foods to eat and mix to get the best out of them, it is, from a medical point of view, the healthiest diet one can have.

I want you to know that eating vegan diet doesn’t mean you will end up eating chic peas and lettuce, or dipping carrots in hummus. In most cases, if you tweak your current everyday meals just a little, you will probably make it vegan.

Eating vegan for beginners

 

The majority of pasta sauces are vegan, oatmeal, breads and soups. Really, there are so many vegan meals that you probably already eat and don’t even notice it. So fear not, eating vegan does not take a lot of work.
Now that we know, we’ll have a lot to chose from, let’s move forward.

 

The key to a healthy, nutritional vegan diet is variety. A healthy and varied vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
This type of eating, balanced vegan diet, is the healthiest diet of all – and the only truly healthy diet for human beings.

However, just leaving out meat, milk, cheese, eggs and fish won’t make it as healthy as it could be – remember the difference between vegetarian and vegan diet in previous section.

What you should also know is, that not every vegan diet is healthy, though.

In other words, you can be a “Junk Vegan” by eating lots of potatoes, chips, cookies, peanut butter, pasta etc. Yes, you eat vegan but you don’t eat balanced diet and you will not see any health benefits.

junk vegan diet

 

Any type of – not only vegan – diet that is not diverse and includes too much sugar and too much added oils and fats is unhealthy.

Switching to Vegan Diet

Let’s be honest, vegans have a reputation, or a stereotype.

They judge meat eaters, complain over restaurant menus and take away cups, they hug trees, play classical music to their garden and sink ships to save whales.

I want you to forget everything you’ve heard about vegans and do it your way. Switching to vegan is a personal preference and it doesn’t matter what others think of it. What matters is you, your health and your way of looking at things.

Eating vegan can be challenging at first, only because you’re changing your habits and it takes extra effort to figure things out. Professor Campbell says:

“The first month can be challenging, but it gets much easier after that. And for many, it becomes a great pleasure. I know this is hard to believe until you experience it for yourself, but your tastes change when you are on a plant based diet… The bottom line is that you can eat a plant-based diet with great pleasure and satisfaction. But making the transition is a challenge. There are psychological barriers and practical ones. It takes time and effort. You may not get support from your friends and family. But the benefits are nothing short of miraculous. And you’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes once you form new habits.”

 

I would like to help you make it easy and absolutely enjoyable with the following 6 Rules of a Healthy Vegan Diet:

  • Rule 1 The most important think to remember: A vegan diet should be as varied as possible. Aim to eat fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses, and wholemeal products.

Include more whole plant foods, such as plant proteins:

  1. Legumes (beans, lentils, and peas)
  2. Whole Soy Foods (tofu, tempeh, soy milk)
  3. Nuts and Nut Butters (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamias, Brazil nuts, peanuts)
  4. Seeds and Seed Butters (sunflower, sesame, hemp, chia, pumpkin)
  5. Whole grains (quinoa, wheat berries, oats, brown rice) can be good protein source (up to 11 g protein per cup, i.e. Kamut)
  6. Vegetables, such as peas, spinach, broccoli (can contain up to 6 g protein per cup) (Source: Today’s Dietitian )

balanced vegan diet

  • Rule 2 Take vitamin B12 as a dietary supplement.

Vitamin B12 is in great majority present in foods of animal origin. It is an essential micro nutrient. Which means, you need it in very low amounts, but you do need it.

It is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children.

Non-animal sources include cereals, soy milk, rice milk, and meat analogues that have been fortified with vitamin B12. Also, around two teaspoons of Red Star nutritional yeast, supplies the adult Recommended Dietary Allowance. (Source: The Vegetarian Resource Group)

 

  • Rule 3 Having drinks rich in vitamin C with meals optimizes iron absorption.

Squeezing a lemon in a jar of water would do, or taking a vitamin C supplement with meal is even better.

 

  • Rule 4 Avoid refined sugar and white flour/superfine flour.

This rule applies to every single person, no matter the diet they are eating. Most of processed, industrial food are high in refined sugar and white flour. So avoid the two and you will automatically steer away from most of the unhealthy food products that you can find in supermarkets.

 

  • Rule 5 Use only small amounts of additional fats or oils (cardiac patients should avoid additional fats or oils completely). This rule does not apply to vegan infants.

When using oils and fats it is important to avoid trans-fats. These are usually refined, cooking oils that causes artery blockages, cholesterol problems, obesity and in general gum up your body.
Mini advice: best source of Omega-3 fatty acids are freshly ground flax seed.

 

  • Rule 6 Industrially processed foods should be consumed rarely.

This one goes hand in hand with Rule 4. Processed, packed foods were designed for long shelf life. In most cases, they have no or very little nutritional value. A cookie or two after a meal is absolutely fine but if you find yourself stocking up on frozen chips, toast and coke, you might want to take a step back and see where you fell off the wagon.

Getting Your Very Own Vegan Pantry

Creating your own vegan pantry is not an overnight project. But it’s fun.

You will want to have some dry ingredients, that you can keep in jars, lots of fresh produce to keep the body going, some bits and pieces of random foods you like and so on.

To keep things straight and simple, create a plant-based pantry list.
Base your pantry list on how you’re going to balance your diet.

Eating vegan for beginners

 

For example: On Monday, cover your protein: Legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains and vegetables like broccoli are excellent source of protein.

 

 

On Tuesday, check the oils and fats you are using and change them if needed. Olive oil, coconut oil and avocado are my favorite. Please, do not eat margarine. Yes, it is vegan, but it is terribly unhealthy and in general a big no-no.

On Wednesday, Calcium: calcium-fortified foods, such as plant-based milk alternatives, tofu, or orange juice. Choose one daily serving of dark green leafy vegetables.

On Thursday, stock up on foods high in Zinc, Iron, vitamin B12 and Omega-3 Fatty acids.

Zinc is found in whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron. Flaxseed, flax seed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts are best for omega-3 fatty acids.

 

On Friday, admire your progress because you are pretty much done.

Start with these, find your taste and expand the variety with some frozen veggies that are always good to have for lazy days, a healthy dip and some dried fruits you can snack on. Really, use your imagination, enjoy and experiment.

You Got This!

Eating vegan is the healthiest decision you can make for yourself. And the Earth. It will take some time and self-discipline to get into it, but it’s so worth it.

Start the day with a green smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal. Pack almonds, an apple and dried apricots for brunch..or a big delicious sandwich. Pasta for lunch and a rich bowl of salad with pepitas, orange and carrot for dinner. And this is a very basic, under 30 minutes prep time example.

When grocery shopping, shop for plants first and then plan your meals around them. Create a plant-based pantry list, that covers all nutritional needs.

Explore and enjoy vegan food

Keep exploring and plan at least one night a week to try a new vegan recipe – converting your favorite dishes counts as well. Keep it simple. Not everyone knows hoe to make an Instagram or Pinterest material out of plate full of roots and leaves.

Slow-cooker is another lazy days solution. Throw in veggies, herbs, vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, whole grains, and dried beans; then turn the dial on. It warms your whole body.

And lastly, think “yes”. Don’t dwell on what you can’t have. Think about what you can have and how much good it does to you.

 

I hope you found the information that is useful to you. If you have any questions, want to share your experience or just chat on this topic, write a comment below. I’d love to hear your point of view!

Till next time,
Katya

12 thoughts on “Eating Vegan for Beginners”

  1. So so many useful tips and tricks all on one page! Wonderful! I bookmarked to look further

    I have always thought starting a vegan diet is complicated; but your article has opened my eyes to what i don’t know  about vegan

    I am switchingbto vegan diet fully now. Thanks for this wonderful article

    Reply
    • Thank you Ola, I’m pleased you find it good and useful. I know, I always thought that too, but then once you start planning it out and think about it, all you need to do is change an ingredient or two and that’s it. Of course, I takes some time to mix and match the ingredients in your new, plant based pantry..but that’s the fun part 🙂

      Let me know how it goes and if you have any questions, I’m here to help.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  2. Hi Katya! thanks so much for this article on Vegan for beginners. Often times we look at vegan diet as something too complicated and difficult to start. But come to think of it, we do eat most of these veggies without even noticing it. It is interesting to know that proteins from plant origin do not promote development of cancer even when administered in high doses. 

    Thanks for teaching me the health implications of taking diary products and how important veggies are to the body.

    Reply
    • Hi Gracen, it’s very interesting to see how much you can to for yourself and your health just by changing what and how you eat. I do agree lots of people think of vegan diet as a complicated and time consuming…but it’s like any other diet – if you want to make an elaborate meals and impress the entire neighborhood, you can. And if you want a fair and square meal that is healthy and satisfying, you can have it on a table in 30min. At the end of the day, what matters is that it is healthy for you, environment and you feel good about it.

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  3. At first I didn’t find the post amazing but getting deep, it turned out to be one of the best post you could see out there. I have always thought Vegans food is really complicated but reading this as helped me to understand it’s complicated the way I think.  Eating fresh fruits more, is one of the best thing to happen to our health. More reason vagen diet is really cool

    Reply
    • Hi Kehinde, I’m glad you read it through and go into it, it means a lot to me, really. I know vegans are portrayed as health freaks that know best and they eat salad bowls with minimum of 23 ingredients and make smoothies that put a professional smoothie stores in shame. That’s social media and marketing. Vegan diet is cool and has many benefits, but only if you enjoy it. The reality is about finding the diet that you like and food that you enjoy.

      Reply
  4. Hi Katya! I have wanted to start a vegan diet. And coming to your post has been a huge encouragement.

    Yeah, there are so many vegan meals that I already eat and don’t even notice it. So, I’ll focus in the little tweak I’ll have to make.

    I know vegans have a stereotype, and it’s pretty funny. But I also agree with you that we can do it our own way! 🙂

    You have made this transition sound so easy. Thank you for these rules. I’ll give this a try! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Henry, good on you! And yes, do it your way – find the foods that you enjoy eating and build around them. Make a slow but steady transition. Experiment a little and you’ll have so much fun discovering and learning new stuff. Oh, did I mention is healthy as well? 😉

      If you have any questions as you go, let me know!

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  5. Hello Katya,

    I read the article on your site and learned about Vegan ‘Diet. ‘Vegan’ means to exclude animal foods and dairy products from the food list. Those who follow such eating habits are also called viagans. They eat mainly vegetable foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. According to the study, it is healthy to have a vegetarian. But before that the vegan diet should be well known. Suddenly, if someone uses vegan diet, then there may be many problems. So it is good to practice vegan diet slowly. There is really a lot to learn from your article. I will share this article with all of my family.

    Reply
    • Cpanharun, both vegetarian and vegan are healthier than omnivore diet (specially a heavy meat eating diet, such as Western diet). I agree every transition in diet should be slow, so that the body can get used to it gradually. This way, you can also safely find out if you have any allergic reactions to new foods you’re introducing in your diet. 

      Best,

      Katya

      Reply
  6. Great and highly informative post, you must have put in a whole lit if energy I to this and I really appreciate that. I never knew becoming a vegan can be this so easy and simple. Thou for me it is hard doing without animal product in my diet. I will try it out in this Coming weeks. 

    Reply
    • Hi Clement, from my experience it was easier to switch during summer. I hardly felt any desire to eat meat when it was hot outside. It might be easier for you to to do it when it’s hot, when we don’t need heavy food. You can also experiment with it, to see how you feel when eating vegan and when not and do it 1 week on, 1 week off, 2 weeks on, 1 week off – you’ll get pretty good idea about it afterwards.

      Hope this helps a little,

      Katya

      Reply

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