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