In general, I consider myself to be a health-conscious person, but last year, I realized my diet needed a total overhaul.
I noticed my once refined diet had begun to slip away from me. I was content with eating meat for nearly every meal, snacking relentlessly while I worked and (worst of all) turning to fast food when I was too lazy to cook meals for myself.
But then, I had an epiphany. I decided it was time for me to make a major change.
Right around this time last year, I made the switch to a plant-powered, all vegan diet.
I wish I could say my attempt at a vegan diet was totally successful, but there were several speed bumps along the way.
Like me, maybe you know you want to be vegan, but there are some questions you need to ask yourself in order to prepare for new vegan life.
From my experience, one thing is certain: I wish I would have made a more gradual, deliberate switch to veganism.
These questions are ones I should have asked myself beforehand.
Fortunately, you can all learn by my novice dietary mistakes:
1. Will a vegan diet be healthy for me?
Asking yourself this pivotal question is a somewhat vague, but it's an important starting point. The most typical answer the answer is yes, a vegan diet will be healthy.
But, how you choose to navigate your vegan quest is up to you.
First off, if you have any health conditions, keep them at the forefront of your mind. For a lot of people, a vegan diet will help combat illnesses.
For example,cutting out dairy and animal products, as well as gluten and processed foods, is beneficial to many people living with celiac disease.
So, a vegan diet can offer additional health benefits to some people, beyond simply being a health-conscious diet choice.
But that being said, it's important to remember you should always consult your doctor before making a diet switch, especially if you are on the fence about it.
It never hurts to double-check with a physician, nutritionist and/or dietitian.
2. How will I make the transition to veganism?
In order to make a healthy switch to a plant-powered diet, you'll want to make sure you make a gradual transition.
Most people don't find success when rapid diet change happens overnight. Instead, plan to cut out animal products systematically.
It's smart to start by cutting out just red meat or pork, then gradually stop eating poultry and finally eliminating fish from your diet.
This can also be done with dairy items by cutting them out one category at a time.
When I started a vegan diet, I took the "cold turkey" approach. This ultimately didn't go over well.
I had intense food cravings all the time after cutting everything out at once. If I would have been more deliberate in my approach, I likely would have had a better experience changing my diet.
While there's no hard and fast rule for this, consider taking up to a few months to transition to veganism.
Change at your own speed!
3. Are there any risks to an all-vegan diet?
There are risks with any diet change.
An article titled "The Hidden Risks of Your Restricted Diet" explained,
In avoiding these foods, people on or considering vegan diets can miss out on important nutrients such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc. It's not uncommon for vegans or vegetarians to take supplements in order to round out their diets.
Supplementing for dietary change is a fantastic idea and will eliminate some corollary risks.
You'll want to take a multivitamin if you aren't already.
Take precautions to make sure you are getting enough calorie intake, as well as enough protein, and other vitamins and minerals that are mostly found in meat.
4. What am I going to eat once I become vegan?
Do you meal plan? Do you ever prep out your meals? If you don't, now you certainly need to.
One of the biggest challenges for new a new vegan is knowing what to eat and just how much of it to eat.
It's normal to feel like you don't have many culinary options.
But, try not to allow yourself to feel limited. The biggest limitation to a vegan diet is your own lack of creativity!
A key to a successful vegan agenda involves constantly self-educating, experimenting and trying new foods.
When I started out, some of my all time favorite cruelty-free recipes were as follows:
- Sweet and Sour Thai Noodle Salad
- Glazed Lentil Walnut Loaf
- BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich
- Vegan Street Tacos
- Vegan Kimchi
- Italian Seitan Sausage
- Chana Dal with Cauliflower
- Teff Brownies
While vegan diets are more healthy in theory, there are plenty of people doing it wrong. Strive for a variety of fresh and raw foods, and stay away from the processed stuff as much as possible.
5. What unexpected foods contain animal products?
When I switched to a vegan diet, I was careful to heavily research foods that may contain hidden animal products.
Honestly, I was fairly paranoid I was going to mistakenly eat something with gelatin or dairy or fish oil.
After much research, I came up with a list of everyday foods that people don't realize contain animal products.
Be careful with sauces and salad dressings, as many have small amounts of animal products.
Worcestershire sauce and many other sauces have anchovy extract in them. Caesar dressing commonly contains eggs, and a lot of other salad dressing have at least some dairy in them.
Many foods unexpectedly contain gelatin. Of course, JELL-O has it, but so do most marshmallows, gummy bears and some chewing gum.
Strangely enough, packaged nuts may also contain gelatin. So, always check the ingredients list!
Other foods with lurking animal ingredients are chips, cake mixes, refried beans, margarine, foods with red dye, soy and nut cheeses and certain types of sugar.
Finally, be on the lookout for drinks with small amounts of animal products.
Some brands of orange juice are boosted with omega-3s that are derived from fish.
Certain beer contains fish oil, and some wineries and breweries use a membrane called isinglass to filter their drinks. This comes from the bladders of tropical fish.
You'll want to make sure you cover all of your dietary bases. You don't want animal products to accidentally slip back into your food.
Check out PETA's Animal-Derived Ingredients List resource and the post's addition, as well as a post on TreeHugger titled "9 everyday products you didn't know had animal ingredients" for more information on this.
6. Will I fart uncontrollably like most vegans?
While understanding that this may be a concern for some people, it's important to remember there's no shame in a basic human function, like passing gas.
Beyond that, it's also a misconception that all vegans fart more often than other people. Since vegetables and other vegan stable foods tend to be fibrous, a lot of people equate a vegan diet to farts.
Asafoetida, also known as hing, is frequently added to food as a digestive aid to help with gas and bloating.
This dried herb and its gummy secretion are used in Indian and Middle Eastern food as a flavor enhancer.
It's also a gassy vegan's best friend.