So You Want to Be a Vegan? Here are 10 Essential Things to Know

Learn the right way to go vegan with these 10 must-read tips

Whether you decide to become vegan for health, environmental, religious or ethical reasons, it can be a challenging lifestyle to adopt. Here are some tips to help you crossover to exclusive plant-based eating. 

1.Go Slow
Going cold turkey can work for the most resolute among us, but going vegan can be a fairly drastic change. Easing into it can make the transition less difficult. Start by eliminating meat, then phase out other animal products one by one. Set goals and go at your own pace to avoid falling off the wagon.

2.Consider Your Nutrient Needs
Eliminating animal-based foods means cutting out common sources of important nutrients such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron and zinc. Make a point to find plant-based sources of these nutrients such as soy milk, nutritional yeast and dark leafy greens, and develop a balanced eating plan. If you need help, see a registered dietitian.

3.Look for Complete Proteins
Getting enough protein is a common concern for those going vegan. Protein is necessary for many of our body’s normal functions such as growth and repair, as well as the manufacture of muscle, hormones and antibodies. Complete proteins, which include all eight essential amino acids, are common in animal products but rare in plant-based foods. To get all of these essential amino acids, vegans can combine foods with incomplete proteins, such as rice and beans or nuts and grains.

4.Read Food Labels
As veteran vegans know, there are many hidden sources of animal products in processed and packaged foods. Though there are too many to list here, common animal-based ingredients include whey, casein, honey and gelatin. Get in the habit of reading labels to check for these red flags. For labels that leave you guessing, manufacturers’ websites can sometimes provide additional information. Click here for a more extensive list of animal products and by-products.

5.Know Your Dairy Alternatives
There’s no shortage of dairy alternatives on the market to replace milk, cheese, ice cream and other staples of a lactose lifestyle. While many of these products are soy-based, an increasing number are made with almond, rice, flax and coconut. Not all taste the same, so try a variety of brands and types to find what works best for you. You can even try making your own cashew milk by soaking raw cashews overnight and then pureeing them in a blender.

6.Research Restaurants
Dining out as a vegan can turn into an awkward situation, especially when there’s nothing on the menu you can eat. Look for vegan-friendly restaurants online or call ahead to see if the restaurant can accommodate a vegan guest. Ethnic restaurants can sometimes be your best bet.

7.Cook at Home
Hone those culinary skills by making your own meals at home. Besides being able to control your ingredients, eating in can save you a bundle of money. Develop your own binder of go-to recipes by checking out vegan cookbooks and online resources.

8.Faux Meats
If you can’t seem to shake that meat craving, tame it with faux meats. From fakin’ bacon to not dogs to phoney baloney, there’s plenty of meat substitutes on the market. Most grocery stores carry a selection of meat alternatives these days, but you’ll often find an even wider set of options at health food and organic grocers.

9.Find Support
Becoming vegan can make you feel like you’re the only herbivore on the planet. It can be especially exhausting when you have to explain or defend the lifestyle to others. Find like-minded people by joining meet-up groups or vegan eating clubs in your area. You’ll enjoy the camaraderie, and probably even pick up some new tips on restaurants or recipes.

10.Get More Information
The advice here is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to becoming a vegan. There’s a wealth of information out there that can provide further tips, tricks or advice about veganism. Look online for websites or books or contact your local vegan group for more resources.

And click here for 10 delicious vegan dinner ideas!

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