It’s easier – and more delicious – than you think.
I’m celebrating my vegan-versary! Three years ago I went vegan, and I have absolutely no regrets. I feel healthier, I have more energy, and my skin is glowing. Throughout my journey with veganism, my family and friends have been very supportive (Thanks, guys!), which has made it easier to stick to it. If you’re thinking of going vegan as well, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you get started. But first, let me answer the question that I get asked most often about going vegan:
For some reason, people really seem to get in their feels about my dietary choices. But anyhoo…I went vegan for health reasons. I am a #chronicpainwarrior (long story), and at its peak the pain made life extremely difficult. Unbearable, even. Since pain can be exacerbated by inflammation, and a carnivore diet tends to cause inflammation, I decided to go vegan in order to reduce the inflammation levels in my body and thereby reduce the pain levels as well. And it worked. Within a week of going vegan, the pain reduced from a constant screaming 12 to a much more manageable level. I felt like I had got my life back.
How I did it.
I just stopped. One day I was an omnivore, and the next, I went full vegan. Other people take a step down approach, gradually reducing their meat intake and increasing the veggies in their diet. For me it was easier to stop eating meat cold turkey (pardon the pun). To educate myself and help myself stay focused, I watched all of those documentaries on Netflix. You know the ones: What The Health, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I also got the Vegan Starter Kit from PETA. Knowledge is power.
Helpful tips for if you’re considering going vegan.
1. Start slow. It’s ok if you don’t want to make an instant switch. You can incorporate one meatless meal per day, reduce your dairy intake, or participate in movements like Veganuary or #MeatlessMondays.
2. Get rid of temptation. Declutter your fridge and pantry of any foods and ingredients that are not vegan. It’ll be easier to stick to it without any guilty pleasures nearby to tempt you. (So yes, get rid of that tub of ice cream, the last couple of eggs, and the frozen pizza as well.)
3. Stock up FULLY. Do a “big shop”, and get all your basics so that you have them close at hand. I also got a couple of ready-cooked vegan meals from Fresh Direct to tide me over my transition period so that I would have no excuse for reverting. They came in really handy on days when I didn’t feel like cooking.
4. Try new foods and flavors. Speaking of cooking, making a lot of your meals at home will give you more control over what you’re consuming. But make sure that your meals don’t get boring, or you’ll be more tempted to cheat. It’s easy to get into a routine and cook the same thing week in week out. Experiment a little. I myself have discovered the joys of asparagus, brussels sprouts and (don’t judge me) avocado. I wouldn’t go near avocados before, and now I can’t get enough of them. I also cook a lot of stews, and season them properly so they are flavorful. I’ve also explored new types of cuisine. Of course, you can still enjoy the style(s) of cuisine you love. Just take your favorite recipes and veganize them. In short: No boring meals. No bland food.
5. Prep, prep, prep. Meal prep is your friend. If you can, cut up your veggies as soon as you bring them home, and baggie them. Cook big batches of staple foods (dal is one of my faves), and store extra portions in the freezer. Maybe even invest in a FoodSaver, a vacuum sealing system that will make it easier for you to keep your food fresh and minimize wastage.
6. Get a really good blender. I use a Vitamix. It’s high-powered, so smoothie-making is a breeze. The operative word is smooth. You don’t want random lumps in your morning shake. Ew.
7. Take your supplements. Make sure you’re getting enough B12, protein, and iron, especially, as some vegans can become deficient in these nutrients. Of course, this will depend on your individual physical makeup and a host of other factors. It’s always a good idea to consult with a medical professional or nutritionist and get their advice.
8. Do your research before eating out. Many of us are still eating in due to Covid, but if you do choose to venture out for a meal, there are still lots of vegan options out there. It’s always a good idea to research the menu beforehand so you know what you’re dealing with. If you realize that you’ll be going to a spot with few vegan options, eat a hearty meal before you leave home, and get ready to enjoy the fries.
9. Also do your research before those vegan boxed dinners. A lot of the vegan convenience foods available are just as bad as “regular” food. They are made of mystery substances and unpronounceable ingredients. If you subsist solely on meat alternatives, you might be doing yourself a disservice. Read the labels, and make an informed choice from there.
10. Make sure your support system is just that—supportive. Choose your circle to help you succeed. Stay as far away as you can from people who are negative, undermining, or want to see you fail. Having people in your corner that are rooting for you makes all the difference. You got this!
Text and images ⒸLisa Hurley/@happyhappyphoenix