Whenever I tell people for the first time that I'm vegan, I immediately get hit with a ton of questions. Some of these are out of interest and amusement and others are out of plain confusion. Well, let me start by saying I definitely do not have all the answers. While I have been eating this way for 3 years now, I am not a nutritionist. I choose to eat a vegan diet because of how it makes me feel and the ethical benefits that go along with it. Even though I see this diet as the healthiest way to eat, it will always be open for debate.
There are some who go vegan for life while others eventually choose to go back to eating animal products. My thoughts on that are everybody is different, and I can't say what will work best for your health. But I can tell you is that this diet has changed my life completely.
I chose to go vegan back in 2016, two days after my 17th birthday (I wanted to eat 'real' cake one last time). When people ask why I'm vegan I typically tell them "for every reason you can think of". I've always loved healthy eating and I saw going vegan as a way to really step up my nutrition. I also love to eat, and after binge-watching tons of Vegan What I Eat videos, I noticed that those on a plant-based diet had to eat more to meet their daily calories. But in my opinion, wanting to be healthy isn't reason enough to switch to a vegan diet. When you start out and have cravings for pizza and mac n' cheese, it's important to have a bigger purpose in what you're doing. To find this 'bigger purpose' I decided to watch as many documentaries on the meat and dairy industry as I could. I've seen everything from Earthlings to Cowspiracy and have read tons of articles. That is how I found my "why". I've always tried to be as compassionate as possible and in watching these documentaries, I no longer felt right eating what was convenient now that I knew the truth. And while I will not sit here and tell you every gory detail, I highly recommend you go and research yourself.
Today, the world is more plant-based than ever. There are vegan restaurants, cheese shops, ice cream parlors, and the availability for substitution online for any of your favorite non-vegan foods. It doesn't have to be as expensive as you think either. When I grocery shop, I try to buy as little substitution foods as possible and stick to cheap staples like rice, beans, lentils, pasta. While it might seem boring at first, in time you experiment and can find some amazing recipes.
So, if you've ever thought about going vegan or you're thinking about going more plant-based, here are some of my best tips.
Find Your "Why"
There are so many reasons out there. Maybe heart disease runs in your family and you want to cut out cholesterol raising foods. Or maybe you're passionate about the environment and want to help reduce the negative impact that animal agriculture has. Whatever it may be, I encourage you to do as much research as possible and hold on to that reason throughout your transition.
Ease Into It
You don't have to immediately give up all your favorite animal products. I personally was never a big meat eater and that was the first thing I chose to wean out of my diet. You can go as fast or as slow as you want, every little change makes a bigger impact than you think.
Consume Vegan Media
I'm a big Youtube gal and loved watching videos about going vegan as I was starting out. There are so many out there that can help get you inspired. There are also tons of social media accounts you can look at. I even have some vegan cookbooks that have been super helpful when I'm getting tired of eating the same foods (my favorite is Thug Kitchen).
Look at Pinterest or just throw whatever sounds good together. I often have no idea where I'm going with a meal but it ends up turning out delicious.
Get Comfortable Eating Vegetables
I know not everyone is a huge vegetable person, but I promise you can be. I never was, I would eat around my veggies and never think to cook with them. But after I went vegan, I began buying more and cooking with them and now I eat them at almost every meal. You'd be surprised what seasonings and some oil can do.
Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself
Three years later and I still make mistakes. I've been halfway through a bag of chips before looking at the ingredient label and noticing there's a dairy product. It's okay and it happens. No one is perfect and you can't beat yourself up especially at the beginning. As time goes on you begin to learn what types of restaurant are best suited for vegan eating and the foods that typically are plant-based. But mistakes happen and it only makes us human.