Hi all! Recently I was asked if I had any tips or advice for someone starting a vegan diet. Ironically, my own mother just started eating a mostly vegan diet after her doctor told her she would need statins for her cholesterol. Instead of taking them, she told her doctor to give her a few weeks and in just 3 weeks on a mostly vegan diet, she lowered her cholesterol by almost 80 points! She's now a big believer in a plantbased diet!
Lucky for her, she has me as a resource. But I thought maybe I would answer some of the most common asked questions and share some tips that I have found help me.
1. Three weeks. Commit to eating vegan for 3 weeks. Just think in your head that you need to get to three weeks. I have found that it takes 3 weeks to break a habit. Most likely, by the end of week 3 you won't want to go back to your old diet. Even if that means reintroducing animal products in small doses, I bet you won't want them once you taste them. You can always add some back with the goal of eventually cutting them out completely. Just work on less and less a little at a time.
2. Substitute! When I first started eating this way, I ate meat substitutes, tofu all the time, basically my normal diet but with vegan substitutes. When I felt like eggs, I made a tofu scramble, when I wanted chicken, I used meat free chicken (and back then there wasn't Gardein, which makes great meat free substitutes) there is even a new "egg" product by Follow Your Heart that people are going crazy over. Everything non vegan, there is a vegan substitute for! Butter, milk, yogurt, creamers, cookies, ice cream, meats, deli meats, burgers, hotdogs, sausages, cheese, etc. etc. Now that I have eaten this way for over ten years, I don't even crave that stuff. So I don't usually use these products. But So Delicious, Gardein, Field Roast, Earth Balance, Kite Hill, Daiya, are all great products to look into. I will share the products I like best that have healthier ingredients below. But all these products are great while transitioning. Once you are over that hump, I suggest eating more plantbased and less processed to feel your best.
3. Be prepared! When going to a party or out to dinner always find out the menu. For a party, you can call ahead and ask if there is anything you can bring and if you want you can mention you eat vegan and want to bring something you know you can eat. I've brought my own veggie burgers, macaroni salads, fruit platters, veggie platters, hummus, desserts, etc to parties before. Most people will not mind and are usually happy that you are taking care of it so they don't have to! ;) As for going out to eat, most places have menus online so scope out the menu and plan on a dish and stick with it! If there is absolutely nothing on the menu, call ahead and let them know you have restrictions and see if they can accommodate you. I've never had a restaurant tell me no, but if that's the case, eat before hand and enjoy a drink and some bread. Haha! Also, inform your waiter of how you eat. If you don't feel comfortable, tell them you have an allergy, they won't question that. Usually, I order a salad and pasta when I'm out. I also keep extra snacks in my purse, usually a granola or raw bar of sorts, some dark vegan chocolate in case there is no dessert for me, dried fruit and nut mix.
4. Dealing with family and friends. At first my Italian family was annoying and teased me a little here and there but now they are use to me. Not only that, but many of them ask questions and want to try my food. I try not to push my believes on anyone so I have a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude. They ask, I'll answer, otherwise I'm not pushy because I don't believe that pushing beliefs on people gets you anywhere.
5. Lead by example. Everyone wants to know how my skin looks so good, or how I have such energy with two kids (especially since I don't drink coffee), or why I have such a zest for life.. It's my diet! When you feel good on the inside, everything around you gets better. I sleep great, have a good attitude, have energy, all because of how I eat!
6. Cheese. I think I need a whole topic for cheese because that seems to be the hardest food for people to give up. I have never been a fan of cheese (and never ate it) so this was the easiest for me. Cheese is highly addictive and is also highly acid and mucus forming. There are many many many cheese alternatives out there! Made from everything from cashews, almonds, walnuts, proteins, rice milk, and on. Daiya makes all different types too and it melts. This is a highly processed food so I suggest using it when you really have the urge or as an occasional food. I do love Kite Hill though, they have just a few ingredients and are made from almonds. They even have ravioli and cheesecakes!
7. Protein. This is the most common misconception about eating vegan: "Where do you get your protein?" Protein is in vegetables along with nuts, seeds, grains, tofu, quinoa, tempeh, beans. If you are really worried, I suggest Sunwarrior protein powders. They are yummy and have extra nutrients you may be craving.
8. Speaking of vitamins. All vegans should take a sublingual B12. I use Garden of Life's B12 spray but you can get one that goes under your tongue. I also use a vitamin d/k2 patch (from The Raw Food World), a multi vitamin and Omega-Zen 3 With EPA.
9. Feeling full. If you have been eating the Standard American Diet for awhile, you may not get that "full feeling" when you start eating plantbased. This is normal and you will adjust. Until then, I would say up your protein a little. More beans, grains, veggies. Big bowls of veggies with quinoa, sweet potatoes, hummus, chickpeas. Eat your heart out on the good stuff.
10. Relax. The goal is to become fully vegan, but it's not a race. Take it in strides. When you give up each food, celebrate that. Don't beat yourself up if you gave up all chicken but still eat eggs for a little. In time this will become less and less and the vegan diet with crowd out your old diet. You're amazing for wanting this to be your goal, bask in that!
Some brands I love:
*Note: I don't eat a lot of processed food and the bulk of my groceries are fresh produce, but these are some brands that Little A and I enjoy for a small part of our diet.
So Delicious. They make everything from ice cream to yogurts. I use their Coconut Creamer in my Dandy Blend a lot.
Kite Hill. I've mentioned them a few times they also make yogurt along with cheeses, cheesecakes and ravioli.
Hilary's Eat Well and Sunshine Burgers. These are my favorite veggie burgers because they have the purest ingredients and are made from veggies, grains, seeds and nuts.
Ezekiel. They make great sprouted grain products (they aren't gluten free). Their cinnamon raisin bread is such a delicious treat!
Purely Elizabeth. They make some delicious granola that doesn't have any junk in it. They use coconut oil over other highly refined oils. You can recognize all the ingredients.
Jackson's Honest. I don't buy chips often, but when I do, I go for this brand because their potato chips are cooked in coconut oil. Little A loves the Sweet Potato chips which are a great alternative to other more processed "veggie" snacks.
Whole Foods 365 products. All of these products are Non-gmo and you can find some great deals compared to some of the bigger name brands.
Emmy's Macaroons. These are delicious mostly raw sweets with great ingredients.
Square Bars. These bars are so chocolatey and filling. They taste like a treat but have pure ingredients. I like carrying these in my purse because they have a lot of protein so they are great for a snack on the go.
There are more companies that I enjoy, you can check out my Instagram page where I post more of them and weekly snacks I buy for Little A. @LaurenGinger
*Note: I haven't been paid or given any products that I've named in this post, these are just products I like and enjoy.