5 Tips to Start Eating Vegan
If you’re interested in a vegan diet or just getting started on your new vegan diet journey, it can feel a bit tricky at first. This is especially true when dining out with friends or getting together for family holidays. For some helpful tips on how to transition your diet, CircleAround spoke to Rasheeta Joy. Joy is a certified plant-based nutrition specialist and the owner of Pretty Pumped Fitness. Here are a few of her suggestions for those just getting started with veganism.
1Define Your Reasons
When Joy works with her clients, she first asks, “Why do you want to become vegan?” The answer isn’t always as obvious as the idea to become vegan, but it can help you figure out your dietary priorities.
“Is it for your health, for the animals, for the environment?” Joy asks. “Once you understand the reason why [you want to go vegan], that energy will keep you going when times get tempting.”
2Add First, Then Subtract
“The most challenging part about living a vegan lifestyle is the mindset shift,” Joy tells CircleAround. “Choosing vegan foods … can be tough because of the habits we have formed.”
Consider changing your dietary habits gradually in ways that feel good to you. For example, if the idea of never eating meat or dairy again intimidates you, don’t cut it out on the offset. Instead, occasionally add vegan dishes to your repertoire to supplement your non-vegan food.
“When people feel deprived, they won't stay the course,” Joy explains. “Immediately when people say, ‘I am going plant-based or vegan,’ they feel that they have to give up so many foods, when really they are adding so much more.”
It could be as simple as portioning your dinner plate to include more veggies than meat and starch, or making a few meals a week that are vegan-only. Joy also suggests opening your flavor repertoire to include items you might not eat otherwise.
“Have you ever had oyster mushrooms, dragon fruit, or eggplant?” she asks. “Try them and eventually they will become the star of your plate.” Eventually, you may start leaving the non-vegan foods behind entirely. It just takes time.
3Read Up on Vegan Proteins
Just because you’re trying a vegan diet doesn’t mean you’ll be devoid of protein. There are some meat alternatives that are great options to get the nutrition you need.
“There are a host of vegan proteins that are complete in amino acid profile such as quinoa, hemp seeds, soy, seitan, and lots more,” Joy tells CircleAround. “Proteins such as seitan, which is made of vital wheat gluten, is a powerhouse for protein — 21 grams per one ounce.”
Lots of vegetables and legumes, such as chickpeas, black beans, lentils, broccoli, spinach, kale, and more, also are high in natural protein and other nutrients.
Even protein shakes can be vegan with the right ingredients. Joy suggests asking for plant-based protein powders made of pea protein and choosing almond milk when you’re looking to repair and rebuild muscles after a tough workout.
4Make It Fun
There’s no reason for your vegan journey to be stressful. Joy notes that it’s an opportunity to try new things, like a vegan restaurant in your town, or the chance to experiment with new cuisines to inspire your plant-based palate.
“Have you seen the vegan burgers, pizza, doughnuts, and tacos recently?” she adds. “All vegan options aren’t healthy, but there's a lot of fun in the food.”
“Check Yelp and Happy Cow for vegan restaurants near you, and I promise you will be surprised how fun it can be,” she says. “Try different cuisines such as Ethiopian, Indian, and Jamaican foods. They have some of the most flavorful foods using a variety of spices.”
5The Bottom Line
Making the transition to a vegan lifestyle is definitely going to make your culinary experiences different, and it’s okay to take your time. Knowing what kinds of foods equal a healthy vegan lifestyle, plus some meal planning and experimentation, will provide you with an exciting place to start.