Veganism is on the rise.
Which is why it might seem like vegans are everywhere.
You are probably subscribed to one or two vegan channels on YouTube, and you are most definitely following at least one vegan on Instagram. In fact, you might even know a few vegans in real life.
Now you want to be one of them.
First, you have to ask yourself:
Are you really prepared to adopt the lifestyle that will transform your diet, your home and your general attitude to life?
Veganism: It’s a Lifestyle
Veganism is not just a diet, and it’s not a quick fix.
Rather, it’s a lifestyle.
It’s a unique way of living that seeks to eliminate all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty.
There are different types of vegans out there.
For example, some vegans don’t eat food if it's cooked above a certain temperature whereas others refuse to purchase makeup, medicinal drugs, and other products tested on animals.
But there is one thing that all vegans have in common:
Vegan meals are entirely devoid of animal products.
Veganism has been around for a while
A decade ago veganism was a mocked subculture associated with crusty hippies and militant animal rights activists.
Today, however, it is seen as a mainstream lifestyle choice.
So, what happened? When did veganism shift from something to be mocked to something to aspire to?
Veganism rose in popularity in the 2010s, around the same time that Instagram was picking up (which is probably not a coincidence).
That's just part of the story:
Veganism has actually been around for much longer.
In fact, the term “vegan” was coined all the way back in 1944.
The man who coined the term was a perceptive British woodworker named Donald Watson. Watson noted that in 1943, as many as 40 percent of Britain’s dairy cows had tuberculosis. He used this discovery to his advantage, claiming that vegan meals protected people from ingesting tainted food.
The same year that Watson coined the term, he issued the first Vegan Society newsletter. It was called “The Vegan News" and it had 25 subscribers.
Today, more than 7,000 people are members of The Vegan Society.
Almost 20 million people in the U.S. consider themselves vegans, including celebrities (for example, Joaquin Phoenix went vegan when he was only three years old) and athletes (including the tennis player Serena Williams and the Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton).
Powerful corporations such as Google are introducing delicious vegan meals to their canteens whereas superpowers such as China are encouraging their citizens to cut down on their daily meat consumption.
The Power of Why
If you want to stick to veganism you need to answer one question:
Why do you want to make the switch? Are you looking to improve your health? Gain peace of mind knowing that you're not contributing to the slaughter of animals? Improve your environmental footprint?
Having a reason will help you shift your mindset:
You are no longer losing something but gaining something instead.
Veganism is great for your health
Assuming that you are not relying on vegan junk food (i.e., processed foods), healthy vegan meals are probably going to improve your overall health.
In general, vegan meals contribute to weight loss. Vegans tend to eat low-calorie and high-fiber foods. As such, they feel fuller faster.
Higher fiber intake and weight loss effects also often contribute to lower blood sugar levels.
A vegan diet may also improve your heart's health.
Reduced risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and arthritis, improved functioning of kidneys, better digestion, better sleep, and clearer skin are just some of the other benefits that are frequently associated with the vegan diet.
Keep in mind that most studies that support these claims are observational. Further studies, preferably randomized controlled studies, need to be undertaken before we can make conclusions.
Veganism can help you become an environmental hero
Here’s a crazy fact:
Animal farming takes up as much as 83 percent of our farmland but provides just 18 percent of calories.
We could reduce as much as 75 percent of the world’s farmland (area as large as the US, EU, Australia and China combined) if we gave up meat and dairy. And we could still feed the world.
So forget cutting down on your flights. Forget purchasing that expensive electric car.
All you have to do to make an impact?
Cut down on your meat consumption.
Even low impact meat and dairy products cause much more environmental damage than the least sustainable veggie and cereal growing.
You can help save the animals, one chicken at a time
Most people that follow a vegan diet tend to find gratification on a moral level.
It’s easy to see why:
The conditions that animals are raised in, and slaughtered in, are atrocious.
None of us like to think of where the meat on our plate comes from.
But maybe we should.
The eggs that we eat? They come from hens that spend their entire lives in battery cages. As an illustration, imagine spending your whole life in a bathtub with four other people. Your muscles would deteriorate, your feet would lacerate, and you would almost certainly go insane. That’s what life in one of these cages is like.
The milk that we drink? It usually comes from cows that are kept pregnant for nine months of the year. Once their milk yields decline, they are sent to the slaughterhouse.
A large number of pigs are kept in tiny cages. Chickens are fattened up for slaughter in just a little over a month. Cattle are branded and castrated, and have their horns removed, without any painkillers.
It’s not pretty, but it’s cost-effective.
Goodbye Cheese, Ice Cream, and Honey...
These foods have no place in a vegan kitchen:
Meat: Beef, pork, lamb, wild meat, chicken, goose, turkey, duck, etc.
Fish: All types of fish as well as crab, lobster, calamari, mussels, scallops, etc.
Dairy: Milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, etc.
Eggs: Chicken eggs as well as quail eggs, ostrich eggs, caviar, etc.
Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, etc.
Hello Nutrient Dense Veggies, Fruits, and Legumes!
The list of foods that can't be added to vegan meals is enough to scare even the most dedicated individuals.
However, while it’s certainly important to know the foods to avoid, you shouldn’t dwell on what you can’t have.
That’s not the mindset of someone who is going to succeed.
Think of all the foods that you are adding to your diet instead.
Here is a list of beautiful, nutritious foods that you can, and should, incorporate into your vegan meals:
Fruits and veggies: Whenever possible, go for seasonal produce and don’t skimp on leafy greens such as kale and spinach for they are high in iron and calcium.
Legumes: Beans, lentils, peas, etc.
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, cashew nuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, etc.
Grains: Rice, noodles, pasta, quinoa, amaranth, etc.
Plant-based milk: Coconut milk, oat milk, almond milk, cashew milk, etc.
Meat substitutes: Tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc.
Sprouted and fermented foods: Miso, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, etc.
Algae: Spirulina, chlorella, etc.
Natural sweeteners: Maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar, etc.
Plant-based oils: Avocado seed oil, coconut oil, almond oil, etc.
But... What About Protein?
Confide in non-vegans that you are considering going vegan, and you'll almost certainly find yourself bombarded with countless curious questions.
One question that everyone will undoubtedly ask you is:
But where will you get your protein?
Furthermore, as someone who is just beginning their vegan journey, you might be wondering that yourself.
The answer is simple:
If you eat balanced vegan meals that consist of whole plant foods, you will get more than enough protein.
Good Sources of Protein
- Protein-rich fruits and veggies: Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, artichokes, Brussels sprouts
- All things nuts: Nuts and nut butter as well as seeds
- As well as foods: such as nutritional yeast, spirulina, lentils, seitan, soy milk, oats, and wild rice
Supplements Are Your Friends
There is a steep learning curve to becoming a vegan, and you will almost certainly make mistakes.
But there is one mistake that you can avoid from the get-go:
Don’t shy away from supplements!
It's important to realize that depending on your diet and your go-to vegan meals, you might need to take supplements to meet your daily requirements.
The one supplement that every vegan needs to have on hand?
Vitamin B12 is made by certain bacteria and is found explicitly in animal products. While a few plants and fermented foods also contain Vitamin B12, they are unfortunately not a reliable source of this vital nutrient.
Nonetheless, there are other supplements you might want to look into, including:
You Don't Have To Give Up Mac And Cheese
The scariest thing about switching to vegan meals is probably giving up all the foods that you love.
Cheeseburgers, lasagnas, mac and cheese, barbecue chicken, chocolate, cheeses...
These are all the things that you can no longer have.
Or can you?
Traditional cheeseburgers and lasagnas may be off limits. However, that does not mean that you have to give up your favorite dishes altogether.
Mac and cheese can be made with cashew sauce.
Watch the video below to figure out how:
Scrambled tofu is very similar to scrambled eggs.
Bean-based burgers can easily replace beef patties. P
lant milk is an easy substitute for regular milk in your daily coffee.
Stick to real, raw foods whenever possible.
Go for it!
There are numerous vegan recipes out there that will leave you more than satisfied. Trust us. You’re not the only vegan to desire a gooey brownie.
Read the Small Print at the Supermarket
You’re wandering down the aisles of your local supermarket.
Your basket is full of delicious food items.
You’re pretty sure they’re all vegan. Consequently, you’re in a good mood.
Then you get home which is when your day takes a turn for the worse.
Because you’ve made the number one mistake that most new vegans make:
You forgot to read the labels!
A lot of seemingly vegan food products contain sneaky animal-derived ingredients.
Don’t forget that most store-bought bread is brushed with an egg wash while most sauces contain dairy.
Similarly, deep-fried foods are usually fried in animal fat whereas roasted salted peanuts contain gelatin.
Foods and drinks that are of an artificial red color contain the extract of crushed beetles, and refined white sugar is usually made using animal bone char. We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg not only invented corn flakes, but he also created meatless meat and peanut butter! Consequently, vegans all over the world are still grateful to him to this day.
You'll Actually Save Money
The biggest misconception that stops people from going vegan is that vegan meals are expensive.
In fact, vegan meals are more affordable than non-vegan meals.
Think about it:
Legumes and grains are some of the cheapest items at the store.
Fruits and veggies are not expensive either, especially if you shop seasonal produce. You can also purchase frozen fruits and vegetables to reduce costs further. In some cases, frozen fruits and veggies are actually more nutrient dense than fresh produce.
Plant milk is somewhat more expensive than cow’s milk. However, as you eliminate cow’s milk from your diet, you are likely to find yourself craving it less and less. And of course, don’t forget that you can make plant-based milk at home too.
Check out the video below:
Nuts and seeds are costly, but supermarket own brands are usually more affordable.
As for nut butter?
Go ahead and make it yourself. After all, the process is pretty straightforward.
Learn how in the video below:
Processed vegan foods, including mock meats and vegan cheeses, are the only food items that are costly. Nonetheless, they are the foods you want to avoid anyway (although having them once in a while is totally okay too).
How Not to Be Grumpy at Restaurants
Eating out as a vegan is certainly challenging.
But it's getting better.
Gone are the days when vegans had to order side salads as their friends feasted on chicken wings.
Today, most restaurants, cafes and fast food chains have at least one or two vegan meals on their menu.
Furthermore, vegan restaurants are now a thing.
Still, that does not mean that you don’t have to plan ahead of time.
It's always a good idea to go online and look up the restaurant that you are planning on going to. Read the menu. Are there any vegan options? If not, are there any vegetarian options that could easily be made vegan by removing or substituting an ingredient?
When in doubt:
Ring the restaurant and ask the staff about vegan meals. Restaurants usually have secret vegetarian and vegan menus that are not on display.
If there’s nothing suitable on the menu:
Get creative with sides. Two or three side dishes, such as rice, veggies, and beans, can make for a delicious and nutritious meal.
Whenever possible, go for ethnic cuisines. For example:
Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Greek, and Ethiopian cuisines are for the most part all naturally vegan-friendly. Furthermore, most ethnic cuisines have options that can be easily modified.
A tip that could save your evening:
If you're unsure if the restaurant you are going to is vegan-friendly, it is always a good idea to have a light meal or snack beforehand. That way you can focus on catching up with your loved ones instead of worrying about satisfying your hunger.
How Not to Starve as Someone’s Guest
Image CC0 by Adrienn via Pexels
Given that most people are carnivores, dinner parties can turn awkward, and fast.
How can you avoid eating the food that the host so lovingly prepared?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way out of this situation:
You simply have to tell the host that you are vegan as soon as possible (preferably well in advance).
There will be questions, and there will be jokes. Just roll with it and laugh along. They are just trying to relieve the tension.
If your host is considerate, he or she might prepare a vegan meal (or even a few vegan meals if you're lucky) especially for you.
But of course, you don’t want to be the problematic guest, which is why you should bring along a vegan dish.
That way you won’t starve. You won’t look awkward as other people eat. And you might show others that being vegan does not mean eating shoots and leaves.
With time, your friends and family members will get accustomed to your vegan diet, and you won’t have to mention it again.
Give Me Examples of Vegan Meals!
Vegan meals are no harder to make than non-vegan ones.
Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
Breakfasts that are worth getting out of bed for
It’s not all smoothies.
Porridge, for instance, is hands down the easiest breakfast meal out there.
Substitute cow's milk for plant-based milk and voila, your breakfast is suddenly vegan! Experiment with toppings such as seasonal and exotic fruits, nut butter, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, jams, and vegan yogurts.
Chocolate Date and Walnut Porridge
- Place your oats, water, and milk in a pot and slowly bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
- Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the porridge reaches your desired consistency.
- Add the cacao powder and vegan sweetener.
- Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.
- Serve with dates and crushed walnuts sprinkled on top.
Apple Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes
- In a small bowl stir plant-based milk, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. Leave aside for a while until it curdles slightly.
- In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and coconut sugar.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until well combined but leaving a few lumps. Set the mixture aside for a minute or two to ensure fluffier pancakes.
- Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour batter onto the surface. Cook for 2 minutes or so then flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until both sides are lightly browned.
- Serve with maple syrup and fresh fruit.
Source: Hannah Chia
Lunches that will fuel you for the rest of the day
Vegan lunches will keep you full, healthy and satisfied for hours.
Chickpea Shawarma Salad
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Wash and dry chickpeas. Toss with olive oil and seasonings. Place on a baking sheet on a tray and bake for around 20 minutes until crispy.
- Put all salad ingredients, except for pita chips, in a bowl.
- To make the dressing, combine hummus, garlic, lemon juice, and dill. Add warm water until the mixture becomes liquid.
- Add baked chickpeas, pita chips and half of the hummus dressing to the salad. Toss to combine. Serve with remaining dressing.
Source: Minimalist Baker
Avocado and Hummus Veggie Sandwich
Sandwiches are quick and easy to make, not to mention filling. But they can also be stodgy, especially if they contain ham and cheese.
Vegan fillings, on the other hand, ensure a meal that is not only substantial but also tasty, light and portable.
- Divide the ingredients between the four pieces of bread.
Source: Pick Up Limes
Delicious dinners to end your day
Why do most non-vegans opt to serve meat for dinner almost every single day?
Because it's the lazy man's option.
But trust us:
There is nothing quite as fulfilling as experimenting in the kitchen.
One of the best things about going vegan is trying out countless mouth-watering exotic dishes that you never even knew existed.
- Heat the oil in a pan. Cook the onion until softened but now browned, around two minutes. Add the spices and stir for a minute.
- Put the rice in the pan. Pour over the hot vegetable stock. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for eight minutes. Stir frequently.
- Add the chickpeas and the spinach and cook for two more minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, coriander, and salt, and stir.
- Serve and enjoy!
Source: The Guardian
Butternut Squash Tacos
Roasted butternut squash
Cabbage and bean slaw
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Squash: Toss the cubed squash with olive oil. Sprinkle chili pepper, salt, and pepper on top. Arrange in one layer and bake until squash is tender and caramelized on the sides, for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway.
- Slaw: In a bowl combine cabbage, black beans, cilantro, green onion, olive oil, lime juice, and salt. Toss and set aside to marinate.
- Guacamole: In a bowl combine diced avocado, lime juice, salt, and coriander and mash with a fork until blended.
- Heat the tortillas in a small skillet over medium heat. Put tortillas on a plate and cover them with a lint-free towel to keep warm.
- Assemble tacos by adding slaw, squash, and guacamole on the tortillas. Top with optional garnishes and serve immediately.
Source: Cookie and Kate
Don't forget the snacks!
Who doesn't love snacks?
Date Energy Balls
- Blend all the ingredients either in a food processor or by hand (place the dates in a bowl of boiling water to soften them).
- Roll the mixture into small balls.
- Roll the balls in coconut to coat.
Source: Wholesome Culture
- Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F.
- Wash and dry the kale. Tear the leaves from the stems. Then tear the leaves into small pieces.
- Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle the salt (and other flavorings if using them).
- Bake until the edges are brown (but not burnt!), about 10 minutes.
Source: All Recipes
Yearning for something a little more unhealthy?
Like a Twix candy bar?
You can make your own!
Watch the video below:
It's Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
Improved health, better sleep, clearer skin, and higher energy levels are some of the side effects associated with switching from animal products to vegan meals.
But there’s some bad stuff too.
You might experience nausea and muscle pain as your body rids itself of toxins. You could also get severe acne (but don’t worry, it’ll go away with time!)
Initially, you might also suffer from low energy levels, especially if your vegan meals don't contain enough protein.
If you’re not eating enough calories, you might also find that you are getting frequent headaches.
Those who follow a plant-based diet need to eat quite a lot (which shouldn’t be an issue since one of the side effects of going vegan is feeling hungry more often).
Plants have a lower calorie density than foods derived from animals. Consequently, make sure that you have plenty of vegan snacks on hand.
Another side effect you might experience is weight fluctuations. You could lose or gain weight, depending on your current physical condition as well as on the types of vegan meals that you eat.
Legumes and veggies > French fries
One of the most disagreeable side effects of going vegan?
Frequent visits to the bathroom. You might find yourself bloated or constipated. You might have diarrhea.
Why? One word:
Once you make the switch from animal products to plants, you’ll find that you can digest food more easily, hence the more frequent trips to the restroom.
Each body is different. Stop by your doctor if you don’t feel quite right.
One Small Step for a Vegan, One Giant Leap for Mankind
Following a vegan lifestyle is by no means easy.
You will almost certainly make mistakes. And you'll learn.
It's all part of the process.
Be kind to your body. Be patient. Don’t expect miracles. No matter how small, progress is still progress.
You're doing great.
Featured Image: CC0 by Ella Olssan via Unsplash