We hear about veganism all the time these days. It’s hot, it’s trendy and it’s approximated that there are around 75,300,000 vegans in the world today.
Endless talk around having greater compassion, awareness, and better health for you and the planet leaves us wondering: is going vegan something we should actually be considering?
While you should always check with your healthcare providers before making any lifestyle choices, including dietary ones, we have found that going vegan has been life-changing for us in a multitude of ways.
And if you DO decide to go vegan – whatever your reason – just know that going vegan is just like any other change you make – you’ll need to adapt, learn and repeat habits.
It’s not rocket science, but as we have now been vegan for over four years, there are some things we wish we’d have known before diving into it!
1. Consult Your Healthcare Providers
First of all, if you haven’t had your annual physical, go do it before doing anything else. Again, working closely with your health practitioners is so important to assess what and how you should be eating. With their help, you can get a general look at your health with a comprehensive blood test that will check many different health markers.
Looking at these markers will help you and your doctor to see where you’re at before making any changes. That way you have base line data that will help inform dietary decisions. This will also be a reference for future check ups, and help you identify changes you might see after going vegan.
A lot of people don’t do this and end up blaming becoming vegan for a health problem they actually had beforehand. They then quit and share their story all over social media. Without this baseline data, it’s impossible to know how any new practice, including going vegan is affecting you.
2. Consult a Plant-Based Nutritionist
A plant-based nutritionist will help you understand more about what a vegan diet consists of, what body changes may occur as a result of going vegan, (remember, this is different for everyone, and can change based upon your lifestyle choices, and where you are at in your life) how to feed yourself so that you don’t have nutritional issues, and how to substitute animal protein for vegetable protein.
They’ll also be able to tell you if your body could benefit from non-food-derived supplements, that are essential for your health.
Most importantly though, they’ll be able to give you personalized recommendations that will benefit YOUR body. We’re all different and our bodies react differently to changes.
Seeing an expert will also save you so much time, and give you a much better result than trying to figuring out everything by yourself, or trusting Dr. Google.
3. Learn How to Cook Vegan
If you don’t know how to cook, get in the kitchen and just start cooking. Cooking will not only give you so much satisfaction, but will also help you control the quality of the food you’re eating.
If you aren’t cooking, you’ll be relying on takeout and ready-made foods. The problem with this kind of food is that it’s not always healthy, and you really don’t know the quality of the ingredients they’re using.
Have you ever thought about how old the oil or vinaigrette being used at a restaurant is? Or the cleanliness of their kitchen?
We’re telling you this because we’ve worked at plenty of restaurants, and we know that too often restaurants don’t have good standards, and the guests have no idea of what’s going on behind the scenes.
Nowadays there are so many people sharing recipes all over the internet. Follow accounts that teach you the basics: how to cut vegetables, how to add flavor to your meals, how to cook simply but deliciously, and how to make the most out of your grains and vegetables. When following accounts on social media, have a discerning eye, and feel free to ask your health practitioners if the meals are good examples for your lifestyle.
There really is no excuse for not knowing how to cook anymore, so use the vast amount of free information out there to your advantage.
4. Be Accountable Only to Yourself
In terms of lifestyle, you don’t have to follow what others do. Your body is unique, and so your choices should suit your unique body and lifestyle!
When we became vegan four years ago, we didn’t know anything about veganism. We remember being confused about whether or not we should be eating honey. We weren’t much of a fan of it, so it was easy to switch to maple syrup (and also maple syrup is so good ).
Don’t feel like you have to subscribe to the decisions of other vegans, like not wearing leather or only drinking vegan wine. Do what you want to do because it feels right to you in this moment. Maybe in the future you’ll change your mind and want to do those things.
Be truthful to yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. If you really want to be 100% vegan, go for it! Just remember that in life, balance is the key and going at your own pace is important.
And look, we still eat cheese once every 2 months or so, when we crave it, but lately we’ve realized that sometimes our body is not responding very well to it. So personally, little by little we’ve stopped, not because I was afraid of what people thought about us, but because we want to feel our best. So progress on your own time and at your own pace.
5. Get the Vegan Staples
If you’ve ever eaten a HUGE plate of leafy greens and found yourself hungry, you may be worried about caloric consumption. Having a set of minimally-processed staples rich in fiber and protein are such an important element to this lifestyle!
After you’ve gone to a nutritionist and you have more of an idea of the food groups you’ll be eating, go and buy some food staples. A big part of being vegan is eating lots of beautiful, colorful plants. If cooking with vegetables sounds daunting, or unexciting, we have some advice for you here in this other article.
Some of these staples might be:
- grains (wheat berries, kamut, brown rice) *We’d recommend mostly whole grains simply because they contain more fiber, minerals and protein than refined grains, but its up to you.
- legumes (lentils, chickpeas, frozen peas, split peas)
- some spices (paprika, cumin, oregano, black pepper, fine herbs, Italian dry herbs)
- vinegars (white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, balsamic and apple cider vinegar)
- a nice Spanish or Italian extra virgin olive oil to finish your salads
- avocado oil or extra-virgin coconut oil for cooking at high temperatures
- sea salt
- and some pastas (you can get gluten-free chickpea, lentil, or quinoa pasta if you’d like)
We hope that these tips can serve you in some way. As always, feel free to reach out to us at hello@thelalolab if you have any questions — we’ll be happy to help.