What Does it Mean to be Vegan?
Odds are you've heard of the vegan diet or veganism, but what does it mean to be vegan? When looking at the diet, it's essential to understand that it isn't just a diet but a conscious lifestyle. When you embrace veganism, you actively choose to omit animal products from your life. This is done for your health but is also done for environmental and ethical reasons.
Being Vegan was once an obscure niche diet that people heard about, but in recent years the trend to embrace this lifestyle has grown. According to a research study in the U.K. (1), the number of people living the vegan lifestyle has increased by 350%!
This diet may feel complicated or very restrictive for a beginner, but with a few basic practices and tips, anyone can transition to plant-based foods that taste amazing!
Tip 1: Keep it Simple and Keep Your Mind Open
To quote Oscar Wilde, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." Keeping it simple with swapping foods (2) is a great way to get your bearings down on how you proceed with veganism. Pick a few things to change up at first, and you'll be on your way to building better habits.
Do you like stir fry? Change up the chicken or steak with tofu!
Can't live without your milk? You have options! Coconut, almond, and oat milk are some tasty alternatives!
How about those breakfast staples, sausage, and bacon? You're in luck! Vegan sausage and bacon alternatives give you a great breakfast experience!
Love cheese? Have you heard of nutritional yeast? Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled over salad, pasta, and soup and become the new go-to over cheese!
To get to this point, it is also crucial that you keep an open mind (3). Open-mindedness allows you to make changes and increase knowledge by examining decisions you've made in the past while keeping yourself open to new ideas that may differ from previous beliefs.
If you have a negative mindset going into it or constantly tell yourself that you can't do it, then guess what? You won't do it! But, if you keep an open mind, take in the new information, and practice with genuine intent, you'll find you can do more than you thought.
Tip 2: Organize the Old Pantry
Having a good base camp will go a long way! Take a good look in the pantry, refrigerator, and wherever you keep food, and stock up on things that will help you cook at home. If there are tons of leftover meat-based condiments, it's time to chuck them and replace them with vegan options.
Stock up on beans, whole grains, and leafy greens. Don't forget the vegan-friendly sauces, either. Store-bought sauces include miso paste, soy sauce, and marmite, and when you're up for it, you can make your sauces, such as vinaigrettes, mayonnaise, or cilantro sauce (4).
If you need a treat, remember that you also have options! There are many recipes to help you find the proper dessert for you! From banana bread to zucchini brownies, you can find something that will satiate that sweet tooth (5).
And remember, you can also have a delicious Love + Chew cookie as a treat or part of a workout recovery!
Tip 3: Cravings Will Happen,
and that's Okay
Cravings will happen, so when you're feeling that inkling to go back on the vegan diet, understand that this is a normal human reaction. A study (6) in 2020 found that when you initially begin a new diet, these cravings are entirely normal. Here's the best part: the longer you do the diet and introduce new food selections, your food cravings will go away!
Time is your friend in this scenario, and consistency is critical. Go slow. Substitute foods little by little, so you don't do too much at once. This will help you ease into the transition so you can enjoy the health benefits of the vegan lifestyle. Be the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.
Tip 4: Talk to Those Closest to You
Family and friends play an essential role in our support structure. Speak to those closest to you, and explain your plans to try a vegan diet. Talk about the types of food substitutes you'll be employing, and don't be afraid to share how they can help; don't be scared to share your excitement over the transition!
If you know you'll be spending time with family and friends, do a little scouting ahead of time. Research where you'll meet to eat or drink and find the alternatives available. If you're traveling to someone's house for dinner, coordinate to ensure the menu meets the new dietary choices, or bring your own dish while enjoying great company.
In 2020 (7), a study revealed that when people receive support for changes they make, they are more likely to stick with the changes than those who do not receive support. Finding a healthy support structure goes a long way!
Tip 5: Pledge Specific Time Frames to
Change can be overwhelming. Having a set time frame can ease some of that anxiety and give you some control over how you approach transitioning into a vegan lifestyle. You can try it for a month to see how it goes and document how you feel. Note the changes to your health and energy and all the benefits that come with a vegan diet.
You can even try it for a week with easy substitutes, and you'll find it isn't as challenging to substitute foods as you might think. Even eating vegan one day a week can provide you with benefits you might not otherwise be seeing.
It typically takes about one month to form a new habit. So 30 days would be a great goal to establish what a vegan lifestyle would be like.
The University College of London did a study (8) that, on average, by around day 66 of a change, a person has embraced a new habit to the point where they do it automatically. A good rule of thumb from the study, since each person is a little different, is that it can take about 10 weeks (based on daily repetition) for new habit formation to be the norm.
So be kind to yourself, take your time, and know that it progressively gets easier when you start your healthy journey toward a vegan lifestyle!