First off, I feel like I should say a quick disclaimer. I did NOT choose to start a vegan diet as a means to lose weight. I chose veganism for other reasons, including personal health reasons, environmental reasons, and animal welfare (but this isn’t an article about why I became vegan, which I will save for another time).
A common misconception about the vegan diet is that it’s extremely restrictive. The vegan diet is often compared to the likes of “rabbit food”. These claims are WILDLY false! Although I do eat lots of fruit and vegetables, my diet extends way beyond just that. This leads me to Tip #1:
Tip #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things
If you want to switch to veganism successfully, you’ll need to make some additional changes to your diet. If you were to simply cut out meat, dairy and eggs from the Standard American Diet, you wouldn’t be left with much else. It’s important to fill your plate with a good mix of fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, grains, and healthy fats like avocado. The easiest way to do this successfully is by trying new foods. In the past two weeks, I’ve tried black bean burgers, tofu, and kombucha, and I’ve loved all three of them! I was SO skeptical about trying tofu, but it’s delicious, and it just takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with (making it an excellent protein for stir fries). By having a diverse plate, you’ll get some excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Speaking of vitamins…
Tip #2: Take a B12 Supplement
A Vitamin B12 supplement is necessary for anybody who plans to cut out all animal products. Vitamin B12 is necessary for nerve and blood cell health, DNA production, and preventing against various types of anemia. Since our main source of B12 is through animal products, it’s important to take a supplement to guarantee a high enough daily value.
Tip #3: Find Yummy Alternatives
It was difficult to imagine a life without pizza, ice cream and cheese. Luckily, I can still enjoy all those treats, thanks to the endless variety of nondairy alternatives that are widely available. I’ve listed my top choices below:
Almond Milk (Blue Diamond and Silk are both excellent options. I typically use Unsweetened Original flavor if I’m using it in cooking, or Unsweetened Vanilla for sweeter things like oatmeal/chia pudding/smoothies).
I’ve tried a few different nondairy creamers, and my favorite by far is the one by Silk. It tastes the most like regular creamer, and they offer different flavors (original, vanilla, hazelnut).
Cheese was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I had to give up. Luckily, I’ve found some excellent dairy free replacements. Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds are excellent for Vegan Mac and Cheese, and Trader Joe’s Vegan Style Mozzarella Shreds are BOMB if you want a melty, cheesy topping (like on a pizza).
If you’re like me, it’s impossible to have chilis, tacos, or burrito bowls without sour cream. Tofutti’s Dairy Free Sour Cream is an excellent vegan alternative, and you can find it at Whole Foods.
Tofutti also makes a really good vegan cream cheese. This is the perfect spread to put on top of bagels (and I also use it to make my mac and cheese extra creamy).
There are TONS of vegan ice cream options out there. Ben and Jerry’s started releasing nondairy ice cream a couple years back, and you can find it at any grocery store that also sells regular Ben and Jerry’s (though it’s usually in a different part of the aisle). My favorite flavor is PB & Cookies (FYI, Oreo’s are vegan too). So Delicious makes some yummy coconut milk ice cream- I like their cookie dough flavor.
Another tip is to look for sorbets – most sorbets are fruit based and contain NO dairy (though it never hurts to check labels). This goes for gelato, too. Fruit flavors like lemon, raspberry or mango are almost always dairy free.
I haven’t tried any commercial egg replacements yet, but for baking, I like to use bananas as an emulsifier. When I make pancakes, I substitute 1/2 mashed banana in place of an egg, and it also adds some natural sweetness to whatever you’re baking.
It’s easier now than ever to convert to a plant-based lifestyle, because it is SO EASY to find alternatives to all your favorite foods. So far, my experience going vegan has been wildly successful, and I have so many new recipes that I cannot wait to post.
Who else eats a vegan diet? Any questions or suggestions? Comment below!