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5 Tips for New Vegans

Your decision to go vegan may leave you wondering where to start. Here are some things to consider about the lifestyle.

1. It's a gradual process.

Although some people may do best by quitting animal products cold turkey, it can make the process a lot easier if you slowly incorporate vegan meals into your diet. You can start by eliminating red meats, then poultry and fish, and finally eggs and dairy. You can also just try out being vegetarian and then work your way up.

I know you may want to jump in immediately when you first learn about how animals are treated, but try to think of it as a fun way to try new foods rather than an obligation. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up when you are first transitioning. You will most likely make mistakes when determining what is and is not vegan. This is why giving up meat first can help you ease into the lifestyle and give yourself time to learn.

Dairy is normally the hardest for people to give up. Remember that giving up dairy doesn’t mean you need to stop eating your favorite desserts and cheeses. Just find vegan versions of them. I know it can be hard to stop eating cheese from cows but as someone who was a self proclaimed cheese addict, I can tell you that it is absolutely possible.

2. Don't be intimidated by "perfect" vegans online.

We’ve all seen those picturesque YouTube channels and Instagram accounts that portray the most ideal vegan life. When some people think of veganism, a lush variety of raw, organic fruits and vegetables spread out among superfoods comes to mind. Or maybe a slim Instagram model doing yoga to the background of a beautiful sunrise.

Try not to get caught up in what you see online and remember that there are many ways to be a vegan. You can eat junk food and still be eating vegan junk. You don’t have to make smoothie bowls for breakfast, buy a mountain bike, or be a culinary expert to join this lifestyle. The only requirement is your concern for animal well being. Unless you are transitioning for health reasons of course. 

3. Diets are not necessary.

When you begin looking into this lifestyle, you will find that there are many sub diets within the communities online. You can be raw vegan, raw till four, starch solution, high carb low fat, whole foods plant based, etc. If you see these diets as a new vegan, you may want to run. Taking on a more complex diet on top of learning how to be vegan can be overwhelming and unnecessary. These diets are often passing fads and they are not sustainable over time.

Focus on the basics and be careful what plant-based doctors or “gurus” you trust. Many of these diets also lack important macronutrients like fats and protein which are important when it comes to helping you feel satiated. 

4. Don’t give up on meat and dairy alternatives.

As a vegan who has tried a wide variety of meat and dairy alternatives, I can say that you will not like everything option that you try. As someone who has been meat-free for eight years and dairy and egg free for a couple years, I have seen the plant-based options grow in quality and quantity as more and more people are making the choice to eat less or no animal products.

Don’t be afraid to explore your local grocery store’s veggie options and try a variety of products. Remember that Whole Foods isn’t the only place to get quality vegan food. You don’t need to spend copious amounts of money on expensive nut cheeses or organic seitan. With the increase in the popularity of veganism, many grocery chains have started selling their own store brand vegan products like ice cream, veggie burgers, and plant milks.

It can be fun to taste test new foods that you wouldn’t have thought to pick up before going vegan. You can even find recipes to make your own. Try not to get discouraged if the first couple of things that you try don’t meet your expectations. Also, remember that these are plant-based products so they will not taste identical to animal products but they can mimic them especially when you combine then with your favorite foods.

5. Do your research on vitamins.

The most widely recommended supplement for vegans is Vitamin B12 because it cannot be found in plants. This is because it is in bacteria that has been removed in modern sanitation practices. B12 supplements are easily accessible and B12 can also be found in certain fortified foods like nutritional yeast and some plant milks.

Some people find that it is difficult to get enough of certain other nutrients on a plant-based diet. If you are concerned about this you can get tested to make sure you are getting all of your necessary vitamins. It can be confusing at first to determine what vitamins you need but there’s no need to panic because you can always go to your doctor. 

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