Hey friends! It is June 4th, 2018. I recently have had some friends of mine give veganism a try and with it came lots of questions. I thought today I would share some things I have learned in my years of being vegan and some tips on ways to succeed if you choose to give this vegan thing a try.
I would like to start off by saying that if you are thinking of trying veganism or have started this vegan journey, then I want you to know what an amazing choice you have made!! It’s such a beautiful journey that will open your mind and heart to so many different perspectives. You are going to rock this!
The first thing I would like to talk about is calories. So many people feel like they failed when they tried veganism and most of the time it can be linked back to them just not consuming enough calories. Lets look at this example. In 4 ounces of ground beef you have approximately 370 calories. In 4 ounces of cooked black beans you have about 150. So switching ground beef for black beans is an amazing choice, but you have to understand that it isn’t equaling out to the same amount of calories. So by this logic you need to eat more to keep up your calories. I encourage new vegans to track their food intake in either My Fitness Pal or Cronometer that first month to really get a good idea about how much you are consuming and what the breakdown of nutrients is. Once you establish an understanding of this you won’t need to track and you will be able to eat in confidence and know you are getting enough food and the right amount of nutrients. At the end of the day if your worst problem is that you need to eat more (whole-foods, not processed vegan foods), then it isn’t the worst thing in the world. People are always amazed at the amount of food I eat for my size. I can put away 5 russet potatoes that I have made into oil free baked fries in one sitting and feel great.
This leads me to the next point of always having snacks on hand. I don’t go anywhere without a bag of snacks. Most of my snacks tend to be fruit. Just ask any of my friends: you can always count on me to have a bundle of bananas, several apples, oranges, etc in my bag or car. These will help you fight any cravings you may have and tide you over until your next meal. Remember that calories from whole plant foods are good and you shouldn’t be afraid of those.
Next, do your research! Everyone should do this no matter what their diet is. You should never do something that has as big of an impact on your health as food without doing your research. This includes eating a Standard American Diet. Remember that knowledge is power. This will come in handy when dealing with other people. Once someone finds out that you are trying to be vegan, all of a sudden they become a doctor and want to tell you all about how you are going to die without meat. Knowing the true science behind it will give you confidence to push back against their claims. So when someone says “you know if you don’t eat meat then you won’t get enough protein.” You can jump in with the fact that every food has protein. Some more then others. That if you are eating enough calories then you will get enough protein. That the majority of American’s consume way more protein then the RDA’s recommendation. You can refer them to Dr. Garth Davis, M.D.’s book Proteinaholic. You can talk about how animal protein is associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer. The list goes on and on. Being able to answer those commonly asked questions will help others understand why you are doing what you are doing. Plus it gives you the information and confidence that you are doing the best thing possible for you health, the animals, and the environment.
Find a community. Depending on where you live, choosing to try a plant based diet can being very much against the norm. In fact only about one percent of the American population is vegan. It can be very hard and you can feel very alone in certain parts of the county. I live in the South and it can be difficult to find other people who think similar to me, in regards to diet. Luckily for me this is changing and people I know are changing their thought patterns on this and looking for more information. Find your community of like-minded individuals. This can be in-person or through the internet. We live in an amazing time where there is a Facebook group for everything. Look up your local vegan Facebook group and see if you can connect to others.
The reason you go vegan isn’t the most important thing. Just do it! Now any vegan who just read that is probably screaming at their computer screen. Give me a minute to explain. So there are many different reasons to go vegan or plant based. It usually boils down to three main topics. These are health, animals, and environment. All of these are amazing reasons and at the end of the day each one benefits the other. Now I do think that making that ethical connection with the animals will help you to stay vegan, but I think any way you start is great. My journey originally started with an animal connection when I was six years old, but shifted from that to a health connection for the majority of my vegan life. It wasn’t until after college that it moved back towards the ethical path and this was when I started working towards eliminating things, outside of diet, in my life that weren’t vegan. Everyone is on their own journey and I think that’s amazing and should be celebrated. As long as you are plant based then I think that’s what counts.
Mock meats are OK! I think mock meats are an amazing intervention for people who are transition from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a more plant based diet. They help people to replace meat and dairy with a plant based option to help with those cravings. Ideally eventually you would transition over to more whole foods and not so many processed foods, but again I think it’s a journey. So by all means, if you need mock meats to help you transition, eat them!
Take a B12 supplement. OK let’s talk about supplements for a second. Supplementing does not mean that your diet is bad or isn’t made for humans. I am sorry to say, meat eaters, that your diet is heavily supplemented. The majority of meat in the supermarket is from factory farmed animals that have to be supplemented since they aren’t living in their natural environment. Your B12 that you get from the animal flesh you eat isn’t made in that animal. It is supplemented. Vitamin B12 is found in microbes that blanket the earth and is found in soil and water. Because we do things like sanitize our water and wash our fruits and vegetables, we don’t ingest it. Living in a sanitized world is a great thing: we also don’t get things like cholera! It does, however, mean that we need to add B12 back into our diet. You can simply do this with a supplement. If you are under the age of 65 then take at least one 2,500mcg each week. If you wanted to do daily then that is 250mcg a day. You do want to make sure that it is in the form of cyanocobalamin. (“Vitamin B12.” NutritionFacts.org, nutritionfacts.org/topics/vitamin-b12/.) Don’t skip out on this supplement.
Lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself. You will probably fail from time to time. That’s ok! Veganism isn’t about being perfect. The definition of veganism, according to The Vegan Society, is a way of living which seeks to exclude, AS FAR AS POSSIBLE AND PRACTICABLE, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or other purpose. So when you mess up, we all have, right it with the next meal. Make a better choice next time. You got this!
I hope this helps anyone who is thinking about giving this vegan thing a try. I truly hope you do. Please leave any questions or comments you may have below. I also would love to hear about your vegan journey!
Baby Dust To All,
One of mine and my husband’s all time favorite recipes comes from the website Oh She Glows and is called Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash with Black Bean Guacamole:
For the spaghetti squash:
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- extra virgin olive oil
- ground cumin
- ground chili powder
- dried oregano
- salt & pepper
For the black bean guacamole:
- 2 avocados, pitted and flesh scooped out
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups cooked beans)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
- fine grain sea salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- red pepper flakes, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice off the stem of the squash and place the squash cut side down on a cutting board. With a chef’s knife, carefully slice through the squash lengthwise to create two long halves. Scoop out the seeds and guts with an ice cream scoop. Brush some olive oil onto the squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash halves cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for 30-50 minutes, depending on how large your squash is. When the squash is tender and you can easily scrape the strands with a fork, it’s ready. I like to check the squash after 25-30 minutes to make sure I’m not over cooking it. Be sure not to cook for too long or it will turn mushy.
- While the squash is roasting, prepare the black bean guacamole. Mash the avocado flesh in a large bowl. Fold in the onion, tomato, drained and rinsed black beans, and cilantro. Season to taste with lime juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Remove squash from the oven, flip over, and scrape the flesh with a fork in vertical motions. Do this until you’ve scraped all the strands off the skin. Now sprinkle on some chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper (as much or as little as you want). Top the squash with guacamole and serve warm. You can also plate the spaghetti squash, if preferred.