There are a lot of misconceptions about the vegan diet from not being able to enjoy food to lacking vitamins and being even unhealthier than when the diet started. This is not to say these things are impossible, anyone can enjoy whatever food they wish just as anyone on any diet can be as unhealthy or as healthy as they choose to be.
That said, switching over to a completely vegan diet can be rather jarring for some people and there are instances where you will likely have a little trouble adjusting to the new lifestyle. So let us consider this a beginners guide to going vegan and list off maybe some rather obvious and some not so obvious things.
What exactly can a vegan eat or use?
Vegans can eat and use anything that does not have any animal products in it. Some common animal by products are ingredients such as glycerin (this animal fat that is source from either pigs or cows and it is occasionally found in toothpaste), gelatin (found in gummy candy) and whey (this is produced naturally from cows milk and is a very common ingredient for protein drinks) to name a few.
The best way to see if something is truly vegan to look for the vegan symbol (it looks like a V inside of a circle) or by simply reading the ingredients. There are going to be instances where the food or product looks vegan but to be sure, just remember to read the label! Coming home with a product you are unable to use is frustrating and we definitely want to avoid that.
What if I miss certain foods?
The hurdle to becoming vegan can seem like an extreme one to get over but as the saying goes, take it one step at a time. There is no rule saying you simply must give up all things animal based the instant you want to try the vegan lifestyle. The best way to wane away from cheese, eggs and meat is to slowly decrease the amount eaten and introduce new ingredients to your diet.
Perhaps start by adding oat milk to your cereal or making a mix of cow milk and oat milk so that the change is more gradual and easier to accept. There are many different vegan meats on the market now a days and people have found that tempeh and seitan have a similar texture to meat.
Egg replacements is something many people struggle with because it is such an integral part of baking but flax eggs and aquafaba (the liquid from canned chickpeas) make excellent replacements in any recipe and there I have found that the aquafaba did not change the taste of my muffins or loaves at all. To top that off, flax seeds and aquafaba are much cheaper than eggs.
Butter is quite prominent in many dishes to add that finishing rich touch but vegan butter (some margarine contains lactose so be sure to read the ingredients!) works just as well and can be replaced with a 1:1 ratio without problem. Of course there are going to be some vegan butters that work better than others in certain recipes so just experiment a little to see which one you like best!
Will my nutrition take a hit because I will be missing some vitamins?
The question of â€where do vegans gets proteinâ€™ comes up a lot whenever it is discussed. Do not worry about that because there are vegan protein shakes that people can take but aside from that, there are many natural vegetables that have high protein content such as tofu, lentils, beans, seeds, quinoa and nuts. In fact most sources of plant protein have all the essential amino acids we need!
What about eating out?
No one wants to just have a garden salad when they go out with friends because it is the only thing on the menu that is vegan. Thankfully nowadays many restaurants, while outwardly may not look vegan friendly, are always willing to accommodate any dietary restrictions. It is never an issue for chefs to omit something from the entrÃ©e such as leaving off cheese or switching up a cream sauce for a tomato sauce.
Some of my favorite cuisines that are vegan friendly happen to be Indian, Middle-Eastern and Mexican! Their menus are always so diverse it is rather easy for everyone to find something they like.
Will I bloat more? Will my skin react to the changes?
That is really dependent on the person themselves. Some people found that omitting the lactose entirely helped with keeping their bloating and acne at bay â€“ this is because while most people can digest dairy, some are more sensitive to it but do not know about their sensitivity until is it cut from their diet and their body no longer has a reaction.
With the increase of vegetable consumption, some people may find that they are bloating more because of the increase of fiber. No problem there â€“ have some more water and switch over to some lower fiber vegetables such as carrots, beets, fruits without the skin and zucchinis.
Some people also found that they needed to find ways to replace the missing collagen from their diet because their skin look duller and a little shallow. Remember the mention of seitan? That is a wonderful source of vitamins not only for your body but for your skin as well!
Will I feel tired all the time?
There are instances where people have felt tired and lethargic at first and this may be because of the sudden change (the cold turkey cut from eggs, meat and dairy into a strictly vegetables diet can be too sudden, especially if you are unsure of what your body could be lacking in terms of nutrition).
After you have adopted the vegan lifestyle for a while, some people have said they found it easier to sleep. Whether it was because they found that they are bloated less or because they just feel better is dependent on the individual.
The best way to keep from feeling exhausted during the transition phase, ease your body into everything before suddenly making changes that may or may not be compatible with it.
Remember, your body is very adaptable but it needs time to get used to the changes! It will absolutely tell you if you are moving far too fast for it to keep up. Listen to your body and learn what works and what does not and you are sure to find a way to ease into this new lifestyle!