The word ‘vegan’ can be scary, but only if you let it.
To celebrate World Vegan Day, I thought it only appropriate to tell a little bit about my journey and a few of my personal tips. Keep in mind, I am no expert on the topic, and am learning every day, which is the fun of it. I have spoken on this before and am excited to touch on it again.
This all started for me when I decided to go nontoxic – from products, to people, to food. All around, I chose to live a cleaner lifestyle. I’ll preface by saying: it’s not for everybody, and that’s okay. I made the decision for myself to make the change. Cancer is something that affects almost all of us in some way. We know someone directly impacted, friend or family. That being said, I just started to believe there was a direct link to it all – the things we put in and on our bodies. And, I believe it is never too late.
There are a few things I feel helped going vegan:
- Don’t Overthink It. If you do, the word alone will scare you off. Understand going vegan doesn’t mean what you think it means. My carnivore husband ran from it like a plague. By definition, a vegan is a person who does not eat any food derived from animals and who typically does not use other animal products. Now move on.
- Going Vegan Isn’t All Broccoli. Yes, it’s veggies, but it’s bigger than that. It’s not like you’re munching on bean sprouts and celery sticks. I know what you’re thinking, ‘no meat, so what do I order at the restaurant?’ Look at it this way, how about ordering the entire side dish menu? Baked potato, French fries, salads, guac or salsa and chips, corn, you get the idea. While there may still be some cheeses and dairy, you start with small changes, which brings me to my next tip.
- What To Start With. Start small, that is key. Take it one thing at a time. If you’re one of those people who like to go all in, then go for it! But I feel gradual is best, so you don’t feel discouraged. It’s like starting in the gym, baby steps and achievable goals. You don’t have to swear off your beloved steak and cheesy nachos.
- Think alternatives. Start by swapping your milk. There are so many plant-based alternatives now that you can try them until you find what fits you. I personally had so many issues with bloating for years and I never listened to my body. It was telling me it didn’t agree with cow’s milk, but that was all I knew. Which brings me to my next point.
- What We Think We Know. After a while, you learn the discovery of it all is the fun part. We started experimenting with vegan lasagna, chocolate mousse, tacos, stroganoff, and more. I will say, if you know my mom, you know she makes the best stroganoff hands down but my alternative meat and dairy-free version gives her a run for her money (sorry Mom). The true test was serving all of our dishes for dinner. We would receive nothing but compliments (nobody knew it was vegan until after). That was the proof. It’s all in your head. We are so programmed from a young age that cow’s milk is for calcium, meat is for protein, and so on. Throw out what you think you know about the food pyramid. I’ve learned things now that I never knew before.
It’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle Shift
Did you know cauliflower is naturally high in fiber and B-vitamins? It provides antioxidants and phytonutrients that can protect against cancer. It also contains fiber to enhance weight loss and digestion, choline that is essential for learning and memory, and many other important nutrients. So take that all into account and then I’ll say – ‘how many of us really like cauliflower?’ Okay, but here’s an idea: toss a cup of frozen riced cauliflower into the smoothie you already make. It has no taste and adds creaminess to your smoothie, plus you’re getting all of those vitamins WIN-WIN! I do it for our son every day practically. He is 2, a show of hands of many people think he would eat an actual piece of cauliflower on his plate. Exactly. He is none the wiser, nor is my husband. That’s just one example.
Try starting with integration. Cut your meat serving in half and up the number of sides on your plate. Infuse veggies into your protein smoothies (e.g. frozen riced cauliflower, avocado, spinach). Going vegan doesn’t mean you can’t have what you love, that is proven! Sometimes, you can have more than you ever imagined!
Going With Alternatives
Once you get past the stigma of what you think you know, you realize how many options are out there. Not only store-bought alternatives but cooking as well. Just be wary of words like “organic” or “natural.” Just because it’s on the packaging doesn’t mean it’s all good. Remember that EWG app I mentioned to you? For reference, that’s a good tool to use while shopping. Scan the food packages and it will give you the breakdown just like the cosmetic and household products.
Some Ideas For Getting Started:
- Milk. While I was breastfeeding, I swapped to oat milk. Afterward, we tried soy milk. Same for our creamers. Are you a Starbucks junkie? They have non-dairy creamers available as well.
- Meats. Okay, I know this is a tough one. There are options on the market, while they are not the “best” when it comes to nutrients, they are better than meat. Meat crumbles are a good place to start if I had to recommend one to try. It can be easily swapped and used for pasta Bolognese, lasagna, taco meat, and more! Since it all mixes in with sauce, I promise you the taste will be the same.
- Tofu. This was a tough one but, once you learn the versatile ways you can use it, tofu becomes a staple for going vegan. One of my favorite ways to use tofu is as the main base for chocolate mousse. It is thicker and creamier than any mousse I’ve ever had and is a winner at the dinner table every single time. You WILL NOT know the difference and will be asked what the secret ingredient to this recipe is.
That’s just a small place to start, and some ideas. I’m not a nutritionist but do love this journey and spend a lot of time reading on it and learning for my own interest and health. Going through pregnancy after just transitioning to a vegan lifestyle one year prior was a concern – but I quickly realized I was probably better off (and the doctor agreed)!
Know that whatever you feel is the challenge, you are doing something great for your body and health. Also, if nothing else, keep in mind you are doing something great for our animals and our planet. There is a huge impact of our footprint when it comes to agriculture today. Here’s a great documentary to watch on our earth and sustainability. I thought it to be intriguing. My husband and I watched this documentary together, which was our first, which really opened our eyes. As I say with everything, take it with a grain of salt (lime and tequila if you’d like) but just be open-minded. Give everything a try.
If you have an awesome vegan recipe or questions, post in the comments so we can share and discuss!
Wondering where to eat on the go? Check out this post featuring local vegan spots, tips, and ideas the whole family will love!