Is an environmentally friendly living on your agenda this new year? Want to embrace a holistic diet that doesn’t involve crunching on carrots all day? It is evident that more and more people have decided to follow a vegan diet for ethical, environmental or health reasons; no doubt that there are several health benefits of going vegan, including a well-defined waist and better control of blood sugar levels. However, veganism is a process – at least for most people. When embarking on the vegan journey, changes are not implemented optimally from the beginning; rather, it is a process of ups and downs that can take several weeks, months or even years. It’s great that you’ve made the decision not to consume animal products anymore, but remember that it’s okay to do it step by step.
If you are interested in a vegan diet and are wondering how to get started, or if you have already taken the first steps but are still struggling, this article is for you! This comprehensive guide offers undogmatic tips on the vegan diet: We present purely vegan options and explain what you should pay attention to a vegan diet. In addition, we show that vegan life does not have to be complicated.
Understand What the Vegan Diet Is
Avoid animal products, act ethically and live sustainably – that is the idea behind the vegan life. But what exactly does the vegan diet entail? Vegans usually avoid all products that contain animal ingredients and eat only plant-based. They do not only abstain from meat and fish, but also from all other foods of animal origin, even if no animals were killed during production.
The idea of this way of life is to act more ethically. The concept arises from the belief that animals should not have to be killed to make your own life possible. Added to this is the sustainability aspect: contaminated meat from factory farming, ongoing climate change, and the hope of a healthier diet all contribute to the switch to the vegan lifestyle.
Although the overall concept of veganism is to abstain from animal-derived products, it is important to remember that veganism means something different for everyone; for some, it means to lead a healthier and more vital life. For others, it is a non-violent way of living that has been designed to prevent avoidable suffering. Even the way into veganism looks different for everyone.
Be Clear On What Not to Eat
As the name implies, a holistic vegan diet involves abstinence from dairy products, eggs, and meat. Even foods that only contain additives from animal sources are not part of a consistently vegan diet. While most meat and sausage alternatives are vegan, some vegan products do contain milk and eggs. It is therefore advisable to study the list of ingredients carefully.
It also makes sense to pay attention to which other ingredients are used. Low-processed foods are healthier than those that have been heavily processed. Also, wine, which consists of fruits, is often clarified with the help of gelatin – which is not vegan-friendly. The binder gelatin is obtained from the connective tissue of pigs or cattle.
As for a vegan lifestyle, many vegans do not only abstain from animal food, but also from leather, fur, down pillows, wool, and other products which all involve animal components during production. Even many cosmetics are often not vegan-friendly, as they may contain animal additives such as collagen, carmine or keratin. Some cosmetics also contain secondary animal products such as beeswax, milk or honey as well as synthetic substances that have been tested on animals. Even various everyday products such as medicines and even wallpaper pastes can contain animal substances.
Know Your Basic Foods
At the beginning of your vegan journey, there are some exciting recipes to try out. You will discover many new foods to try out. As fun as it may be, it is always best to keep your diet relatively simple in the beginning.
As clear as the vegan diet may seem, many beginners still have a hard time figuring out which foods to purchase for a simple meal. The good news is that when you start with some basic foods, you pretty much have an all-round supply for the entire week. You do not need expensive superfoods to keep you healthy neither do you have to shop in the organic market. Just grab some delicious staple foods and build a base with them. With basic foods, you can begin to visualize which foods to cook on which day. This can further guide you when it comes to shopping for further ingredients that can help maintain balance in your body. Here are some basic foods to look out for;
- Beans: chickpea lentils, beans, soy – These can be stewed, boiled in a salad, boiled puree for hamburgers, prepared as tofu.
- Normal or whole grain cereals: quinoa, oats, buckwheat, corn, rice, pasta – These can be boiled with different types of vegetables, eaten as cereals or boiled with various vegetable kinds of milk for texture preparation and enrichment.
- Unroasted nuts: cashews, plums, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts – The can be eaten alone or thrown into salads and stews
- Vegetables or vegetables: celery, zucchini, potato, carrot, cauliflower, aubergines, onions, ginger, garlic,
- Herbs and spices; like basil, oregano, thyme; the seeds, sesame, flax seeds
- Fruit: banana, apple, oranges, melon, strawberries, mangoes, raspberries, pineapple, watermelon, coconut.
Know Your Meat Alternatives
Although the basis for a vegan diet is fruits and vegetables, the variety of vegan alternatives to meat is excellent. Substitutes for dairy products such as cheese, yogurt or cream are usually made from soy, tofu, seitan or tempeh. Foods made from soy, legumes or wheat protein are also an essential source of protein in a vegan diet. So people with certain food intolerances or allergies have various alternatives. Here are further details on each one;
- Tofu: Tofu is the classic meat substitute and has been a staple food in Asia for centuries. They are made from soya beans soaked in water, which are then processed into a fine puree. The mass is then filtered, thereby separating the solid fiber components from the liquid portion. The resulting soy protein is then pressed into tofu blocks, packaged and pasteurized. In addition, flavored smoked tofu is a hearty component in various dishes.
- Soya granules: Soy granules, also known as soybean meat are ground and squeezed mechanically in several courses during production. This alternative is particularly well suited for vegan burgers and meatballs, minced beef steaks, bolognese sauce, and chili con carne. Soy granules are available in most organic markets and health food stores as well as in many supermarkets.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. With an average of 20 g of protein and high fiber, content Tempeh can, therefore, be part of a balanced, full-fledged diet. It is available in most organic markets and health food stores as well as in some supermarkets.
- Wheat protein: Wheat protein has been used in Asia for millennia under the name ‘Seitan’. The consistency is similar to meat and it is easy to season and prepare. During production, the wheat flour is processed with water into a dough and washed out. As a result, a large part of the starch is also washed out and leaves behind a tough, protein-rich mass. Seitan obtains the meat-like consistency and taste by cooking or steaming the raw material in a spicy marinade.
- Lupine protein: Lupine, like soybean, is a protein-rich legume. It is considered the meat substitute of the future. It has a particularly high-quality protein count, and also contains all the essential amino acids.
Stock Up On Vitamins, Minerals & Protein Sources
Plant-based foods can also meet the essential nutrient requirements for a balanced diet. For vegans, it is particularly important to ensure an adequate supply of iron, calcium, iodine, zinc, vitamin D and B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Before deciding to live vegan, ensure to uptake on the following nutrients;
- Zinc – Zinc supports the body’s defense mechanisms. Opt for legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils which all have a good amount of zinc.
- Iron – Iron is essential for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Good iron suppliers include millet, quinoa, amaranth, lentils, and dried porcini mushrooms.
- Calcium – Calcium is especially important for healthy bones and is present in tofu, broccoli, kale, nuts, sesame, and legumes. In addition, calcium-fortified drinks such as soy drink and naturally calcium-rich mineral water are available.
- B12 Vitamins – Vitamin B12 occurs only in animal foods – vegans need to consume the vitamin via supplements.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is also vital for healthy bones, immunity, nerves, and muscle function. An uptake of mushrooms, almond milk, soy yogurts will be beneficial.
- Proteins – Protein is essential for building the bones, skin, and muscles. The body also uses protein for repairing tissues and for making enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Opt for wheat, soy granules, tofu and tempeh which are all very good sources of protein.
Remove food Little By Little
One of the most common reasons why many vegan diets fail is due to the dramatic changes taken by those who embark on the journey too quickly. As quickly as the meat, fish, milk, eggs and everything animal disappears from the fridge and pantry, as quickly it comes back in. So do not be put under pressure by other vegans; remember that those who have previously been vegetarian often find it easier to move on to a vegan lifestyle. And if you have been a meat eater all your life, you will need to take time to master the changes.
More importantly, your will body will need time to adjust to the new lifestyle. So far, it has received food of all kinds and the move to veganism is not something that can be drastically implemented. Rather, it is something that has to be progressively. Abrupt changes can cause an imbalance in your body, as your stomach, intestine, and digestive system are used to receiving certain types of nutrients.
Eat Seasonal Foods
Many vegans want to save animals and the environment with their lifestyle and diet. However, it is more environmentally friendly to eat mainly regionally and seasonally.
So you should always pay attention to where the vegan foods come from; exotic fruits such as avocado or jackfruit often have a lousy eco-balance.
Buy Vegan Cookbooks
With your transition to vegan, you’ll embark on a culinary journey of discovery, where you’ll get to know many new delicious foods. If you are looking for inspiration, there are many books on the market about vegetarianism and veganism and you can find great copies written by vegan chefs who can guide you in your new cooking habits. You will gradually gain a better understanding of how to combine certain foods that until now you did not know how to integrate or mix so that they provide you with the combination of the perfect nutrients. You will then be able to create your own unique dishes for each day of the week to avoid the monotonous preparation of food, prevent relapses and avoid fast food that lacks the necessary nutrients.
Go At Your Own Pace
General instructions for the vegan lifestyle are not always straightforward. The wealth of information online can sometimes be contradictory. This is because many vegans approach the lifestyle differently with many sticking to strict rules on how veganism should be lived. While one vegan prefers to embark on advanced steps into seeking further information from a manufacturer about the production process of a certain product, another will make many exceptions. Additionally, there are those who can handle radical cuts, while others prefer to take things slowly and can only gradually approach the new way of life.
Also, remember that a relapse into old habits is not bad – you are not expected to change your diet in just one day, week or month. It may even be years before you can fully embrace the vegan concept. So if you are a beginner, always go your own way – at your pace.