It’s official! I have been a vegan for 15 years. Looking back through the mists of time, I vaguely remembered that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to function at all for a year as a vegan, let alone eventually thrive and joggle sub-4 hours marathons. It wasn’t easy at first, but after about 6 months I got used to it and there was no turning back. My going vegan doesn’t change the fact that billions of animals are still getting slaughtered every year for meat, for fur, and in labs, but it’s my own small way to not contribute to this endless horror and hopefully help move things in the right direction.
If you are interested in going vegan, here’s some resources and advice gained from being a vegan for 15 years: First, check out Vegan 101: Planning Healthy Vegan Diets so that you’re up to speed with what you need to know to be a healthy vegan. Not sure what you’re going to eat every day? Then here’s a 21-Day Vegan Meal Plan from the PCRM. Oh She Glows also has tons of vegan recipes so that you never run out of ideas. It’s an exciting time to be a vegan, with so many options out there and growing.
When people come to me for advice on being vegan, I give them advice that is practical, easy to follow, and science-based. Practicality does not mean sacrificing nutrition or flavor, it simply means making the diet and lifestyle easy to stick to for people with busy lives. Rice and beans, pasta and vegetables, oatmeal, and peanut butter(or tahini) and jelly sandwiches are what I commonly eat. I admit I sometimes overdo it with the peanut butter. Tofu is a great source of protein and very versatile.
Whenever possible, buy food in bulk to save money, cook in bulk and don’t believe the fear-mongering about microwaves. You don’t need to buy organic. You don’t need to learn the origin of every food ingredient overnight to see if it is vegan or not, so don’t stress yourself out over this. Take your time learning about these ingredients.
Take a B-12 supplement. You may also require iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamin D which you can get from some vegan supplements or enriched foods. You can get omega 3s by eating flaxseeds and walnuts. In my experience, people who fail at veganism were probably deficient in one or more of these vital nutrients. They either weren’t supplementing or they weren’t eating enough nutritious, well-balanced meals.
A little over 10 years ago I came down with anemia for a few months, even though I regularly ate high iron plant foods. An iron supplement quickly reversed this and I was back to my regular rigorous athletic activities. Keep in mind that plant iron is much more difficult to absorb than animal derived iron and that vitamin C helps you absorb more iron. Consult a doctor or dietitian before taking anything to ensure you are getting the proper dosage from a reputable source.
Last but not least, ignore the fads. Fad diets come and go, but veganism at its essence is no fad. These overly restrictive diets make it so difficult to stick with the lifestyle that they greatly increase your chances of becoming an ex-vegan, and believe me, I know a lot of ex-vegans. What fads am I referring to? I mean rawfoodism, “clean” eating, paleo-veganism, macrobiotics, gluten-free, alkaline diet, oil-free, “detox” diets, as well as countless hybrids of these pointless distractions. Also, don’t buy into the hype about “superfoods”. My 10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan goes into detail about why these diets are nonsensical and potentially harmful.
If you are eating a balanced whole food vegan diet, these fad diets do nothing to improve your diet or make you healthier. By and large, these diets, which have nothing to do with veganism, are based on pseudoscience and virtually no reputable health professionals recommend them. Ignore, or better yet, laugh at the pesky food police on social media who are quick to castigate anyone for adding olive oil to food or eating processed food or nuts in moderation. The gurus who promise perfect health are best avoided.
By following the advice offered above, and embracing science and critical thinking, you shouldn’t have any major issues adjusting to a vegan lifestyle. This is really all you need to know to get started. I hope you found this information useful. If you think I left out something important, please leave a comment. If you have any questions please post something in the comments or email me, I love to help people transition to a more cruelty-free lifestyle.