5 Actionable Steps for the Vegan-Curious
Whenever I tell someone I'm a vegan, in return, I often hear a list of all the things they couldn't possibly give up to be vegan. People fear becoming vegan because they will miss cheese, eggs, and meat; somehow the plight of the environment or animal life never seems to be justification enough to help omnivores change their long-held beliefs. Being a vegan isn't hard. It's easier than ever to adopt and stick to a plant based lifestyle, and I've got five small yet actionable steps to get you there.
Myths about Being Vegan
In addition to fearing what they'll miss omnivores perceive the vegan diet to be protein deficient. The World Health Organization has found that iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder affecting both developing and industrialized countries thanks to the nutrient deficient processed foods most people consume. There are plenty plant-based sources of protein for vegans to consume. If a vegan diet is planned properly, protein deficiency won’t be a problem.
Omnivores have told me that veganism will cause me to lose my hair or make me physically weak. This myths is consistently proven false thanks to famous athletes like tennis player Venus Williams, former NBA player John Salley, Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Farris, Ultramarathoner, Scott Jurek and UFC & MMA fighter Mac Danzig, who are all active and accomplished individuals with hair.
When I speak passionately about animals rights or the dangers of the so-called standard American diet, I'm seen as aggressive and pushy. That's not my intention. I just want everyone to open their eyes to the fact that diet just like many other beliefs in our society is a subject we need to unlearn. If our common ideology on civil rights, women's rights, and other social issues can evolve and change the more we learn, why can't our beliefs around what constitutes a healthy diet or healthy eating evolve as well?
Despite the fears and the prevailing myths that exist about vegans and the vegan lifestyle, thanks to social media and other online resources, people are more vegan curious than ever. According to Google Trends, there was a 90% increase in vegan searches in 2016. Vegan food was the top 2016 Google search term in New York City. On YouTube, you can find quick and simple vegan recipe videos. On Instagram, you’ll find tons of appetizing pictures of deliciously cooked vegan foods and drinks.
When I was vegan-curious, the medium that helped convert me was Netflix. Watching documentaries about the benefits of being vegan and the horrors inflicted on animals during the “sentient being to meat parts process” pushed me into action. After witnessing the carnage, I could no longer be a vegetarian; I felt compelled to help the animals and the planet by becoming a vegan. Many people’s vegan stories begin with the same catalyst; I watched this video, or I heard this speaker, or I read this book about veganism. Easily accessible videos, books, online resources and interviews with compelling vegan speakers are working to increase the non-vegan's curiosity about the lifestyle.
Gradual Yet Actionable Steps You Can Take
Start with Meatless Mondays. Meatless Mondays started during World War I, when the U.S. Food Administration asked families to reduce their consumption of key staples to aid in the war effort. The program was revived in 2003 by former ad man turned health advocate Sid Lerner, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. The newly revamped health campaign’s goal was to bring awareness to the illnesses linked to excessive meat consumption. Since 2003, Meatless Mondays has grown into a global movement.
Cooking and eating meatless dishes on Mondays is a great way to kick off a healthy week. Meatless recipes are available on Pinterest, check out my vegan dinner board here for inspiration, meatless meals are even shipped to your home from meal delivery services like Hello Fresh or Green Chef. Eating meatless has almost become fool proof. Oh and just by skipping meat on Mondays, you’re eating 52 vegan or vegetarian meals per year! See you’re already off to a good start.
Swap out milk or creamer for a dairy free option. Try using a soy or coconut creamer for your coffee or tea. Almond, cashew or walnut milk for your breakfast cereals, oatmeal or in your smoothies. There are so many plant-based and nut-based milk on the market for you to try; you can try a different one each week until you find the right fit for you and your family.
Swap traditional butter for a vegan buttery spread, like Earth Balance. Earth Balance’s vegan buttery spread comes in many varieties, coconut, olive oil, soy free or original. I use the Earth Balance buttery spread on my toast; I also bake and cook with it. It’s one of those vegan substitutes that’s so delicious; I often wonder if I’m eating vegan butter.
Use vegan substitutes for in your favorite recipes. Instead of jumping to veganism cold turkey like I did, read about my vegan journey here, you can gradually adopt the lifestyle by using substitutes. If you or your family love spaghetti with meatballs or meat sauce, make the dish with zucchini noodles and meatless meatballs or meatless crumbles instead. I recently made this Sloppy Joe recipe using the Beyond Meat crumbles. Swap out beef or turkey burgers for the vegan variety which you can find in stores or make your own veggie burgers using your favorite can of beans. Vegan substitutes exist for just about everything even eggs. Check out the Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg here. With these products, you and your family can create a meal plan for transitioning to veganism in a stress-free way.
Eat more fruits and veggies. Regularly eating fruits and vegetables ensures that you get a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your diet. The American Heart Association recommends filling at least half your plate with fruits and veggies; I say fill the whole plate. There are many ways to integrate fruits and veggies into your family’s diet. Make smoothies or smoothie bowls. Eat them as a snack or add them to your favorites dishes. I love adding kale or spinach to my soups and stews or adding fruits to my dairy free yogurt or vegan pancakes. Fruits and vegetables can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, some types of cancers and digestive problems.
Note: This post is for informational purposes only and shouldn't replace your doctor's advice or guidance. Consult your physician before making any changes to your health, diet or lifestyle.