Most vegans didn't start out this way. I wasn't eating a plant-based diet until just last year (2015!), believing many of the myths associated with the diet. I have since learnt that it's incredibly common to make the switch, I don't need to protein combine, and it's not as hard as you probably think.
When people find out I eat a plant-based diet, there are usually two or three reactions:
- "I could never be vegan. I like meat too much!" (or, substitute meat with cheese)
- "It's too hard. How will I get protein?!"
- "It's just not healthy. I know my body needs meat."
As many of us know, a plant-based diet is incredibly healthy, we don't need meat, there are many superior sources of protein, and avoiding meat and cheese isn't hard if you follow some simple quality recipes (and/or buy quality alternatives).
So what are my tips when you are just starting out? Here they are.
- Find good recipes (such as the ones here!), invest in the right tools, and learn to cook if need be. You will need to prepare food at home, because most resturants, food services are not geared towards this way of eating. The good news is, if you don't cook, you can expect to save a lot of money. And as this site will show you, following simple recipes is quite easy. Focus on flavor and you're off to the races.
As for tools, you will want to make sure you have what you need to make things easier. For us it was a juicer and a Vitamix blender. This helps us get our nutrients, and get more creative in the kitchen (especially with desserts and sauces). An immersion blender with a food processor attachment is also an excellent addition to your toolbox.
- Educate yourself about nutrition (properly). You will hear a lot of myths from family, friends, and especially the internet. You need to learn what's true, and what isn't. I didn't take on a vegan diet because a very educated friend (with a PhD) told me protein combining was necessary and difficult. Guess what... it's not even true.
So make sure you grab some quality literature to learn the basics. Learn how to eat a varied diet of the most nutrient dense whole foods, and you will avoid a "junk food vegan" diet. It's possible to get any diet wrong and eat an unhealthy unbalanced diet, even a plant-based one. So make sure you understand the basics first, so you can avoid problems.
- Learn where to shop for good, organic produce (inexpensive and good sources). Organic is very important. Not only is GMO possibly quite unhealthy if you believe reputable scientific sources, non-organic food contains some rather scary pesticide residues. Search Google for farmers markets, farm boxes, "ugly" produce (misshapen or surplus produce), co-ops, or discount grocery stores. If you have a great source for ingredients, or an easy way to get them such as door delivery, it's much easier to get creative in the kitchen and stick with your new diet.
- Experiment with rich flavors, such as great spices, sauces, condiments, marinades, dressings, and dips. This made the biggest difference in my transition. Because you are already eating healthy, and these elements are a small percentage of your overall calorie count, invest in taste! Once I figured out great ways to flavor my food, I hardly missed the foods I used to eat.
- Don't be afraid of "transition" foods. These are the fake meats, cheeses, butters, and so on. You can make them yourself when you're ready to drop processed foods (which is good), but if you read the labels many of these foods are made without bad ingredients and can be an easy and efficient way to start eating plant-based. So read labels, make the best choice you can, and learn what's possible! These foods are an excellent way to make the switch. And it's not bad to stick with the brands/products that don't use preservatives and nasty ingredients, and the list of the safe products is growing day by day.
And give yourself some time and take it easy! If you go too fast without a plan, it can lead to burn-out or failure. So take it day by day and don't be afriad of cheating a bit when you're just starting out.
- Learn the local plant-based friendly restaurants. You will probably still eat out with friends, family, or when you're in a rush. Eating vegan food in a restaurant can be daunting or depressing. So learn about what restaurants are vegan or vegetarian friendly, and what options are at restaurants that aren't. Research ahead, and don't be afraid to ask friends to adjust plans when necessary/possible.
So there you have it. Getting started? Let us know in the comments, and any comments, recommendations or questions you might have.