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The Vegan Walkthrough: The Starter Pack
With every major change you make, particularly when it requires this much thought, you have to start with WHY.
Although most people become vegan because of animal cruelty, there are also a few other reasons why some people take this path:
– longevity (staying alive for longer)
– health reasons
– ethical reasons
– religious reasons
– mental challenge
– weight loss
So, when I heard about what Charlotte was doing, I asked her why she was doing it. What was motivating her to make such a radical change.
Her Answer surprised me!
“I wanted to challenge myself, to put more thought into what I was eating. I wanted something that would make me spend more time on picking and preparing the right foods and put me in more control of my diet. In honesty, I was originally going to be vegetarian, but I didn’t think that was challenging enough.”
So how about that??
When Charlotte first made her decision, she was going to become VEGETARIAN; not VEGAN!
After a couple of chats, Charlotte explained to me how her main issue was also her main motive; she would have to become more attentive to what she was eating, to ensure that there were no hidden ingredients.
Charlotte’s decision here is excellent and, if she keeps her determination, she will start finding more time to prepare and cook foods, and to look into all the ingredients and nutrition in what she is eating; she is using the difficulty as an opportunity to push her into better dietary habits.
Now, obviously, Charlotte’s ‘why’ is likely to be very different to yours, and that’s why it’s important that you don’t copy someone else when their motives may be different to yours.
You need to find your own reasons and look at what positives will come out of it.
So What’s YOUR Why?
If you’re going to realistically maintain this dietary rule permanently (or at least long term), you will need to be absolutely sure on why you’re doing it.
What do you care about?
What are you gaining from being vegan?
What is the world gaining?
Take time to think about this and make sure it’s clear in your head, as it will definitely help you in the future when you’re struggling.
Preparing for the Tough Times
When making a positive change, we don’t want to even think about the negatives – we’re feeling inspired by our choice and we want to stay high.
But this isn’t realistic, unfortunately.
You naturally don’t want to go through the negative times, but they will come.. and when ‘going vegan’, that’s gonna come by pretty quickly; as Charlotte found out.
The first struggle you’ll probably face is criticism. Your family, your friends, and your colleagues (and pretty much anyone else who isn’t vegan) are going to tell you how crazy it is what your doing. They will tell you all their views on the matter and they’re going to try put you off.
Here are a few examples you should prepare for:
– All you’ll be able to eat is grass and salad!
– Those animals are going to die anyway
– It’ll never last
– You’ll starve yourself
– What about bacon & chocolate?
– You won’t be able to have meals out
– What about family meals?
– You realise you can’t have cake, bread and pasta right? (not strictly true, btw)
– How will you get any protein?
– Where will you get essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin B-12 from?
– You do realise this isn’t healthy right?
This can all get a bit much and really make it hard on you to keep on – but this is when you must remember your ‘why’.
Now, I could quite easily defend your case in all of these issues, and you probably could too, but try to understand that the only reason they are making these comments is because they feel like their own way of eating is being challenged. Try and explain to them that this is your journey and you have your own personal reasons for doing it; this will settle most arguments.
The Practical Side
Now you’ve got past the ordeal of telling others and have hopefully got some supporters, we can look at other, more practical, areas.. like:
– What CAN’T you eat
– What CAN you eat
– What SHOULD you eat
– Do you need supplements
– Sneaky ingredients to look out for
– Ways to keep things interesting
These are all vital bits of information that you should do a lot of research on –
I’ll be sending out an individual, focused blog on each of these over the following weeks
– but to help you get started, here are some basic recommendations I give to my vegan clients in answer to all those areas…
What CAN’T you eat?
a person who does not eat or use animal products.
So being vegan actually includes not having any animaI-based products at all, whether food or not!
But clothing and makeup aren’t exactly areas of my expertise, so I’m going to leave that one for someone else to cover.
I imagine you already knew that definition, but what foods exactly does it exclude from your diet?
So, firstly, all these food groups come from animals and are therefore foods to avoid.
Secondly, they usually accumulate up to 50% of your diet (which is huge) so you’re going to need to make up for that.
Thirdly, they are your best sources of fats, proteins and some essential vitamins and amino acids, so a bit of research is needed to ensure you still get these nutrients in. (I’ll cover that in a bit)
What CAN you eat?
A vegan diet is one that consists of only plant-derived foods. For some reason, that puts a lot of people off – perhaps it’s because they have no idea what exactly comes from plants.
To help you get a full understanding, think about this:
Everything edible for humans is either animal-derived or plant-derived.
So, for anyone that is against vegan, everything on your plate that didn’t come from an animal is vegan; that’s a lot of food.
If you want to start filling your shopping basket, then here’s a list of some of the foods that you CAN eat and can find in most supermarkets (that doesn’t necessarily mean you, as an individual, should be eating them):
There are lots more than I just mentioned, but these are a good place to start.
What SHOULD you eat?
Just because you’re vegan, doesn’t mean you now have different nutritional requirements; your body is still the same organism of systems that run in the same way and require the same nutrients, it’s just that you now need to find a new way of acquiring those nutrients.
Before we go out hunting for products that say VEGAN on them, we have to know what nutrients we are looking for. There are lots of foods that are ‘totally fine’ for vegans to eat, but are by no means healthy or good for your body. So here is a list of nutrients you should take extra care to ensure you are getting in your diet:
Do you need supplements?
For the majority of peopl: NO. There are plenty of foods packed with these nutrients and, once you get a hang of things, it’s easy to get all your requirements without even thinking about supplements.
Here are some examples of foods that will combat the list of nutrients you will lose out on when you cut out animal products:
Vitamin B-12 – Nutritional yeast, fortified non-dairy and cereals.
Vitamin D – No foods, just sunlight! Light skin = about 15 minutes of sunlight/day. Dark skin = about 30 minutes/day.
Be Aware! Fortified orange juices contain Vitamin D3; but it comes from sheeps’ wool and is NOT VEGAN
Omega-3 – Flax seeds, algae, chia seeds, butternut squash, pumpkin.
Protein – Lentils, tofu, black beans, quinoa, amaranth, soy, green beans, artichokes, hemp seeds, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, tempeh, edamame, spinach, black-eyed peas, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, almonds, spirulina, nutritional yeast, chickpeas, all nuts (especially peanut).
Calcium – kale, collards, broccoli, okra, figs, oranges, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, flaxseed, sunflower seed, sesame seed, soy, chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu (if calcium sulphate is in ingredients), fortified non-dairy.
Iron – Chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, soybeans, quinoa, tofu, raisins, goji, fortified soy, pumpkin seeds, cashews, figs, sunflower seeds, tahini, prunes, whole wheat, parsley, pine nuts.
Sneaky ingredients to look out for
While it is nearly impossible to be 100% vegan (and a tremendous and futile waste of time), you obviously still want to avoid animal-products as much as possible. When looking at food labels, understand that most of the things that you’re looking for are ‘maybe sourced from meat’, and that is because you’re looking at the chemical name, not the sourc, and that chemical can be in the form of animal or plant sources. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of tracing down every last ingredient to see where it’s sourced from (the company that is selling the product probably doesn’t even know), so it’s on you to decide if you would risk it (for a chocolate biscuits, literally, in some cases).
The easy answer, if you seriously don’t want to risk consuming an animal-product, is to not have anything with an ingredient list – fruit, veg, grains, rice, beans, nuts, etc – and stay clear of any processed food.
However, if that solution really isn’t doing it for you, then the other option is to just stay away from that ‘maybe’ pile. For those of you who are digging this idea, here is a quick list of words to look out for:
Carmine (or anything else that sounds like a red colouring), Casein (or anything else with a similar ring to it), Collagen, Gelatin, Glycerine (or other words with ‘glyce’ in their name), Keratin, Lactic Acid, Lactose, Lard, Stearic Acid, Tallow, Whey.
Although this doesn’t cover everything, it certainly takes care of a good 90% of what you may find.
Ways to keep it interesting
As any non-vegan will tell you: being vegan is boring, flavourless and limited for foods.
As any vegan will tell you: being vegan is the reason why they enjoy so many interesting, flavourful and varied foods.
Seriously, I almost feel silly writing this one because they are so many thousands of delicious ways to enjoy food without animal-products involved. The only reason why you’re struggling is because you’re trying to find a vegan alternative for the normal, animal-based meals that you usually eat.
Don’t try stick in the shadow of those with a different diet than you, explore! Experiment with your own way of making foods. Throw a bunch of flavours together and see what happens. You shouldn’t be looking at vegan as a closed-down scope of options, see it as an opportunity to have complete freedom with what your meals look and taste like. You’re reinventing the glossary of foods!
Sure, there are people who have already taken this journey and will give you their tips on delicious foods, but honestly, just make it up as you go along, gradually building up your very own recipe book of amazing meals you can enjoy.
Well, I hope that filled you with confidence and inspired you to charge full speed ahead with your journey.
Like I said, this is just the starter pack for your Vegan Walkthrough and there will be lots more blogs to come, including updates on Charlotte’s journey and advice that I have for you.
But all these blogs are filled by your feedback and requests so please don’t sit quietly behind your screen, waiting for me to guess what questions you have on your mind.. send a message, leave a comment and please DO share this with anyone who may benefit from this info the same way you did!
I’ll be back next week with a blog on how Charlotte is managing and what her biggest struggles have been so far.
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I hope to hear from you soon!