Vegan diets: they’re no longer just a celebrity and health freak craze. Chances are you know a coworker, friend, or relative who has adopted a vegan lifestyle.
Like vegetarians, vegans don’t eat meat, but they also steer clear of dairy, eggs and other animal products like honey. People opt to go vegan for health, ethical or environmental reasons.
Going vegan may seem overwhelming, but know that’s it’s not impossible. Following these tips can help you make the switch:
1. Make gradual changes. If you make sweeping lifestyle changes, there’s a good chance they won’t stick. Instead, slowly wean yourself off animal protein. If you eat meat with two meals each day, cut it down to one meal at first. If you’re making hamburgers, use only half the usual amount of ground beef and replace the other half with lentils. Continue to reduce the amount of meat you use, and increase the amount of plant-based protein until you don’t miss the meat at all. Sub white beans for meat in pasta sauces, tofu or edamame for chicken in stir-fries, and black beans for steak in tacos.
2. Make smart swaps. With some creativity and flexibility, you can still make some of your favorite dishes. In place of:
- One egg: Use ¼ cup of tofu, 1 small mashed banana or ¼ cup of applesauce.
- Cow’s milk: Try soy, rice or almond milk.
- Cheese: Try soy cheese. Crumbled tofu can replace ricotta or cottage cheese.
3. Get nutrient-savvy. It’s a challenge for new vegans to get all needed vitamins and minerals without consuming meat. Eating a well-balanced diet will make you feel better, and make sticking with a vegan lifestyle easier. The following are nutrient-packed vegan foods:
- Protein: Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, nuts and nut butters and 100% whole wheat bread.
- Fat: Avocado, nuts and nut butters, coconut and oils.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D fortified orange juice, soy milk and rice milk.
- Calcium: Dark green leafy vegetables, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice.
- Iron: Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables.
4. Check out recipes. There is no shortage of vegan recipes out there. A quick search on Google or trip to the bookstore will introduce you to a host of mouth-watering vegan dishes.
5. Don’t harp on what you can’t eat… focus on what you can. It’s likely that some of your favorite foods are already vegan, like juice-based smoothies, guacamole, hummus and some pasta dishes. Other meals can be made vegan. For instance, omit the cheese from pizza or burritos and add extra veggies instead. If you really miss the cheese, try a non-dairy alternative like Daiya.