The vegan movement has soared in the past few years, with more and more young people especially who are becoming aware of the detriments of a meat-based diet. A contributing factor to climate change and not to mention the treatment of animals in the industry, these are just some of the reasons why people have converted.
However, it’s not just your own personal philosophy that needs to change; a vegan diet can be hard for beginners and if not done right you will find yourself wanting to revert back to your original lifestyle. When looking into veganism you need to not only be aware of the sacrifices you’re making but also need to make sure you’re still getting the sufficient nutrients needed for your body to remain healthy.
Not to worry though! It’s not as daunting as it first seems, once you get into the swing of things the vegan lifestyle is just as fun, enriching and varied as when you were eating meat, even more so with the added moral high ground. So with that lets get into some tips for beginners who are wanting to get into a vegan diet.
1. Make sure your body is getting enough protein
The title says it all. Your body requires protein for muscle growth and to heal general skin injuries. Without the essential nutrients, your body will suffer the consequences. And don’t be fooled by certain vegans who claim we get everything we need from plants regardless.
In fact, plants only contain few of the essential amino acids that we need, the rest can be made up from meat. So the question is, how much protein should we be intaking per day? Well, it all depends on your body weight. Around 0.8 grams of protein is needed per kilogram of body weight.
For the average sized woman, that’s 46 grams per day and for the average man 56 grams. Now for some vegan protein alternatives! There are in fact some fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in protein and are therefore important to incorporate into a vegan diet.
* Tofu It’s a bit of a vegan stereotype but it’s a staple for a reason. Tofu contains around 10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.
There are plenty of recipes online to incorporate this very versatile piece of food into your dinners, it’s wet floppy look may seem unappetizing at first but after sprinkling some herbs and putting it into the oven it can be quite delicious. In fact if you find yourself missing some meaty food, depending on how you cook it, tofu can be the perfect replacement.
It’s malleable nature makes it great for meat substitutes
* Soy in general is also a fantastic meat free way to get protein! Edamame beans (immature soybeans), tempeh, soy milk etc. They can all be delicious when cooked right and provide the right nutrients.
* Whey Powder Although it’s mostly used by bodybuilders to gain muscle, drinking a whey protein shake is still beneficial for the average person to gain those nutrients! Not only is it a really filling and delicious breakfast/ snack, but whey powder can come in many flavors like chocolate, banana, strawberry, just to name a few.
* Beans, nuts and seeds are also cheap, yet fulfilling vegan protein alternatives. You can incorporate things like chickpeas and lentils into your dinner and lunches if you wish OR if you’re feeling peckish, snack on some nuts and seeds for lunch.
These are just some of the possible vegan protein alternatives you can include, if you’re looking for some more variety, do some research.
Jumping off of that last point it is important to do your own research to see what suits you the most. Veganism isn’t necessarily a one size fits all so make sure before making such a drastic change to your diet, that this lifestyle suits any medical needs you may have and search for possible alternatives if a certain vegan food isn’t good for you!
3. Speaking of health, I cannot recommend regular doctor visits enough! Make sure your body isn’t deficient in any key vitamin or nutrient by visiting your doctor at least once every six months and getting blood tests done. You may find that you’ll need supplemental substitutes.
4. Supplements are a more direct way to gain the most important nutrients you need. They can be cheap and there is a huge variety of different types for different needs! Holland and Barrett have an excellent range of supplements if you need or you can the same kind of range from any local pharmacy!
5. Skin care and Hair care:
In the initial stages of veganism you may find your skin breaking out more often, or perhaps your hair has lost its shine but don’t worry. It’s natural that after such a drastic change, your body will be trying to find its equilibrium.
However, you can definitely speed up this process by practicing some skincare and haircare treatments. Naturally it’s the absence of protein that is the main cause so make sure your remedies are rooted in that specific nutrient.
My main recommendations are homemade avocado hair masks, or if you want splash out you can buy some protein hair masks online! My favorite is the Aphogee protein treatment range, I promise you it’s a miracle. For your skin, the only thing I can recommend is patience and a dedicated skincare routine. It will eventually get back to normal no matter what so not to worry.
6. Just have fun with it!
The most important step is to be creative with your meals and make food that you genuinely enjoy eating. There’s no point in veganism if you’re just going to dread each meal and miserably eat a salad.
There are hundreds and thousands of FREE recipes online that give you vegan meals to suit even the fussiest eater. With a range of flavors, ethnic origins and skill level, you will find something that is definitely for you. No excuses!
Remember that veganism isn’t just a diet, it’s lifestyle that is primarily rooted in the safety of animals and saving our planet from the impact that the harvesting of animals has had.
If your heart isn’t in the right place by thinking this is diet is trendy or a way to lose weight then you’ll find yourself quitting very soon or seriously damaging your health.
If you’re genuinely compassionate about this lifestyle but just don’t know where to start, remember to look back at these tips and I promise you, you will be fine. Happy cooking fellow vegans.