Things You MUST Know Before Going Vegan

Veganism has seen a gigantic rise in popularity in recent years – 600% in the US alone!

A vegan diet is not like your typical diet fad that comes and goes, this one’s here to stay. It used to be seen as an extreme to be a vegan but now with all the athletes and celebrities going vegan, it’s become more mainstream.

There are so many vegan alternatives at grocery stores and even non-vegan restaurants offering vegan options, that has made it so much easier for anyone to adopt a vegan diet.

Now let’s start off with ‘what is a vegan?’ A vegan is someone who lives a vegan lifestyle – basically not supporting products that exploit animals in any way.  

Being a vegan means different things to different people. To me, it means eating a plant-based diet, not wearing things like fur or leather, not supporting animal-tested products, and not going to places that use animals as entertainment like zoos and circuses.

Be at peace with ALL living beings

But whether you’re doing it for the animals, the environment, or your health, chances are you’re going to go through some hurdles.

Everything is possible if you have the will and determination. Becoming a vegan is definitely one of them.

When I first started out, I used to look at people who had been vegans for decades and thought to myself ‘if they did it 10, 20, or even 30 years ago then I definitely can do it too!’ Back then, they didn’t have nearly as many vegan options as we do now.

If you’re just starting out, you’ve come to the right place at the right time!

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Here are the most important things you must know before going vegan.

Start slow

Rome wasn’t built in a day. So don’t expect to learn everything there is about veganism overnight.

At first, you’ll have a ton of info coming at you. When you first discover the things behind the meat and dairy industry, it will open up your eyes to a world you probably didn’t know much about. It can become overwhelming so take your time learning everything.

We live in a predominantly non-vegan world with unhealthy eating habits – so your small adjustments will turn into big, lifelong habits.

If you transition gradually, the chances of you sticking to it become a lot higher. It can take you weeks or even months to fully transition. But it doesn’t matter how fast you get there, as long as you get there!

Slow and steady…

Substitute one thing at a time

Instead of changing everything in your fridge and pantry all at once, aim to replace one thing at a time. You can start by trying one new vegan item each week.

You can make this a weekly tradition like ‘meatless Mondays’ which have become super popular on recipe sites. Then gradually start eliminating one meat/dairy product at a time.

Before you know it you’ve eliminated all animal products from your life!

Doctors recommend that you don’t eliminate anything else while transitioning – like oil or gluten – since that will make it even harder to follow.

When you make drastic changes, often times you fall off track. But when making small changes gradually, you have more time to adjust to those small changes which will motivate you to keep going.

There will be slip ups

Most people experience temptations or cravings when first starting out. No one’s perfect so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re falling off tracks.

This can become a lot more stressful than actually making the decision to go vegan!

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just dust it off and try again (some Aaliyah lyrics for you!). The fact that you’re trying is more than what most people can say for themselves.

Don’t let it stop you from reaching your goal.

There are a few things you can do to avoid slipups. You can read more about how to fight against temptations here.

Oops I did it again!

Try new vegan alternatives and recipes

This is the best part! You get to try out foods you probably would’ve never tried like cauliflower wings or chocolate avocado pudding.

There seems to be a vegan alternative for all of your favorite dishes. Some better than their non-vegan dishes. You can now buy vegan substitutes at your health food store or look for the health food/organic aisle at the local grocery store.

Don’t be afraid to try processed foods that remind you of non-vegan foods. These can get pricey so if you’re adventurous you can just put on your chef’s hat and try a new vegan recipe.

There are a ton of creative recipes online like vegan cheese, ice cream, sauces, desserts and many more.

Have fun with it and I guarantee you’ll find recipes that you’ll love!

Yum and YUM!

Star with these quick and easy vegan breakfast recipes that anyone can make.

Try new restaurants

This is the fun part #2! One of the biggest social aspects of our culture is going out to restaurants – whether if it’s for birthdays, work functions, or just casual Sundays.

Just because you’re vegan now doesn’t mean that you can’t eat out at your favorite restaurants anymore. You’re going to have to ask a couple of questions about some of the ingredients or ask the chef to make you a special dish without any dairy or meat.

I’ve never had a chef refuse my request. They rather have your business than not at all. Most chefs are more than happy to accommodate your dietary needs.

You can also search for local restaurants near you that are vegan or have vegan options available. If you’re having a hard time finding one, try Chinese, Thai, Jamaican, Persian, Ethiopian, or Indian restaurants. They almost always have vegan options even if they’re not listed as vegan on the menu.

You can also use apps like Happy Cow and VegGuide.

So many different vegan cuisines

Find a support group

This will be your number one source of support. This is a critical step. Your support group can also become your accountability partners for times when you feel like giving up.

This can be Facebook groups or even local vegan hangouts, or a friend who’s already vegan. You will have lots and lots of questions.

You will also have frustrations and you’re going to need a support group that knows exactly what you’re going through. Being able to vent to someone who has probably gone through the same thing will make the transition so much easier.

It can be a lonely path if you’re doing it alone.

There are always people who have already done it or who are in the process of becoming vegans. Connect with those people and your experience will be so much more enjoyable.

Find your tribe of vegans

Take supplements

This is one thing that needs to be taken seriously. As a vegan, there are certain vitamins that you might not be getting enough of in your vegan diet.

In order to transition properly, you’re going to have to pay attention to your daily intake of protein and certain vitamins – until you get the hang of things.

One of the main supplements is B12 that mainly comes from animals (who get it from the soil/grass they consume or get supplemented). Unless you’re planning on eating a ton of soil then it’s best to take B12 supplements. That’s one thing you can’t skimp out on! The consequences can be severe.

I always take a multi-vitamin and iron pills besides the B12 especially for those days that I don’t get enough time to eat properly. For those days supplements will help.

Don’t forget to take your daily vitamins

Make sure you’re getting enough protein

This is probably your family’s number one concern! Just like vitamins, your protein intake as a vegan is also very important.

The majority of the US population is protein deficient based on the western diet. Vegans need to be even more cautious to get enough protein on a daily basis. Protein plays such an important part in body functioning like maintaining muscle mass, bones, skin, blood, and hormones.

Don’t underestimate the power of protein.

Use apps like MyFitnessPal to keep track of your daily nutrient intake until you get the hang of things. You can get protein from edamame (1 cup = 17 grams), chickpeas (1 cup = 15 grams), ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (10 grams), and so many more like other nuts, nut butter, quinoa, soy milk, and the list goes on.

There are even vegan protein bars, shakes, powders that you can use for those days you’re on the go.

Food labels will become your new bff

As a new vegan, you’re going to have to learn how to read labels on food products.

The labels tell the story of food – where it came from, its nutritional breakdown, and which chemicals are added to it.

Don’t forget to read labels on chips, sauces, fast food ingredients. Some restaurants have mayo in their sauces or butter on their buns and vegetables.

You’ll find out things like your favorite Mrs. Vickie’s salt and vinegar chips have milk ingredients! You’ll also learn so many salad dressings have egg whites – yuck!

There are also some specific ingredients you need to look out for. There are just way too many to list so here’s a great list from PETA. Get familiar with these ingredients and before you know it, you’ll already know which products to buy and which ones to stay away from.

Learn to read labels and those sneaky non-vegan ingredients

It doesn’t automatically make you healthy

Some people have the idea in their head that if you eat vegan that it automatically makes you healthy. That’s far from it.

In recent years there have been a lot of vegan processed foods like vegan hot dogs, vegan cheese, vegan desserts that if consumed in high amounts will make you fat!

I have a friend who saw the ingredients on a vegan gummy bear bag and said ‘it has carnauba wax!!’ As in she thought it was supposed to be healthy just because it was vegan! I had a good laugh.

Now think about this, non-vegan foods have the negatives of the meat and dairy AND they have other chemicals like carnauba wax in them.

So be aware that just because something is vegan it doesn’t make it healthy. The less processed it is the better.

Aim to eat a whole food plant-based diet. That’s a mouthful! The closer it is to its original form, the healthier.

Just the same, if you eat vegan doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to lose weight

Majority of people do – by a lot.

By eating more fruits and vegetables you’re reducing the number of high-calorie foods you consume.

With a vegan diet, you’re replacing those high-calorie foods with high-fiber substitutes that are much lower in calories and will keep you full longer. As long as you avoid foods that are highly processed with lots of salt, sugar, fats, and food chemicals you’re likely to lose weight.

Being a vegan was probably the easiest ‘diet’ I ever went on and believe me I’ve tried my share of fad diets. With all of them, I would end up back at square one. Plus all the health issues I had would never disappear.

Finally, when I first became vegan, within a few weeks I started to notice my weight slowly coming down until I reached my goal weight.

So yes you can lose weight with a vegan diet as long as you stick to a whole food plant based diet!

Vegan does NOT equal healthy unless you eat non processed foods

You can get overwhelmed but it will get easier

This is definitely true. I will not sugar coat this.

From one end you’ll be balling your eyes out from all the horror you’re witnessing by watching all the slaughterhouse videos on YouTube and on the other end you have no idea how to cook let alone cook a vegan meal FROM SCRATCH!

That was my vegan meltdown.

I was crying almost every day because I got addicted to watching activist videos. At the same time I was trying to figure out how to cook for two and make sure it was a delicious vegan dish for my non-vegan husband!

Right before that, I was on a keto diet which is the exact opposite of a vegan diet! So you can imagine how hard cooking was. Then you reach a point where you hate humanity.

Because you see how much we’re damaging our planet and we’re not moving fast enough to stop all the damage. On another hand, you’re trying to explain your life choices to your mom who already thinks you don’t eat properly anyway.

Basically, there will be a lot of emotions. But it’s like a wave. Eventually, things will become normal. Don’t give up!

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Last but not least, you need to have a sense of humour.

At the end of the day, you will have sad days, angry days, and happy days when first becoming a vegan. You’re going to have to roll with the punches.

You’ll have friends and family asking you stupid questions that you’re thinking to yourself ‘what are you smoking?!!” Just smile and laugh it off.

Laughter is the BEST medicine

When people say stupid comments now, I realize how much people actually don’t know. I feel sad for them. Not because I think they’re idiots but because I myself was there in their shoes at one point in time.

My husband is not vegan and we have a very happy marriage. I don’t allow my food preferences to get in the way of our marriage. Same with your family and friends. If you’re planning on keeping them around, then don’t get angry with them when you tell them all the things you just learned about veganism and they don’t suddenly decide to become vegans.

You’re not going to convert everyone as much as you want to.

Everyone has to have their own reason to become vegan, not because you told them to. If people ask you questions, answer them to the best of your ability.

Don’t be judgemental and be nice. They might even be genuinely curious.

Vegans get a bad rep because some of them can be the most compassionate violent people!

I feel when after all the jokes are said and done, those very same people have been the most receptive in reducing their meat and dairy consumptions. Help educate people instead of making them feel like ‘you’re better than them for becoming a vegan’.

You’ve got to have a tough skin to not let every sarcastic comment from friends or a snarly look from a waiter that you asked about every ingredient on their menu. Just laugh it off. In the meantime, work on your comeback game.

Things you MUST know before going vegan

There you have it. My list of twelve things you must know before going vegan. This list should serve as a teaser into what you can expect when becoming a vegan. It might seem like a lot but you’ll feel great in so many ways that that first little while will be forgotten in no time. Stick to your gut feeling and do your homework. Learn as much as you can about staying healthy on a vegan diet.

I’d love to hear from you! What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had going vegan? Was there something, in particular, that really took you by surprise? Comment below 🙂

About The Author

Ghazal

I am a true believer in improving your health by what you do on a daily basis. I am a health advocate and believe that you can achieve any health-related goal based on your diet and daily habits. I am still relatively new (coming up on two years and counting!) to the vegan world and would love to take you with me on my journey!

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