There are many advantages to being vegan. However, there are also a number of things to bear in mind before making that final commitment. Probably the first thing to be aware of is that vegan and vegetarian are not the same thing. A standard vegetarian doesn’t eat meat of any type and many don’t eat dairy or eggs either. Those that do eat these are generally called lacto-ovo vegetarians. Other vegetarians may eat dairy but not eggs (lacto vegetarian) and some eat eggs but not dairy (ovo vegetarian). Some eat white meat but not red meat and most eat foods like honey. Vegetarians generally still wear clothing and other items made from animal products, like leather, silk, wool etc. They use products made from bees wax. For these people, becoming vegetarian is often more about developing healthier eating habits rather than making a wholesale commitment to a completely different type of lifestyle.
Becoming a vegan on the other hand really is a life style change. A big life style change for most people too unless they’re already a strict vegetarian and want to take their commitment up a notch. Vegans shun ALL animal related products – edible and wearable. This includes dairy, eggs, honey as well as products like leather, wool and silk. If it originated with an animal, bird or insect, it’s off limits for a vegan. Therefore, if you’re a big ice-cream eater or love your cheese, you may want to consider becoming a lacto ovo vegetarian instead or alternatively, find non-animal versions of your favorite foods.
Is Being A Vegan A Healthy Lifestyle Choice?
In many ways, veganism is a very healthy lifestyle choice. Vegans eat fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, breads and pasta. Their diet is rich is all the valuable nutrients those food groups provide and they don’t eat any unhealthy animal fats. However, some nutrients are more conveniently obtained from animal products like dairy, eggs and meat. As these are not viable dietary options for a vegan, plant-based alternatives must be used and sometimes these aren’t all that easy to source. Animal proteins for instance are one of the most common sources of dietary protein for most people, often because they contain more protein on a weight for weight basis than plants. However, quality plant based proteins can be found in foods like red kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes as well as soy and hemp seeds.
Omega 3 fatty acids are another essential nutrient that is more commonly derived from fish based dietary sources. Good plant based sources of omega 3 include purslane (has the highest omega 3 content of any green leafy vegetable) and seeds like canola. Sunflower seeds contain omega 6 fatty acids.
Getting Your Vitamins And Minerals As A Vegan
Iron is another mineral that often comes from animal sources so many people ask the question “how do vegans get iron?” Green leafy vegetables like spinach and purslane are high in iron and very good sources of this and other important vitamins and minerals. Good plant based sources of calcium, which is commonly obtained from dairy products, are vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, kale, okra and Chinese cabbage. You can also buy calcium-fortified soymilk. Alternatively, look for plant based calcium supplements to add to your daily diet.
In fact, you’re going to have to find plant-based sources for all those nutrients you previously obtained via meat, dairy and eggs. However, the good news is that there’s a wealth of information out there on the Internet written by experts and those who have already trodden the vegan path you’re about to venture on.
By now, you’ve probably realized that embarking on a life of veganism is not something to be taken lightly. It involves a great deal of commitment, perseverance and determination. Particularly if you’re a meat and 3 veggies type of person who enjoys nothing more than a good porterhouse steak or a rump roast! So it’s important to assess just why you want to go vegan. Is it just for dietary reasons? If so, you may be better off becoming a vegetarian instead. That will give you the healthy diet without all the other lifestyle challenges. Additionally, speak to your doctor if you have any medical issues that may be adversely affected by adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Are You Committed Enough To Turn Vegan?
If you’re committed to turning vegan there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier on yourself. Very often going into something like this hard and fast at the start sets you up for greater chance of failure. The changes required are extreme for some people so there is the risk that it will all become too hard. But if you ease yourself into it, the transition can be made much smoother.
Take Small Steps First
Try going lacto ovo vegetarian first. This step only requires you to remove all meat from your diet but you can even do that in stages. Remove the bacon from your bacon and eggs. Have a cheese and salad roll instead of a ham and salad one. Instead of having meat and 3 veggies every night, try 4 or 5 veggies and no meat every other night. Order a meatless pizza if pizza is your thing. The opportunities to cut down on your meat consumption are many.
As a lacto ovo vegetarian you can still eat your favorite dairy foods and cheeses. You can also still team your favorite leather handbag with your favorite leather shoes and woolen jacket! At least for the time being. When you change over completely to vegan, those things will unfortunately have to go.
Ease Into It Gradually
Another thing you can do is start looking around for dairy alternatives and gradually replace your current dairy favourites. There are plenty of vegan versions of dairy products available. Find and try them so you know which ones you like because the taste may be quite different to what you’re used to. That way, when you’re ready to make the change over, you’ll already be used to drinking and eating things like soymilk, soy ice cream and various other vegan dairy alternatives.
Also start expanding your horizons with respect to fruit and vegetables. Source new and different types of fruits and vegetables. Learn to cook them in new and different ways. Experiment with new vegan recipes and pretty soon you’ll have the eating part of being vegan under control.
Really Think Hard About The Other Lifestyle Changes You Need To Make
The other aspects of being vegan may take a bit more getting used to. That lovely honey you enjoy on your toast, or in your cup of tea or coffee will be a thing of the past. There are vegan alternatives like corn syrup though. If you love woolen or silk clothing, you’ll have to develop a taste for cotton and various synthetic alternatives. The same thing applies to your favorite pair of leather shoes and handbag! Additionally, many personal care and cleaning products are made from animal fats or bees wax. They will all need to be replaced with plant-based alternatives.
The key here is getting into the habit of reading labels to ensure that what you’re buying truly is completely animal free. If a pair of shoes has synthetic uppers but the soles are leather, you can’t buy them. Some fabrics are a mixture of wool or other animal fibers and synthetic fibers. These too are out for a vegan. Read the ingredients in cleaning products; if they contain bees wax or animal fats, leave them on the shelf. And so on….
In fact, when you actually stop and think about all the animal based products we have in our lives, you come to realize just what a huge lifestyle change becoming vegan is for many people. It certainly isn’t the lifestyle for everyone but that’s not a bad thing. So don’t think that trying, and changing your mind about becoming vegan, is failing. It simply means that it’s not the life for you.