Congratulations on turning vegan, your future self will thank you for taking this monumental step to bettering your health, and our beloved co-earthlings are expressing their gratitude for standing up for the voiceless. Let me help you navigate this new and exciting world by sharing my tips and personal experience because let’s be honest, it can get overwhelming especially if you are alone in your journey (check out my vegan story).
Replace meat with plant “meat”. There’s Beyond Meat burgers and sausages that taste like real meat (main ingredients include pea protein isolate, beet juice extract for color, potato starch, etc), tempeh that you can cook like bacon (whole soybean), seitan that you can roast like steak (vital wheat gluten), young jackfruit that you can prepare like barbecue pork slider, or even tofu which you can cook as scrambled egg (with a dash of turmeric for color). You see, the choices are endless. Being vegan now is a lot easier compared to when I first went plant-based 10 years ago when there’s practically nothing except the good old tofu. Cook the same way, use the same seasonings you have enjoyed in the past, the only difference is you aren’t clogging your arteries with cholesterol and your blood with sugar, granted you are not into junk food (check accidentally vegan favorites).
Avoid junk food and I say that with utter emphasis. With the rise of vegan demographics come opportunistic companies who will dupe you into believing that what you are eating is better because it’s labeled vegan. Sugar is disguised in 20+ names, just because you don’t see it spelled that way means it’s healthier. Dextrose, cane sugar, ethyl maltol, corn syrup, fructose, maple syrup, agave, stevia, are just some of the most commonly used. Make it a habit to read the ingredients and remember this simple mental math, 4 grams = 1 teaspoon sugar. You’d be surprised that an average American consumes almost 20 teaspoons of sugar in a day, don’t be the next statistic, diabetes is no joke!
Go straight to the produce section, vegetables and fruits don’t need labels. If reading ingredients is something you are not confident yet, you will never go wrong with green leafy vegetables and the more colorful your choices are, the more you know that you are converting yourself to a body of salad, haha! But really, do you know that aside from nutrition, fruits and vegetables also trigger the release of serotonin in our brain which is responsible for happy and positive mood? (read happy side of veganism)
Build your vegan pantry. Buy seasonings, coconut milk, tomato sauce, kidney beans, garbanzos, quinoa, chia seeds, oats, brown rice, rice noodles, frozen vegetables such as green peas, string beans, stir fry mix and anything you can find from your local store. While I buy our fresh fruits and vegetables every week, I shop online for other dry ingredients. I use Amazon and Vitacost most of the time.
Shop vegan at Walmart and Target if you don’t have Whole Foods near you. While the vegetables and fruits they carry may not be organic, you can’t deny the fact that they are really affordable. Just wash all the produce thoroughly!
Watch Youtube for vegan recipes. You don’t need a cookbook (unless it adds to your motivation) but really, everything you need to know about this lifestyle is readily available. From blogs to magazines to apps, every single thing you need is within your reach (read tips on dining out).
Shopping vegan should be fun and exciting. Do not stress when you can’t find something you like. Do not despair if your local store does not carry the brand or items I mentioned, eventually they will. So you made a mistake? learn from it, educate yourself more and move forward.