It’s been just over two years since I made a conscious effort to exclude animal products from my diet. There are always so many questions I get about being vegan, so I have compiled a great guide for those curious.
I am not dogmatic about my lifestyle choices, or expect that others conform or even agree with my lifestyle. Becoming vegan is a large part of my life, but not something that I consider the defining point about me as a person.
What is a Vegan?
Vegans choose not to consume animal products. That includes ALL meat (including chicken & shellfish!), dairy (milk, butter, cheese), eggs, gelatin, and honey. Many vegans avoid animal products in their diet alone, but veganism can branch out to become an entire lifestyle. So no leather shoes, wool coats, feather pillows, suede purses, or silk shirts.
Whew, that seems like a bunch of things to exclude. BUT, there are still sooooo many delicious things to eat. Load up on fresh fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, nuts, seeds, oils, and fungi. I consider myself a bee-gan, since I consume local honey harvested from my mom’s farm. Sometimes things slip onto my plate or in my closet that are on the “no” list, but it’s not something I stress about. The only thing that has no tolerance is meat. Eww, dead flesh. (Yes, I just said that.)
Making a conscious effort to avoid animal products is a chore in itself, so I’m not going to sweat over the parmesan that’s on my salad or the leather trim on my canvas bag. I still wear leather shoes and purses, I just don’t buy these things new. And wool… well, I’m still working on that one.
Why, oh, why, dear vegans do we put ourselves through this? First of all I think it’s fairly easy to be vegan. I never miss meat, have found ways to make my favorite foods vegan, and there are so many great products out there now to help transitioning vegans with things like cheese and ice cream.
I always explain my reasoning for becoming vegan in three simple answers.
The environmental consequences of consuming animal products (or simply meat alone) is a HUGE factor in becoming vegan for me. I am a sustainable nut, so when I learned that livestock contributes more CO2 (18%) than all forms of transport put together (13%) there was no more ignoring my consumption. Many say that the #1 thing you can do for the environment, is to switch to a vegetarian diet.
The big shift happened while taking a course in college, called Environmental Ethics. We went over the environmental reasons of vegetarianism, and also discussed the ethical ramifications of exploiting sentient beings for our pleasure/needs/benefit. After watching a few Humane Society videos online, I was convinced. Also worth watching: Earthlings, Food Matters, Food Inc., & Fast Food Nation. If you love cute little puppies, kittens, dolphins, exotic birds, or animals in general, how can we disconnect from this sympathy in the food that we eat? Why are dogs considered taboo on a plate, yet a pig isn’t? I connected the dots and haven’t looked back. I suggest you consider being more aware of what it took for your meal to come together. If we were all conscious of what we are eating, the world would be a whole lot healthier!
I could list all of the wonderful health benefits of cutting fatty, artery-clogging animal foods from your diet here. But I won’t. Refer to the Reference section down below for some great books on this subject if you wanna know more!
I’ll just tell you my experience: I used to get sick every month, my whole life. It was a cold, sinus infection, bronchitis, strep throat, flu, etc. I even had a tonsillectomy and still kept getting strep throat. In the past two years, after transitioning to a vegan diet, I’ve been sick maybe 2 times. This is a huge, huge change to my life. Also, I lost 10 pounds. Need I say more?
And meat is just gross when you think about it. Dead flesh. Eww.
There are certain things you have to learn about when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. I already know what your first question is: What about protein? Okay, I must confess that I do not worry about my protein take. Ever. And it’s never been an issue. Most vegans that I know don’t have a problem with their intake of most nutrients on a vegan diet. Get your protein from rice, beans, lentils, quinoa, Spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, & tempeh.
Don’t know what those things are? These are things you learn when you become vegan. You learn about what real food is, and all of the deliciousness that we’ve been missing out on. I suppose you can eat real food and not be vegan, but this is a requirement to being healthy. Eating from boxes is not fun, stylish, or healthy. You will have to learn how to eat real food. Maybe even cook some.
The main thing to consider is eating a balanced diet full of leafy green vegetables. Real food is your multivitamin. Many vegans take a B12 supplement, and all I do for protein + iron is add Spirulina to my smoothies.
Basically, I learned as I went. That’s the best way to learn, anyway. So, don’t be afraid if you don’t know much yet, because you will. You are capable. If I can do it, so can you.
There are many wonderful resources out there about veganism, from food blogs to recipe books. Here is a short list of my favorite vegan resources:
Choosing Raw is a blog I’ve already mentioned, but must be listed here. One of my favorite blogs, of all subject-matters, as all of her posts are though-provoking, challenging, and well written.
Kristen’s Raw has a portfolio of recipes that are super delicious, nutrient-dense, and creative. Her natural product reviews are some of my favorites, as I have taken her recommendations to heart.
Crazy, Sexy Life by Kris Carr is one hot place for vegans and health-seekers alike. There is a plethora of information, as there are numerous contributors that are considered famous in the vegan blog world.
The Discerning Brute is a great fashion blog for men, and I enjoy his posts on everything vegan. Great sense of style, eloquent writing, & a top-notch blog!
Jonsi and Alex are the most adorable couple. Jonsi is the singer for Sigur Ros, and he’s a raw vegan! Not only that, but he’s created a recipe book and some instructional videos with his partner. You’ve gotta check them out and get a cuteness overload!
iVegan is like Google for vegans. You can search for anything, and they will tell you whether it’s vegan or not.
The Raw Divas is a group of women who run programs to help you achieve your health goals. From smoothie challenges to 7 day detox, they have a program or e-recipe book for you.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Living on Live Food by Alissa Cohen
Diet for a New America by John Robbins
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin
I challenge you, like Farnoosh of Prolific Living, to become vegan for 20 days. Try it out, see how easy it is for you, how you feel, and consider the possibilities. Live with compassion and your health will bloom.
To Health & Happiness,
On Wednesday, I share with you my very favorite lentil dish and the fabulous French story about how the recipe came about. So stay tuned!