Adopting a healthy vegan diet is not only confined to altering the food you eat. A true vegan also takes into consideration a change in their lifestyle. This includes taking a look at certain products such as lotions, makeup, and soaps, that you may use.
There are many reasons as to why people opt for a vegan lifestyle, these range from environmentally ethical reasons, to religion and also to benefit one’s personal health. Regardless of the reason behind becoming vegan, one must have a good knowledge of what foods to substitute to ensure one get all the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that their body needs to stay healthy and nourished.
3 Key Benefits of becoming Vegan:
Visible Physical Health Benefits
There are many health benefits associated with a vegan diet and lifestyle. These benefits include:
- Healthy weight gain or loss.
- No food restrictions – you do not need to count your calories or limit how much you eat.
- Glowing healthy skin.
- Stronger nails and hair.
- Improved gut health through consuming more fiber-rich foods.
- Increased energy.
Choosing a vegan lifestyle has environmental advantages. The meat industry has been documented to be one of the leading factors in environmental pollution.
Choosing a vegan diet can benefit the environment in the following ways:
- A vegan diet saves water. Plant-based foods require less water compared to animal products. It can take three times less water to feed a vegan compared to a meat eater.
- A plant-based diet reduces greenhouse gasses and methane admissions. Farming livestock creates dangerously high levels of greenhouse gasses that pollute and damage our atmosphere.
- A vegan diet reduces the pressure on overfished seas.
- Plants support better waterways as land is not being cleared to support animal agriculture.
Ethical and Moral
Veganism is also a moral stance against the exploitation and harming of animals. Choosing a vegan diet means that you are choosing to only consume products that did not harm any animal in creating it. At the heart of most vegans is a deep respect for all sentient beings.
Is gluten-free the same as vegan?
Gluten-free is not the same as being a vegan Gluten is the name given to a specific protein molecule that is found in wheat. Many types of bread, barley, rye, oats, pasta, doughs, and some sauces are made with kinds of wheat that include this protein molecule.
People that have an allergy or intolerance to gluten should avoid foods that contain gluten and adopt a gluten-free diet. If you do not have an intolerance to gluten you can still enjoy foods that contain gluten in your vegan diet.
Different Types of Plant-Based Diets
It might seem unusual that there can be varying ways of being a vegan. These different types of vegan diets all have the same common principle which is to be entirely plant-based.
As a beginner and being new to vegan after moving away from a diet inclusive of meat, we recommend that you learn more about the different vegan diets. Try not to restrict yourself to one specific vegan diet at first. Allow your body time to adjust to a plant-based diet before you finetune your vegan diet to one that works for you and your body. Remember that above all, your health, well-being, and nutrition are more important than any ideal weight or body shape goals.
Whole Food Diet
This is the most common type of vegan diet where you will be cooking whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are not processed and do not come in a can, they are fresh foods. When shopping for whole foods, stay in the produce aisle. The challenge here is cooking everything from scratch as even a tomato sauce that comes in a bottle is not considered to be whole food. . Examples of whole foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds.
These foods are often roasted, baked, steamed, or boiled to make stews, soups, curries, and baked dishes.
Raw Food Diet
This type of vegan diet is more challenging and perhaps it’s something that you can work towards if you are interested in it. A raw food vegan diet is based on eating raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
This type of vegan diet comes with some restrictions as certain foods need to be cooked to be consumed. An example of this is potatoes.
Thrive Vegan Diet
The thrive vegan diet is the happy medium between a raw diet and a whole food diet. The thrive diet is consuming whole foods that are minimally cooked at low temperatures. This means that you want to only eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
If your goal is to be a raw vegan, we suggest working your way there by first trying the whole food vegan diet and then moving through the thrive diet before settling on a raw vegan diet. You will find the transition more manageable and will learn how to create a sustainable and healthy vegan diet along the way.
Revamp your pantry
Now that you have decided to ditch all animal-based foods it is time to revamp your pantry and introduce all the delicious plant-based alternatives to your new nutritious and healthy vegan diet.
Find Sources of Plant-Based Proteins
Discovering new sources of protein to consume is important. You want to work hard to ensure that you are eating high-protein foods. Your body requires a decent amount of protein to remain well nourished and healthy, it is best to use a protein calculator to work out how much protein you should be consuming daily.
These plant-based foods are rich in protein, try to add a variety of these in your vegan diet:
- Legumes and some sprouts are packed with protein.
- Beans. This includes chickpeas, mung beans, and kidney beans.
- All nuts.
- Different seeds such as flax seeds and chia seeds.
- Tofu, soybeans, and tempeh are great meat substitutes when cooking curries and stews.
- Mock meats – Fry’s Food offers high-protein mock meats that are healthy and delicious.
- Certain vegetables such as spinach and broccoli have a high protein content.
There are some great high-protein easy recipes that make it easy to include more protein in yours.
Grains are a great way to add some depth to your diet. They are filling and give you that extra fiber that is essential for good gut health.
Some simple and delicious grains to include in your diet are:
- Rolled oats
- Brown rice
Fats are so important for your brain’s function and development. Traditionally people got fats from animal products like fish and butter, however, there are some tasty vegan alternatives to try:
- Nuts such as walnuts are filled with healthy fats.
- Olive oil, avocado oil, and sesame seed oil.
You will need to start to enjoy vegetables if you don’t already. Vegetables are the ultimate substitute for meat. You can eat as much and as many vegetables, as you want, they are loaded with fiber and nutrients that keep you nourished and healthy. We recommend adding as much color to your plate as possible and ‘eat the rainbow.’
A variety of nutritious vegetables.
- Marrows: These include pumpkin, butternut, zucchini, and cucumber
- Roots: Everything that grows underground. This includes: beetroot, carrots, ginger, potato, sweet potato, and yams
- Leafy Greens: This is pretty self-explanatory. If the item is leafy and green you are hitting the mark. These include: kale, spinach, bok choy, and herbs
- Cruciferous vegetables: These vegetables are easy to identify as they often have petals that represent a cross. This includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.
To curb that sugar craving we recommend that you reach for fruit. There are so many sweet and tart fruits out there to satisfy you. Including more fruit in your diet is another way to add more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet. As the only species on earth that cannot make our own vitamin C, we must get this vitamin through our diet.
- Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, these include Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.
- Mellons are very hydrating as they are filled with water.
- Stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and apricots make great snacks to curb sugar cravings.
- Exotic fruits like bananas, pineapple, mangoes, lychees, and dragon fruit are delicious and refreshing, keeping your diet interesting and holistic.
We recommend that you try to eat a range of these foods to ensure that your body is getting the nourishment it needs. It is common for vegans to limit their diet too much and end up malnourished because their body is not getting enough proteins, fats, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Delicious Vegan Recipes to Try
This is the time to stop with any fast foods and get reacquainted with your kitchen. There are loads of great plant-based and vegan recipes to be found online. These recipes are often easy to follow and a great way to include more food groups in your diet.
If you are not a great cook, now is the time to start with some simple recipes. Start making some simple and healthy vegan recipes at home and with time you can become more experimental and creative in the kitchen.
Using the fresh and healthy products that we mentioned above you can create some delicious and inspiring dishes for yourself and your loved ones.
Household items that are not vegan
Being a healthy vegan is not only a diet change, there are many household items that you may be using that are not vegan.
If your goal is to be a true vegan and to remove all animal products from not only your diet but also your home consider replacing a few of these items:
Shampoo and conditioner
Many shampoos and conditioners contain lecithin which is taken from animal or dairy sources.
Many brands now market themselves as vegan as they do not use lecithin. Lush is one brand that is known for its vegan soaps, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions.
Many different types of medication are coated in gelatin. Tell your pharmacist that you are vegan and request vegan alternatives.
Not only are plastic bags just bad for the environment but they also contain slipping agents that are taken from animals to reduce fiction.
This is more motivation to ditch your plastic bags and opt for plant-based alternatives.
Word of Caution
A vegan diet is considered to be a low-risk diet. You must take note of how your body reacts when you move to a vegan diet. Everybody has a unique way of digesting and processing the nutrients that we get from our food.
Different bodies need different amounts of nutrients to function and remain healthy. All of this is related to one’s lifestyle and genetics. If you start to experience fatigue, bloating, skin conditions, headache, or hormonal changes we encourage that you pause your latest diet switch see a nutritionist or see a doctor.
You might need to include some health supplements in your vegan diet to ensure that you are receiving the correct amount of vitamins and minerals for your body.
Try not to be judgemental
Your choice to adopt a vegan lifestyle might be for religious, ethical, or health reasons. It is easy to question why more people don’t choose to live this way. Although you might feel a huge health shift and believe that others are doing themselves or the planet a disservice because they are not vegan, try to be mindful about how to approach a topic like this.
This lifestyle is not for everyone, everybody is unique and their body requires different foods. Do not be judgemental of how others choose to eat or live.
You can always let them know how great you feel as a vegan and perhaps give them some advice on how they can slowly make their lifestyle more in line with a vegan lifestyle, however only do this if the person asks.
We recommend that when you change your diet in any way that you pay attention to how your body responds. Opting for a vegan lifestyle has minimal risks, however, if you start to feel low in energy, lose too much weight, or experience fatigue or hormonal changes then it is best that you speak to a nutritionist or your doctor. Your body will give you some signals if it is lacking essential elements that make you healthy such as vitamins and proteins.
Keep your diet fun, inspiring, and creative by spending more time in the produce aisle or at farmers’ markets seeking out fresh and wholesome foods. Learn new ways of preparing your meals and plan your meals to make this transition to being a vegan fun and healthy.