You would know at least one vegan around. Almost every shop, restaurant or cafe caters to vegans. It is a trending diet growing popularity and it may have crossed your mind to try it. This in itself is fine. I have been vegan for 7 years myself and I do believe you can live a full healthy life in doing so. But there are few things you should think about before going vegan – to ensure it is the right decision for you and your health.
1. Think about why you are going vegan
Seems like an obvious statement, but there are so many different reasons an individual may choose to go vegan – ethical, health, religious, spiritual.
I am a huge animal-lover and deep down I feel this was partly my decision to go vegan. Ethics is one of the most common reasons as to why someone might go vegan. Less meat eaten, means less animals have to be slaughtered to make it.
Health is another common reason. There are many benefits to going vegan – the traditional diet is lower in calories, easier to get fibre/nutrients and less processed foods are consumed (not so much these days though). Many use it as a way to lose weight, which is 100% the wrong reason to go vegan. It is a form of restrictive eating and can often mask disordered eating, before it fully manifests as an eating disorder. So please, really think about your reason for going vegan – if it is to lose weight, talk to a dietitian before committing to determine if it is disordered eating in disguise or something you really want. Sit with this for a few days or weeks before making the switch.
2. What do you need to change to become vegan?
Switching from one dietary pattern to another isn’t an easy thing to do – nor should it be changed overnight. Once you know your reason for being vegan (and it’s not disordered eating) then look at your current diet and see how it matches up to a vegan diet.
Vegan diets eliminate all animal products – meat, dairy, eggs, honey and any products that contain animal-derived ingredients such as gelatine. If your diet is high in animal products, then you need to find appropriate substitutes – both nutritionally and delciously to this. Also, this may also mean using household products – such as toothpaste, make up or even certain clothes – that are vegan firendly.
Many find starting off with small changes, such as ‘Meat free Monday’ can help the transition. Others trial a vegetarian or pescatarian diet first. If you have been vegetarian for a while, you may find it easy to switch to vegan. This is highly individual to you.
3. Talk to a practioner and see a dietitian
I cannot stress this enough.
It is extremely easy to become malnourished on a vegan diet if you don’t approach it correctly. There are many nutrients that are abundant in animal-foods that are less so in vegan foods, so it is important to know where to get these nutrients from. Before you make the switch, talk to you GP and a vegan-knowledgeable dietitian on making the switch.
Personally, I also encourage routine blood testing when first going vegan to check the nutrient levels – it can take a while for the body to adapt to absorbing nutrients from less bioavailable sources, so it is important to manage any deficiencies ASAP as they arise. This includes things such as iron, vitamin B12 and calcium, as well as ensuring you are getting enough energy to sustain you and help you thrive.
Over time, it becomes second nature to know what foods contain what nutrients. Your body also learns to absorb these foods from less bioavailable sources. The fibre intake is also often increased significantly, so doing this with a dietitian can prevent any tummy upset happening along the way.
4. How this will affect others in your life?
Lucky for me, I am too stubborn to let others get in my way of what I want. However, it can be hard to be vegan when you live with other people, or even see other people for that matter.
If you are the only vegan in your family, you may have to start cooking your own meals, ensuring that your meals are nutritionally adequate. It can be quite stressful at first and having meal ideas that are easy to turn vegan (I plan on writing a cookbook on this) that work with other non-vegan meals is essential.
Eating out can also be an issue. A lot of places don’t have many vegan options and asking the staff to adapt orders can be scary. But you’ve made this choice, so act confident and no one will question you. This also goes for eating at other people’s homes. I find it good to always bring a dish myself or even offer to cook, so they don’t have to stress about making me food.
5. Don’t be that vegan
So you’re loving the vegan life – you feel great, you now you’re helping animals and the planet and you want others to feel this vibe. But honestly, there is nothing more annoying than someone forcing their beliefs on you so just don’t.
Let your health and vibe speak for itself. Tell the world you’re happy, you’re vegan and you’re loving life, that’s fine, but don’t force others to go that way if they don’t want to. Cook family and friends vegan meals for them to try, encourage them to have a vegan meal once a week for their health – but force-feeding them food or beliefs will never get you anywhere.
(Sorry if I offended anyone, but it’s the truth! Lead by example!)
I love being vegan. I love the food, the vibes, the lifestyle and I obviously love helping the animals and the planet. But I made this transition a long time ago due to medical reasons and it just happened to be right for me. One of the reasons I found it so easy was because I didn’t miss eating animal foods – I have a gnarly dairy allergy so I never ate dairy anyway.
I also know this isn’t the right dietary pattern for everyone. It can be stressful and inconvenient at times and it can be hard to have great health.
So really think about this decision before you make it. Consider your reasons for it; talk to your health professionals – especially a dietitian. Think about what needs changing and who this may affect.
Don’t rely on social media for advice. Don’t use it solely as a weight loss method. Think deeply and listen to your body – it will tell you if it’s right for you.
If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to reach out! Aways happy to chat about one of my favourite topics!