A Quick, Easy, and Fun Guide to Eating Vegan
When you think of the word “vegan”, do visions of tie-dye wearing, sprout-munching hippies come to mind? In the year 2016 it doesn’t have to, because it has never been easier or more fun to go vegan! The latest trend that’s sweeping the nation has everyone from celebrities (including Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and even Stevie Wonder) to everyday folks ditching meat and dairy and incorporating a vast amount of healthful plant foods into their diets. Delicious food that doesn’t hurt animals or the earth and helps you glow from the inside out is a win-win situation for everyone!
If you are considering going vegan, or just interested in learning more about the lifestyle, here are some great tips to give plant-based beginners the boost they need to get started. So if you’re not sure what to eat, where to go, or how you could possibly give up cheese, I’m here to help!
What to Eat:
One of the largest misconceptions about a vegan diet is that it’s extremely limiting. This is simply not the case! All foods that do not include animal parts or by-products are suitable for vegans. If you are used to a diet that includes animal foods (as most people are), this may seem limiting at first. In reality however, a plant-based diet exposes you to a world of different foods that you may never have thought to try before. Here are some great, healthy foods that should be absolute staples of a plant-based diet:
Fruits and veggies (especially green leafy ones like kale, chard, and spinach)
Beans and legumes (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, lentils)
Soy products (tofu, tempeh)
Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds)
Healthy fats (avocado aka “nature’s butter”, olive, and coconut oils)
Whole grains (rice, quinoa, barley, farro, pasta)
What to Avoid:
While vegetarians generally just choose to stop eating meat and fish, vegans go a step further and do not eat any type of foods that are made or derived from animals. Aside from meat, this includes:
Dairy (milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt)
Honey (Yep, it comes from a bee which counts as an animal…believe it or not factory farming of bees even exists!)
*Keep in mind that lots of processed junk foods are vegan friendly (I’m looking at you Oreos…), so be sure to indulge in those treats every once in awhile and not rely on them as a main food group.
Simple Swaps to Get You Started:
If you’re afraid of missing your favorite foods like pizza, ice cream, or mac and cheese, never fear! Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based substitutions you can make that will have you wondering what you were ever doing without them before!
Instead of dairy milk, try almond, soy, rice, or coconut milk. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try cashew, hemp, or oat milk!
Instead of dairy cheese, try nutritional yeast or cashew cheese on pizza, pasta, in sandwiches, or even on popcorn!
Instead of eggs, try scrambled tofu for a protein-packed breakfast!
Instead of ground beef, try using crumbled tempeh, beans, or lentils in “meaty” foods like chili or tacos.
Instead of honey, try plant-based sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, or brown rice syrup to sweeten your drinks and desserts.
Believe it or not, there’s a difference between a vegan diet and a vegan lifestyle. If you want to go a step further, here are some actions you can take to truly live a life free of animal exploitation and help spread the word about your compassionate lifestyle.
Buy and wear alternatives to wool, leather, and silk.
Use cosmetics and bath products that are not tested on animals or contain animal byproducts. Some brands such as Tarte Cosmetics are actually certified “cruelty-free” with a bunny logo.
Adopt, don’t shop! Puppy breeders and pet stores are a no-no for most vegans. Instead we pick out our furry friends from the shelters.
Volunteer at a farm animal sanctuary or SPCA in your area, or join an animal rights club!
Cook dinner for some friends or family who are skeptical of vegan food. We believe the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, and showing them that you can have a delicious, satisfying meal without animal products will blow their minds!
Tips for Dining Out:
If you’re looking to go out to eat, you’re in luck because many restaurants are catching onto the trend and offering more vegan options to diners. But if you’re in a pinch, here are some tips to make sure you can have a great meal anywhere!
Create a meal out of sides. Restaurants will sometimes offer sides of vegetables that you can pair with things like pasta, rice, or potatoes to build a complete meal.
Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions – swap the cheese on that yummy-looking salad for avocado and the chicken for chickpeas!
If you know where you’ll be eating ahead of time, call ahead and ask the chef or your server if they can accommodate vegans. A lot of the time they’ll create a special dish just for you! (And usually, everyone will be more interested in what you’re eating than the other non-vegan food on the menu!)
Try out some different world cuisines! Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian are just a few cuisines that have a surprising amount of vegan friendly options that you might not have even realized were vegan in the first place!
When in doubt, avocado. Make that double avocado.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to becoming a savvy plant-based eater! Remember to take it slow, be adventurous, and don’t forget to have fun!