Making the decision to go vegan can be difficult.
New vegans will often worry about reading food labels and getting enough protein. This is why having a vegan nutrition plan in place is so critical.
Whether you have become a vegan for health reasons, the environment, or animal welfare, the benefits of a vegan diet well outweigh the occasional challenges.
To help you stay on track, we’ve rounded up seven tips to help you stay healthy while living on a vegan diet. From how to talk to family and friends, to how to read nutrition labels, think of this guide as your go-to vegan diet for beginners.
- Take a Multivitamin
Taking vegan multivitamins is a great way to make sure you still get the essential vitamins and minerals you need.
Much of the iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and vitamin D our bodies need come from animal products. This is where taking a multivitamin and supplements can help to make sure you’re getting everything you need to stay healthy.
If you’re missing key nutrients, your body will have a harder time functioning at its best. You could also run the risk of suffering from conditions such as anemia or bone loss.
While a plant-based diet has everything you need to stay healthy, you’ll get an extra boost from a multivitamin or supplement.
- Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin
It can be really hard to talk with your friends or family about being vegan.
Think of veganism like politics or religion. People take their diet and nutrition choices very personally. While not everyone may agree with your lifestyle, keep your answers short and simple.
If you don’t feel comfortable getting into your reasons for being a vegan at Thanksgiving dinner, then don’t. No one should make you feel uncomfortable about your health choices.
The same goes for your explanation. Just saying that you’re doing so for health or personal reasons should be enough.
- Beware of Protein Myths
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men should consume about 16.3% of their dietary needs from protein. For women, this number is 15.8%.
It’s a common myth that vegans don’t get enough protein. Luckily, a plant-based diet contains plenty for both men and women. Even without consuming animal products, you don’t have to put forth too much effort to get more protein.
Foods such as broccoli, black beans, tofu, quinoa, oatmeal, spinach, and lentils all contain enough protein to meet your daily needs. Nuts, seeds, artichokes, and tempeh are also great sources of protein. Stay away from added protein powder and nutritional bars.
- Say No to Vegan Snacks
Just because you’re not eating meat or dairy products doesn’t mean all vegan snacks are healthy. Even snack foods marked as vegan can contain more sugar and salt than you’d like. Food such as bread or vegan baked goods might be easy to grab, but they won’t do you any favors.
Junk food is often a pitfall for many vegans who are doing so to lose weight. Instead of reaching for carbs and snack food, stick to fruits, vegetables, and natural whole foods. Not only do these contain more nutrients but they also help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Foods such as legumes, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are all great snack choices. When you don’t have sugar crashes, you’ll also save yourself from weight gain and mood swings.
- Watch the Meat Substitutes
While a meat substitute may seem healthy, these are often full of sodium and other preservatives. Even plant-based meats should be eaten sparingly. These products often contain dangerous levels of soy.
Meat substitutes are also processed and preserved. While having a meatless burger every once in a while is fine, don’t make a habit of eating them every day. Stick to miso, tofu, and tempeh as natural meat alternatives.
Making your own black bean burger is another great way to limit processed food. You can find a simple recipe made with whole ingredients to try at home. You won’t need to worry about what is in your food when you’re able to prepare it yourself.
- Always Read Labels
When you’re going grocery shopping, it’s important to read food labels. You want to make sure you always know what you’re eating.
Chances are if there are too many things you can’t pronounce, then you don’t want to eat them. Products marketed as vegan may contain extra additives and dangerous levels of sodium and soy.
It’s always a safe bet while shopping to stick to the perimeter of the store. Fresh, whole ingredients are always located on the outside aisles. This is where you’ll find fresh produce, bakery items, spices, and seeds.
Processed, canned goods are always located in the center aisles of the store.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Socialize
Just because your friends are going out to dinner at a steakhouse doesn’t mean you can’t go too.
When you’re going out to dinner or for drinks with family and friends, it can be helpful to do a little reading up on the menu. Looking at a menu ahead of time will give you the opportunity to scope out your options.
If you don’t see anything you can eat, call ahead or speak with your server about options they can prepare. Most restaurants will be happy to accommodate you. One happy vegan customer means more to come.
When it comes time to talk with your loved ones about becoming a vegan, don’t feel pressured to say anything you don’t want to. Keep your answer simple and move on. Being a vegan is about so much more than not eating animal products.
Vegan Nutrition Tips to Help Keep You on Track
Educating yourself on vegan nutrition, common myths, and stereotypes is a great way to start your journey. With so many benefits to your health and the environment, you should be proud of the choice you’ve made.
From reading food labels to how much protein you need, remember these simple tricks when you’re starting out as a new vegan.
Congratulations on making this big decision! For more food and nutrition tips, visit the health section.