Welcome to The Hearty Vegan: 10 Steps From a Confused Carnivore to a Voracious Vegan! This is an instructable I have developed to help people who are attempting to make the difficult transition to veganism a little easier.
The goal of this article is not to convince you to become a vegan (although I have provided plenty of resources for you to study in case you still have cold feet), but to help those who have already made the choice.
I have broken it into ten phases. You can stay in a phase as long as it takes until you have mastered it. The goal isn't perfection but consistent progress is encouraged!
Be sure to comment on how you are doing and if you have any questions!
Step 1: Phase One: Do Some Research!
First things first, you need to get some information. If you don't have a light source, then you will be constantly bumping into things in a crowded room. Likewise, if you don't have some trustworthy information, then you won't understand how to fully take control of your health.
First you should watch the following films:
Fast Food Nation
Forks Over Knives
You should visit the following websites:
And read the following books:
The Original Fast Foods by James and Colleen Simmons
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
Eat More, Weigh Less: Dr. Dean Ornish's Life Choice Program for Losing Weight Safely While Eating Abundantly by Dr. Dean Ornish
This should give you a pretty good idea of all the great benefits of a plant-based diet. I am not going to take time to explain why you should become a vegan when there are already so many others who have done it much more eloquently.
Step 2: Phase Two: Ditch Dieting
Oh gosh, let me just yell it out: DIETS DON'T WORK!!!!!
Ah, thank-you, now that I have that out of my system let me explain why dieting doesn't work. First, when you deny your body the proper calories that it needs to function it goes into what is called, "famine mode". This means that your body thinks that there is a famine because it isn't getting any food. There are several bad things that happen when your body goes into famine mode.
First, your body panics because it thinks that you are starving to death so it starts storing everything you put into your mouth as fat. Second, your metabolism slows down. This means that you have less energy, you're tired all the time, your skin and hair aren't healthy, and you start getting so grouchy that you begin to make Oscar the Grouch seem like Mother Theresa! Dieting also eventually leads to bingeing. It is inevitable. When you starve yourself, eventually you are going to get so desperately hungry that you find yourself gorging on everything that you can fit in your mouth.
Honestly, that is no way to live. You were meant to have the energy and stamina to charge through the day reaching goals, doing well in work and school, taking care of your family and making a difference in the world.
I mean it. Quit making your life miserable and go eat a snack for pete's sake. I use to be a compulsive meal-skipper. I just got into a really bad cycle where I would skip a meal and then I would get a headache and a stomach ache. Then I would think I was sick so I didn't eat very much at the next meal. So pretty much I felt crummy all the time and didn't have much energy. When my husband started getting after me to eat more, I started to shape up. I was amazed at the results! I quit getting headaches, I was less irritable and had more patience, and I had the energy to actually do things like run errands in the afternoon. The only side effect is that you might start feeling really dumb for not thinking of it sooner. (At least I did)
There are three things that I want you to do right now. First, get rid of your floor-length mirror and your scale. Your health is more important than your weight and so is your self-esteem. Second, quit counting calories! Third, set a timer on you phone to go off every three to four hours, and when it goes off I want you to go and eat until you are full and satisfied! If you are worried about gaining weight, there are two good reasons not to worry:
1. Once you start eating regularly again your metabolism will speed up.
2. Once you are a vegan you will probably lose weight because a vegan lifestyle is healthier, lower in fat and higher in fiber.
Once you have gone a couple of weeks on a set schedule of eating every three hours (except when you are asleep of course), then you can move onto phase three.
Step 3: Phase Three: Awareness
Awareness is a key principle when making the transition to veganism. Because many of us lead busy lives, we often lose touch with our bodies. We are not aware of how the food we eat makes us feel, or how it impacts our energy level. In fact, I believe that the people that claim that eating meat and other animal products doesn't have a negative effect on their bodies, simply are so out of touch with their bodies, they don't know how anything they put in their mouths affects them. Thus, in order for you to be able to really make changes in your dietary lifestyle, you are going to have to find out for yourself how what you put in your mouth affects you personally.
The best way for you to keep track of your personal, physical reactions to food is to keep a food diary. It's hard to remember everything you eat. For example, what did you eat for breakfast yesterday? Right, that confused look is exactly my point. When you keep a food journal, you can keep track of what you ate and also how it impacted your physical and emotional well-being. It also makes it possible for you to see patterns.
This needn't be complicated. Simply jot down what you ate and drank and also record your mood for the day, your energy level, your physical activity and how much sleep you got the night before. It shouldn't take more than five minutes.
I would suggest that you keep a regular food diary for AT LEAST a month before moving on to phase four. This way, you can more clearly see an overall picture of your health. You also will be able to start to connect the dots between what you eat and what you feel. For example, you might realize, by looking at your journal, that every time you drink soda you get a massive headache. Thus you will slowly start to develop an awareness for your body.
Step 4: Phase Four: Out With the Old, in With the New
In general, I would recommend a gradual approach to improving you diet. It takes years to build a habit, so why should you attempt to annihilate it over night? For most people, going cold turkey with any habit is setting yourself up for failure. It puts a ton of pressure on yourself to be perfect. To begin, I would recommend that you make these very gradual changes:
1. Take into account all of the junk food in your home. This includes anything with sugar, refined flour, and has been processed. Make a list of it and post it on the fridge.
2. On a weekly baisis, target one junk food that you have decided you are not going to buy anymore and replace it with a healthier food that you like. For example, if you cook with white flour start buying whole wheat flour. If you buy potato chips and cheese dip every week, start buying corn chips and salsa instead. If you eat raisinets every day, start buying plain raisins or grapes instead!
Over then next few weeks you should gradually see that all your favorite junk foods are being replaced by healthier food. Remember that the goal is to gradually switch out all you junk food. Focus on changing only one or two a week, and be sure to find replacements that you really like. At this point, don't worry about whether or not it is vegan. Just try to get all the sugary, junk food out of your diet! If you do it gradually it will be more likely to stick.
Step 5: Phase Five: How to Shop Like a Pro
There you are. Standing in front of the entrance of your local supermarket. You quicken your step as your go through the doors, certain that you are going to leave with a cart full of delicious, nutritious foods that you are going to whip into sublime meals for your entire family. However, 57 minutes later you leave the the store, dejected and defeated with a bag of your old junk food. What went wrong? You entered the store with such great intentions, but something went wrong between entering and leaving...
Generally, when we enter the store there are threel things that could possibly go wrong:
1. You are hungry and you shop with your stomach and buy whatever is fastest and most fattening.
2. You go in without a grocery list.
3. You don't know what foods to buy in order to prepare healthy meals.
Lucky for you, I have developed a game plan that will teach you how to shop and what to buy.
First off, eat something before you go shopping. You can't shop with a clear head and firm commitment if you are drooling over everything from candy to radishes to doggie treats!
Second, you need to know IN WRITING what you are planning to buy. Not only willing this make it easier to stick to a budget, it will also be an added ounce of willpower when trying to avoid foods that you DON'T want to buy. When you do your weekly shopping, there are four categories that you are going to break your list into:
1. Fruits and Vegetables
2. Grains and legumes
3. Frozen goods
4. Canned goods
Also, at the beginning of each month you are going to add two more categories:
6. Baking goods (monthly)
7. Condiments and seasonings (monthly)
First off before I introduce your game plan, you are going to need to know what fruits and veggies are in season. The best way to know that is to go to this website:
I have found it to be very helpful because tells you what produce is available in whatever season it is. That way you can simply look at the list for which season you are in and add whatever in-season produce you want to your shopping list! Be sure to also do a little research and make sure that you know how to tell if a fruit or veggie s ripe or not.
Alright, now it is time to get shopping!
First off, when you enter then store you are going to head to the produce department. Simply pick the produce that you planned for.
Make sure that it is ripe and that there are no moldy or rotten spots (eww...)
Next you are going to head to the bread aisle. Buy whole-grain items such as bread, tortillas, pita bread, whole-grain taco shells, english muffins and bagels. Be sure to read the ingredients. Check the ingredients to make sure that the product is one hundred percent whole grain. Also, a good rule of thumb is that if you are reading the ingredients and you can't pronounce the name of an ingredient or remember using it in an experiment in your college chemistry class, don't buy it. The goal is to buy products that are unrefined and as little processed as possible. The more simple the ingredients are, the better. Soon you should learn to make your own bread products but for now just buy them.
In the baking aisle you are going to pick up some dry goods such as split peas, brown rice, lentils and whatever other dried beans that you might be using.
Now, you are going to the canned food aisle. Eventually you will want to avoid buying canned food because it has been processed and usually has a higher salt content, but for now don't worry about it. you are going to want to buy canned beans such as black beans, garbanzo, pinto and kidney. Then you are going to want to buy diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and olives. Don't buy anything with sugar or corn syrup added.
Next you are going to go to the frozen section and buy frozen veggies such as corn, broccoli, brussel sprouts and stir-fry veggies.
Your last stop will be to grab some whole grain crackers, cereal, corn chips and salsa. These are for when you get a bad case of the munchies. Hopefully you will eventually learn to love all the delicious fruits and vegetables out there and use them for snacks. But for the first few weeks of this lifestyle make-over, I think it will be fine to use these to get you over the hump. Again, check the ingredients!!!
Step 6: Phase Six: Skipping the Eggs
Personally, I have never been much of an eggs fan. I dislike the texture, the sulphur-like smell and the thought that it came out of a bird's rear (sorry if that was distasteful to some of my readers...)
That being said, it is lucky that it is the easiest habit to kick on the road to veganism. There are only a couple things you might worry about: baking and breakfast.
Baking can be intimidating after you stop using eggs but luckily eggs are really easy to replace. When you are baking you can replace eggs with applesauce, mashed banana, a little extra oil, tofu or some commercial egg substitute.
The other problem is breakfast. Many people like to have a fried egg for breakfast. Well, now would be a good time to either start eating oatmeal or cereal or you can make a tofu scramble. Or better yet, just make yourself some toast and fruit. So, when it comes down to it. quit limiting yourself to just plain old boring eggs for breakfast and try out all the other options!
Step 7: Phase Seven: Weening Off the Cows
Humans are the only creatures on this planet that are never totally weened. Most creatures stop drinking their mother's milk once they are capable of consuming other food. Humans are the only creatures that once they are weaned from their own mother, they start drinking the milk of another mother that isn't even their own species! There is no other animal on the planet that does this. So, to break it to you gently, you need to grow up and quit using cows as your surrogate mother milk supplier.
Luckily, if you really love milk, there are several delicious alternatives such as soy, almond or rice milk. Experiment and figure out which one you prefer. You can use any of these alternatives just like regular milk including in recipes.
Once you are really solid about not eating eggs and milk anymore you can move onto phase eight.
Step 8: Phase Eight: Cutting the Meat
Most people think that you should start becoming a vegan by stopping meat and then stopping eggs and dairy. I think that it is much easier to quit eggs and dairy first. Mostly because they usually aren't the centers of the meal. The whole theory of these phases is to make step by step progress. The best way to quit meat is to start first by cutting the meat content in your meals in half. Then start by making one day completely meatless every week. Don't make a big deal about it. Don't wake up in the morning and put on a huge t-shirt that says: I AM NOT EATING AN OUNCE OF MEAT TODAY!! Instead, look up a recipe that would not have meat such as indian vegetable curry and don't mention it to yourself. Not eating meat is not the huge big deal that everyone makes it out to be. (However, if you do get through the whole day without a hitch be sure to make yourself a nice fruit smoothie as a reward. Hey, everyone needs a little reward!)
Step 9: Phase Nine: Tackling Tofu
This article wouldn't be a proper introduction to veganism if I didn't mention tofu at some point. Tofu is a very scary subject for most people. My personal opinion as to why this is is because many people were traumatized as children about tofu. Their parents probably scared them by telling them that if they didn't finish their chicken then they would grow up to be vegans and only get tofu to eat. They probably grew up associating tofu with weed, drugs, hippies and Vietnam. It doesn't help that tofu has no flavor, is soggy and smells funny.
There is no way to get over this negative, life-long conditioning that to simply go to the store and buy a package of the stuff and start experimenting. It actually is fairly cheap and you can buy tofu with Kung Fu Panda on the package, which is always comforting. Before you start experimenting, there are a couple of rules that I have for tofu:
1. If you are a beginner always use a recipe! (Please don't just chop it into chunks and drop them into your spaghetti sauce. Trust me, I've been there...)
2. Marinate your tofu. This is the best way for your tofu to get some flavor. Simply make a marinade (if you are a beginner refer to rule number one) and let it soak in a container in the fridge over night. Or at least twenty minutes if you are in a hurry.
3. Do some research! There are a ton of fabulous and ingenious ways to cook tofu!
4. Don't kick yourself and vow never to use tofu again if the tofu quiche you made for dinner was a disaster. Just breathe deep, and keep trying. (Not the quiche, I mean trying different recipes and uses. The quiche was a lost cause...)
The best way to think of tofu is as a blank canvas. It has no flavor and about as much personality as your Aunt Mildred. This is where your creative ideas can start flowing! Just use a little imagination!
A good, easy way to start making tofu is to make it into a dressing. Put about a half cup into the blender with some soy milk, garlic, onion powder, pepper, salt and brewer's yeast, blend it up and you have a delicious dressing that you can put on salads, dip veggies in, put on sandwiches (like mayo), and spread on crackers.
Step 10: Phase Ten: Expanding Your Horizons
After you have gotten use to avoiding meat and dairy products and eggs, it is time for a much needed attitude adjustment. Yes, I'm talking about how you view your new dietary life-style. You need to quit thinking of how you can't it meat, dairy, and eggs and start focusing on the THOUSANDS of other foods that you can thrive on! It is time to reflect on how much you have to be grateful for. There are so many wonderful foods out there that will nourish your body and give you the strength to do what your Maker intended for you! Once you are eating a solid plants-based diet your life will change. You will have a new health and vitality that you never dreamed possible. Now it is time to start moving on with your life. Now is the time where anything is possible. So get out there! Make new goals for yourself. Now that you have taken control of your diet, it is time for you take control of your whole life.