Hello there! Congratulations on taking a giant leap forward for your health, the planet, and the animals! As you begin your journey, there are a lot of new things to learn, and many questions pertaining to veganism. You might even feel bit at a loss as to where to start–I know I was, when I first became vegan. But veganism has opened up worlds of culinary opportunities, and I have never felt better physically or mentally in my life.
The top two questions on your mind might be: protein and B12! When you “come out” as a vegan, people will bombard you with questions like, “Where do you get your protein?” or “You can only get B12 from meat/animal products!” These people are sadly misinformed, and some will never find your answers adequate. Which is fine, they aren’t you! But for your sake (and peace of mind): there is protein in plant food! As long as you eat enough calories, you will always have enough protein. In fact, getting too much protein can cause issues like calcium deficiency, inflammation, and kidney stones, among others. For a more in-depth look at protein on a vegan diet, click here.
B12 is a vital nutrient essential to creating DNA, and prevents a type of anemia (not enough healthy red blood cells). B12 is seriously important stuff. The thing is, non-vegans can become B12 deficient too (it is quite rare, occurring in 1.5-15% of the general public, according to Dr. Doug McDougall). B12 comes from bacteria, not animal products (though it can be found in animal feces), and the human body does produce B12 on its own–but it’s a matter of whether or not you can absorb B12 efficiently that leads to a deficiency. There are vegan B12 pills, foods with B12 (miso soup, fortified soy products or nut milks), or you can take a monthly B12 shot if you’re daring. (Pills suffice!!! Just make sure there’s no gelatin in them).
If you’re worried about missing animal products, there are all kinds of vegan goodies out there! You can even make your own nut milks and nut cheeses at home!
To make nut milk: 3 parts water to 1 part nuts. Blend. Strain through a nut milk bag, panty hose, or coffee strainer. You can then use the leftovers to make cheese!
On Eating Out: Google is your friend! Add the Yelp! app to your phone and search for vegan. Or use PlantEaters app, which compiles not just vegan and vegetarian restaurants, but vegan meals in any type of restaurant. It also never hurts to ask a human being to make sure your meal is vegan 🙂
Looking for recipe ideas? There’s a huge vegan community! Besides the wonderful treasure trove of creative vegan recipes that is Peaceful Dumpling (ah hem), there are: Youtube, vegweb.com, the PPK, instagram, pinterest, tumblr, facebook, tons of blogs and social media networks that have knowledgeable vegans sharing recipes, ideas, and an overwhelmingly fantastic ENTHUSIASM for their lifestyle! It’s really cool, I cannot recommend the vegan community highly enough for their inventiveness, kindness, positivity, and willingness to answer questions from newcomers.
On Leather Items: If you have in your possession non-vegan items like leather–it’s absolutely fine in my opinion for you to wear it out before buying a vegan replacement, since you already own the item and it would not be economical or eco-friendly to just toss it. If you have the money and are willing to buy a vegan replacement because..you know, leather…buy the super awesome vegan version and donate the leather item(s). Or you could bury it if you really are feeling vegan (slight joke).
There are so many cruelty-free products on the market, you can slowly replace all your household items in a painless veganizing of you home and personal care products (Dr. Bronner’s soap can do almost anything). Don’t beat yourself up too hard if you accidentally purchase a non-vegan item, just use that drive to search out an alternative for next time. Your purchasing power means a lot, and it seems like the dollar counts more than the vote these days, so buy wisely.
On Detox and Cravings: It’s highly likely you will detox when you go vegan. It’s not fun. I was a vegetarian for over 7 years and thought it would be fine. I had a horrible headache and flu-like symptoms for nearly a week before the benefits of veganism kicked in. Benefits? Here’s a list of 57 Health Benefits of veganism. After I detoxed, I didn’t really crave any animal products–I took it as an opportunity to learn about new foods and expand my palate. If I really miss something from my childhood, I’ll find a great tasting (more often than not better) vegan alternative and make that instead. Not to mention, I feel healthy, my skin looks..pretty good if I dare say so, and I rarely ever get sick–too busy eating delicious food I guess!
Learn to listen to your sweet tooth and eat fruit 🙂 Green smoothies are complete meals and fantastic breakfasts; and having fruit for breakfast will energize you more than caffeine, naturally. Do not fear carbs, they’re actually good for you, and while you can make as many decadent cashew cheesecakes as you like (not judging, I’m 110% guilty, just speaking from experience), they’re still cheesecakes~just better because they’re vegan 😉
I know it seems like a lot to learn, but after a while you realize you can veganize anything…and you will!
Photo: Claire-Marie Harris; Mary Hood