Predicted to be the "mega-trend" of 2018, eating vegan is no longer just for hippies; nor is a vegan menu limited to stereotypes like wheatgrass, lettuce, and granola, as data gathered by the research group 1010Data has revealed that sales of plant-based products have increased three-fold since 2016.
As we advance in the field of nutrition science, more people are becoming aware of the many detrimental effects associated with animal agriculture. In the last year alone, vegan-related Google searches increased by 90%, and plant-based eating among Americans increased to 83%. Overall, as a culture, we are becoming more mindful of the products we put in and on our bodies, and the health and environmental impacts they have.
According to a 2014 study, seven percent of Americans consider themselves vegan, representing a 500% increase from just the previous year, and that number only continues to explosively expand. If you're thinking of joining them, we are here to help! Here are 10 tips to ease your transition to a health-enhancing, conscientious, compassionate lifestyle:
1: SET YOUR "SANKALPA"(INTENTION): Spend a few quiet moments in reflection to find your "why". Get clear about your motivations. Are you hoping to improve your health? Minimize your carbon footprint? Walk your activist talk? Live your values of compassion for all sentient beings? There's no right or wrong, but getting clear about your goals and intentions can help you to stand more firmly in your resolve to make changes.
2. GET EDUCATED: Change is never easy, and changing your diet will be no exception. Food is a primal part of human social interactions; it's comforting, it's familiar, it's celebratory, it's tradition. It's perfectly normal to be incredibly challenged in the beginning stages of any lifestyle change. It might be helpful to familiarize yourself with the benefits, as a means of solidifying your resolve. We recommend watching some documentaries or reading some of the wonderful vegan literature that's been published. To learn more about the health benefits, try the documentaries What The Health, Forks Over Knives, Eating You Alive, or Vegucated. For environmental impacts, watch Cowspiracy. To witness the truth of the animal agriculture industry, try to sit through Earthlings.
3. PUT ON YOUR TRAINING WHEELS: You don't have to go vegan cold-tofurky. Go at your own pace! Consider removing one kind of animal from your diet at a time; being "vegan at home" to better control your food; or trying "vegetarian for now" and continuing to eat eggs and dairy. It doesn't have to immediately be an all-or-nothing approach, as every little step helps. Think "Meatless Monday" Movement! Another useful strategy is to slowly start finding vegan substitutes for your favorite or most commonly consumed food items, such as almond milk for regular milk or coconut yogurt for greek yogurt. There are so many vegan brands on the market nowadays that there is absolutely a veganized version of everything, which brings us to.......
4. GO ON A FIELD TRIP: Now that you've got your training wheels on, set out on an adventure. Have some fun exploring your local supermarket! Get acquainted with the plethora of vegan brands and aforementioned substitues that are available nowadays. If your intention was more health-focused, you'll want to stick primarily to the produce section and opt for fresh fruit and vegetables, with the addition of whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes....but you don't have to go raw vegan from the very start. It's really helpful to allow yourself comfort. If your favorite food is a delicious burger, introduce yourself to Beyond Meat, if you want to make it a cheeseburger, look for Daiya or Chao, if you enjoy topping your burger with mayo, meet Veganaise.
5. GET CREATIVE: After familiarizing yourself with vegan brands, start researching recipes. Try Googling your favorite dish with the word vegan in front of it, and you might be pleasantly surprised. For example, if your favorite dish is fettucine alfredo, you might be surprised to pull up our HEALTH HACK: 3 Vegan Tips for Healthier Pasta blog. There are so many vegan bloggers that make an excellent resource. Some of our personal favorites are Vegan Richa, The Minimalist Baker, and Oh She Glows. You can also find great vegan recipe books on Amazon. See our recommendations here, and just have fun! Going vegan tends to open you up to a whole new world of foods that you've never tried before! You might try jackfruit for the first time, or visit an Indian restaurant for Spicy Red Lentil Dahl or Aloo Gobi. Being vegan truly isn't about lack and deprivation; it's creative, and nourishing, and joyful. With that said.....
6. JOIN THE OUT-CROWD: Focus on the positive! You'll get IN on the biggest trend of 2018, by "crowding OUT" less healthy, non-vegan foods. By filling up on nourishing plant-based options, you simply won't have room for anything else and you'll also soon develop a taste for the healthier options. If you let the transition occur naturally by focusing on what you are adding to your life, the foods we are choosing to eliminate will gradually phase out to the point where you won't desire or crave them at all. Becoming vegan will surely also become one of the best choices you've ever made, and once you acquire the taste, you'll never look back.
7. SIMPLIFY & PREPARE: The myth exists that going vegan is expensive, timely, and difficult. This honestly couldn't be further from the truth. Now, if you are an avid baker and you love to experiment, you surely can have fun and get complicated, if you choose. But a healthy vegan meal can absolutely be quick, simple, and easy! After you get a handle on the basic vegan staples and stock your refrigerator and pantry, meals come together very quickly. Something as simple as Brown Rice and Quinoa Pasta, topped with homemade marinara (literally just crushed tomatoes, garlic, and Italian spices), and Gardein's Meatless Meatballs, accompanied by a Almond Caesar Salad (see dressing recipe here) can be a delicious and fulfilling regular on nights where time is of the essence. It's also helpful to "batch cook". If you prepare and freeze a few meals in advance, and keep a variety of vegan snacks on hand at all times, you'll be more prepared for those moments when cravings hit and hunger takes over.
8. FIND YOUR TRIBE: Once you begin your vegan diet, you'll need someone to rant to about how many times a day you get asked where you get your protein. Whether your support lives next door, lays beside you on your yoga mat in Savasana, or is through a Facebook group, you'll expand your knowledge of vegan-friendly products, recipes, and restaurants. Online vegan communities exist in many cities around the country and world and can be a wonderful source of support. It's so much easier to implement change when you have an "accountability partner", or someone to seek advice from. There will be no shortage of support in the vegan community! We live to spread the health and share the love, as being vegan truly is about creating a better world, first and foremost. You are absolutely welcome here!
9. SEEK SUPPORT: The burgeoning field of Certified Health Coaches and Nutritionists can be an excellent resource! These are people who are on a mission to improve the health and happiness of their community. Seeds of Compassion is proud to offer "Budding Vegan" health coaching and consulting services. This can take the form of Private Vegan Lifestyle Coaching, Grocery Tours, Kitchen Clean-Ups, or Nutrition Classes. Good nutrition is the foundation of health, healing, and overall wellness, and we are here and devoted to helping you be your best self! Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive the most up-to-date notifications of our services.
10. CULTIVATE COMPASSION: Remember the reason why you decided to become vegan in the first place. Whether for your health, the animals, or the environment, it's all about planting seeds of compassion for a better world. In the words of Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, "if your compassion doesn't include yourself, it is incomplete." Being vegan isn't about being perfect, it's just about doing the best you can with where you are. Be gentle on yourself, take it one day at a time, and enjoy the transformative journey.
For a deeper look at how easy and fulfilling being vegan really is, check out our "What Vegans Eat: A Plant-Powered Day In The Life" vlog: