5 tips for becoming vegan -- and staying vegan

Karen Wise, food photography, food porn, vegetables, mealCourtesy of Karen WiseThe plant-based diet is a lifestyle.

Veganism, or at least vegan food, has become trendy lately.

In 2009, just 1% of the US population reported being vegan or vegetarian. Now, 5% of the US population reports being vegan or vegetarian, and half of those people are vegan. That means that 16 million people in the US are now vegan or vegetarian.

Whether you want to go vegan because of animal rights, because it’s hip, or because of your health, it’s a major diet change and might require some persistence.

Here are five tips for making the plant-based lifestyle last.

1) Know why you’re going vegan in the first place. 

A whopping 42%
of those who do not eat animal products say that they went vegan after seeing an educational film. Watch documentaries, such as “Earthlings,” “Forks over Knives,” and “Cowspiracy,” to educate yourself on the issues surrounding veganism.

If you know why you’re doing it  — and not just because it’s a fad —  it is bound to last.

2) Get cooking and have fun with it.

Going vegan opens up a whole new world of cooking, so start following some vegan Instagram accounts and food blogs for inspiration. If you don’t know how to cook vegetables, you’re not going to want to eat them. Experiment with new spices and ingredients, and have fun with it.

Don’t feel like cooking? Many restaurants now offer vegan options (or loading up on side dishes is a safe bet) but The Happy Cow is a wonderful website that lists vegan restaurants, or restaurants with vegan options, near you.

3) Make sure to eat more and carb up.

People often complain about feeling hungry and weak when they first become vegan, and a common misconception is that this is because of the diet’s lack of animal products. However, the reason for this is that plant-based foods naturally have fewer calories, which simply means that you need to eat more.

Your body is bound to go through a phase of transitioning, as you would with any other change in your diet. It’s crucial not to be afraid of carbs  — so eat rice and (certain) bread with abandon  —  and to eat calorie-dense items like sweet potatoes, bananas, and dates that will keep you satiated and nourished.

4) In the beginning, track your nutrients.

If you’re eating enough food, you shouldn’t have an issue getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need, though it’s a good idea to keep track and make sure. Once you know which foods are high in which nutrients, you’ll have a sense of how much you’ll need to eat to be both satisfied and nourished.

Many people worry that vegans don’t get enough protein. However, vegetarians and vegans actually average 70% more protein than they need every day. The standard Western diet has almost double the recommended daily amount.

In reality, almost every food has some amount of protein, so by eating enough food, you’re getting enough protein.


5) Transition into it, and don’t be hard on yourself.

If you’re going from a standard Western diet to veganism, it may be helpful to ease into the new lifestyle. Start by eliminating meat until you’ve adjusted, then dairy, then eggs. Give your body and your taste buds time to adjust.

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