With everyone excited about New Year’s resolutions, it seemed fitting to share one of mine with you. Or at least start to! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know I share the occasional tip on becoming vegan but I wanted to share everything in one spot. So if you’re contemplating this dietary shift, I hope this helps!
First, let me start off with why I decided that I’d start 2018 by becoming vegan. It starts with being vegetarian! I gave up meat almost 10 years ago during college. It was one of my rebellious (yet ironically healthy) decisions during my college years. One of my sorority sisters at the time was vegetarian and was complaining that no one would go to all these vegetarian places in Los Angeles with her. LA is so good for healthy eating – I talked a little about that when I shared my favorite vegetarian friendly restaurants! Being a good friend, I figured why not try it? So, I committed to being vegetarian for one month.
In that first month, I went from binging carbs to experimenting with new dishes to meat withdrawals (it’s a real thing caused by your body detoxing from the hormones, steroids, and toxins found in meat). It was quite a challenge changing my lifestyle especially since I was no Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen at that point in my life! But on day 30, I woke up feeling better than I ever had. I could work out longer, I felt lighter, and I felt healthier than I’d ever felt before. I’ve honestly never looked back since. I never want to lose that feeling!
Admittedly, a decade later, it’s hard for me to remember what eating meat felt like. While I’ll still cook meat for Matt, I never crave it and if I eat something that is too similar in texture to meat, I can’t finish it. So why am I becoming vegan now? Over time, I’ve found that I’m less and less able to digest dairy products. While I love a great cheese platter and froyo is my jam, my stomach isn’t a fan. This didn’t happen overnight but gradually so if you’re contemplating making a dietary change, don’t worry! I tried going vegan for a month last November and felt so much better. I didn’t have any stomach aches (Tums are a hot item in our household) and I felt healthy again.
As I mentioned on Instagram last week, I fell off a little when we traveled to Dubai, the Maldives, and Mexico last month. Sometimes, I consider myself lucky enough to be able to find something vegetarian as some countries don’t even have many options. Ireland was a tough one for me! However, even though we plan to travel our hearts out in 2018, I’m committed to becoming vegan and making this work! This is one of those much needed health resets. I figure, why not do this at the same time everyone is doing Whole 30 or experimenting with a dry January?
Enough about me! I’ve had so many questions from you guys over the last few months about becoming vegan that I wanted to put together a list of things that really helped me. These are things to watch out for and also tips that really help me out. I will say that being vegetarian first makes things a lot easier! However, it totally depends on what you crave. For me, dairy is one of the hardest so if you’re already dairy free but eat meat, this might be easier for you!
Watch out for carbs.
It’s so easy to overload on carbs at first. If you currently eat meat, you’ll miss that really “full” feeling for a few weeks. That is, until you realize that being full doesn’t necessarily mean having that really heavy feeling in your stomach that tends to come along with meat. I remember I got a little too friendly with bread and crackers my first week. Replace crackers with things like celery or apples. Both crunch so they still give you that satisfaction when you bite into them if you like crunchy things. If you find yourself still feeling hungry after a meal, you probably need more protein.
Find new protein sources.
The first question I get any time someone finds out I’m vegetarian is “but how do you get your protein?” Without a doubt, I’ve had to answer this question more than any other! Americans actually get too much protein. There are a ton of studies and documentaries that say this but basically, don’t worry too much about your protein. You’ll be fine. Trust me!
What you should do is experiment with things like tofu and tempeh. Both are really great substitutes for meat and they absorb flavor really well. That means you can put almost any sauce on them and they taste amazing. Think about all the dishes you already prepare. You can literally make the exact same meals but just substitute out the meat for something else. While the preparation might take a few tries to get the hang of, the best part is that it’s risk free. Even if it’s raw, you won’t get sick! My mom sent me a sampler pack from The Herbivorous Butcher for my birthday last month and both Matt and I have been blown away by the fake meats. They are so good!
If you’re still cooking for another meat eater in your household, do what I do. I will make dishes where most of the ingredients are the same but then cook tofu and ground beef side by side in two separate pans. This is really easy with things like burritos and all Mexican food. Matt will eat the ground beef and I eat the tofu but our burritos have all the same ingredients otherwise. Think of your kitchen like a mini Chipotle!
If you’re in a pinch, you can try a protein powder. I find this helps me especially as a substitute for breakfast. I usually use this protein powder, 1 frozen banana, 1 TBSP of chia seeds, 1 spoonful of peanut butter, and water to make my shake in the mornings. I usually only do this on days when I’m lifting to watch the calories! If I do cardio, I find that I don’t crave protein as much!
Have a bunch of snacks around.
Since vegan meals tend to be lower in calories, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have snacks around – especially in the beginning. Apples, almonds, and crunchy veggies are my favorites. Celery and peanut butter is always a go-to when I’m craving something sweeter! Sugar snap peas are also a must in our household as well as Halo Top dairy free ice cream. As much as I hate to admit this, I always crave sugar after dinner!
Pin your heart out.
Pinterest is going to be your best friend. Search for vegan anything and I’ll guarantee you’ll find a way to make it. If you’re not following me already, you can see all the recipes that I’ve loved here (a lot of them you can make vegan versions). My absolute favorite cookie recipe is here. I’ve made these for Matt, our friends, and even our coworkers and no one believes they are vegan! It takes a few attempts to perfect vegan recipes but I promise that once you do, you’ll be so satisfied! You might need to add a few tools to your kitchen like this Veggetti (which has been a lifesaver for us) but it’s worth it.
Find vegan friendly restaurants.
I’d be lying if I said I felt like cooking every night. I don’t. Wherever you live, find your favorite take out restaurants that make eating a little less stressful. If you’re in Chicago, here are my top 5 healthy restaurants! Do the same thing for sit down restaurants. Yes, you’ll have to review the menus more strictly but it’s worth it. I’ve found that since I have fewer options on the menu, I’m more satisfied after I eat. I once read a study where people who have too many options on a menu are less satisfied with what they end up ordering because they always wonder about the other dish. This is an added bonus of being vegetarian or vegan!
Try a meal service.
Still not comfortable with finding ideas for meatless meals? Try a meal service that offers meat free options until you learn your away around the garden (get it?). Purple Carrot is the most vegan friendly but you can always leave out certain ingredients in vegetarian subscription services like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. Just pick your meals so that they aren’t too dairy heavy!
Keep an open mind.
Yes, things will taste different. The texture will be different too. But I promise that if you experiment enough, you’ll find the flavors that don’t make you miss meat at all. Matt (who still eats meat) will often try my vegan meal ideas. We’ve had a bunch of successes and only a few flops. Just have an open mind and keep trying new things.
Listen to your cravings.
If you’re craving something, that’s your body’s way of telling you that you’re not getting enough of it! There are a bunch of graphics on the internet that tell you what you should eat if you’re craving something specific. These healthy alternatives often work! While they might not all be vegan, you can almost always find something that is.
Go easy on yourself.
Changing the way you eat is a really hard life change. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. Just remember for next time. Remember the way your stomach felt after you ate certain unhealthy foods (or even meat). You’ll eventually be motivated to make the switch permanently!
Overall, I feel so much better after being vegan! The health benefits are incredible. I never get sick, my skin looks better, I feel healthier, and I have amazing health stats even though I don’t look like a model! Becoming vegetarian is truly one of the best life decisions I made for myself. I’ll keep you posted on being vegan but I already feel great about it! And if you want more healthy meal ideas, make sure you’re following along on Instagram as I share inspiration real time. You can adapt almost everything to being vegetarian or having meat in it!
What did you think of this becoming vegan post? Was it helpful? Do you want to see more food and health posts in 2018?