31 May 2013

guest post: how to start eating vegan for avid meat eaters {by virginia cunningham}

Switching from a diet that’s heavy on meat to a diet that contains no meat at all – the vegan diet – can feel like a nearly impossible task for some people. While it might seem like a huge change in lifestyle, adapting to a vegan diet could be easier than you think if you do it the right way.

Many people that switch from eating meat to eating a vegan diet also worry about nutritional deficiencies. It’s possible to have nutritional deficiencies while on a vegan diet, but a little bit of knowledge about what foods you need to eat to maintain your health can go a long way.

Being vegan can seem difficult at first, but it can be done in a healthy way! If you ate a lot of meat and dairy foods high in saturated fat prior to switching, you may even see considerable health benefits when you switch to a vegan diet.

Don’t Starve Yourself
When switching to a vegan diet, you may find that you need to eat more food to fill you up and make you feel satisfied. For many people, this can be alarming since eating a larger volume of food can make them feel like they’re overeating.

The truth is, if you’re eating considerably more fresh vegetables and fruits as part of your new diet, you’re going to need to eat more food because they’re generally less calorically-dense than animal proteins and dairy products. Eating more might unnerve you at first, but it’s something you’ll get used to.

Keeping some calorically-dense foods around for when you’re particularly hungry, like peanut butter, can also be helpful for many vegans.

Drink More Water
Everybody needs water, but when you switch to a vegan diet, it may be even more important to you than it was before. That’s because your body is likely going to be inundated with large amounts of fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. These are healthy, but your body probably won’t be used to the amount you’re going to be eating as a vegan.

Water can also help eliminate some of the toxins left over from years of eating processed animal products from your body.

Worried About Protein?
Many people who switching to a vegan diet worry whether or not they’re getting enough protein. While most foods contain a minimal amount of protein, incorporating protein-rich, non-animal based foods into your diet as a vegan is important.

Examples of protein-rich foods include beans, nuts, peanut butter, soy products (like edamame and tofu), tempeh and quinoa. As an added benefit, these foods are also considerably lower in saturated fat than animal-based products – some, like black beans, are even completely devoid of saturated fat.

Not Everything Labeled as Vegan is Healthy 
When you first start eating vegan, it can be tempting to grab everything from the grocery store with the “Vegan” tag on it. After all, it’s going to take you some time to learn how to prepare food that’s vegan-friendly, so these prepared foods can make the transition easier, right? The truth is, not everything with a “vegan” label on it is necessarily good for you. Processed foods like certain veggie burgers and “hotdogs” can be very high in fat and sodium.

There are certainly some healthy prepared vegan options out there, but like with all food, you need to read the nutrition label before you fill your shopping cart with them. Just because it’s vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s something you need to be eating regularly. That applies to vegan snack foods and items like soy ice cream as well.

Making the switch to a vegan diet can be daunting for a lot of people, but once you get in the habit of eating vegan, you’ll be surprised at how easy it really is. As long as you’re conscious of what you’re eating and making sure you’re getting enough nutrients and calories, you might feel healthier as well. 

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from California whose writing covers a wide range of topics, including health, fitness, alternative medicine and technology. When choosing vegan-friendly foods for her family, she makes sure that they contain the essential vitamins and supplements.