When you first start trying to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, the amount of information can overwhelming. What can you have? What can’t you have? How difficult it is going to be? It can all get a bit much.
This is why I’m breaking down my top five tips for new vegans here and on the podcast this week. You can check it out on iTunes or Spotify – May contain traces of soy.
- Find your motivation and do your research. When you first go vegan one of the questions you are going to get asked a lot is why. Why did you go vegan? There are three main reasons people go vegan – animal rights, sustainability and health. Perhaps it’s for animal rights reasons because you watched Earthlings, or for sustainability, because you discovered that adopting a plant-based lifestyle cuts your personal carbon footprint down by 73%. Or perhaps it’s a health journey for you, because you have done some research and realised that it will signifigantly reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. For many of us it starts as one and quickly becomes all three but whatever your motivation, you are going to receive questions about – and perhaps criticisms of – your new lifestyle. Do some research and have some facts ready to share when you come up against these questions. It can be a wonderful opportunity to educate people around some of these issues, provided you can remain calm and respectful during the discussion, which leads me to tip number two.
- Temper that vegan rage. When you first go vegan and really start to dig into that research it, is perfectly normal and natural to become very impassioned and upset about these issues, because it is upsetting. But it’s important to approach all these conversations with compassion, because everyone is on their own journey. Getting irate with your friends and family, pointedly telling them about the treatment of dairy cows or the minimum conditions that chicken farms must meet to be labelled “free-range” is not going to help the cause. Instead, I would recommend concentrating on the positive effects this has had on your life, the availabilty and quality of plant-based alternatives and the reduction of your own carbon footprint. Bring some positivity to the conversation.
- Give yourself time to forget what cheese tastes like. Cheese is an interesting product and it is often cited by vegetarians as the reason why they could never go vegan. But why are we so obessed with cheese? The answer is actually quite interesting. The main active ingredients in cheese are casein and rennet. Casein is the milk protein and rennet is made from the stomach lining of the cow. Casein actually reacts with our chemical make-up to produce a morphine-like effect in our brains. When disgested, casein becomes casomorphine, releasing happy dopamine chemicals in our brain. The reason why casein does this is to help facilitate bonding between a calf and its mother when nursing. So keeping in mind that cheese affects your brain like a drug, I would recommend treating it like one. When you go vegan go cold turkey without cheese for 30 days, give yourself time for your palette to adjust and then you will better be able to enjoy cashew and soy cheeses.
- Leave your prejudices at the door and try everything that is vegan. When you first go vegan you might think that you hate soy milk or can’t stand tofu so you avoid these products. This is a mistake. When you first go vegan you should try everything that is vegan without fear or favor. You never know when you might find a new favourite treat. The plant-based food industry has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years. There are vegan meat substitutes that are very close to the texture and taste of the real thing and this can be a lifesaver in those early days of transition if you are craving animal products. Try everything and before you know it you’ll have a range of favourite products that you swear by.
- Find your accidentally vegan treats. There are a lot of products out there that were not specifically made for vegans but just happen to be vegan, you can find lists on PETA’s website and there is an Instagram page – accidentally vegan australia. These are great resources. Even if you follow a stricter wholefoods plant-based diet, it can be handy to know these accidentally vegan products, in case you’re at a friend’s house or a party, or you’re eating from a vending machine in a crumby hotel. It is important to note, though, that while these items do not contain animal products, they may not ethically line up with your vegan lifestyle. They may, for example, use palm oil, which is not technically an animal product, but can cause massive devastion to the orangutan population. So just be aware of that. But – just to give you an idea – Pringles, Oreos, BBQ Shapes, Burger Rings and Praise 99% fat-free mayo are all accidentally vegan.
I hope you find these tips helpful – please check out the podcast episode for a more comprehensive breakdown of these tips. Do you have any tips for new vegans? What are your favourite accidentally vegan treats? Let us know in the comments!