Updated: Sep 3
My Vegan Journey
I became vegan while working at a summer camp in 2018. I don’t know if you guys have heard of Veganuary but it’s a challenge that happens every year and challenges people to commit to being vegan for the whole month of January. Well, I didn’t do this challenge, but a similar one with my coworkers. Since it was my first summer working at this camp, I was introduced to a lot of traditions that the other staff members previously held. One of them was the vegan summer challenge. The goal was to be vegan for the duration of summer camp (May 31st– July 28th). Safe to say that everyone didn’t fully commit to this challenge, but I was wholeheartedly committed to it. I was lucky to make a good friend there who had been vegan for years already so she really helped me choose the right options at mealtimes so I wouldn’t break my vegan edge.
Let me interrupt and say that I grew up vegetarian, so I didn’t go from eating meat to being vegan. I went from being vegetarian to being vegan. The transition wasn’t extreme for me because my family and I were as close to vegan as you could get. We didn’t eat eggs by themselves (only in foods), we didn’t drink dairy milk, and we only ate real butter occasionally. I did have a period in my life when I was eating fish and then chicken and turkey (I didn’t like the taste of red meat) but then I switched back to being strictly vegetarian.
So, for the haters that will say “You don’t even know what you’re missing” or “That’s easy for you to say” in reference to my journey… It might have been easier for me because of my surroundings, support & lifestyle choices, but it was still hard.
Continuing on… My roommate in college was also vegan, so she definitely had a huge impact on my decision to continue being vegan.
In all, I’ve been vegan for almost 3 years!! WOW!
But you guys didn’t click on this post to read about my journey; you clicked on this post to read about how YOU can start your own journey.
My 10 Top Tips to Make the Switch
1. Incorporate more whole foods into your meals
If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy fruits and veggies, then this might be hard for you. For those who love their fruits and veggies, this won’t be super hard. Try adding a salad to every dinner meal or eating some fruit for breakfast every day. When you’re feeling peckish, try eating some nuts, and dried or fresh fruit. Over time this will become easier and easier and you’ll get the benefit of having more minerals and vitamins in your diet.
2. Replace cow’s milk with plant-based milk
There are so many different plant-based milks to try now such as oat milk, almond milk, cashew milk, quinoa milk, flax milk, rice milk, soy milk, pea milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, and many more. Turns out you can make milk out of pretty much anything! You can get vanilla, original, chocolate, etc. There are also so many different brands that make soy milk – Silk, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Oatly, Ripple, Califia Farms, So Delicious, etc. You can find these brands in every major supermarket.
P.S. A lot of people believe or have heard that soy milk increases your risk of breast cancer or that it can cause men to grow breasts and that is a HUGE misconception. According to Mayo Clinic, a diet that incorporates soy foods actually REDUCES the risk of breast cancer. On top of that, soy contains phytoestrogen, not actual estrogen that our bodies naturally make. The phytoestrogen blocks some of your estrogen receptors, which can help reduce the amount of estrogen that your body absorbs from your food. It basically helps to regulate the amount of estrogen in your body – that is good!
3. Replace yogurt, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, etc., with non-dairy versions
These can be tricky if you don’t do your research. There are many, many brands out there that make these products, but not all products are created equal. My favorite brands that I’ve tried so far for yogurt are So Delicious & Silk. For plant-based butter, I really enjoy Earth Balance & Smart Balance & Country Crock. I haven’t tried many cream cheese or sour cream brands so I can’t speak on that.
4. Replace condiments, dressings, crackers, muffins, sweets, etc., with non-dairy versions
For some of these like condiments & crackers, it’s super easy to make the switch because typically there are already naturally vegan versions of these items that aren’t always labeled as vegan. ALWAYS CHECK THE LABELS. For some reason, milk powder, eggs, and milk sneak their way into products that have no business having those ingredients. For instance, Pringles… why do most of the flavors contain MILK POWDER? It should just be potatoes and spices, that’s it. So be careful with this one and READ THE INGREDIENT LIST CAREFULLY.
5. Replace dairy cheese with plant-based cheese
This is really hard for a lot of people because cheese has such an addictive quality. I’m not even joking. Cheese is ADDICTIVE and I’m sure many people would list cheese as one of the things they would absolutely not give up. But do the benefits of eating healthier food outweigh the benefits of keeping cheese in your diet? I would say yes! Just like with milk, there are a ton of plant-based cheese brands. My favorites are Daiya & Follow Your Heart. I heard Violife is also really good, so I’d like to try that soon. If you didn’t know (because how would you), soy isn’t the only thing that plant-based cheese can be made out of. You can make a nacho cheese sauce or cream cheese spread out of cashews, and shredded cheese out of oats.
6. Replace eggs with plant-based eggs or tofu & use egg substitutes in recipes
There are some brands like Just that make liquid eggs for you to scramble or fry. But if you’re not a stickler about eggs, then cuts out the egg substitutes altogether and try a tofu scramble instead. In recipes, you can replace eggs with flax seeds or Chia seeds (mix with water), a starch egg replacer (mix with water), or depending on the recipe you can even use applesauce or bananas. You just need something that will hold your dry ingredients together.
7. Replace one meal every week with a plant-based meal
This is where it can start to get tricky. Starting with one plant-based meal per week is a good way to ease into eating vegan meals every day. My go-to search engine for yummy vegan recipes is Pinterest. Literal gold. Pinterest offers a ton of simple, easy & quick vegan meals that will blow your mind. Eating plant-based foods doesn’t have to be disgusting and Pinterest offers recipes for many different styles of vegan food. If you’re not ready to jump into eating meat substitutes yet, then try using beans, peas, or lentils instead.
8. Replace one meal every day with a plant-based meal
You’re almost there! Eating one vegan meal every day will get you so much closer to becoming 10% vegan. As you plan your vegan meal you will learn how important seasonings are in creating scrumptious food and how simple eating vegan meals can be. You will also learn how creative vegans really are. The meals can be as simple as a loaded salad, rice, and beans or as complex as vegan fried chicken or vegan pizza.
9. Completely replace your meat sources with plant-based sources
Not eating meat in addition to cheese is typically the hardest change for most people to make. Meat is also very addictive and since the American lifestyle is constructed around meat, most people are hooked. If you get this far, then just know that I am so proud of you. Most people can make it through steps 1-8 but falter at step 9 because meat is too hard to completely give up. There are tons of meat substitutes out there and it is important to BEWARE OF THE LABELS! Packaged meat substitutes typically contain a lot of sodium and preservatives so if you can eventually reduce your intake of these products then that’s the goal. You can use tofu instead or beans, peas & lentils. You can also use mushrooms, gluten, cauliflower, and caramelized onions in many recipes. You can be as creative or boring as you wish.
10. Transform your diet into a lifestyle
Once you’ve changed your diet from eating meat & dairy to plant-based foods, the next step is to advocate for the animals, the planet, and your fellow humans. You can join an organization, and share nutrition or animal cruelty information on your social media accounts. You can share recipes and clear up misconceptions often said about being vegan. I would encourage you to stop buying real leather and suede and buy vegan leather or faux leather instead. Sometimes vegan leather products can be more expensive, but sometimes they can also be less expensive; it just depends on the product and brand. Even though honey technically isn’t vegan, many vegans use it instead of processed sugar in their drinks/recipes. I personally don’t use honey in my day-to-day life anymore and choose to use agave instead. You can also use date sugar & coconut sugar as well.
Thank you so much for making it to the end of this post! I hope it gave you some great tips that you can easily implement. Making the switch to Veganism doesn’t have to be hard and I hope that I have given you a doable step-by-step process to do so.
If I missed some crucial steps in this list, then comment below and let me know. Also, if you have been thinking about becoming vegan, but have doubts, let me know what they are down below.
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