Barriers to the Vegan Diet and How to Tackle Them
Adopting a plant-based lifestyle is a big commitment, but well worth it for both your health and the environment. If you are hesitant about becoming vegan, here are some tips.
You have watched the documentaries and read the books about vegan diet, you are now ready to dive head-first into vegan living, but you know there will be obstacles in your path as you trek into new territory.
Remember that every new vegan faces similar obstacles. For the most part, any new lifestyle requires some planning ahead. Keep these questions and tips in mind as you begin this wonderful journey toward health.
What do I cook?
At first, you may look at your current meals and think to yourself “I’m going to starve because there is nothing I can eat.” Nothing could be further from the truth. However, you will have to make some adjustments. The first step will be to take a look at your typical daily meals. Note where there are animal products to be replaced with plants.
For example – Breakfast. If you usually eat cereal and milk with breakfast, it would be an easy swap to change out dairy milk with one of the wide varieties of non-dairy milk – soy, almond, rice, flax, hemp. Of course, review the ingredients on your favorite cereal to ensure they are vegan – but there are so very many choices out there that are.
If you usually eat an Egg McMuffin or other egg breakfast offering, learn how to make vegan eggs out of tofu. I won’t promise it will taste exactly the same, but I do promise that you can make a delicious breakfast this way and you won’t even miss the eggs.
For some people, it may be easier to start with one meal at a time and work their way toward becoming fully vegan. For some, it helps to just jump in with both feet. Do what is best for you – there are no rules. Just a desire to eat less meat and more plants.
Will I spend more money?
Vegan living is not more expensive, but may at first be a little more time consuming as you discover the best avenues for buying fruits and vegetables. Plan your meals with seasonal produce and you will not spend an exorbitant amount of money on fresh foods. Frequent farmer’s markets for local foods. Use the money you save from the meat counter toward better quality grains such as quinoa and buckwheat. If you plan to make your own vegan cheese, you will note that cashews and other nuts can be quite expensive – utilize bulk bins and buy only what you need for the week.
Where vegan living becomes a bit more pricy lies in convenience style foods, such as premade frozen entrees. However, as you accomplish cooking more on your own, you will rely less on these and ultimately spend less money.
Will I become deficient in protein, vitamins and minerals?
Simple answer is no – not if you plan your meals with a goal toward variety and balance. Omnivores who eat only fast food and chips are just as likely to be nutrient-deficient as junk food vegans.
The first question EVERY vegan is asked is where do you get protein? This is simply based on lack of knowledge and perhaps years of hearing that protein only comes from animals. First off, most people do not need as much protein as they are lead to believe. You are striving for between 0.8 to 1.0 gram per kg of body weight, depending of course on individual needs. For a 150-pound person, this is somewhere around 60 grams. Here are some great vegan protein sources:
• Edamame – 18 grams per 1 cup (cooked)
• Tofu – 8 to 15 grams per 3 oz serving
• Lentils – 9 grams per ½ cup serving
• Black beans – 7.6 grams per ½ cup serving
• Nut butter – 7 grams per ¼ cup serving
• Wild Rice – 6.5 grams per 1 cup serving
• Almonds – 6 grams per ¼ cup serving
• Steel Cut Oatmeal – 5 grams per ¼ cup serving
And the list goes on – even leafy green vegetables contain protein!
You probably aren’t concerned about many vitamins – as plants have always been the best known sources of most of these, including vitamin C! But be aware of the vitamins that are a bit harder to come by in a vegan diet, such as B12. Minerals such as iron and calcium are also easy to achieve in a well planned balanced vegan diet.
How to deal with well-meaning family and friends.
The first time you refuse an offer of steak and potatoes at dinner, or your grandmother’s famous homemade meat loaf, you may receive an onslaught of questions and concerns. Here is how to handle them with grace and confidence. First, assure your family that you have put a lot of thought into becoming vegan and that you know that it is best for your health. Many of our previous generations are concerned about nutrients such as protein and calcium, which they have been trained to think these only come from animals. Educate them! Know at least two or three plant foods for each nutrient they are likely to question you on (Most common being protein, iron, calcium, omega-threes.)
However, one word of caution. Family can sometimes be persistent – well intended, but persistent. Try not to become angry with them. They are just concerned for you and not well-educated about the subject. Just simply say, this is best for me right now. Over time, when they see that you not only stay alive, but also thrive on plants, they will likely be more open – and you may find that you influence them more by setting a positive example for vegan living.
How to deal with holidays and parties when on a vegan diet
Holidays are often centered around food, and many of our current traditions include animal products – turkey at Thanksgiving for example or BBQ at the Fourth of July. If you have mastered vegan cooking, offer to have a celebration at your home featuring plant-based foods. Alternatively, be sure to bring a vegan dish to a party or gathering for two reasons – one, you will have something to eat and two, you can show others how delicious vegan cooking can actually be!
Have a plan for your outings – research a restaurant ahead of time or ask the hostess about the food options. You can always plan to eat prior to going. At the party, focus on being social and less on the food.
Although there are barriers to a vegan diet, these are almost always VERY surmountable! Stay positive. Focusing on anything negative will likely lead you back to your old diet. Vegan living is not about deprivation. Remain focused on benefits of your plant-based diet and always remember that you making a positive change for health and environment!
The Minimalist Vegan @ theminimalistvegan.com/going-vegan
Prevention.com – The 20 Highest Protein Veggies and Other Plant Based Foods You Can Eat
VegetarianNutrition.net – Meeting Calcium Requirements on a Vegan Diet
By Suzette - Suzette.nu from Arnhem, Netherlands – via Wikimedia Commons