Introduction 

Most people who go vegan do so for ethical reasons. whether it’s the mistreatment of the animal before it makes its way to market or the inhumane methods of dispatching an animal it’s easy to see that there is an ethical reason to go vegan.

Some people want to go vegan simply for the health benefits or a combination of health benefits and ethics.  Whatever your motivation you will have to deal with some new things in the kitchen, remembering that you were eating vegan, and dealing with those around you who think that it’s an unhealthy lifestyle.

In this article, I hope to help you with some of those questions and make your venture into veganism just a little bit easier. and remember if you cannot become an all-out vegan it’s okay to become a vegetarian. sometimes small steps are better. It’s all up to you. 

Some of the questions I hope to answer will be how to start a vegan diet, dealing with friends and family, and some of the things you should be eating and what you shouldn’t be eating I’m a vegan and a vegetarian diet.

What is a Vegan?

A vegan is a person who adopts a lifestyle that has no meat or meat products or meat derivatives in it.  Vegans often adopt this lifestyle choice because of ethical concerns about the treatment of animals and inhumane slaughter practices.  

Becoming a vegan sounds simple but it really isn’t. Vegans obviously don’t eat meat but it’s all of the other aspects of this lifestyle that are sometimes hard to deal with. A strict vegan will not have any leather products like belts, shoes, and purses.   It’s surprising how many products have some leather in them. It might be a piece of trim on clothing,  it could be reinforcing on a shoe or a jacket.   True vegans don’t eat honey, don’t eat jello, and read every label to make sure that there are no meat by-products in any of the food they eat.  There can be no milk by-products and no egg by-products.  Butter is out of the question and all be a few margarine spreads contain milk so that’s off the table too.  Mayonnaise is made with oil and eggs so that’s out too.  

Becoming a strict vegan is a daunting task and really requires focus and commitment. If you find restaurants that have a full vegan menu you can count on paying twice as much as a regular meal with similar non-vegan products.   It is easy to see that those around you will roll their eyes when they see you coming and avoid lunch dates at all costs.

What is the difference between being a vegan and a vegetarian?

If Veganism means absolutely no meat or meat byproducts a vegetarian is eating all vegetables with no meat on the plate.  You can still buy shoes, wallets, and belts.  You can use meat byproducts.  

Being a vegetarian is easier for you and your family.  You can still set your own terms and limits.  

Vegetarians have a plethora of choices and degrees of vegetarianism.  Major categories are lacto-vegetarian, Ovo-vegetarian, and ovo-lacto vegetarian, 

Lacto-vegetarian means you will tolerate milk and milk byproducts in your diet.  Again you set the level of tolerance.  Maybe a cup of milk in a recipe is too much for you but milk solids in margarine are ok. 

Ovo-vegetarian means you will tolerate eggs in your vegetarian diet.  Many vegetarians do not eat eggs as part of a meal (like eggs for breakfast) but will use eggs in cooking.   It is much easier to use an egg as a binder in your baking than to try to use starches.  

Finally, a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian will use both eggs and milk in their vegetarian diet.  Again the degree of integration of animal products is all up to you.  

Are you still feeling bad about supporting the meat industry by having leather shoes and accessories?  There are alternatives that look like leather.  I don’t know about the life span of these products but a more practical way of looking at accessories is to respect the leather products you do have and maximize their life.  Save your leather shoes for special occasions and wear canvas shoes for day-to-day use. The same goes with belts, wallets, and purses.     

It’s a vegan or vegetarian diet more healthy than the standard American diet?

Well, it depends.  Are you the type to eat lots of steamed vegetables or do you have several pieces of white toast slathered with vegan margarine for your meal?  

There are vegans and vegetarians who have an awful diet and some that have a very healthy diet. 

One of the best bits of advice I can give you (Paleo) here is to stay away from refined foods and too much starch as much as possible no matter what diet you’re on.  

Say you want to be a strict vegan but you don’t have time to prepare your own meals.  While shopping you go to the frozen entre section of your vegan market and you buy all burgers, mock meats, and mock cheeses you can find.   You eat these for lunch and come home and have pasta with vegan margarine for supper. Variety for dinner is deciding on bowtie pasta, fettuccine, or shells.  

Well that diet is described as a vegan diet and the person eating it is probably malnourished and 300 plus pounds.  

On the flip side is a person who is practicing vegan or vegetarianism and eats plenty of fresh vegetables, legumes, (not paleo) and seeds in limited amounts.  When this person cannot find fresh vegetables they will have frozen veggies as they are frozen straight from the field and maintain the nutritional integrity.

How do I deal with friends and family when I’m on a vegan diet?

I think sometimes vegans make too big a deal out of being a vegan. It’s kind of like being your own worst enemy. One of your family or friends starts telling about the great steak they just had. Maybe they’re trying to get to you and you swallow it hook line & sinker. You’re at the dinner table people see you passing on the meat are getting vegetables. Questions ensue and you get defensive.   Sometimes rather than making an issue over being a vegan you just need to say “ I’m feeling a little sluggish and I’m trying to eat less meat.” 

The objective here should be to try and reduce the impact being a vegan has on family and friends.  After a period of time, they will understand what you were trying to do.  Then you might get some intelligent questions like “How do you make up the difference in protein for a vegan diet?” 

If you are invited over for dinner and you are a vegan or vegetarian you can say “I’d love to have dinner with you.  You should know that I’m a vegan/vegetarian so I don’t want you to go out of your way for me with any expensive meats.  Just a simple steamed vegetable and a salad will be fine for me. I don’t even eat butter or salad dressing so you can get away easy ha ha ha”  You can bet that there will be extra vegetables just for you! 

If you want to alienate family and friends it’s real easy by showing them some YouTube videos about factory farms and scolding them for eating meat products.  Do you really think you further the cause of veganism?  

Did you know that being a vegan or vegetarian helps prevent climate change?  Feeding animals takes more food and water than buying and eating vegetables directly.  Additionally, animals produce large amounts of methane.  When you replace animal hides with hemp-based products you sequester carbon from the atmosphere.  Overall vegans and vegetarians are doing their part in making a positive change for the environment.

Will a vegan diet help me lose weight?

A vegan diet can help you lose weight if you stay away from many of the processed foods on the market and stay away from refined carbohydrates such as pasta.  I have met my share of overweight vegans who don’t purchase very many vegetables and stick to a refined carb diet. (maybe due to cost) 

A vegan (or vegetarian) diet should consist of a hearty breakfast, maybe oatmeal and raisins with almond milk, a vegetable snack A salad for lunch (maybe with quinoa) a veggie snack in the afternoon, and a vegetable plate for dinner.  Something like eggplant with some vegan cheese, some asparagus, a small baked potato, and some sliced tomatoes.

What foods should I keep on hand for my vegan diet?

You will need to decide on the types of food you eat and what you should have on hand.  Spices like curry, turmeric, salt, pepper, and other spices of your choice.  You will need starch for egg replacer.  High-quality oil for cooking.  Legumes and seeds will provide bulk and protein.  

Some easy breakfast choices

  • Grits
  • Oatmeal
  • Sliced tomatoes on a whole grain toast
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu fried with onions and turmeric
  • A fruit.
  • Coffee, tea, or chicory drink

Some easy lunch or dinner choices 

  • Vegetable Samosas
  • Vegan burger
  • Pineapple fried rice
  • Salad
  • Vegan Thai Curry
  • Black beans with avocado 
  • Mushroom, broccoli and Chinese rice noodles
  • Roasted Broccoli
  • Broccoli Soup
  • Green beans and almonds
  • Green Beans, Onions and Garlic
  • Mixed bean salad
  • Pea Soup
  • Snow Peas and pasta shells

Now that you have some menu items you can look through recipes and get some ideas of what you will need to make each one of them.  One thing that you should watch is how many flavor influences you have in your kitchen at one time.  You could have Indian food one night, Thai the next, then Chinese, Hawaiian, French, etc.  That’s a lot of flavor profiles to keep on hand in your kitchen when you are just starting out and some of these will need to be refrigerated.  Remember what you’re getting into.

Will Protein Be An Issue When Trying To Follow A Vegan Diet?

Protein should not be an issue if you have a variety of foods in your diet.  The Mayo Clinic recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or about .37 grams per pound of body weight.  So a 150 lb person should take in about 55 grams of protein.  

One cup of black beans will give you about 15 gr protein, a cup of broccoli has about 2.6 grams of protein, and 10.0 gr of protein in Oatmeal and Almond milk.  Add to that a salad, with 9 grams of protein and a cup of tofu with 20gr protein and you’ve met your daily protein requirements.  

Will you meet your protein requirements every day?  Maybe. Usually.  It will take some meal planning to make sure you are getting enough protein.  Some days you may be a bit light on protein but you can always supplement with vegan protein powder.  You should only need it sparingly because most of your protein will come from your food.  

Conclusion 

Being a vegan takes commitment, and understanding both on your part and those around you.  Maybe a little less committed to being a vegetarian. I think flexibility is important for people who are vegan and vegetarian.  If you get invited over to someone’s home for dinner I see nothing wrong with letting them know that you are vegan or vegetarian.  

Both lifestyles are healthy for almost everyone.  The main thing is to be prepared with food in your kitchen and get to know what you need in the way of protein, carbs, and fat along with vitamins and minerals.