The vegan diet – A complete guide for beginners

You’ve probably made a bunch of New Year resolutions. If one of them involves going vegan, you’ve come to the right place. Making the switch from a regular diet to a vegan diet is definitely not easy. You, my friend, have a long way to go. However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible! With a little bit of dedication and a whole lot of knowledge, you can eventually make the complete switch. And if you’re new to the whole world of vegan diets, we bet that our handy little guide will help you understand it a whole lot better.

But, first things first. Ask yourself why you want to go vegan. Is it out of a growing sense of concern for the planet? Is it because you consider it a healthier option? Having an answer to this question is vital, because it’s what’s going to keep you motivated and help you stay on track. Once you have that cleared out, let’s understand what a vegan diet really is. Essentially, a vegan diet is one that is conscious about animal-derived ingredients. It involves keeping away from animal products including meat, eggs and dairy products, among other things.

What you can eat

Plant-based food without animal-derived ingredients. This includes:-

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Seeds/Nuts
  • Spices and herbs, etc.

What you can’t eat

Any kind of food that contains animal-derived ingredients:-

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Honey, etc.

How to start

While the idea of just diving right in might be tempting, it’s not necessarily the right way to do it. A vegan diet is completely different from what you’re used to, so jumping into the process is not ideal. A slow but steady transition is the best way to go. For example, in the first week, you can start off by eliminating eggs from your meals. In the second week, try to do away with red meat. After that, you can slowly eliminate fish and poultry from your diet, too. What can also help is setting a fixed time period – perhaps 30 days. If, at the end of it, you feel confident about turning this into a lifestyle, go right ahead!

Finding vegan substitutes

Understand this – you’ve grown up enjoying the taste of eggs, dairy and/or meat. So, it’s not going to be easy to give them up altogether. Luckily enough, there are plenty of brands today that are offering up vegan food substitutes. Plenty of them are homegrown brands as well. From almond milk and coconut-based vegan milk and curd to vegan mutton and vegan chicken, brands are doing some really interesting things in this space. There’s even a certain brand making cheese out of almonds! So, do your research and find alternatives to the food that you love.

Focus on protein

Lots of people wonder where they’re going to get their source of protein from if they go vegan. But, don’t worry. Here are some vegan protein sources to help you get started:-

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Peanut butter
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Flax seeds

Understand your body

When you’re switching to a brand new diet, your body is bound to react. Sometimes, once you make the switch, you might come down with headaches and feel fatigued during the first few weeks. Know that this is normal and is a phase that’s going to pass. Understand that your body has been used to eating meat, eggs and dairy for years now. So, when you take it all away, it’s going to be difficult (but not impossible) for your system to adapt to this new lifestyle. What’s equally important is to not be hard on yourself if you slip up. Be patient and give your body time to adjust. If you’re worried, you can always talk to your doctor or nutritionist.

Read food labels

This is probably not something that you’re used to doing. But when you go vegan, reading labels becomes absolutely essential. Not many brands come with specific markings on their products that say ‘suitable for vegans’ or something along those lines. So, you must read the ingredient list on the product. Watch out for animal-derived ingredients like lactose, gelatine, albumen or egg whites, whey powder and more.

Prepare for social events

When you’ve turned vegan, eating out is almost always a herculean task. But, talking to the people you’re making plans within advance about your food preferences, should help. If somebody is hosting you, remind them that you’ve gone vegan, so that you don’t put them in a spot when you arrive. You can also take along a vegan dish with you to share with your host, to be nice. When you’re going out to eat, do some research well in advance, on places that serve vegan food. This way, you’re always prepared and you don’t have to miss out on all the fun.

Food ideas to consider

Here are a couple of vegan meals that you can try cooking yourself:-

  • Avocado toast
  • Peanut butter and banana muffins
  • Chickpea and cucumber salad
  • Tomato and spinach pasta
  • Spiced pancakes made from besan (also known as besan cheela)
  • Pan-seared tofu cooked in a butter chicken gravy (using coconut milk and no butter!)
  • Bhindi Masala (dry fried Indian okra)

And lots more, if you do your research right!

What’s more, the vegan diet is also considered to help in weight loss, since you’re eating food that’s rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It can help lower cholesterol levels, improve heart health and even, according to research, reduce the symptoms of arthritis and the risk of cancer. In a nutshell, it’s a wonderful lifestyle change to make, especially if you can be patient and committed throughout.

-Sanjana Subramanian

Previous Posts

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *