Here’s How to Start a Vegan Diet

Updated on August 7th, 2020
Go vegan

You’ve probably heard that eating less meat and more vegetables is healthy. Maybe you’re even feeling inspired to go vegan, which excludes all animal products, including dairy and eggs, to lose a little weight or improve your health.

Taking a vegan diet can be a healthy way(1) to consume when your meals are full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. You need a well-planned vegan diet to ensure you don’t end up eating only processed vegan foods or miss out on essential nutrients.

Here are a few simple tips for eating a vegan diet that is healthy and easy. Even if you’re just attempting to adopt a more plant-based diet for sound health, these tips are a great way to become vegan.

Easy ways to Go Vegan

1. Here’s how to start a vegan diet 

We often get stuck on what we can’t have on a plant-based diet, instead of what we can. But a great diet does not have to center on non-veg. Vegetable-packed meals are a winning choice all-around

  • Veggies are full of vitamins (like K and A ) and minerals (like potassium.
  • They keep your calories in check.
  • Because they are rich in fiber, they can help you feel more satiated.

[Also Read: Protein Sources For Vegans]

2. Vegan diet for beginners

To ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet; it’s essential to eat balanced meals that include various healthy foods.

For instance, you’ll get fiber and protein from beans; leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamins C, A, and K. Choose produce from all colors of the rainbow to get all the advantages.

Orange sweet potatoes have loads of vitamin A to help keep eyes healthy, blue blueberries have brain-boosting anthocyanins, and red tomatoes have heart-healthy lycopene.

Looking for meal ideas? Try a simple well-balanced grain bowl: top quinoa or brown rice, beans, and a mix of roasted or sautéed veggies.

[Also Read: Is Going Vegan a Healthier Option?]

3. Choose Whole Grains

Swapping out refined grains, such as white bread and white pasta, for whole grains, such as quinoa and brown rice, adds B vitamins and iron to a vegan diet (nutrients that are stripped out when the grains are refined).

The abundant fiber from whole grains will help keep you full, and can even help you shed weight.

4. Discover New Plant-Based Proteins

This seems like a cakewalk if you’re vegan, but everyone can do for better health to consume more plant-based proteins.

Animal sources of protein, like cheese and meat, tend to be dense in unhealthy saturated fat. (Plus, there are many valid environmental reasons to cut out animal sources of food.)

Vegan sources of protein really are plenty and include tempeh, tofu, soybeans (edamame), chickpeas, lentils, and beans. Nuts, like walnuts and almonds, and seeds, like pumpkin and sunflower seeds, also provide protein.

Even though most people think it’s challenging for vegans to eat adequate protein, it typically isn’t an issue for someone eating a varied diet and consciously including plant-based protein sources. 

The IOM (Institute of Medicine) recommends women get 46 grams of protein daily and men 56 grams-, which’s pretty simple to reach.

Women would meet their daily quota with two tablespoons of peanut butter (8 grams), ½ cup of dry oatmeal (5 grams protein), 1 cup of cooked quinoa (8 grams).

Twenty-four almonds (6 grams), 1/2 cup of chickpeas (5 grams), 1/2 cup of tofu (10 grams), and 1 cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti (7 grams). Men could add just half a cup of cooked lentils (9 grams) to meet their daily protein requirements.

[Also Read: High Protein Breakfast For Vegans]

5. Don’t Assume Vegan Food Products Are Healthier

Vegan cookies aren’t necessarily special for your waistline than normal cookies. And garlic bread made with vegan margarine isn’t necessarily better for your heart than one prepared with butter.

Processed vegan foods often contain saturated-fat-laden coconut oil and palm oil. Stick to nutritious whole foods that just happen to be vegans, such as hummus and carrots, dried fruit and nuts, guacamole with whole-grain tortilla chips.

Binging in vegan treats every so often is okay, but don’t justify them as “healthy” simply because they’re vegan.

6. Focus On Fish-Free Omega-3s

Even when you eat various healthy vegan foods, some nutrients will be hard to come by. EPA and DHA, 2 types of omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for brain and eye development and cardiovascular health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fatty fish like salmon, though the body can make them in little amounts from ALA, another kind of omega-3 that’s present in plants like walnuts, flaxseed, soy, and canola oil.

A variety of foods, including breakfast bars and soy milks, are presently fortified with DHA. Supplements of EPA/DHA prepared from algae are also available.

7. Don’t Forget About Vitamin D

Most people receive their Vitamin D from canned fish like sardines and salmon and fortified dairy products like yogurt and milk, but D is also in some fortified non-dairy milk such as almond or soy milk and orange juice.

Mushrooms that have been exposed to UltraViolet light are also great sources. During summer, when the sun is intense, our skin can synthesize D. The DV (daily value) for vitamin D is 600 IU, with some researchers saying that it should be nearer to 1,500 IU.

Most people, including vegans, may need to use a supplement to hit those numbers.

8. Pump Up Your Iron

Animal proteins like chicken and meat are the best sources of iron, which is another nutrient that’s crucial for vegans to pay attention to.

Vegans can still get this mineral from legumes, beans, and leafy greens, but non-heme iron (iron from plant sources) isn’t as easily absorbed as it is from heme iron (meat sources).

To get the best of plant-based iron, eat vitamin-C rich foods with iron-rich foods, which helps boost absorption, and not at the same time as calcium-rich foods, which can inhibit iron absorption.

9. Be Aware of B12

Vitamin B12-a vitamin that helps convert food into energy in our bodies and helps in brain function-is present primarily in animal foods, such as fish, meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy foods.

People following a vegan diet can receive some B12 from energy bars or fortified cereals but should talk with their physician about using a supplement. The daily value for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms for most adults.

Bottom Line

If you’re switching to a full-time vegan diet, it’s wise to do it slowly. Your body requires time to get habituated to the different balance of foods, and the experience will be more relishable if you give yourself time to discover the wealth of vegan recipes and foods and research new places to eat out.

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