So you’ve come to the conclusion that animal products are not for you, but now what? A major lifestyle change can be daunting, even if you believe it will make you happier and healthier in the long run. Making small tweaks at a time can make this process much easier, and we’re here to help!
Remember your why
Many people decide to go on a vegan diet after hearing the terrible things they do to animals in the agricultural process. If you want to learn more about this, the documentaries Food, Inc. and Earthlings are quite eye opening. Others do it simply for health reasons, some do it for both. Whatever your reason is, make sure you right it down or consciously remind yourself of why you want to make this change. A diet that is a little off the beaten path and harder to find products for may seem difficult at first, but if you remember your why, it will be much easier to stick to. If you fall off the wagon, don’t sweat it, we’re all human. Start fresh with the next meal or even the next day and don’t beat yourself up about it.
If you need a refresher or some ideas- this is a wonderful site!
Eating a plant based, vegan diet has been shown in many studies to reduce mortality for:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Some cancers including prostate and colon cancer
Many people choose veganism to support agricultural methods that do not involve any type of animal cruelty, therefore, it is great to educate yourself on the moral reasons that one may change to veganism. This issue has been in the shadows for years and there are many misconceptions on what really happens to prepare the animal protein items we seen in the store. Factory farming is one of the biggest examples of animal cruelty. Unfortunately, this method is highly profitable and therefore is entrenched in the food industry. Factory farming is essentially when farms gather large numbers of animals, typically cows, pigs, turkeys, or chickens, often indoors, stocked together tightly with the aim being to produce large quantities of meat, eggs, or milk at the lowest possible cost. Going vegan means showing your disapproval of factory farming and refusal to add to the profits of the companies that employ this method.
Supporting environmental sustainability
As we know, our ancestors at one time consumed meat to survive, and it definitely served a purpose. However, with the increasing trends of population growth and our society’s agricultural demands, it is worrisome how much longer this can be sustainable. In 2010, the UN released a report encouraging a global move away from animal products. The report states, “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
Agricultural methods such as breeding, raising, and feeding animals for food production is an extremely inefficient use of natural resources. Animals raised for food production are fed over 50% of the all the world’s crops alone. 60% of worldwide deforestation results from land being converted for use as agricultural land, much of which is used for grazing cattle. Factor in the amount of water required to both raise crops to feed animals as well as run factory farms and it is easy to see the toll mass production of animal products takes on the planet. An estimated 850,000,000 people worldwide are malnourished while these resources are being used inefficiently. More people adopting plant based diets would reduce pollution, deforestation, fossil fuel consumption and water shortages.
Tips to avoid nutrient deficiencies
Adopting a vegan diet cuts out a number of food items, which in turn can lead to nutrient deficiencies if you are not careful. The nutrients that are of most concern for the vegan diet are protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12.
Here are the daily breakdowns for each nutrient and good ways to keep your levels healthy
RDI: 0.9 grams of protein per kg of weight
Vegan foods high in protein: chickpeas, whole wheat English muffin, broccoli, almonds, whole grain bagel, lentils, tofu, quinoa.
Tips to improve iron intake
- Soak beans before use
- Choose roasted nuts over raw nuts
- Use cast-iron cookware
- Consume food high in vitamin C such as sprouted grains and fermented foods
Foods high in iron include: chickpeas, flax seed, lentils, pumpkin seed, almonds, baked potato
RDI: 1000 mg calcium (men and women ages 19-50)
Foods high in calcium include: kale, chickpeas, almonds, figs, oranges, blackstrap molasses
RDI: 2.4 mcg Vitamin B12
Foods high in Vitamin B12 include: large flake nutritional yeast, fortified soy milk, veggie burger, veggie dog, corn flakes
RDI: 800 IU Vitamin D2
Foods high in Vitamin D include: fortified soy milk, fortified cereal, vegan margarine, instant oatmeal
MyFitnessPal has a wonderful food tracking function that helps you keep track of exactly what you’re eating and what vitamins/minerals are included in those items!
Every small change helps, so keep going! Adopting a vegan, vegetarian or even reduced animal protein diet can improve both your health and the health of the planet.
Taking on a new, unconventional way of eating can be tough, so be easy on yourself. If you don’t stick to it 100%, don't beat yourself up about it. The next meal or the next day is a fresh start!