It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be!
Hi, I’m Yuri, and I became a vegan two years ago.
That's right — we vegans do not eat ANYTHING that is of animal origin. That means no meat, cheese, butter, eggs, or honey. NONE of that.
Personally, I did it for my health. I have many food intolerances and allergies, and the vegan diet fit perfectly with all my dietary restrictions. This made making the decision a bit easier, but it was still a great change in my lifestyle.
In reality, being vegan is not as hard as it looks, and here I'll share the tips that helped make this process easier and more pleasant…
I GRADUALLY reduced my animal-based foods.
Eight years ago, I consuming dairy products and pork because I discovered that I was lactose intolerant and allergic to pork. Some months before I'd stopped eating shellfish, because I also had a very strong allergic reaction. The natural next step was, for me, to stop eating eggs, chicken, and fish; and it wasn't very difficult.
The first few weeks, I was flexible with food that had eggs or chicken, and I would eat it once or twice a week. That way, I didn't force my stomach to undergo too sudden of a change. Little by little, my body adapted.
I bought an introductory guide to veganism.
In the bookstore's cooking section, I found a guide about everything that one needs to know to be vegan: how to substitute food, where to buy it, where to obtain nutrients, vegan restaurants to know, blogs to read, documentaries to watch, and general facts. This helped me learn more about a world that was completely mysterious to me.
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I talked my doctor and saw a nutritionist.
My doctor recommended that I visit a nutritionist to make sure that I was following a balanced diet and that I wasn't missing any nutrients.
The nutritionist made me a weekly menu based on things I like and that I can eat, and she asked me to take vitamin B12 capsules, which is a nutrient that I would be missing in a vegan diet.
I started to check all of the labels on the usual foods I bought.
In reality, there are MANY processed foods that don't contain animal-based products, even though they might not be labeled as “vegan” per se.
That's why I started checking the ingredients list — they'll always list whether they contain eggs, dairy (or nuts for those that are allergic). That's how I discovered that I could still eat white bread, Oreos, and dark chocolate.
I found vegan food shop close to my usual haunts.
In reality, I can get everything I need at a normal grocery store or at the market, but vegan specialty stores are especially easy to navigate, and they usually have vegan versions of my former favorite foods, like yogurt, hot dogs, and ice cream.
For me, these substitute products helped me during the process of letting go of meat and my former eating habits.
I started to make my own vegan foods.
I never pictured myself as that kind of person, but once I began, I realized that I was saving a lot of money, and that it was also healthier and easier. Making my own mayonnaise, almond milk, or tofu makes me feel very capable.
I bought a cookbook, and I started to cook more frequently.
If you don't want to spend mad $$$ on vegan restaurants, or always be eating the same things, learning how to really cook for yourself is the best option. The food options are infinite, and the vegan diet never becomes boring. For me, cooking for myself made me get to know new flavors and recipes that I'd never tried before.
When I finished all the recipes in the book, I bought another one and when I finished that one, I searched for new recipes on the Internet and in videos. Until now, I've never stopped eating new things, and they're all delicious.
I learned that just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy.
In fact, there's a group of people that are known as “junk food vegans” because they only eat non-natural vegan products, which aren't always healthy.
For example, french fries are vegan, but I wouldn't be able to eat that all day. Vegan food can also be greasy, high in sugars, and salt.
It isn't enough to eliminate meat, eggs, and dairy. You have to still maintain a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, and protein.
I found vegan restaurants in my city and the places I visited.
There are restaurants of all kinds and price range. I found a vegan pub in my neighborhood, and a vegan taco stand next to my office.
Discovering those places made me feel less pressured to cook for myself every day. I also loved finding super delicious and a bit more expensive vegan restaurants, to treat myself once in a while, of course!
I joined a local vegan Facebook group.
Vegan Facebook groups are the best thing that could have happened to me. In the groups, they share information about restaurants, nutritionists, workshops, tips, recipes, questions, and memes.
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I met people with the same dietary habits as me.
It's very satisfying to find people who eat and enjoy the same types of foods. Spending time with other vegan people helped me learn about their eating habits and add them to my daily life.
It's also very interesting to chat with other vegans about their routine and their motivation to continue with that diet. We all help each other, and we give each other advice.
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I learned how to improve (in a non-rude way) at restaurants without many vegan options.
When my vegan friends and I took a big trip through the south of Mexico together, it was hard to find a vegan restaurant. But we would just tell the restaurants that we didn't eat meat, and they would always offer us a menu option that could be adapted.
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For special events, I began asking about the vegan option in advance.
At weddings, graduations, or events where there's catering, there's generally a vegan option if it's asked for in advance. So I would let the organizer know some days or weeks in advance, and it was completely worth it to not have to go hungry or having to take along a Tupperware container.
And, overall, I started to appreciate all of the benefits that this type of diet gave me.
Being vegan was one of the biggest changes I've made to my life and one of the best decisions I've ever taken.
I learned that:
– You can make food in varied and large portions with a low budget without compromising flavor.
– There are many new flavors to discover that have nothing to do with animals.
– It feels incredible to eat without fear of having an allergic reaction.
But overall, I learned to listen to my body's needs, and that made me feel much more in touch with myself and the world around me.
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This post was translated from Spanish.