Omnivores and vegetarians alike may find themselves interested in veganism but confused about where to start or whether the diet is a good idea. The vegan diet is simpler than you may think because it has only one basic rule: no animal products. That bottom line may sound limiting, but it can be helpful to think of all the things the diet does include. When you begin focusing on what vegans can eat as opposed to what they cannot, you may find an easy starting point.
Understanding the Vegan Diet
Veganism is simple in principle: You cannot eat anything that comes from an animal, including meat, dairy products, and honey. There are a few special points things to consider when you're testing the vegan waters, however.
Ensuring Proper Nutrition
Contrary to what you may think, there is nothing inherently "healthy" about veganism. Many vegan staples, such as nuts, have a high fat and calorie content. Vegan convenience foods are often loaded with sodium and sugar. That means you have to watch what you eat when you are vegan, perhaps even more than omnivores do.
You must take care to get enough protein, iron, omega fatty acids, and B vitamins, all of which can be scarce in a typical vegan diet. Cooking with a cast iron skillet can help you get iron without pills, but it's sometimes necessary to take a multivitamin or other supplement to avoid nutrient deficiencies. When choosing a vitamin, be sure to check the label for one that is vegan friendly. Speak with your doctor for his recommendation.
Stocking Your Kitchen
While you can survive on vegan convenience foods like veggie burgers, tofu dogs, and "chicken" wings, it's healthier and can be more fun to cook your own food. Make sure your pantry is stocked with a number of spices to give flavor to blander foods like tofu, seitan, and tempeh. You'll also want to pick up some garden spread (butter substitute) and soy milk or other non-dairy milk, which can be substituted for cow's milk.
Get yourself a good, basic vegan cookbook and look through it for dishes that sound appealing and simple to make. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to get the things you're looking for at your local supermarket, even if you don't live somewhere with a large vegan population.
Finding the Support You Need
When you become vegan, you will likely want to find other like-minded members of the community for moral support. As silly as it may sound, many friends of yours may disapprove of your personal lifestyle choice. Finding other vegans will not only provide you with support for the early months of your new lifestyle, it will also give you friends with whom you can enthusiastically discuss your new diet.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, having connections to the vegan community gives your resources. You will have people around who can answer your questions about veganism and help you find the answers to common questions, such as what you can use as an egg substitute in baking.
Adapting to a Vegan Diet and Lifestyle
Deciding to become a vegan is the most important part of the process. Once you're sure you want to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle, the only thing left to do is decide how to implement the changes. Some vegans hit the ground running, immediately preferring vegan food to an omnivorous diet and rarely, if ever, slipping back. Others struggle with veganism and have a hard time finding things they like in the cornucopia of vegan food options. Chances are, you'll fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
One thing to remember is that after a long time of being vegan, it's natural for your tastes to change. Salad can become a delicious snack, soy milk may seem like liquid candy, and savory dishes like barbecue tempeh become just as delicious as their meat-based counterparts. Give yourself time to settle into the vegan diet and lifestyle. Once you become accustomed to it, you will likely wonder how you ever lived any other way.