The vegan diet has gained a lot of popularity over the last few decades – and with good reason. Millions of people around the world are ditching meat, eggs, and dairy to fill their plates with more plants. The motivation for this switch varies, but virtually all vegan eaters are united on one front – being vegan isn’t nearly as hard as people try to tell you it is!
If you’re curious about what it means to be vegan, how to get started, and more, you’ve come to the right place. This article serves as your complete guide (an amuse-bouche, if you will) for a vegan diet.
What Foods Are Vegan?
A vegan diet comprises whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Notice anything missing from that list? You guessed it – animal products. Vegans don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, honey, or any other animal-derived foods.
While this might sound like a big sacrifice, any long-term vegan will tell you that they don’t miss meat very much, if at all. Your body can get all the nutrients it needs from a well-planned vegan diet, especially one complemented by certain supplements. Plus, there are tons of yummy vegan recipes out there. Heck, some of your favorite foods might already be vegan—fries, anyone?
Why Go Vegan?
People switch to vegan diets for a number of reasons. Some are for personal health and wellness goals, but others relate to environmental and animal welfare concerns. Below are some of the biggest perks of the vegan lifestyle, because finding your “why” is totally essential when making the switch.
A Vegan Diet Is Associated With Weight Loss...
Based on the research, the vegan diet is one of the most effective eating strategies for shedding extra pounds. Unlike many fad diets, vegan eating is sustainable in the long run, and its effects on your body composition are long-lasting!
One study showed that the vegan diet was better for weight loss than several other common ways of eating, including vegetarian, pescatarian, and omnivorous meal plans. In addition, that same study showed that vegan diets were, on average, more nutrient-dense than others, meaning that a vegan plate of food contained more vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients than the other diets in the study.
While the vegan diet seems to work very well for weight loss, planning out how you’ll shed that extra weight is always helpful. Strategies like reducing junk food intake (including vegan junk food!), cutting calorie consumption down, and incorporating exercise into your daily routine can be a big help!
Of course, we’re always in support of treating yourself, which is why our vegan sweets are made with no added sugar, with a low net carb content. You can eat MiiRO sweets totally guilt-free, so it doesn’t even have to be an occasional indulgence. How’s that for vegan junk food (that’s secretly good for you)?
...And a Healthier Heart!
It’s well-known that eating tons of animal products will amp up your intake of saturated fats. These fats can raise your cholesterol levels, putting you at greater risk of long-term heart disease and other health issues. And red meat isn’t the only culprit here, either – lots of animal foods are full of saturated fat, including cheese and butter.
Unlike the standard American diet (S.A.D., ironically), a vegan diet contains much lower levels of saturated fats. Instead, fatty vegan foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds are packed with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are actually good for you!
In addition, vegan diets contain lower calories on average than omnivorous ones. This calorie difference might sound unrelated to heart health, but it can make a big difference in the long run. Maintaining a lower body mass index and weight in the long run can help to reduce your risk of heart disease by preventing obesity.
Do It for the Animals!
In the UK alone, close to a billion (with a B) animals are killed every year to feed humans. That’s a lot of unnecessary pain for animals to go to, and those animals can feel pain, fear, and other emotions that we might think of as exclusively human. Evidence points to even fish having the capacity to feel afraid!
While this might just seem like the natural course of things – the circle of life and all that – the way these animals are treated is far from natural. The living conditions that factory-farmed animals endure during their short lives are often completely inhumane, with barely any space provided for each animal to simply exist.
So, what’s the best way to keep these helpless creatures from being harmed? Go vegan! Eating a vegan diet is actively boycotting the factory farming industry. And if everyone did that, factory farms wouldn’t be able to get away with their inhumane practices.
Do It For the Earth!
Just one person’s commitment to eating vegan can make a big difference for the planet.
According to a study conducted by Oxford University, if the whole Earth went vegan, three-quarters of the farmland around the globe could be repurposed. That means that more trees could be planted, wild land could be returned to the animals that once roamed on it, and greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically reduced.
Another study from Science estimated that the factory farm industry is behind 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s crazy. Greenhouse gases can trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to get hotter over time – better known as global warming.
These gases include methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and others. Methane, in particular, is associated with factory farming, as it’s one of the leading by-products of raising, killing, and processing livestock.
Reducing emissions is an absolute must for the sake of the planet, and the best way to do your part is to change the way you eat. The food you consume can have a direct positive – or negative – impact on the environment, and it’s up to you to choose.
How to Start Eating Vegan
If you’re ready to take the leap and start eating vegan, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got all the information you need for getting started right here. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in!
Take a Look at Your Current Diet
The first step on your vegan journey is to assess what you normally eat in a day now. While going vegan might sound daunting, it might not be that far away from your current food habits!
If you are currently a vegetarian, switching to veganism is simple – just eliminate dairy, honey, and eggs from your diet! While these foods can be staples of vegetarianism, they’re not part of a vegan eating plan. Since dairy and eggs are often used as a protein source for vegetarians, you’ll need an alternative, but that’s no problem – legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and many whole grains are plant-based sources of protein! For fat, just turn to avocados or nuts, and you’re good to go!
If you’re an omnivore and want to make the switch to a vegan diet, your transition may be a bit trickier. If you tend to build your meals around meat, dairy, and eggs, eating vegan will take some getting used to, but once you get into the swing of things, it’ll be a snap.
For full-on omnivores, the process of assessing your diet before going vegan looks something like this:
- Purge your cabinet of packaged foods that contain animal products. You might be surprised by how much you have in your cabinet that isn’t vegan! Many processed and packaged snack foods contain dairy, and some even contain some meat. These will have to go!If you’re not sure whether something has animal products in it or not, make sure to check the “nutrition facts” label on the packaging. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, the internet is your friend!Some sneaky non-vegan ingredients that you might run into include lanolin, gelatin, whey, casein, lactic acid, collagen, and lactose.
- Make a meal plan. Your first week after getting started with a new diet can be tough. There’s always an awkward phase with any big change, and you’re likely to falter without planning – it happens to the best of us!So, it’s a great idea to plan out your first week of vegan meals ahead of time. That way, you won’t be caught off guard when Tuesday rolls around, and you don’t know what to eat for lunch that’s vegan!
- Enjoy the little things. At MiiRO, we firmly believe that the vegan diet is the most versatile, exciting, creative, and fun way to eat – and our desserts are the proof!If you’ve recently gone vegan, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to some vegan goodies, like delicious peanut butter cups or a decadent white chocolate bar. It’ll help you get used to your new way of eating, and enjoying some vegan dessert serves as a reminder that it’s really not a sacrifice to go vegan!
Find Vegan Substitutes
If you’re used to eating several servings of animal foods every day, you’re probably going to go through some withdrawals. Your new vegan diet can provide you with all the nutrients your body needs, but there will be times when your craving for meat, dairy, and eggs will get pretty strong. In those times, it’s always wise to have a plan – and that’s where vegan substitutes come in.
Now, don’t get us wrong – the goal of a vegan diet isn’t to imitate the standard Western way of eating. However, in those times when you really just want the familiar sensation of tasting your favorite animal-based meal, these substitutes can help.
Sub Out Meat for Jackfruit, Seitan, Tofu, or Tempeh
These alternatives to meat are totally vegan, and each of them contains a solid serving of vegan protein. Each of these meat substitutes has a distinct taste, so you may have to try a few before you find your favorite!
Try Flax Eggs or Aquafaba Egg Whites
Flax “eggs” are just a tablespoon of flaxseed meal and two and a half tablespoons of water. This mixture is great for recipes that call for whole eggs, and it’s inexpensive and easy to make.
When you just need egg whites, aquafaba is a great option. It’s made by whipping the leftover liquid from a can of chickpeas. You can use it to make frosting, meringue, macaroons, and more!
Experiment With the Wide Variety of Milk Substitutes
From almond to oat to flax to hemp to cashew to soy to rice to coconut, there are tons of alternatives to dairy milk out there. Each of them has its own unique flavor and nutritional profile, and some are more calorie-dense than others.
Choose your favorite by sampling a few different ones, as well as swapping them out for each other in your favorite recipes.
When You Need Butter, Use Coconut Oil
Cooking with butter has been a tradition in the West for centuries, but it’s definitely not vegan. When you need to cook foods at high heat, we recommend using coconut oil. It responds well to heat and contains plenty of beneficial fats. If you really want the taste of butter, there are plenty of vegan substitutes made with vegetable oil to try.
Give Vegan Cheese a Try
Like milk and meat, cheese has been successfully imitated using vegan ingredients. Common bases for vegan cheese include nuts, soy, vegetable oil, coconut, and even aquafaba. Each of these ingredients yields its own unique flavor.
Have a Treat With Dairy-Free Ice Cream or Yogurt
Vegan-friendly ice cream is everywhere, and it comes in a plethora of flavors. Vegan non-dairy frozen treats are typically made with almond, coconut, oat, or soy milk, and they taste amazing. If you’re looking for yogurt, there’s plenty of dairy-free alternatives for that, too!
Get Creative in the Kitchen
The internet is full of innovative (and delicious) recipes for vegan food. Recipes abound for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts, all made without any animal-derived ingredients. If you’re worried that eating vegan will be boring and bland, these recipes are sure to change your mind!
One of the key features of MiiRO magazine is our recipe column, where we share inspiring ideas for vegan desserts, snacks, and more. You can also head over to MiiRO TV for tons of recipe videos that are sure to inspire you. We’ve got tons of delicious vegan recipes for you to try, including:
- Vegan peanut chocolate truffles
- Vegan lemon cupcakes
- Vegan & gluten-free raw chocolate peanut brownies
- Vegan & gluten-free peanut chocolate flapjacks
- Signature cashew granola
- Signature smoothie bowls
- Signature cheesecake
- Signature protein smoothies
- Vegan and gluten-free tarte tatin
So, anytime you’re feeling uninspired by vegan food, head over to our recipe column – you’re sure to find something yummy!
Ignore the Noise!
When you start eating vegan, you’re likely to deal with well-meeting friends, family members, and coworkers who will try to get you back on eating meat. They’ll ask you how you can live without cheese, what you’ll do when you travel, and other questions that vegans have heard from those close to them for decades. While these questions might make you pause and think, don’t let them stop you from living a vegan life!
Your friends, family, and others may question your decision to go vegan, but their responses to your lifestyle are likely to end there. Most of the time, you’ll find that people are perfectly polite and respectful when you explain why you aren’t eating that particular item at the potluck or trying one of your aunt’s cookies.
In the unlikely event that someone has a negative response to your vegan diet, it’s best to be as polite and civil as possible. This person is most likely just feeling riled up by the differences between you and them, and they’ll settle down eventually.
At times, eating vegan will feel challenging.
When you’re out at a restaurant and there’s nothing vegan on the menu, you’ll probably feel tempted to eat a bit of meat instead of asking for your meal to be made with substituted ingredients. When someone at a party offers you a buttery cookie made with milk chocolate, it may be hard to turn it down. When your friends bug you about your meatless life and tell you you’re being deprived, you might feel… annoyed. This is all part of being vegan, and we know that you can handle it.
While all of these experiences can be difficult, taking good care of yourself, the world, and animals is worth it. The discomfort that you’ll sometimes feel while eating vegan food is no fun, but it can be helpful to remember that the way you eat is making a difference for the world at large. Plus, you’ll know that you’re not really giving anything up, because you’re still getting to eat delish, balanced meals and snacks—so what’s the problem?
Look for people with the same values as you to make friends that share the same goals—a great place to do this is via vegan Facebook groups, where members support each other as they make the switch or continue on with their chosen vegan lifestyle. There are truly vegans everywhere, so you’re sure to find people you get along with.
You can also make it a point to cook for the people in your life who might be giving you a hard time about veganism. You don’t necessarily have to tell them that you’re making them a vegan dish–instead, let the food speak for itself. Believe it or not, this method can go a long way in getting people to understand that going vegan isn’t about giving up good food—it’s just about finding new ways to love food.
There are big benefits of vegan eating for your health, as well as for the environment and the animals with whom we share the Earth.
Veganism for the Win
Have we convinced you to go vegan yet?
If so, MiiRO has plenty more resources to help you get started on your journey. Make sure to visit the MiiRO magazineand MiiRO TV for tons more information about the vegan diet, as well as recipes for yummy vegan treats!
We firmly believe that a vegan diet is the most fun, ethical, tasty, and nutritious way to eat – and we think you’ll agree once you give it a try!