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The Starch Solution- John McDougall
The China Study- T. Colin Campbell
How Not To Die- Michael Greger
Whole- T. Colin Campbell
Becoming Vegan- Brenda Davis, Vesanto Melina
Dr Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes- Neal Barnard
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease- Caldwell Esselstyn
Happy Cow- Find Vegan & Veg Restaurants near you (or restaurants that serve vegan options)
Vegan Essentials- Online vegan store; Food, clothes, beauty products, etc.
Something people often worry about is getting cravings for animal products. When I was going vegan, I had the expectation that I would crave cheese and ice cream and other things like that, and was worried that I might 'slip up'. And that does happen to some people, but it doesn't have to.
Think about when you're craving a certain type of food.... Is it usually after you just went out to a buffet lunch or when you only had a granola bar for breakfast and its now noon?
Our bodies are not made to mislead us for no reason, they're not trying to trick you or lie to you or confuse you. Usually when you're hungry, its because your body is letting you know that it needs energy/calories/food/nutrients.
When I went vegan, I didn't have cravings for any non vegan products that I can remember. In my opinion, there are a few reasons for that:
I had educated myself enough before hand to know what food options I had to eat and always made sure to stay stocked up on vegan food.
I had become aware of the ethical side of veganism enough to make animal products not really seem like food anymore.
I always ate enough food.
I found foods and recipes that I really enjoyed eating. Plant foods can still taste amazing so don't settle for flavorless meals, find foods you love!
Another thing I did is avoided vegan substitutes like fake meats, ice creams, etc. I don't think this is something that everyone should do, but it can work for some. For others, it might be more helpful to incorporate those items into your new diet to help you keep away the cravings.
If you choose to include them, you could benefit by having those available to eat in case you do start craving something. I would totally recommend for anybody wanting to go vegan to try some of those products out. Either way you choose to go, don't put to much emphasis on "Im never eating mock vegan foods" or "Im going to eat them". Just know that you do have options and if you find what you're doing is not working, you just gotta try something else.
If you choose to go without them, it may help because by not having those products in your diet in any way, you may start to kind of forget what they taste like and not even really have them on your mind anymore. I went for months without trying any vegan alternative products and really enjoyed eating a predominately whole foods diet. Through doing that I never had cravings for meat, dairy, and eggs because they weren't part of my life in a non-vegan or vegan form. For some people that might work, for others it might not.
Another thing to be aware of is that if you know you're eating enough food but you've still been having cravings for animal products for a long time, you could be deficient in a nutrient. So you could then log your meals into cronometer or get your blood checked.
For this step, there's 2 things you have to focus on.
Eggs in their whole form
Products that contain eggs
1. There are many vegan egg substitutes out there that can make virtually any egg product. Now I don't know much about them because I've actually never tried making any but they are out there!
Follow Your Heart VeganEgg can be used to make scrambled eggs
There are many egg substitutes that you can make on your own with ingredients that are easy to get and can be used for baking mostly.
Check out this video to learn how you can make deviled eggs
Scrambled Tofu is a popular vegan version of scrambled eggs
Eggs, unfortunately, are the most difficult thing to replicate with plants so don't have the expectation that these things are going to taste identical.
2. If you're someone who thinks eggs are the most disgusting food ever and don't eat them scrambled, hard boiled, sunny side up etc- then you obviously don't have to worry about #1 but you probably still consume products that contain eggs. You might not even realize this, but as you start looking at the ingredients list on foods more often you may begin to realize they're in a lot of the foods you currently eat!
Luckily you don't have to read through the ingredients list to see if there's egg in them because products will always have the allergen information listed. It's still a good idea to scan through to see if there's honey or something else, but milk and eggs will always be listed... usually right underneath the ingredients list.
Slowly start to not buy these products and see if you can find similar things from different brands than don't contain egg.
Here's a very in depth 20 minute video exposing the egg industry and if you don't feel very motivated to give up eggs, I highly suggest watching this!
Unless you live in a big city where there are tons of other vegans, vegan restaurants, and vegan potlucks- it can be hard to stay motivated to go vegan. If you don't feel very passionately about making this change in your life, that's where the problems start. If you go into this half-heartedly, it's not going to be a walk in the park. You can also begin to feel really isolated and lonely if you don't know anyone who shares the same lifestyle as you or if no one seems to take interest in you going vegan. Some of your family members, friends, school mates, and co workers may think you're weird or dumb... or something along those lines.
So if you're having troubles staying motivated, here's what you should do:
Find some vegan blogs, Youtube channels, Facebook pages, or Instagram accounts. Even if you can't be physically surrounded by people who share a similar lifestyle, you can mentally surround yourself with them. I've always been a youtube watcher so what I would do is watch videos relating to veganism every day. (Note: I was a freshman in high school when I went vegan so I did have a lot of free time to sit around and watch vids. I know that not everyone else has this ability.) I would watch things about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, the health benefits of a vegan diet, and the animal cruelty involved with meat, dairy, and eggs. Watching those was a good reminder/motivator to keep me inspired to go vegan. I would also watch what I eat in a day videos not only to learn about different recipes but also to have that sense of similarity/relation to other vegans. I'm not saying to ditch all your friends and live through people on social media... but find bloggers/youtubers/etc that you enjoy watching and make feel like you're not the only person doing this!
If you do live in a bigger city, you can always meet new vegans at vegan/veg restaurants, or attend potlucks, picnics, or meet ups. But if not, thats okay.
How to go out to eat as a vegan
One concern I'm sure you have is how the heck going to restaurants is going to work out and so I'm gonna go over a few easy things you can do to make it less stressful when it comes to eating out. It's quite simple but it's just that thing inside us that doesn't want to make a scene or ask questions or draw unwanted attention to ourselves in this type of setting that can bring up anxiety.
The first thing you should do is check out the website happycow.net. On this site you can look up the area that you're in and it will list vegan restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, and vegan friendly-restaurants... aka restaurants that have some vegan items or can make certain things vegan by request. If you have the option of choosing which restaurant you're going to (or ordering from or whatever) then this is something you should do before.
If you don't have the option- say friends or family or coworkers want to go to a certain place and invite you along- there are a few other things you can do.
Look up the menu ahead of time. Certain restaurants may provide a menu on their website or, even better, one with allergen information listed. This is just to give you an idea of things that are served especially if you've never been there before. But don't just go off of this because something can sound completely vegan when its not. You should always try looking up "vegan options at. . ." on google because that will almost always help you determine exactly what you can eat.
But say you're going to some small family-owned restaurant that doesn't have a website or anything. Then here are your options:
Call the restaurant ahead of time. This may feel extremely uncomfortable and you may worry about being 'judged' which is normal but it is always an option so you're not walking into the restaurant having no idea what you'll be able to eat, if anything. Tell them kindly that you are vegan, which means you don't eat meat, dairy, or eggs and ask them if they have anything there you would be able to eat.
As you're walking in you could ask the host/server if they have anything vegan. In a lot of cases they will be happy to make something specially vegan for you if there aren't any options just by leaving out the cheese or a sauce or things of that sort.
I’ve found the easiest thing to do is find a vegetarian option and ask if it can be made without whatever non-vegan ingredients are in it.
The easiest kinds of restaurants to eat vegan at are gonna be any Eastern food places - Indian, Thai, Mongolian, Chinese, Japanese, etc. Fast food wise- anywhere where you can make your own sub or burrito is going to become your best friend. Mexican, American, Italian, etc. are all going to be little bit harder as those cultures have a LOT of cheese in their diets. But that doesn't mean that you can find a Mexican place with a vegetarian burrito that you ask for without the cheese.. only problem is it's probably going to be the only or one of very few options.
The most important thing to realize here is that you shouldn't let your fear of being judged for being vegan overcome the reason you are vegan. This is more of a 'life problem' than a 'vegan problem'. You must let go of wanting people you'll likely never see again to see you in the same way you see yourself. Most people won’t care and because restaurants want your money, if they do care they won’t show it.
DEALING WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS
When it comes to making big lifestyle changes, friends and family often may not understand where you're coming from and therefore ridicule your decisions making you feel isolated. This happens to a lot of people who go vegan because it is still pretty uncommon in most areas. Most people don't even know what a vegan is and those who do oftentimes think it's dumb. There are so many misconceptions surrounding this way of living that people are bound to think that you're either gonna be super weak or that you have to be rich to be vegan or that you must be an animal freak tree hugger, etc. This lack of understanding can distance you in your relationships. It's important to understand that unless no one knows you're vegan or your whole family and friend group is super supportive of whatever personal decisions you make, some of your relationships will change. Don't let that hinder your progress, but know that it may happen.
So let's get into what you should do to make interactions about veganism go a little smoother with those who start to question you.
First, and most importantly, know what you're talking about. I'm not saying that you need to have a nutrition degree and know every detail about every vitamin and nutrient or the environmental impact of animal agriculture, but you want to be educated so you can answer the most common questions. Just do a quick scroll through my FAQ page or any vegan faq page for that matter to get a good understanding of things you'll be asked a lot, or just think about what you wondered about in the beginning. Then do a little research so you know how to answer those questions. Most people don't want you to give them a 7 minute speech about how you get enough protein so all you need to explain is some basic info. You also have to gauge how interested the person seems in each individual situation because some people are genuinely curious and others are just looking for an argument. Here's an example of a brief answer: "Well I honestly just eat enough food for my body and by doing that I get enough protein. Unless you're under eating, it's basically impossible to not get enough protein. You don't need as much as is hyped up." You could also mention the Dietary Reference Intake (how many g of protein per kg of bodyweight you need) if you can memorize the number and tell them about that if they seem interested enough. You don't want to be talking forever though about individual foods and how many grams of protein are in each thing or give them a short sarcastic answer likes "plants." Try to explain in the most concise way possible and of course be nice about it!
If you come across someone (they don't have to be friends of family, maybe a coworker or schoolmate) who is disrespectful or making fun of you, you'll do no good by trying to convince them of your lifestyle. In my opinion, it's best to just let them get it out of their system and eventually they'll get bored when they realize arguments don't work with only one person. Do your best to respond in a compassionate way; if they're not open, they're not open, and don't try to change that or show them how wrong they are or anything like that because it's only going to make them more close-minded. You can only control your actions and reactions so another thing to keep in mind is that you're not going to get anywhere by running around telling everyone about why they should go vegan. It rarely, rarely works. Lead by example, not through force, and don't talk about it unless someone asks you. It might be hard at first because you just found this awesome new way of living that you feel really passionate about and not only can it help others out too, but the environment and the animals as well- and you want to share that with everyone you possibly can. You will find out eventually that this doesn't work and pushes people farther from veganism because even with me saying all this, I think it's inevitable that you will try to. It's almost human nature. So eventually you'll realize it doesn't work and you'll stick to only talking about it if someone is interested!
Last thing I want to throw in here is how to respond when people ask you why you went vegan. What I usually say is "Well a ton of different reasons but mainly for my health and because it's better for the environment and the animals." Just keep it short and to the point.
To wrap it up, you can't control how receptive your friends, family, and colleagues are but you can control how you respond to them. Don't take it personally if someone is rude about it. Don't bring up veganism in every conversation to try to make people see your point but know what you're talking about in case people have questions. As long as you are nice, respectful, and understanding towards them, you are doing enough.
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR MINDSET
If you want to make going vegan easy- you're gonna want to have a positive mindset toward the journey. What this means is not feeling like you're giving up part of your life or that life will be harder or less enjoyable. You don't want it to feel like a chore. I would hope that you're doing this because you really, really want to and hopefully you're excited to be vegan-- excited to feel better, help the environment, and save some animals lives! But maybe you're not. Maybe you're not really sure if you want to fully do this or not. Maybe you're even kind of scared. And that's okay.
My best advice is to not take life so seriously. This may seem like a joke but i'm not kidding. We tend to make everything in life so much more difficult than it has to be because we get so worried about the "what if's".
What if it's hard?
What if I mess up?
What if people judge me?
What if it takes me a long time to go vegan?
Our mind is always going a million directions at once trying to plan and plan and plan to keep itself safe from uncertainty.
But what if you decided not to put your energy towards being afraid of what might occur outside your comfort zone? What if those things made you smile instead of close yourself off? Why not let things happen even if you don't know where they'll take you? Why let what if's control your life and keep you from doing things you know you want to do?
You are totally capable of going vegan. No matter how hard it may seem, if you stop letting that feeling hold you back you will come to realize the only thing that made it hard was your mindset.
REDUCING DAIRY CONSUMPTION
For most people meat and dairy are the hardest things to take out of their diet (as opposed to eggs and honey) so that's why I want to emphasize the 'reduce' part of the title for today again. Like I've been saying, take things at your own pace but don't work yourself up thinking it will be harder than it is.
The first thing you can do is take inventory of what dairy products you have in your home. Not only things like shredded cheese and milk but also crackers or sauces than contain milk. Your options are to finish using those products, give them to others (or if you don't live alone than the people you live with can of course use them and you don't even have to worry about it), or you could just throw the stuff away. I'd recommend putting it to some use though.
Then figure out if you want to or can purchase vegan alternatives for some of the products you're no longer using. Maybe you feel like you'll be fine without any or maybe you have an extreme addiction to ranch dressing and you just can't imagine living without it. Do what you need and obviously you can always try things out down the road.
How I personally did things was I only took it one food at a time. I hadn't been drinking dairy milk for about 2 months before I went vegetarian because I was never too into it so I didn't have to worry about that. I started by not eating ice cream anymore and then cream cheese and then cheese slices and so on like that. Instead of overwhelming myself with eliminating all dairy at once- I started with the things I didn't eat often and didn't have a strong addiction to. [Casein, a protein found in dairy, is what makes it extremely addictive.] You can also do one meal without dairy a day or one completely vegan meal and take that route.
Some things I've seen vegan versions of are: shredded cheese, cheese blocks, sliced cheese, milk of course, ice cream, cream cheese, sour cream, caesar dressing, ranch, blue cheese, tartar sauce, butter, mayo, yogurt, and I'm sure a few other things I'm forgetting. You can get all that stuff vegan and heck even if you don't have most of that locally you can always order online if you're desperate.
Now let's say you're just not all that motivated to take this step.. maybe go back and re read through the dairy part of Day 9 where I talk about the ethical side of this matter and check out (if you haven't already) the video link provided there. If you are ever feeling like this is purposeless, it's always a good idea to try to reconnect with the ethical side. You don't necessarily have to watch graphic footage but sometimes it is needed to put things into perspective. If you're avoiding watching those types of videos or looking at graphic pictures of animals- ask yourself why it's more important to protect yourself from seeing those things than it is to protect the animals being made into food.
That's about all I can say. At the end of the day, you're the one who has to make that decision, take that step to stop eating dairy or maybe stop eating ice cream and then in a few days cheese, then butter. It's tempting to make excuses but the fact that you're here right now reading this, taking steps to go vegan means you are taking action towards a better life for yourself, the animals, and the world around you which is awesome.
meal ideas/what to eat
While I think watching what I eat in a day videos is probably the best way to find some good meal ideas, I'm gonna give you some basics. Note that I am not speaking on the nutritional value of any of these meals. Some are less healthy than others so keep that in mind.
Cereal: Find some good vegan cereal, put it in bowl, pour in almond, soy, rice, hemp, coconut, or oat milk, add any other topping like berries (frozen or fresh)or seeds. Cereal is one of my favorite things to experiment with by adding random things.
Smoothies: Use bananas or even mango or papaya as a base, fresh if you want a smoothie consistency or frozen if you want it to be more like ice cream. Then add in some other fruit (again, it doesn't matter if it's fresh or frozen) like berries and maybe some hemp, flax, or chia seeds, and if you're into chocolatey stuff you could throw in cacao nibs or powder. Add water if needed and blend.
Oatmeal: Get some oats and once cooked with water or a plant milk.. you can add: applesauce, mango chunks, berries, banana, seeds, buckwheat, agave nectar, maple syrup, granola, cacao nibs... you may see a trend going on here.
Bagels, Toast, English Muffins: If you have vegan butter or cream cheese around you, you could put that on any of these, otherwise peanut butter, almond butter, or jam is great. And of course there are many other topping you can add to spice them up.
Frozen breakfast meals: If these types of things are available to you, like vegan sausage links or breakfast patties, you could try out those.
Tofu Scramble: This is basically the vegan version of scrambled eggs- it's not suppose to taste exactly like them but it kind of resembles the texture and tastes amazing. You can eat it plain or spread it on toast. There's a bunch of different recipes, here's just one.
Pancakes or Waffles: There are many recipes out there for vegan versions of these and you might even be able to find frozen pre-made ones. Top with any of the things I've listed in the previous meals and you're good to go!
Pasta: Super easy to make and there are so many things you can add to make it different every time, like- pasta sauce (of course), plant-based cheese, beans, olives, canned artichoke, avocado, corn, bell peppers, spicy peppers... or you can find a recipe for a specific kind of pasta like- Creamy Garlic Pasta w/ Roasted Tomatoes, Stuffed Shells, Alfredo, 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta, Lasagna, and Spinach Pesto Pasta. You can also make noodles out of veggies like zucchini or squash with a spiralizer which are nice for a more of a side dish because they're not going to be that filling.
Rice: There are so many things you can do with rice. One of my favorite things because it's so easy and yet really tasty is to just put some beans (chickpeas or black beans usually), corn or olives, and a good sauce over rice and thats seriously it. I could eat that every meal for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. You can also throw in any other veggies you want; spinach, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, avo, boiled sweet potato chunks, tofu, and the list goes on and on. Don't be afraid to experiment with anything that pops into mind. Some other things you can do are Curry, Buddha Bowls, Spanish Rice, Sushi, and Spring Rolls (most recipes don't include rice but you can if you want to make in more filling).
Lentils: These are what you make dal. And there are so many great dal recipes out there so don’t skip out on them.
Quinoa: This you can make as a base of a meal (similar to rice) or add to other things like soup or a buddha bowl or put on sandwiches. Here's some things you can do with it.
Potatoes: So there's sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, regular ones, tons of other unique kinds.. and you can bake, boil, fry, or cut them up and make them into french fries. For fries what I like to do is just slice up the potato or sweet potato and put it on a silicone baking mat (you can use parchment paper also) on a pan, then sprinkle some spices like paprika, cumin, garam masala, curry power, oregano, chili powder, etc. And you can dip in ketchup, sriracha, or pour tahini + maple syrup/agave over it. For baked potatoes I like to top them with pretty much the same stuff as the previous few meals listed.
Mac + Cheese: You can make this simply by adding vegan cheese to pasta, or you can try out some good brands like Amy's (not all their products are vegan and they do have a non-vegan mac so read the ingredients) or Daiya. Or there's tons of cool recipes out there you can try.
Sandwiches: Sometimes you just wanna make a pb + j and that's perfectly okay, but sometimes you wanna make a really amazing sandwich (or try at least), so here are 40 recipes.
Frozen Meals: There's a bunch of companies that sell frozen meals (or things like chicken strips for example that can be part of a meal) that are either all vegan or have vegan options. The ones I know of and have tried are: Sweet Earth Foods, Gardein, Tofurky, Kashi, Amy's, Dr. Praegers, and Tofutti.
Burgers: Veggie burgers can be awesome if you get a good brand or use a good recipe so don't be scared if you've had a bad one before, they're not all bad. Some of the ones I like are the Trader Joe's Masala Burgers (they have kind of an Indian food flavor), the Gardein Chipotle Black Bean Burgers, and the Gardenburger Black Bean Burgers. Look around your grocery stores or make your own. Here's some recipes.
Pizza: One of the easiest ways to make pizza is to get those little pita flatbreads and top it with whatever you want and it takes less than 10 mins to bake. You could also buy frozen ones if they're available to you (they're a bit spendyyy though...) or find a good recipe- like Buffalo Chickpea Pizza, Mozzarella Deep Dish Pizza, or Mexican Pizza.
Tacos, Burritos, etc: The best things to make in a short amount of time. Especially if you have a bunch of rice already made up, just throw it on a tortilla, add some sautéed tofu, veggies, beans, quinoa if you want, and a sauce and it that probably took you 10 minutes at the most. Here's some tacos, here's some burritos.
Noodles: So I'm talking about rice noodles, pad thai, and basically anything else that has noodles but isn't quite pasta. These are fun to have occasionally when you really feel like cooking something fun.
Chips + Hummus/Salsa/Guacamole
Apples + Nut Butter
Fruit + Dried Fruit
Soy or Coconut-Based Yogurt
Instant Soup (John McDougall's is a good one)
DIFFERENT WAYS OF EATING
Most people who go vegan are at least somewhat interested in their physical health and want to do what's best for their body. Because of this, you may have discovered a few different 'ways of eating' (or I guess we could say 'diet' to make it easier but know that I am not referring to the typical short term, calorie restricting diet- I sometimes just use that word for simplification purposes)- within veganism. I think it's a good idea for me to go over what the most common ones are and talk briefly about them. I am definitely not saying that you must eat one of these ways at all because some of them can be quite unhealthy (or that the way you eat needs to have a label), I just want to make it easier for you when you're viewing a lot of online content that talks about these and you're thinking, 'okay what the heck do any of these even mean?'.
Starch Solution: This is actually the name of a book by John McDougall that I haven't personally read but promotes a starch based vegan diet. People may also use the term 'Starch Solution' to name their diet if they follow the guidelines in that book or perhaps if they just eat a starch based diet.
Starch-Based: This is pretty self explanatory but people who eat this way just have a lot of their calories coming from starchy foods.
Raw Vegan: Raw veganism is a diet where one does not consume any cooked food. For some the definition of cooked is anything heated to temperatures over 48 C or 118 F. This means that their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs.
RawTill4: People who eat in this way eat the same way a raw vegan would until 4 p.m. and after that eat cooked food. The diet was created by Freelee the Banana Girl and there are certain strict guidelines that one may follow for 'best results' on the diet but many people who label the way they eat this way do not follow all of those but instead just eat fruit for breakfast and lunch and then have a starchy meal for dinner and may even only do that a few days a week.
HCLF: High Carb Low Fat simply means that one gets the majority of their calories from carbs and smaller amounts from fat and protein. This is a very lose term so you may see 2 people use it but eat much differently from each other. A stricter version of this is called 80/10/10 which originates from a book called The 80/10/10 Diet by Doug Graham. These numbers represent the ratio of carbs (80) to protein (10) to fat (10) that one consumes. Some people might track their food to try to get close to those numbers but most people can estimate and just try to get in the ballpark. Not all who follow a HCLF vegan diet also follow 801010 but 801010 is just a 'stricter' version of HCLF basically. I hope that makes sense.
Junk-Food Vegan: Someone might call themselves this if they just eat whatever vegan foods they want without caring how healthy it is.
Whole Foods (or Plant-Based) Vegan: This basically just means someone eats a lot of fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, maybe grains, and not a whole lot of processed food. It doesn't mean they don't eat any, just not much.
Those are the main ones that have been around for a while although as I'm writing this it seems many vegans online are thankfully drifting away from the labels they may kind of fizzle out one day. My best advice is not to copy what others are doing simply because it seems like it's working for them. Experiment with different diets that interest you and see which way of eating works best. Try eating more fruit for a period of time, try eating a higher starch diet, try eating more processed foods. See what works and what makes you feel good. Your diet (this time I mean way of eating) will surely change over time as your life changes and body changes. Change will occur and that's okay. My advice here is not to follow a specific diet unless for experimentation purposes, don't make it about the label. Don't make it about perfection. Just listen to your body. It knows what to do..