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The basics of going vegan
by TeenHelp October 9th 2015, 05:58 PM

The basics of going vegan
By Nicole (eumoirous)

One Green Planet and PETA exclaim that roughly 2.5% of Americans are vegan, and 5% of them are vegetarian. This may seem like a very low statistic, however the amount of vegan Americans has doubled since 2009, which was just six years ago! Veganism isn't just becoming more popular in America however, worldwide it is gaining its popularity. With veganism becoming more popular every year, grocery stores are beginning to carry more vegan products than ever before. However, many people still find it tough to go fully vegan and stick with it. A vegan diet involves not consuming meat or any animal products, such as dairy, honey, and gelatin. This article will outline what a typical vegan diet includes, tips about how to be cruelty free outside of the kitchen, and helpful resources to help you in your plant-based journey.

What vegans typically eat.
There are many myths surrounding the vegan diet, so it is important to be educated about what typical vegans eat when planning to transition, and just how simple it can be. When many people think about the vegan diet, they focus on what foods they would be missing out on, instead of looking at the abundance of foods that they can still eat. The vegan diet typically includes staples such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and lentils. Those alone have many options that fall under that category, and it's fun to mix and match and eat something different every day. Itís a good idea to keep frozen fruits and vegetables on hand because they last a long time and can be easily thrown into any meal. Fruits and vegetables should be eaten in the greatest abundance, but a vegan diet should never cause unnecessary hunger. Eating when hungry is important and so is remembering that it is possible to be an unhealthy vegan; making good nutritional choices is key.

Another option of foods for vegans are products such as fake meats and animal products. These tend to be expensive and are usually only consumed when a person is first transitioning into the vegan diet. They are however convenient, and many vegans keep some on hand for days when they do not have time to cook. There is a stigma that these products are unappetizing, but they are enjoyed by many and sometimes it just takes some tasting of different brands to find a preferable one.

Moreover, there are "accidentally" vegan products that many are surprised they donít have to give up. This includes some Oreos depending on your country, Hershyís chocolate syrup, Doritos (spicy sweet chili, reduced fat spicy sweet chili, and toasted corn tortilla chips), Pillsbury crescent rolls, and some unfrosted PopTarts just to name a few. In essence, it is possible to be an unhealthy vegan. Additionally, some vegans choose not to eat processed sugar or palm oil because their production is not always vegan, but that is up to the individual.

Vegan diet myths.
There is a myth that veganism is unhealthy and that vegans are deficient in protein and many micro-nutrients, but this is false. Protein is found in breads, leafy greens, soy milk, lentils, nuts, beans, and many other foods. Calcium can be found in foods such as broccoli, almonds, kale, and tahini. Omega-3ís can even be obtained without fish. It can be found in flaxseed, walnuts, hemp seed, and more. The only vitamin that can be tough for vegans to obtain is Vitamin B-12, however there are supplements for this and foods are increasingly being fortified with it, such as nutritional yeast, plant-based milks, tempeh, and vegan mayonnaise.

Another myth is that being vegan is expensive. Vegan staples such as rice, beans, and lentils are very cheap and substantial, and with some meal planning a vegan diet can actually be the least expensive. Produce tends to be a lot cheaper than meat as well. Vegan products such as fake meats and cheeses can be a little more costly than their original counterparts, but they are not typically consumed on a regular basis.

Eating out as a vegan.
Lastly, going out to restaurants can seem daunting. However, it can be fairly simple. When at a restaurant, let your waiter know that you are vegan so that extra care will be made in not contaminating your food. If there are no vegan options already on the menu, search for vegetarian options that can be made vegan. A veggie burger can be ordered without cheese, or oatmeal can be made with water, not milk. If there aren't many vegetarian options either, don't be afraid to create an entree. Pick a dish with veggies and ask to omit the meat, or ask if there are any other sides of the same value that you can substitute instead. Salads can easily be made vegan on the menu, just be sure to ask what is in their dressings. Soups can also be a good option, but again always be sure to ask for the ingredients. Many people hesitate to express that they are vegan because they don't want to be a burden, but restaurants have a policy to respect your dietary needs and they can help find or create a good vegan option by going through the list of ingredients. Many restaurants would be happy to make substitutes as fit so that the ingredients are all vegan. Lastly, it's always a good idea to inquire about how the food is prepared as some restaurants may cook with butter.

Cruelty free products.
Veganism isnít just a diet, itís a lifestyle. When people transition to veganism, they also begin to switch out products (assuming they haven't done so already), such as makeup, for cruelty free brands. PETA (or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a list of cruelty free products and can be a good resource. Cruelty Free International also has a leaping bunny certification that tells you if a product is cruelty free. These products are typically in the same price range as regular products that are on shelves.

Resources.
Veganism can be hard to stick to because with such a small population of vegans, itís easy to feel alone. When starting out, find some vegan YouTubers to watch for inspiration such as Essena O'Neil, Bonnyrebecca, The Vegan Corner, and Eco-Vegan Gal. Vegan forums on the Internet are also a good resource, there are plenty to choose from and can be helpful in connecting with other vegans and getting ideas and motivation. The Vegan Society is also a great resource with lots of information for transitioning and long-term vegans. Another option is to find a vegan meetup to connect with other vegans in the area.

Sticking with it.
Weíve all heard the ďwhat about protein?Ē or ďbut bacon!Ē comments. Many vegans can get discouraged when those around them arenít respectful of their lifestyle choice, so this is why finding a support system is important. When people make derogatory comments, try and let it go and remember that one person can make a difference. Veganism is a personal lifestyle choice, and so itís important that while there are plenty of reasons and morals for doing so, others may not understand and a compromise must be made. Educating others about reasons for going vegan is important, but itís also important to make sure the focus is on the animals and personal gain, not on criticizing others.

Going vegan is great for the environment, and can also be great for health reasons. The first few weeks can be the most tough during transition, but it is a much easier lifestyle than many people think. Many vegans find themselves eating a greater variety of foods after making the change compared to before. Above all, veganism is not an unhealthy choice nor is it impractical in any way.
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