Even before the big meat news recently that declared that processed and red meats “probably” cause cancer, I’d been cutting down on my red meat consumption. While I still do love a good burger, I do a lot more cooking with chicken, turkey and tofu than anything else. November is Vegan Month, and while I doubt I’ll ever turn vegetarian — let alone vegan — I think there’s a lot to learn from the vegan diet. If you’re trying to cut down on meat consumption, these tips for switching to a vegan diet from Natalie Slater, resident vegan of healthy snack food company I Heart Keenwah and author of “Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans,” can help you incorporate more healthy habits into your life — even if you don’t go full buffalo.
Vegan Diet Tips for Everyone
1 .Try not to think of going vegan in terms of what you can’t eat, but rather, in terms of what you can eat. Vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and beans — prepared in endless ways.
2. Commit to making one swap a week until you’ve eliminated animal products from your diet. Swap is the key word here. Replace meat with more veggies or meat alternatives like Beyond Meat, Gardein, tofu, seitan, etc. Replace dairy with store bought or homemade alternatives. Don’t just subtract from your diet or you’ll have a tough time.
3. Join the community. Start following vegan Instagram accounts for recipe inspiration and daily motivation. Look for vegan meetups in your area, and join non-judgmental Facebook groups like What Fat Vegans Eat.
4. Stock your pantry with vegan staples. Vegetable broth, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, flax meal, bananas, quinoa and canned chickpeas should always be on hand.
5. Explore! Borrow flavors from vegetable-heavy cuisines likes Thai and Indian. Spend some time reading vegan recipe blogs and try cooking one new dish every week.
6. Be prepared. If you travel a lot, or live somewhere that isn’t so vegan-friendly, carry healthy snacks with you like I Heart Keenwah Quinoa Clusters, Quinoa Puffs, roasted nuts, World Peas Fava Crisps, individual packs of nut butter and whole fruit.
7. Be prepared… to talk. People are going to ask you where you get your protein. They’re going to ask you if you miss cheese. They’re going to ask you if you were stranded on an island with nothing but cows what you’d eat. Have snappy answers ready for them. (My answers are: The same place elephants get their protein — from plants. No, because I still eat cheese – it’s made from cashews and almonds. And finally, I’d eat whatever the cows are eating.)
8. Get educated to stay motivated. Watch movies like “Forks Over Knives” and “Earthlings” and read books like Diet for a New America. The more you know, the more motivated you will be to stay vegan.
9. Don’t worry about cheese. There are tons of alternatives like Follow Your Heart, Treeline, Miyoko’s Creamery and Daiya. You can even make homemade versions from ingredients like nutritional yeast and potatoes.
10. Be kind to yourself and to others. Remember, being vegan isn’t about perfection; it’s about doing the best you can. Be patient with yourself and once you become a vegan guru, remember that others are still trying. Help them, don’t judge them.
What vegan diet principles can you incorporate more of even if you don’t plan to go vegan? I need to do more vegetable broth and beans for sure! —Erin