Veganism is a way of living, its the lifestyle you follow. You might want to turn vegan for different reasons, be it to oppose animal agriculture or to adopt a plant based clean diet or for climate change. At present about 8% of the world population identifies themselves as vegans. So, before you jump onto the “Vegan Wagon”, look at these 8 things to keep in mind – 

  1. Your Food Choices – Meat, Fish, Eggs, Dairy (milk, curd, cheese etc) as well as Honey (yes, honey is not vegan!) and some other ingredients like fish-based oil and some of our favorite chips and dips will be in the Red List. The foods consumed may include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, valuable plant oils and whole grain products. You can consume a balanced diet and still be vegan by including foods from these food groups and experiment on new things like plant-based milks. 
  2. Don’t Force Yourself – If you think you can turn into a vegan overnight, you are wrong. It will take some time for you and your body to adapt to this new lifestyle. Progress slowly and be consistent with that progress. If you are a hard-core non-vegetarian, then studies suggest that you eliminate one animal product at one time. Don’t make this journey too complicated for yourself by forcing yourself to eat salads and breads only. Try experimenting with various vegan ingredients one day at a time.  
  3. B12 Supplementation – Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin required by the body to carry out multiple functions. But it occurs usually in animal foods like meat and fish and in very low quantities in plant foods. Without this vitamin you will feel exhausted, fatigued, and may develop deficiencies. So, if you plan to go vegan, you will need Vitamin B12 supplements. You can also include fortified products like fortified breakfast cereals, flours, grains, etc. 
  4. Find Good Protein Sources – Since the vegan diet does not allow meat, eggs, and dairy, which are sources of complete protein, you will have to find other sources that provide you with essential amino acids. Protein Complementation is a term used when two foods that lack some or other amino acids are eaten together to make a complete protein. Examples include eating grains and pulses together (as simple as daal-chaval and chana and murmura). You can fulfill your protein requirements by including Soy, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. 
  5. Check on your Iron Sources – There are two types of iron found in foods – heme iron (found in animal foods) and non-Heme iron (present in plant-based foods). Going vegan means eliminating the heme iron sources. Heme iron is more bioavailable, that is, it gets absorbed better in the body as compared to non-heme iron. 

You can get iron in the vegan diet by including iron rich foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, dates, etc. Be sure to add a dash of Vitamin C rich food (example – lemon, orange, bell peppers) along with these foods as Vitamin C helps in the better absorption of non-heme iron.   

  1. Pay attention to Food Labels – Animal food can still be hidden in food products like there may be egg in dips or milk in many types of foods. Sometimes food labels may be misleading like it may state “May contain milk” but that is just a warning or allergen information whereas the product will not contain milk. Look for words like “suitable for vegetarians”. Some products come with the label “Vegan” these days. Some contain logos like a green leaf or two green leaves which indicate the product is vegan.

There are many other additives or ingredients that are derived from animal sources like gelatin, elastin, pepsin, whey, albumin, collagen, colors like carmine, etc. Also remember, “Dairy Free” or “vegetarian” does not necessarily mean the product is vegan. If you are unsure about any of the ingredients, ask the store people or try to find out more about the product on the net!    

  1. Affordability of the Vegan Diet – Contrary to popular belief that vegan diets are expensive, it is really easy and affordable to be on a vegan diet. If you invest in fresh, local produce and buy food from the local supermarkets as opposed to the fancy “megamarkets”, vegan diets can come well within your budget. It was also observed in market surveys that the foods that are labelled as “vegan” tend to be more expensive than their counterparts. As consumers it is important that you don’t fall for such marketing tricks and be a wise buyer. There’s no doubt that some vegan ingredients like nut milks can be expensive but you can try making them at home and experimenting with the flavors of your choice. It is also easy to make vegan dips and spreads at home so get your aprons on and start trying! 
  2. Eating Outside – With the popularity of the vegan diet booming, many restaurants and cafes are keeping Vegan dishes on their menu. One of the simple things you can do is research the restaurants and their menus as this will eliminate doubt and you can be prepared about your choices. The other important thing to consider is being very clear while ordering, you can also ask the chefs to change a few ingredients to make the dish vegan and order customized dishes. Make sure your friend circle and family know that you are a vegan to eliminate any type of doubt. If you know that a particular restaurant does not have many vegan options, you can always eat something at home before heading out so that you do not starve yourself at dinner! 

If you have decided to go Vegan then relax and be true to yourself, do not force yourself to a point where you feel like you will just break down. Learn to explore, cook new dishes, be adventurous and enjoy the process of this lifestyle. 

You may sometimes accidentally eat something off the red list but do not consider yourself a failure. Give yourself the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. When you find yourself doubting the decision, think about what made you start in the first place. Surround yourself with people who encourage your decision and support you in your progress. 

Going Vegan comes with its own set of ups and downs and you will be delighted to experience it all. In the end, a healthy lifestyle will always win. It sure is a roller coaster, but who doesn’t like roller coasters! 

References – 

  1. Janssen, M., Busch, C., Rödiger, M., & Hamm, U. (2016). Motives of consumers following a vegan diet and their attitudes towards animal agriculture. Appetite, 105, 643–651. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2016.06.039 
  2. Vegan Diet, Position of the German Nutrition Society (DGE), Morgrit Richter, Heiner Boeing, Dorle Orinewold Funk, Helmut Heseke L, Anio Kroke, Evo Leschik-Bonnet, Helmut Obertter, Danielo Strohm, Bernhord Watzl for the Cermon Nutrition Saciety, (2016)
  3. Vegan and Plant-Based Diet Statistics for 2021. (2021, January 13). PlantProteins.Co. https://www.plantproteins.co/vegan-plant-based-diet-statistics/ 
  4. Woo, K. S., Kwok, T. C. Y., & Celermajer, D. S. (2014). Vegan Diet, Subnormal Vitamin B-12 Status and Cardiovascular Health. Nutrients, 6(8), 3259–3273. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6083259 
  5. Woo, K. S., Kwok, T. C. Y., & Celermajer, D. S. (2014). Vegan Diet, Subnormal Vitamin B-12 Status and Cardiovascular Health. Nutrients, 6(8), 3259–3273. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6083259 
  6.  A Vegan’s Guide To Food Labels | Label Line UK. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2021, from https://labellineuk.co.uk/vegans-guide-food-labels/ 
  7. Carfì, D., Donato, A., & Panuccio, D. (2018). A Game Theory Coopetitive Perspective for Sustainability of Global Feeding: Agreements Among Vegan and Non-Vegan Food Firms [Chapter]. Game Theory: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice; IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-2594-3.ch004 

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