Vegan Tips (Beginner)
Transitioning to veganism sounds and is overwhelming; there is no denying it. It’s not easy and you will make a lot of mistakes. The secret is accepting the mistakes, learning from them, and keep moving forward! This beginner guide will hopefully help you avoid any common mistakes (speaking from first hand experience).
Tip 1: A Slow Transition
A common mistake is moving too fast and wanting to be vegan from one day to the other. Although it may work for some, it is not as easy for most of us.
Start off by cutting off animal products for breakfast everyday (or lunch or dinner). Or cut animal products every Monday to start the week right. Slowly you will find yourself eating little to no animal products during the weekday. You can save your non-vegans for the weekend. Taking your time is nothing to be ashamed of and will pay off at the end.
Another way is to become a pescatarian or vegetarian first. As a pescatarian you’d be staying away from meat and poultry but seafood is fair game. As a vegetarian you stay away from meat, poultry, and seafood. And how do those differ from veganism? You can eat dairy and eggs as a vegetarian or pescatarian but not as a vegan!
Take all the time to transition towards veganism. I was a vegetarian for two years before I even started to think about a vegan diet and now three years later I have no desire to go back.
Tip 2: Make and Pack Your Own Food
Speaking from personal experience, being vegan was the hardest in social settings and when ordering take out. It can be tricky ordering out, especially when the only options are fast food chains where they’re not offering a lot of vegan friendly food.
The easiest and most cost efficient method is packing your own food. You know all the ingredients in your food and no animal products can sneak their way in. Packing your own food for certain events can be a bit of a downer, but it’s a fool-proof way to make sure you won’t be left starving at any event. Additionally, preparing your own food and packing it decreases the chances you’d reach for non-vegan food when you’re dying of hunger.
Tips: Do Your Research and Read the Labels
Let’s say you’re spontaneously invited to a restaurant and don't have anything packed. A quick google search can easily tell you the vegan items on the menu. This is especially helpful if you’re eating out at a food chain; there’s a lot of research already done for you. At a restaurant where research can be limited, a foolproof way is to simply ask the waiter how they prepared the food and the ingredients in the meal. They’d usually go ask the cook and get you the answer right away. One of my favorite tips to eat vegan at a non-vegan restaurant is to tell the waiter you’re allergic to eggs and dairy. Straying away from meat at a restaurant is pretty straight forward but the easiest way to sneak in animal derived products is using eggs and dairy. They can hide in some buns and bread! And by saying you’re allergic to these ingredients can make them a little more cautious.
Okay, now let’s say you find yourself rushing and have no time to pack your lunch. Or need extra help grocery shopping. Reading the food labels will become second nature when you become vegan. The food label is at the back of every food package where it lists all the ingredients. Luckily, you don’t have to read everything on the list. The trick is going at the bottom of the list where the bolded ingredients are. Packages are required to bold these allergens (wheat, dairy, nuts, and eggs) on every food item. So quickly glance at the bottom of the list to see if it says CONTAINS DAIRY/EGGS. Now you know if that packet of bread or granola bars is vegan or not. Trust me these animal products are hidden very easily everywhere!
Now this is where it becomes a little tricky let’s say it says MAY CONTAIN DAIRY/EGGS. Surprisingly, these items are vegan! The reason it says MAY CONTAIN is simply because the product was made in the same facility where they process dairy or eggs. Simply a legal tactic to not get sued if someone with allergies has a reaction.
Once you’re an expert at reading every label, picking vegan products becomes significantly easier. So even though some animal products can sneak anywhere, if you do your research and read the labels you can avoid these common mistakes.
But remember no one is perfect and setbacks aren’t always avoidable so don’t think eating non-vegan food can derail your process.
BONUS! Common Products to Watch Out Far
Gelatin - not vegan or vegetarian. Derived from animal body parts. Usually found in Jell-O, marshmallows, gummy bears, and more)
Some beer, cider, and wine - some can contain fish products, believe it or not. Barnivore is a helpful site that lists what brands are vegan and non-vegan.
Refried beans - can contain lard, animal fat. This is the case in restaurants and even canned beans. So be careful!
Some orange juice - can contain Vitamin D and Omega 3 (fish)
McDonald’s fries - Fried with animal fat. Usually fries are done in vegetable oil but you can always double check with the server to make sure.