I failed at my first attempt at going vegan. Most people do. But with a few precautionary adjustments to your diet, you can avoid the same fate and enjoy all the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
#1) Eating Too Much Oil
When you first give up meat and dairy, you’re going to crave fat. Don’t fall into the oil trap. Oil is the most calorie dense type of food you can eat, and it’s lurking in everything– from store bought hummus to salad dressings. Plant oils are sneaky weight-gainers, and they are the #1 culprit of excessive omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. Don’t let decades of positive marketing from the olive and coconut oil industries fool you. Keep these lipids to a minimum.
#2) Depending on Mock-Meats
Not all veggie burgers are created equal. If you’re eating Boca and Morningstar Farms products on the regular, you might want to cut it out. Some of these mock-meats still use genetically modified soy and wheat, which are littered with Monsanto’s glyphosate. If you don’t want a “Round-Up Ready” veggie burger, pay close attention to the packaging and look for the non-GMO label.
#3) Buying Vegan Junk Food
Oreos and most potato chips are vegan. Enough Said.
#4) Ignoring Vitamin B-12
Modern societies chlorinate their water and wash the dirt off of their produce. For that reason, vegan sources of Vitamin B-12 are slim to none nowadays. Meat contains B-12, so omnivores don’t have to worry about this. But for plant based eaters, vitamin B-12 supplementation is necessary. Opt for methylcobalamin over cyanocobalamin, as it is more bioavailable. Cyanocobalamin also contains a little bit of cyanide.
If you’re prone to acne, take caution in not overdoing the B-12 supplements. Too much B-12 is associated with acne. You don’t have to take B-12 supplements every day.
#5) Forgetting Fiber
Fiber is the secret to not feeling hungry or deprived as a vegan. If you eat a typical western diet, and simply replace the meat with mock-meat, you will feel unsatisfied. Because plants digest more quickly than animal flesh and secretions, fibrous fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes will help mitigate hunger. It also helps build and maintain a population of healthy gut bacteria. Eating high-fiber food should not be limited to only vegans. The typical western diet is incredibly fiber deficient. One of the main reasons people see extraordinary results with plant-based diets is the increase in dietary fiber intake.
(Fiber Tip: Instead of juicing, try blending with a Vitamix or other high-powered blender. Juicing removes the pulp (the fiber), but blending keeps it all intact and basically liquifies it. It may very well be easier for you to drink your kale!)
#6) Eating Too Many Nuts
Nuts and seeds are a great source of Omega-3’s, but there’s a catch. They are also a great source of Omega-6’s, and most people–vegans and omnivores alike–have too many Omega-6’s and too few Omega-3’s in their diets. With nuts and seeds, a little goes a long way. With modern de-shelling processing methods, it is now too easy to overdo it. Just think about it, in their natural form, these nuts are protected with a shell that prevents the animal (human or non) from overeating them.
Flaxseeds are the holy grail of vegan omega-3’s. Just make sure you buy pre-ground flax, or you grind it yourself before eating it. The human body cannot properly break down and digest a non-ground flaxseed. Walnuts and Chia seeds are also notable mentions, but nothing compares to flax. The rest of the nuts and seeds are great, just be careful not to overeat them.
#7) Getting Drunk
You may have seen a “study” circulating around social media, claiming that 1/3 of vegetarians eat meat when they get drunk. Although the source of the study is dubious (thank you, Snopes!), it is common knowledge that drinking lowers inhibitions. Anyone who’s ever been drunk knows that it usually doesn’t end in healthy food choices. Stay mindful and in control of your decisions. When you’re uninhibited, you’ll fall back on old habits.
#8) Relying on Restaurants
If you’re a new vegan who doesn’t cook, then you’re in for a difficult time. Your dining options will be limited, unless you live in a big city and are willing to shell out the big bucks for overpriced salads and extra guac at Chipotle. Don’t rely on restaurants for the bulk of your calories. You will probably be left broke, disappointed and hungry.
#9) Becoming Misanthropic
Every vegan goes through an angry stage. Some never get out of it. Yes, humans are responsible for unspeakable horrors. Our violence as a species causes tremendous suffering– from factory farming to commercial fishing, from slavery to war. But real vegans keep humans within their circle of compassion–and simply not eating people isn’t enough. Love thy neighbor–and not just the cute, furry ones.
#10) Expecting Vegan Purity
Toss any notions of maintaining vegan purity out the window right now. If you eat at restaurants, you will unknowingly consume trace amounts of dairy regularly. There will be ingredient ignorant waiters, cooks who don’t care, and food handlers who don’t change gloves after handling meat and dairy. Honey, eggs and dairy are hiding in processed foods that you might not expect. Some vitamin fortified foods, like Cheerios, use an animal derived vitamin-D. And God forbid, you might step on a bug or instinctively swat a mosquito to death.
No food is completely cruelty free, and nobody gets off of this planet alive without killing something. This isn’t a call for nihilistic ethical abandonment, though. In fact, true ethical veganism is a rejection of nihilism, and it should be practiced as an act of (imperfect) love. Just do your best. Don’t worry, you can still call yourself a vegan even if you mess up! And the best part is you don’t have to tell anybody.