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On Switching To A Vegan Diet (And Mindset)

I get a lot of questions around my vegan diet, especially from women who are interested in the idea of going plant based but aren’t sure how to navigate the process. Maybe they’re a little paralyzed by the idea of meal planning without traditional sources of protein, or they’re worried about how their partner might react to this dietary change. I get it! Making the switch to a vegan diet can definitely seem intimidating.

Personally, I held off for a while because I worried about the “high maintenance” label that automatically comes when you adopt a vegan diet. Eventually, though, for me the pros of changing outweighed the cons, and I’m so happy I made the switch. (You can read more about why I became a plant-based eater in this post from earlier this year.)

It wasn’t hard for me to go from an omnivorous to a vegan diet because I didn’t have to change a ton. I wasn’t eating much dairy at all prior to going vegan, and I was mainly eating meat because I thought I needed to get protein that way. Once I eliminated the meat (and eggs and the small amount of dairy I was eating), I felt…mostly the same (which is to say, GOOD!). My energy levels were high, and I felt like I transitioned seamlessly to this new way of eating. It sounds cheesy, but I feel like my body was always meant to eat this way.

I know the transition isn’t as easy for some people, though, and that’s totally normal! Play around with veganism for a bit to see how it makes you feel. Don’t be too hard on yourself in the process, either. (I keep this mindset even now, as I’m sure I sometimes eat vegetables cooked in butter when I’m out at restaurants. I make the best choices I can and try not to worry about it too much when it’s harder to control.) I also think it’s best to try to start from square one with a vegan mindset rather than recreating meat-centric meals as your go-to recipes. For example, if a typical weekday meal for you used to be something like chicken parmesan, my advice would be to not find a faux chicken and vegan cheese and try to make your traditional chicken parm in vegan form. Instead, think of how you can completely rebuild or replace that meal. (Personally, I’m not a big fan of all the replacement meats and cheeses, although I will eat them occasionally. I do like tofu and tempeh as good protein options, though!) Spend some time exploring tasty vegan recipes to help shift your thinking when it comes to meal planning. Some of my favorite resources are Oh She Glows, Minimalist Baker, Kimberly Snyder, and Forks Over Knives. Green Chef (one of those services that mails you ingredients and recipes) has also been a huge source of inspiration for me! They have amazing vegan meals, and have given me lots of ideas for food pairings, alternative ingredients, etc. Kevin loves them, too, and we get a Green Chef shipment (three meals per shipment) about once a month.

Speaking of Kevin…as far as how he and I make food work at home, that transition has been pretty easy as well. First, though, I need to set the stage for the way our family prepares and eats meals: We operate very much in a “fend for yourself” mode much of the time. Kevin and I keep busy during the week, and so it’s not at all uncommon for us to eat at different times and throw our own meals together. When that happens, obviously I can make a full-on vegan meal and he can make anything he wants (he’s not vegan, so often his meals include meat). Even though we follow different dietary practices in some way, in large part we eat pretty similarly, which makes it easy to keep lots of food we both love on hand. We eat a TON of produce at our house. This time of year we’re all about keeping roasted veggies on hand at all times, and we also buy kale salad bags and huge tubs of spinach from Costco weekly. We try to eat as many whole foods as possible, and also incorporate staples like quinoa and brown rice.

When Kevin and I do make meals that we’ll both be eating (which definitely happens, too!), we typically make a few plant-based elements (those will be my meal) and then he’ll add meat to his. It works out pretty well, actually, and I appreciate how accommodating he’s been of my switch to vegan. (I never give him a hard time about not making the switch. We’re both very respectful of each other’s choices, which I think helps a lot, too.)

(Oh, and no — Maggie’s not currently being raised vegan. You can read more about that in this post!)

A reader asked about being an on-the-go vegan, too, so I plan to address that in a later post. What other questions can I answer for you regarding the way I eat? (Keep in mind I’m not a dietician, but am more than happy to share my experience!)

 

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