With all the news abuzz lately with it being scientifically proven that processed meat causes cancer, and red meat probably causes cancer too, more people are looking to a healthier lifestyle. If you haven't heard this news yet, definitely get to Googling because it's a real thing, proven by the World Health Organization. That's ham, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, etc. The IARC stated that each 50 grams of processed meat that you eat daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That's horrifying. So, if you're like the millions of people who saw this and was terrified, or have always thought about trying a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, I wanted to share with you a few tips on how to get the ball rolling.
1) Before you do anything, have a reason for wanting to try it. Whether it's because of the latest cancer news, or it's because of health reasons, or diet reasons, or like me, for animal reasons, find your reason. It could be one thing or a combination of things.
2) Educate yourself. Learn the different types of vegetarianism. Are you going to eat dairy? Eggs? One or both? And don't tell me you're going to eat fish, because vegetarians don't eat fish. You want to be a pescatarian? Then you can eat fish. Are you leaning more towards veganism? Veganism is much more difficult than vegetarianism and takes a lot more work. Learn the differences between the different diets so you can decide which one is best for you.
3) Figure out what your new meals will look like. You can absolutely have a healthy (even healthier really) life without eating meat, poultry, and/or fish. But learn from my mistakes, and make sure you're eating well rounded meals. When I was a wee one and I went vegetarian, I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I was like, I'm going to eat grilled cheese, pizza, carbs, and potato chips. It should come as no surprise that I ended up being anemic. I researched what a healthy diet should look like, and never turned back.
4) Start small and work your way up. You don't want to shock your body by eating hamburgers and then eating salads. It's much much easier to go from eating meat to going vegetarian, mastering that, then going vegan. Allow yourself to transition slowly. It's a marathon, not a race. Start by having one vegetarian/vegan meal a day. Breakfast is the easiest meal of the day. Then, transition to something like Meatless Monday where you eat vegetarian/vegan food all day.
5) Allow yourself to make mistakes. Every vegetarian/vegan in the history of vegetarian/vegans has slipped up. They will happen; whether it was unintentional or you lost your will power. Forgive yourself, and start fresh your next meal.
6) Research ingredients to be aware of. Vegetarians can't eat lard, rennet, or gelatin for example. That means not all cheese is vegan.In fact, a lot of it isn't. Vegetarians can't eat sprinkle cheese or Velveeta, which isn't even cheese. It's not even food, as far as I'm considered. Gelatin is in Jello, marshmallows, Peeps, and a lot of candies. Lard is animal fat. Gelatin is boiled hooves, tendons, and hairs. Yummy right? Vegans can't eat honey or any bi-products from animals. Do you know how many things are derived from animals? I do. It's insane. I have an app called "Animal Free" which helps me when I find an ingredient in something I'm unsure of.
7) Learn to be a compulsive label reader. Labels are your best friend. You can't buy or eat anything until you know what's in it. As a vegan, unless it's label "vegan" I usually won't touch it. If there's no ingredient label, I won't touch it either.
8) If you're looking to go vegan, remember that veganism is more than just your diet. Veganism is an entire lifestyle, which means your lifestyle that you've lived for so many years is done. You know those leather shoes you love? You can't wear them anymore. Vegans can't wear or use any animal skin. You know that favorite restaurant you and your significant other love to go to? There's a good chance you won't be able to eat there anymore, unless you want a basic salad, because most places aren't vegan friendly. There's so much cross contamination it'll make your head spin. How about your favorite wine? You're going to have to get a new one, because that one probably isn't vegan, or even vegetarian. Wine can get filtered through things like egg albumen, gelatin, fish oil, casein, isinglass, blood and bone marrow. NOMS! Your favorite red lipstick? Chances are, that contains carmine, which is derived from crushed beetles. Your mascara? Beeswax. Vegans use only cruelty free products. That's everything from hair products to deodorant to makeup and every little thing in between. Being a vegan is the most rewarding thing I have ever done with my life, but that doesn't mean that it was an easy transition. It's second nature to me now, but it wasn't as first.
9) If you're transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism, do a trial period first to make sure it's a good fit for you. It takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Giving up cheese I legit went through withdrawal, after 3 weeks, I didn't want cheese ever again. I know because I tried it and was so over it by the first bite.
10) Be prepared for the 9 million questions you're going to get. I got a lot of slack for being a vegetarian, but I hear even more being a vegan. Not everyone is going to be negative, some people are just ignorant because they don't know or understand it. Don't be confrontational. Remember that this is different for a lot of people. Sometimes they ask a lot of questions because they want to know more about it. Answer them with a smile. If they come at you negatively, you don't have to explain yourself. Do what you want to do because it makes you happy, not everyone else.
11) Remember if you're traveling or going to someone's house, pack snacks in your bag. Most people have no idea what to feed you, and 9/10 times it will be a salad. Be grateful for the salad and that they tried, but munch on your noms later. You don't want to be rude, but you don't want to be hungry either.
12) My last tip, go big or go home. If these lifestyles aren't for you, then they're not for you. I want everyone to be a vegan, of course, but I understand that isn't feasible. If your heart isn't in it, or you just don't think it's a good fit for you, then don't do it. Small changes make a big impact. If you stick with only Meatless Mondays, that's fantastic. If you decide that you only want to use cruelty free products but not vegan products, my hats off to you.
I am always here to answer any questions that you may have. No question is too small or silly. There are no such things as stupid questions. Please either comment below, or if you would prefer it to be more private, email me, or comment on my Facebook page. You can find me under: The Vegan Crazy Cat Lady!