Guest Post: 5 Tips for Adjusting to a Vegan Lifestyle

>> Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hello guys! Today, I have a special blog post for you. Mariana Ashley, a freelance writer, offered to write a post that I think newcomers to the vegan lifestyle or those flirting with it might find interesting and helpful. So here we go...

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I'm not a die-hard vegan, and I do it more for the potential health benefits over the philosophical reasons, but I have been known to go long stretches of time focusing on eating fruit and veggies, rice, beans and nuts and to completely cut out meat, eggs and milk products during those times. At times, I've even cut out gluten to see how it affected the way I feel, opting for corn, sweet potato and buckwheat pastas instead of whole wheat pastas. Through these short- and long-term experiences, I've experienced renewed vigor and energy, have experimented with new foods and have become well-versed in studying labels. I've also felt pain in my joints when I cut out meat, refined sugar and processed food. For those that are considering going vegan, I've compiled a list of pointers from my experiences that will help you adjust.

1.) Know where the vegan restaurants and natural food stores are in or near your area.
While you will be doing a lot of cooking and baking at home with veggies, breads and beans, chances are you're going to need a break every once in a while. Cooking vegan can be a lot of work day after day. To find vegan haunts in your area, I recommend an online resource called Happy Cow. I used this site to find vegan-friendly restaurants and food stores in my area. I live in a mid-size town, so only four restaurants turned up in the search, but I was grateful to know about them. Natural food stores are handy because they give you more options for dinner. Although they're getting better, your traditional grocery stores often limit you to the (small) organic produce section and one measly aisle for natural foods.

2.) Soy is your friend.
Often people's biggest concern with going vegan is missing out on essential protein. Aside from getting protein in beans and nuts, I consume a lot of soy to get around this. I almost daily take in protein in the form of shakes, although I use the term "shake" loosely because it doesn't include any milk (I avoid whey protein). I measure out and mix soy protein powder in with water to create these shakes, or consume soy in other forms, like tofu. I find that my aches and pains when easing back into a vegan diet after being off of it for a while subside a bit when I take in soy protein daily. Of course, soy isn't your only option for protein and variety is important, so incorporate the proteins found in quinoa, amaranth, edamame and legumes as well.

3.) Get support.
If you have a pack of vegan and vegetarian friends in your life who share your concerns about food, that's fantastic, but many of us do not. That's why it's important to get plugged into the vegan community online. Not only can you exchange recipes and get tips from each other, but you can encourage each other to keep up the vegan diet in the first three weeks, which are often the most difficult.

4.) Farmers markets are awesome!
Many of us who are concerned about the types of food we eat are also concerned with where our food comes from. Farmers markets are great place to get organic, locally-grown produce at a good price. They'll start opening back up in the spring, so keep your eyes peeled.

5.) Take a multi-vitamin and drink herbal teas.
The more you learn about food, the more you will learn how to bring different foods together for well-balanced nutrition, but the learning process takes time. To fill in the gaps, make sure you're taking a multi-vitamin daily to ensure you're getting all the essential vitamins you need each day. I also recommend trying different herbal teas for the headaches and stomachaches many people experience when switching over to a vegan diet (I especially recommend chamomile, lavender and peppermint teas). The detox and discomfort that comes from eating unusual foods and phasing out others can be unpleasant and you'll need all the help you can get.

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031@gmail.com.

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Thanks Mariana! As mentioned above, Mariana would love your feedback - please feel free to leave a comment below or send her a personal note.

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