Hey! Congratulations! You’ve decided to reduce or eliminate animal products from your life. Welcome to the green side Smile Whether you watched a documentary, read a book, or heard from a friend, the benefits of going vegan or plant-based are undeniable. But we’re not going to get into that today. My hope is that this guide for going vegan will help to make the transition to a herbivore just a little bit easier and less stressful. Let’s dig in, shall we?

A Guide for Going Vegan | A Taste of Trace

 

A Guide for Going Vegan

Rethink your Plate

If you grew up eating the Standard American Diet (aka meat and potatoes), it might take a bit of an adjustment to filling your plate with plants. For starters, remove the notion that your plate needs to be made up of mainly meat, with a few veggies lingering on the side (I’m looking at you, ‘salad’ that’s made up of iceberg lettuce drenched in ranch dressing…)

I like patterns, and eating in threes appeals to my type A personality. One of my favourite bloggers, Gena Hemshaw from The Full Helping, coined a much-loved term for composing your plate: a grain, a green, and a bean. Translated, that could mean a scoop of brown rice, a blob of curried lentils, and a big salad on the side. It could also mean a sweet potato and chickpea curry with stewed greens on a bed of quinoa. Similarly, it could include a black bean and rice burger piled high with veggies between a whole wheat bun. Variety is key and the possibilities are endless. Using the ‘grain, green, and bean’ combo ensures you’ll be consuming a hefty dose of fibre (grain), lots of vitamins and minerals (green), and that oh-so-important protein (bean. Also, see below).

Tandoori Chickpeas & Stuffed Sweet Potatoes | The Full Helping

Batch Cooking is your Friend

To the uninitiated, vegan cooking may seem daunting. Soaking your beans?! Slaving all day in the kitchen?! Sure, you can do those things, but you definitely don’t have to! Don’t want to soak beans from scratch? Use canned! Don’t want to spend each night cooking for hours? Then don’t! I love to spend a bit of quality time in the kitchen once a week and have meals ready to go throughout the week. If you still don’t have time for that, don’t worry – I’ve got a post lined up for some easy-peasy weeknight meals.

Weekly Salad Challenge - Delicious Dressings | A Taste of Trace

Here are some of my go-to batch cooking items:

  • brown rice/grain (I like to cook at least 2 dry cups of rice – or other grain like quinoa, paste, millet, buckwheat, etc). This method from Saveur is my favourite for ensuring perfectly cooked & fluffy rice every time. You essentially cook it like you would pasta.)
  • roasted or steamed vegetables (sweet potatoes are my favourites, but roasting zucchini, bell peppers, red onions, etc are great options too).
  • a giant salad bowl (make a huge bowl of salad with heaps of chopped greens, veggies, and herbs makes it easy to get your greens in all week long!)
  • a sauce (never underestimate the power of a delicious sauce. It can really turn a meal around! I love making a double batch of sauces to last me all week long. This Yum Sauce if my absolute favourite, but Matt from No Meat Athlete has a great write up on sauces as well. Additionally, check out my post on Delicious Dressings for some more inspiration).
  • a casserole/one pot meal (as I mentioned above, be sure to check out my upcoming post for some meal ideas!)

Protein

“But where do you get your protein??” – asks almost every single person once they find out I’m vegan. Meat is hailed as the best and only source of protein. So if you remove meat from your diet, surely you must be protein deficient. Right? WRONG! Think of the meat you eat for protein. Steak, or chicken breast for example. What do you think the cows and chickens eat? PLANTS! Think again of the biggest, most muscle-y animals on this planet. Elephants, rhinos, gorillas. They’re huge! And they’re also all herbivores. Skip the middle-meat and get your protein right from the source – plants! Legumes, beans, lentils, grains, nuts, and yes, even vegetables all have significant sources of protein. If you’re consuming sufficient amounts of calories, you’ll be getting enough protein.

Proteins - A Guide for Going Vegan | A Taste of Trace

If you’re still a bit concerned however, here’s a breakdown for you. For starters, do you even know how much protein is recommended per day?? For adults, the recommended daily intake is 0.8-0.9 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36-0.41 grams per pound). You could be conservative when getting started and roll with an even 1.0 g/kg. So for a woman of 120lbs (55kg), a range of 44-50g of protein per day is sufficient, and 55g is plenty. This guide from One Green Planet has a great rundown of plant-based protein sources.

Protein - A Guide for Going Vegan | A Taste of Trace

(source)

Some final thoughts on protein. In a society run down with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other lifestyle diseases, protein deficiency is nowhere to be seen. Let’s concern ourselves with reducing our intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, and increasing the amount of fibre, vitamins, nutrients, and PLANTS!! YAY!

Supplements

There is almost nothing in an animal product-centred diet that can’t be obtained by eating plants. In fact, a plant-based diet often has more vitamins and nutrients than a Standard American Diet. On top of that, a plant-based diet has copious amounts of fibre – a component found ONLY in plants that can regulate blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol, and contributes to a healthy digestive system. Fibre is also something that is sadly lacking in the majority of the population’s diet and can be the cause of a whole slew of ailments. Insufficient fibre in your diet can cause constipation, high blood sugar, and weight gain. Increasing the amount of fibre consumed can also reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. To summarize, get your fibre by eating plants!!!

A Guide for Going Vegan | A Taste of Trace

However, you’ll notice that above I said that there’s almost nothing that can’t be found in a plant-based diet. This of course is the elusive vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is responsible for DNA production as well as maintaining a healthy and functioning blood and nervous system. To be clear, B12 is a microorganism and animals synthesize it in their gut. It lives in animal products as a bacteria which humans then consume. Fortunately, it’s easy to take a supplement 2-3 times per week. The suggested ranges are wide, but look for a 1,000-2,000mcg supplement. Sublingual (under the tongue) pills are some of the most readily available. You can also get a hefty dose of B12 from fortified foods such as non-dairy milks, nutritional yeast, tofu, and breakfast cereals.

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide for going vegan was helpful. It can be a bit overwhelming to start, but once you change your mindset a little, you’ll find it gets easier. It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of ‘everything has to be homemade’, and ‘100% healthy all the time!’, but do what works for you. Buy those canned beans and lentils. Stock up on that pre-made hummus. And sure, go ahead and get those containers of pre-chopped veggies, and already-washed spinach and kale. If it means less stress in the kitchen for you, there’s a bigger chance you’ll actually eat the stuff!!!!!

I’ve got another guide coming up for how to stock a vegan pantry. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that as well as my aforementioned favourite easy weeknight dinners!

As always, feel free to comment (or shoot me an email – atasteoftrace [at] gmail [dot] com) if you have any ‘vegan’ questions, or are feeling overwhelmed & don’t know where to start! I’m always happy to help! Smile