Are you planning on going vegan? Feeling veg-curious? Or simply looking to learn more about a vegan diet?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
Once upon a time we were in the same position.
We had questions like what do vegans eat? Is being vegan expensive? What supplements do I need to take?
And with an abundance of information, it can be confusing to say the least.
In our vegan beginners guide, we’ll walk you through all the vegan basics, answer questions you might have, and share our best tips for vegan beginners.
- What Does Vegan Mean?
- Vegan vs Plant-Based vs Vegetarian
- Is Being Vegan Expensive?
- How To Get The Most Vegan Bang For Your Buck
- What Do Vegans Eat?
- Vegan Foods and Animal Substitutes
- Tips to Help Vegan Beginners Get Started
- Vegan Supplements
- Best Vegan Cookbooks for Beginners
- Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Veganism 101: What Does Vegan Mean?
We'll start our veganism for beginners guide with the basics, covering the term vegan and what it actually means.
Veganism is a lifestyle that seeks to minimize and exclude animal suffering in every way possible.
This is most commonly done by excluding all animal-derived foods from one's diet. That includes all types of meat (and yes, chicken and fish are meat), dairy products, honey, and eggs.
However, veganism is about much more than diet.
As mentioned, a vegan seeks to exclude all animal products from their life.
This means that veganism extends further than food.
For example, a vegan doesn’t wear leather, feathers (or down), suede, fur, silk, wool, or use any products tested on animals.
Naturally, a vegan also avoids any setting where animals are being abused and used for entertainment such as zoos and circuses as well as activities such as taking horse -drawn carriages, swimming with dolphins, or riding elephants.
In other words, a vegan does not discriminate against species whether that be a dog, human, cow, pig, sheep, fish, or bird.
Vegan vs Plant-Based vs Vegetarian - What are the Differences?
In addition to veganism, there are a few other diets and lifestyles that also exclude certain or all animal products. The two most common are the plant-based diet and vegetarianism.
A person eating a plant-based diet also excludes all animal products from their diet.
However, unlike a vegan, someone eating plant-based is usually driven by health reasons and not necessarily by ethical reasons.
This generally means that they are stricter with what they eat and try to eat as healthy as possible, avoiding processed foods while mainly eating a whole foods plant-based diet (WFPB).
That being said, there are many vegans who eat a WFPB diet, and there are many that follow a plant-based diet that embrace veganism for the animals.
In many cases, depending on who you're talking to, the two terms can be used interchangeably.
A vegetarian does not consume any type of meat, including fish and chicken, for ethical reasons just like a vegan.
However, they tend to still eat dairy and eggs and might also use non-vegan products and clothing.
Vegetarianism can also differ from person to person.
For example, some vegetarians might eat dairy but not eggs, and others might eat eggs but not dairy.
In addition, there are people that exclude red meat and chicken from their diet but still eat fish and other seafood. These people are usually referred to as "pescatarians" and are not vegetarian.
Is Being Vegan Expensive?
First things first, let's address the elephant in the room.
Is being vegan expensive? It is a question we get asked all the time by vegan beginners.
In many cases, the cost of a vegan diet can actually be far less than a meat-based diet.
If you consider that meat, fish, and dairy are some of the most expensive items at the grocery store, you can see how eliminating animal products can substantially lower your overall grocery bill.
With that said, processed vegan food like vegan cheese and mock meats are going to cost more than plant based staples like legumes and grains.
However, these items are still very affordable, and as demand grows and more products are released, the prices will become even lower.
Just be mindful of the products you buy and you'll be able to keep your expenses low.
Personally, we try to focus on eating a whole foods diet consisting of a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tofu/tempeh, and legumes but we do also treat ourselves occasionally to processed vegan foods.
Tips on How To Get The Most Vegan Bang For Your Buck:
Research and Shop Around For The Best Prices
Food shopping varies from city to city, but you’d be surprised how much the prices of food can differ from store to store.
Whole Foods has been considered notoriously expensive for a long time, but after they were acquired by Amazon, we've found the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables to be much less than other local grocery stores.
And if you’re an Amazon prime member, you can get additional discounts and deals of the day.
The point is you should shop around your area a bit to gauge who has the best prices for your vegan food haul.
Consider shopping at your local farmer’s market as well. Many times you can find great locally grown, organic, seasonal produce for far less than in the supermarkets!
Consider Your Supermarket's Own Brand of Vegan Products
You might not realize it, but your supermarket may offer their own brand of vegan products which are often cheaper than more well-known brands.
If you’re in the US, check out Trader Joe’s vegan products or Whole Foods' 365 line.
If you’re in the UK, Tesco makes a great selection of vegan products and so does Aldi.
In Sweden, ICA is extremely popular, and if you’re in Italy, Carrefour offers a big range of vegan items. You get the idea.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is a great way to decrease the costs of your vegan food shopping even further.
Beans, lentils, rice, seeds, nuts, and even vegetables and fruits can be bought in large quantities for lower prices.
And by buying in bulk, you can not only save a lot of money but also decrease your use of food packaging waste.
Stock Your Vegan Pantry and Plan Your Vegan Food Shopping
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to always keep a well-stocked pantry.
If you stock most of the staples you need to eat at home, you will avoid doing unnecessary trips to the grocery store which will eliminate most of your sporadic and often-times expensive purchases.
Therefore, we advise you on doing big, regular food hauls that are well-planned.
And make sure you always have a list of all the items you’re buying and try to stick with the list.
Also, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry since that usually results in overspending and unnecessary purchases.
Vegan For Beginners: What Do Vegans Eat?
We’ve noticed that one of the main things that keep people that are veg-curious from going vegan is that they’re not sure of what they can eat and think that it's going to be too difficult or limiting.
Some people also tend to think that a vegan diet lacks nutrition, which is completely untrue.
More importantly, a vegan diet offers numerous health benefits and in some cases can actually prevent and reverse certain illnesses.
And before we continue, vegans can easily get enough protein!
Vegan Foods and Animal Substitutes
Are you wondering what to eat as a vegan?
You're in luck! It has actually never been easier to be vegan than in 2019!
Personally, we tend to eat following the seasons since it ensure you get the freshest and most locally produced vegetables and fruits. And since we travel a lot, we also adapt our eating habits based on the regions we're traveling in.
Below is a list of some of the most common, and in our opinion, tastiest vegan staples to help you get started.
Lentils and beans are protein-packed superfoods that should be a part of your everyday diet.
Our favorite legumes are chickpeas and cannellini beans which we often eat as they are with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and black pepper.
Besides eating them as they are, beans are great for spreads such as hummus, and black beans are excellent for homemade vegan burgers.
Lentils are better suited for stews, soups, and Indian curries but can also be used to make burgers, meatballs, and more.
We also eat a lot of tofu, tempeh and other soy-based products.
This is a very broad and versatile food group, and it’s really up to you to experiment and find the vegetables you like the most.
There is an expression that says you should try to eat the rainbow every day meaning you should eat as many colors as possible.
You’ll always find broccoli in our fridge, and we eat a freshly made tomato sauce with pasta or tofu several times a week.
Bell peppers and artichokes are two other favorites, and we love grilling zucchini and eggplant.
If you’re not sure of how to prepare vegetables, we suggest you check out the cookbooks for vegan beginners below.
Fruit are a major part of our diet and something we strive to consume a lot of every single day.
We’ve found that the easiest way to incorporate fruits into our diet is to eat smoothie bowls.
We mix frozen bananas and berries with other seasonal fruits and top it off with chia seeds, nuts, and more fruit.
This makes for a delicious healthy antoxidant packed dessert or breakfast that's guilt-free.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are protein dense foods and together with avocado, they provide a great source of healthy fats.
Typically eaten as a snack, nuts and seeds can be used for pretty much any dish.
Top your smoothie bowls with walnuts, sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds on your salad, or make a cashew parmesan crumble to top your pasta off with.
Spices are some of the most antioxidant-packed foods on the planet.
But besides the health benefits, spices can take your food to the next level.
Don’t be afraid to try new spices and flavors, and if you had a favorite way of seasoning your meat dishes, we suggest you use the same for your new vegan dishes.
Vegan Products and Substitutes
Although, not a food group per se, there are many vegan products out there that makes the transition easier for vegan beginners.
- Dairy - Substitutes for dairy products such as milk, cheese, and ice cream are plentiful. Our favorite vegan milk is soy milk but others prefer oat milk, almond milk and even coconut milk.
- Meat - Meat substitutes are also plentiful but it depends on where you are. If you’re craving the taste of meat, we suggest you try the Beyond Burger or one of Gardein's “chicken” products. For less meat-like substitutes you can try tofu, tempeh, seitan, and jackfruit.
- Egg - Eggs are another product that many vegan beginners struggle to let go of, but it's easier than you think. For example, egg whites can be replaced with aquafaba (the left over water from cooked/canned beans), egg yolks can be replaced with flax seed, banana, and a range of other products for baking. These days, you can also find different vegan egg replacers in most grocery stores.
Besides the above-mentioned food groups, vegans can also help themselves to pasta, rice, potatoes, and bread.
Tips to Help Vegan Beginners Get Started
Honestly, the vegan selection today is pretty impressive and there are vegan versions of pretty much any non-vegan food.
There is really no reason to be scared that you will be missing out as a vegan.
You can even find vegan shrimps, vegan eggs, and meat that bleeds.
One of the easiest ways for vegan beginners to figure out what to eat is to substitute your favorite non-vegan dishes with vegan items.
Are you a fan of pasta bolognese? Switch the meat for lentils or vegan meat crumbles.
Are you a sausage and potato kind of guy? Try one of the many vegan sausages on the market.
Do you like steak? Try substituting it with seitan or tofu.
Bacon lover? No problem. There is vegan bacon that can satisfy even the toughest critic.
Better yet, we have both found that switching to a vegan diet introduced us to so many new foods and cuisines that we would have never tried otherwise.
What Supplements Do Vegans Need?
B12 must be supplemented on a vegan diet.
Vegan food is naturally low in B12 which is an essential vitamin that all humans need to survive. In fact, it is very dangerous to become B12 deficient.
We used to get plenty of B12 from the soil but due to higher sanitary standards in food production, our vegetables are now depleted of it.
That being said, many meat-eaters and vegetarians also don't get enough B12.
Because of this, it is essential for every vegan to supplement with B12 on a regular basis.
The easiest way to do so is to take a B12 supplement. We prefer this brand but there are several other brands selling similar products.
Also, there are vegan products that are fortified with B12 such as soy milk and nutritional yeast, but it’s not really enough to sustain a healthy level which is why it's always recommended to use supplements.
In addition, we recommend that all vegan (and non-vegans) supplement with Vitamin D.
Like B12, vitamin D is an essential vitamin for humans that we naturally absorb from sunlight. Unfortunately, many studies have shown that most humans are vitamin D deficient which can lead to an array of health issues.
Our point is that any vegan that wants to live an optimal life should take B12 and Vitamin D on a daily basis.
Note that finding vegan vitamin D is a little harder than finding B12 since many Vitamin D products are derived from sheep wool.
Lately, we have been using this vegan vitamin D.
What are the Best Vegan Cookbooks for Beginners?
The best way to help you get started as a vegan is to find inspiration from other vegans.
For example, there is a huge number of vegan blogs and websites filled with useful information and you can find countless inspirational accounts on social media.
However, in our opinion, the best way for new vegans to learn about vegan food is through vegan cookbooks.
In the last couple of years, the number of vegan cookbooks for beginners has skyrocketed, and there is literally something for every taste, cuisine, and cooking experience.
We have listed some of the best vegan cookbooks for beginners below.
In Vegan Cookbook for Beginners, you will learn all the basic skills needed to prepare easy and super healthy meals in no time without any prior experience.
The included 2-week meal plan will make your transition a breeze, and after you’ve scoured through the 150+ vegan recipes in the book, you’ll never want to cook a non-vegan meal again.
If you're looking to learn how to cook vegan, Vegan Cookbook for Beginners is a great book to start with.
Made famous by their overhead cooking videos, the guys from Bosh released their own vegan cookbook in 2018, and it’s great.
In BOSH! you’ll learn vegan cooking basics and you can pick and choose from hundreds of vegan recipes.
Although, the most exciting part is learning how to make delectable dishes such as deep fried guacamole onion rings, Spanish beach churros, and the world's best pesto lasagne.
It should come as no surprise that BOSH! was on the Amazon top 15 bestselling book list in 2018!
In her second vegan cookbook, highly popular vegan blogger Vegan Richa has summed up vegan versions of some of the world’s most succulent comfort food.
In this book, you’ll learn how to cook everything from Asian noodles, curries, plant-based burgers, tacos and more.
Vegan Richa might be a professional cook, but the recipes in this book are easy to follow.
Before you know it, you will be impressing all of your friends (vegan and non-vegan) with vegan versions of their favorite comfort foods.
What Are the Benefits of a Vegan Diet?
Lastly, let's look at the 3 main benefits of going vegan.
As a vegan beginner, you will be embracing a compassionate lifestyle, and you will be able to enjoy the benefits of a clear conscious.
Every day, you will choose compassion over cruelty, and your day to day actions will help make the world a better place.
According to PETA, a vegan can save as many as 100 animals every year.
2. Health Benefits
There are a number of health benefits associated with a vegan lifestyle.
Many heart diseases can be treated by a strict whole foods vegan diet, and every year hundreds of people reverse and completely recover from type 2 diabetes.
It’s also impossible to have high cholesterol on a vegan diet since your body creates its own cholesterol and any access comes from animal products.
Note: We are not health experts and are only sharing information we’ve heard from doctors and experts.
To learn more about the health benefits of a vegan diet, we suggest you check out Dr. Michael Greger’s book How Not to Die, the movie Forks Over Knives as well as Dr. Collin Campbell's The China Study.
Also, always consult your physician before switching your diet if you are suffering from health issues.
Did you know that the dairy and beef industry are responsible for more greenhouse gases than all of the world’s cars combined?
And did you know that we are overfishing our oceans to the point where the will be more plastic than fish in our waters by 2048?
The best way to combat this is to switch to a vegan lifestyle.
In fact, the easiest and quickest way to minimize your negative footprint on our planet is to become vegan.
In other words, a vegan lifestyle will not only benefit you but everyone who inhabits this planet.
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