If you’re trying to eat a healthy diet, you’re probably aiming to eat more fruits and vegetables. You might have thought about switching to a vegan diet, but felt intimidated by the prospect of forgoing burgers, hot dogs, milk, and many other animal products.
About 3% of the U.S. population adheres to a vegan diet, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. That translates to more than 9 million people in a country of 329 million people.
Here are six things to know that might help you adopt a vegan diet.
Six tips for starting a vegan diet
This means refraining from:
- Me at.
“A a lot of times people think it’s going to be this huge change. It’s all about finding alternative sources of protein and eliminating dairy products, “says Sharon Palmer, Los Angeles area dietitian and food writer. She is the author of the books” California Vegan: Inspiration and Recipes from the People and Places of the Golden State ”,“ The Plant-Powered Diet ”and“ Plant-Powered for Life ”, and also writes the blog“ The Plant-Powered Dietitian ”.
Cutting out meat, poultry, and seafood means you need to find alternative sources of protein. “It’s entirely possible to get the protein you need with a plant-based diet,” she says. “A lot of people overestimate how much protein they need.”
As for dairy products, you can swap plant-based milks and yogurts for those made from animal milk.
There is a wide range of plant milks, including:
- Almond milk.
- Cashew milk.
- Coconut milk.
- Hemp milk.
- Oat milk.
- Pea milk.
- Soy milk.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that some of these plant-based milks aren’t as nutrient dense as cow’s milk, Palmer says. Plant milks made from soybeans or peas are comparable to dairy milks.
2. Start slowly. Yes you want to follow a vegan diet, it may be beneficial to start slowly. For example, you can start by making Meatless Monday part of your regular routine, Palmer says. Do this for a few weeks, then try a flexitarian diet, which is plant-based but allows you to eat animal products – like steak, poultry, or fish – on occasion. “A lot of people find it helpful to gradually switch to veganism, over a period of a few weeks,” she says.
3. Pay attention to protein. While most Americans get enough protein in their diet, switching to a vegan diet could lead to a drop in protein intake if you don’t adequately replace animal protein with plant protein sources, says Alexandra Oppenheimer Delvito , New York-based registered dietitian. “Eating a variety of plant protein sources throughout the day helps ensure that you are getting enough of all of the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein that our bodies cannot make on their own.” , she says.
Sources of plant protein include:
- Dry peas.
- Whole grains.
These foods provide not only protein, but also fiber, vitamins and minerals.
4. Supplement, supplement, supplement. You’ll need to consume supplements and fortified foods to meet all of your nutritional needs with a complete vegan diet, says Jill Weisenberger, a registered nutritionist and certified diabetes educator based in Yorktown, Virginia. “Specifically, we get vitamin B12 only from animals, so if you’re a vegan, be sure to take a supplement that contains 100% RDA (recommended daily allowance),” she says.
“Vitamin D is also hard to come by, as are zinc and a few other nutrients. Your best bet is to work with a registered dietitian-nutritionist who can help you flesh out your personalized diet and the right supplements. ”
5. Don’t overlook the importance of variety. With all diets, variety is key to maintaining your commitment, enjoying your meals, and optimizing your health, explains Delvito. “It’s easier to stick with one way of eating if you have a wide selection of delicious, healthy foods that you love,” she says.
Incorporating a variety of foods of different colors and flavors also provides a blend of nutrients and polyphenols known to support good health and immune function. Research published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2019 suggests that flavonoids are beneficial for cardiometabolic health.
Foods rich in flavonoids include:
- Soy products.
Including fruits and vegetables of different colors, herbs and spices, and drinks like black, green, oolong, and white teas are a great way to add variety, flavor, and beneficial nutrients.
If you’re struggling to come up with recipes, consider taking a cooking class, where you can learn how to prepare a range of dishes that will help you vary your vegan diet. Talk to friends who follow the approach, or you can also join a Facebook group for vegan eaters for a sense of support and camaraderie, suggests Weisenberger. Finding like-minded people is helpful.
6. Remember, being vegan is not synonymous with health. A “vegan” diet doesn’t make it good or bad. A vegan diet can be all about soda and cotton candy, says Dr. David Katz, former director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut, and one of the expert panelists for US News Best Diets. As with any diet, it’s important to make sure your diet is balanced and varied, and that you make good choices about the vegan foods you eat.
Like any diet, even if it is strictly vegetable, questions of balance, variety and food choices remain crucial.