How To Go Vegan Without Missing Meat
The short answer is: spices and patience.
When someone goes vegan, the first two questions people usually ask are: “Where do you get your protein?” and “What do you eat if you don’t consume meat?”.
When I decided to become vegetarian, I asked the same questions. It wasn’t easy at the beginning to leave behind all the foods that I had grown to love and to adapt a totally new lifestyle, but it definitely was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Embracing the vegan lifestyle can be very beneficial and has been shown to help prevent or help with many lifestyle-related diseases, which ultimately cause millions of deaths every year.
If you’ve played around with the idea of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, the best time to start is NOW.
Here are some tips that helped me on my personal vegan journey, which I hope will help you too!
Why Meat Dishes Are Often Tastier Than Vegan Dishes (at first, anyway)
The vast majority of commercial meat products contain huge amounts of salt. If you don’t believe me, just think about ham, bacon, sausage, etc. On average, a slice of ham contains about 300 mg of sodium. (When I discussed this topic with my mom, she agreed that in the beginning, vegan dishes were less enjoyable for her because of the reduced salt content).
Let me share my experience with you.
About 5 years ago, my friend and I went to a Chinese restaurant and we didn’t know what to order. We wanted to choose something new, so we decided to try some chicken nuggets, which had a thick caramel coating on them. If the caramel coating wasn’t disgusting enough, the meat was tasteless (no salt) in addition. I had to force myself to swallow one little piece of chicken and my friend felt the same. It was terrible and something that for whatever reason, sticks in my mind to this day.
Back to the salt.Try adding some low sodium tamari or liquid aminos to your vegetable dishes to kick it up a notch. A little goes a long way too. It’s a simple and delicious way to pull the flavor out of any dish, without tons of added sodium.
Keep your end goal in mind, but go at your own pace. Some people manage to go vegan overnight and if that’s the right approach for you, fantastic. But don’t be discouraged if you feel you need more time. Like any other lifestyle change, going vegan not only takes getting used to, but it takes time to determine what will work best for you.
Making small changes to your everyday meals is one of the easiest ways to increase the amount of plant-based foods in your diet. Start by removing meat or dairy one day a week and go from there. Or, you could try changing one meal at a time, having vegan breakfasts during your first week, adding a vegan lunch during week two and so on. Don’t worry if you don’t succeed at first. Adapting a new diet takes patience and effort. Just think, how many times does a baby fall when learning to walk? As with many things, failure is part of the road to success. You need to learn to crawl before you can walk.
Veganize Your Old Recipes
My whole family follows a vegetarian diet, my brother and I are vegans. My dad has actually been vegetarian for more than 30 years. Because of this, my mother has had many opportunities to experiment with some new recipes.
Meat doesn’t have any remarkable flavor, thus it can be replaced by any similar substance, mostly whole grains and legumes. Here’s a list of some of the possible animal meat substitutes: beans, oatmeal, chickpeas, quinoa, lentils, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, beets, potatoes, nuts, etc.
Knowing this, you can veganize almost everything! Just replace the meat with some of the ingredients listed above. Potatoes, beans and mushrooms are my favorite alternatives.
Spices and Herbs
Seasoning is super important if you want to create a dish that tastes amazing and you can be proud of. Herbs and spices can make foods tasty and add extra nutrition. Use fresh herbs and spices whenever possible, as these have more flavor and nutrition. Some great choices include basil, cilantro/coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, rosemary, sage, thyme, and turmeric. Many herbs can easily be grown in your home garden, or in a “container garden” in a window sill. They’re typically very hardy, grow easily, and can thrive year round (when kept indoors). Get creative!
Embrace the Change
Accept that your life will never be the same again. Try to find new delights in this lifestyle. Don’t focus on what you can’t eat, but instead focus on all that wonderful food that you can have!
Don’t Be Afraid of Carbohydrates
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t promote eating refined sugar and other processed foods. I’m talking about whole grains and fruits.
Eat More Fruit
It takes no time at all to grab a banana and apple on the go. Fruit or green smoothies are wonderful friends to keep you company. Plus, in many cases, you don’t even have to wait for lunch break to drink them. They’ll help you to stay nourished and hydrated.
Get Proper Nutrients
If you give your body what it needs nutrition-wise, you are more likely to beat your cravings. Big salads, smoothies and juices are a great option for that.
Aim to Eat the Same Amount of Calories, Minus the Meat
Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of water, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals and they’re low in calories, so you have to eat larger volumes of them. Many people fail on the vegan diet because they try to satisfy their hunger with of bowl of salad. That’s not going to work.
Lilla Bessenyei is a pharmacist and writer. It has been through her own experience that she realized that health and happiness start with what you put in your body and mind - including your thoughts. She is an avid researchers and has learned a lot about health and medicine. In her studies, she found that cultivating healthy emotions were just as important (if not more so) as a healthy diet. She is a fitness junkie, enjoys the numerous benefits of a vegan diet and enjoys helping people discover true health and happiness.
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