I’ve been a vegetarian for over two years, and I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming a vegan. I was going to wait until I was a little older (I’m only 15) but everytime I eat eggs, or fish, or drink milk, I can’t help but feel guilty! It makes me sick inside to think about the issues I’m encouraging by some of my dietary habits. But I’m scared I won’t be healthy enough because I’m not really sure what I could substitute in order to get all the proper nutrients and protein that I need. I need advice on how to nutritiously handle the transition from vegetarian to vegan! Please help!
Oh, good old protein.
There are a lot of misconceptions about protein, how much you need, and where to get it.
As long as you’re eating a balanced diet (LOTS of fruit and veg, along with nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes), and you’re eating enough calories, then you are getting enough protein.
I’m on almost a fully raw diet, and I actually have a harder time getting enough calories than I do meeting all the daily nutrient requirements. Of course… I wouldn’t expect you to eat a pound of dandelion greens every day…
But it’s extremely easy to get the nutrition you need on a vegan diet, as long as you’re not eating a bunch of crap (keep the twizzlers and oreos to a minimum). Eat as much fresh produce as you can possibly get your hands on, and supplement with beans and grains.
One thing to look out for in any product, not just vegan products, is palm oil. It is labeled many different things. Sometimes palm kernels or vegetable oil. It is sometimes labeled things that sound nothing like palm oil. It is in many things from lipstick to chips to cleaners.
If you’re currently eating fish, you aren’t a vegetarian. You’re a pescatarian. Vegetarians don’t eat any meat. You should start by removing fish from your diet.
As for milk and eggs, you can start replacing them with vegan options such as almond or soy milk, and use vegan egg replacers. They also sell non-dairy ice cream, cheese, butter, and basically everything else that’s normally dairy.
You will need lots of protein, iron, and B12 sources that aren’t from meat. I actually became anemic about 2 years ago from lack of iron in my blood due to not eating meat. You can find tons of amazingly delicious free recipes on PETA and peta2. http://www.peta2.com/lifestyle/eat/ http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/default.aspx
Try those links ^
When you go vegan you should count your daily protein intake (like a food journal) and see if you reach the daily intake (somewhere in 45-55, see what’s right for your demographic http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/protein ).
The other thing is to make sure you mix/balance your protein sources (protein combing), because protein is a series of amino acids; vegan sources often contain mixed levels of these amino acids but foods can complement each other to make a good match. (For example, I eat Channa Masala (a chickpea Indian dish) with rice the protein in rice compliments the protein in the chick peas, I think there’s 3 or 4 general protein sources), in a simplified version this is what it looks like http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/images/complementary-protein-chart.gif . If you drink soymilk that usually gives you a substantial amount anyways and it doesn’t need to be combined (I try not to have soy often so I drink almond milk which doesn’t have much protein). I wouldn’t worry about whether you’re always combing to the “maximum potential” lol (I don’t) just try to avoid thinking that you can only eat one thing and it will give you good protein (it may but) a mixed protein source diet is best.
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