15 Life Lessons For Young Vegans
So you’re interested in going vegan? Well, hey—give yourself a pat on the back because you’re about to do the BEST thing possible to help the planet, your health, and, of course, animals! 😀 Now, contrary to popular belief, going vegan DOESN’T mean that you have to starve to death, become nutritionally deficient, or sacrifice anything, really. However, there ARE a few things that I wish I’d known before going vegan, and they’ll probably make your life way easier:
1) You’re not going to die of a protein deficiency.
Ever heard of kwashiorkor? Probs not! Well, that’s the proper term for protein deficiency. There isn’t any necessary nutrient found in animal products that you can’t get from a plant source, including protein. And the average American consumes twice the amount of protein that he or she needs, which can lead to other health issues. Quinoa, peanut butter, nuts, beans, avocados, tofu, soy, tempeh, faux meats, etc., are all great sources of protein!
2) Yes, you’ll probably always be teased.
Let’s be real, you’re probably always going to have at least one or two friends who will tease you about your animal-friendly lifestyle. We’ve been culturally conditioned to believe that it’s totally weird to care about animals who are killed for food, experiments, etc.—but that doesn’t mean that your choices are wrong, and these awkward confrontations can be an opportunity to educate your friends. Don’t fight fire with fire—instead, show them the benefits of being vegan and kill them with kindness!
3) There’s life after cheese.
Dairy cheese, that is. Yes, I’ll admit that vegan cheese tasted like chalk back in the day, but this is 2014, and we now have endless amounts of delicious options for all kinds of dishes. So that cheese excuse just doesn’t cut it anymore.
4) It helps to have vegan friends.
No, I’m not telling you to ditch your current friends, but I am saying that it helps to have a community of vegans for support. You can do this by joining a school club (or creating one!), using online vegan forums, and following vegans on Instagram and, of course, here on peta2! 😀
5) There’s such a thing as an unhealthy vegan.
While removing meat, dairy products, and eggs is beneficial to our health, it’s easy to fill up on vegan junk food. I love brownies and dairy-free ice cream as much as the next girl, but it’s important not to live on that stuff. If you intend on staying vegan for the long haul, make sure to get your greens and whole foods in, too!
6) You’ll get enough calcium.
Unlike what most people assume, calcium is a mineral, not an animal ingredient. Plus, did you know that dairy products actually suck iron from your bones? That’s why people who live in countries that consume the most dairy have the highest rate of osteoporosis. You can easily get the calcium your body needs from leafy greens and fortified dairy-free milks—easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
7) You don’t have to change who you are.
For one reason or another, there’s a stereotype when it comes to us vegans: We’re all a bunch of granola-lovin’ hippies. Don’t get me wrong: Hippies are great and granola is delish, but vegans comes in all shapes and sizes. What matters most is the desire in your heart to help animals, not what you look like. As a vegan, you can be earthy, sport cruelty-free heels, run marathons, shoot hoops, or do anything else that you’d normally do.
8) Plan ahead whenever possible.
There are more vegan options now than there have ever been, and it’s awesome. But of course, there will still be moments when you’re at practice after school, traveling with your family, spending the day with friends, etc. when you find yourself in a not-so-vegan predicament. Keep your backpack, purse, locker—whatevs—filled with snack bars, nuts, fruit, chips, etc. It’s always good to be prepared! Call ahead to restaurants and use HappyCow.net when searching for places to eat. USE YOUR RESOURCES.
9) You won’t suffer from a loss of iron.
Did you know that kale actually has more iron in it than beef? Not a fan of kale? White beans, spirulina, spinach, lentils, and quinoa are all great sources of iron. You could also take a vitamin … just sayin’.
10) You won’t go broke.
It’s funny how people identify veganism with being rich, because that’s definitely NOT the case. Veggies, fruits, rice, beans, etc., are all some of the cheapest foods that you can buy, and they’re definitely cheaper than steak. Look for more easy vegan finds at your local grocery store.
11) B12 isn’t an animal ingredient.
B12 is famous for being the key nutrient that you supposedly can only get from an animal. However, B12 is actually a BACTERIA—not an animal ingredient—which is why it can be found in soil, algae, and the gut of an animal. Herbivores used to get their B12 easily from the soil that plants grew from, but thanks to modern farming and agriculture, our soil has been depleted of most nutrients, including B12. You still don’t have to resort to consuming bacteria from animal tummies, though—just take a supplement.
12) Labels like “cage-free” and “free-range” don’t mean a thing.
There’s a lot that goes into marketing to make products seem better than they are, because then people will be more likely to buy them. The same goes for food: Birds who are “free-range” and “cage-free” may not live in cages, but they’re stuffed into cramped warehouses and live in filthy conditions—and they’re all slaughtered the same way in the end. These labels are simply designed to make products look more appealing, plain and simple.
13) The “Vegan Police” don’t exist.
No matter what anyone tries to make you believe, there are NO VEGAN POLICE. Veganism isn’t a religion, and it’s not about perfection anyway—it’s about doing your best to minimize suffering. Accidentally ate some pasta that was made with eggs? Or maybe that soy cheese you bought actually contains casein? It’s no big deal. Just try again the next time.
14) It’s seriously not that hard.
As long as you take your new lifestyle choice day by day, you’ll be fine. Every time you find yourself running into a question about what to eat while you’re out with friends, how to shop for cruelty-free makeup, or how to approach your family about your choices, just take a deep breath and use peta2.com as your resource for all the answers!
15) It’s not all or nothing.
The most important thing I like to keep in mind is that there’s no such thing as a perfect vegan activist. If you make a mistake, it doesn’t change the overall picture of things—and it’s better to do 90 percent good for animals than nothing at all!