15 Life Lessons for New 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! 👏
Contrary to popular belief, going vegan isn’t about making sacrifices but rather making a few small changes that add up to a huge impact. There are some misconceptions we’d like to clear up from the start. Here are a few things we wish we’d known before going vegan that will probably make your life way easier:
- You’re not going to die of a protein deficiency.
Ever heard of kwashiorkor? Probably not! Well, that’s the proper term for protein deficiency. There isn’t any necessary nutrient found in animal-derived foods that you can’t get from a plant source, including protein. And the average American consumes twice the amount of protein that they need, which can lead to other health issues. Quinoa, peanut butter, nuts, beans, avocados, faux meats, tofu, tempeh, and other forms of soy are all great sources of protein.
- Yes, you might have a few haters.
Let’s be real: You’re probably going to have a few friends and family members who will press you about your animal-friendly lifestyle. People have been culturally conditioned to believe that it’s totally weird to care about animals who are killed for food (as if eating dead animals weren’t at all weird?)—or experiments, clothing, or entertainment—but that doesn’t mean your choices are wrong, and conversations with others can be an opportunity to inform them. Don’t fight fire with fire—instead, show them the benefits of being vegan and kill them with kindness! 🙌
- There’s life after cheese.
Dairy cheese, that is. Vegan cheese has come a long way, and nowadays, we have endless delicious vegan options for any slices, shreds, or wedges you may be craving. So that “I couldn’t go without cheese” excuse just doesn’t cut it.
- It helps to have vegan friends.
I’m not telling you to ditch your current friends, but I am saying that it helps to have a community of animal rights advocates for support. You can achieve this by joining a school club (or creating one), using online vegan forums, and following vegans on Instagram, including us at peta2!
- There is such a thing as an unhealthy vegan.
While swapping out meat, eggs, and dairy for vegan versions is beneficial to our health, we still need to make sure we’re meeting all our nutritional needs. I think it’s fair to say that most of us enjoy vegan brownies and ice cream 🤤, but it’s important not to live on that stuff. To stay vegan and healthy for the long haul, be sure to eat your fruits and veggies, too.
- You can get enough calcium.
Unlike what some people assume, calcium is plentiful in tons of vegan foods, like leafy greens, broccoli, soybeans, tahini, almonds, and fortified dairy alternatives. Plus, did you know that if you consume too much protein, your body will have to pull calcium from your bones to help excrete it? A well-balanced vegan diet will ensure that you get an adequate amount of calcium and protein to stay healthy. Be sure to get annual bloodwork done to check that you’re meeting all your nutritional needs.
- You don’t have to change who you are.
For one reason or another, there’s a stereotype that vegans are all a bunch of granola-lovin’ hippies. Don’t get me wrong—hippies are great and granola is a good topping for dairy-free yogurt, but we all have unique personality traits and interests separate from our status as vegans. What matters most is your commitment to being the best animal rights advocate you can be and making compassionate choices. As a vegan, you can be earthy, wear animal skin–free heels, play music, enjoy sports, or do anything else that you’d normally do.
- Plan ahead whenever possible.
There are more vegan options now than ever, which is awesome. But of course, there will still be moments when you’re at practice after school, traveling with your family, or spending the day with friends and you find yourself in a not-so-vegan predicament. For these situations, it helps to have snack bars, nuts, fruit, chips, etc., with you—especially when you first go vegan. It’s always good to be prepared. Check restaurant menus online ahead of time, and use the HappyCow app when searching for places to eat. Use your resources!
- You won’t suffer from a lack of iron.
Did you know that kale actually has more iron per calorie than beef? If you’re not a fan of kale, white beans, spirulina, spinach, lentils, and quinoa are all great sources of iron, too. You could also take a supplement—just be sure to check with your doctor first.
- You won’t go broke.
It’s funny that people sometimes assume vegans must be rich, because that’s definitely NOT the case. Veggies, fruits, rice, beans, bread, and pasta are some of the cheapest foods you can buy. Look for vegan finds at your local grocery store, and get meal inspiration here, here, and here.
- Vitamin B12 isn’t animal-derived.
Vitamin B12 is famous for being the key nutrient that you supposedly can only get from animals. However, it’s actually produced by a bacteria that 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 in, but thanks to modern farming and agriculture, our soil has been depleted of most nutrients, including B12. This doesn’t mean you have to resort to consuming bacteria from animals’ guts, though—just take a supplement!
- 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. Chickens 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 slaughtered the same way as other chickens. These labels are simply designed to make packages of flesh or eggs seem more appealing.
- The “vegan police” don’t exist.
No matter what anyone tries to make you believe, there are no vegan police. Being vegan isn’t a religion, and it’s not about perfection—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? Learn from it and move on.
- 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 as your resource. We’re here for you. You can even e-mail [email protected] with any questions that come up.
- It’s not all or nothing.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that there’s no such thing as a perfect vegan activist. If you make a mistake, that just means you’re human. We’re constantly learning and growing, and our activism improves as we gain experience.
Now share this wisdom with other new vegans and folks who want to go vegan!