Essentials of Starting Veganism

Plant-based diets
vegetable bowl with avocado and peanut sauce

Nowadays, more and more people are choosing to become vegans, whether it's for ethical, environmental, or health reasons. However, transitioning to a fully vegan diet can seem daunting for some, especially when it comes to finding tasty and nutritious alternatives to animal products. That's why it's important to take a gradual approach and explore the multiple substitutions and culinary avenues offered by the vegan lifestyle. In this article, we will explore some practical tips to help you start your journey towards a vegan diet, with a focus on discovering substitutions, the importance of dietary diversity, and the available resources for inspiration. Whether you're a curious beginner or a seasoned vegan looking for new ideas, get ready to explore a vegan culinary world rich in flavors and health benefits.

1. Start Slowly, but Gradually

It's understandable that completely removing everything from your diet in a short period of time without any substitutions can make the transition quite challenging. Whether you're starting from scratch or transitioning from a vegetarian diet, set small goals to work towards your ultimate objective gradually.

Begin by exploring different substitution options for meat, cheese, eggs, and milk. Discover your tastes and preferences! Then, the next step is simply to gradually increase the frequency of vegan meals or days per week.

2. Discover Multiple Substitutions and Culinary Avenues for Inspiration!

"I want to do it, but I love cheese too much to give it up!" is a phrase often heard. For cheese enthusiasts, try a vegan cheese substitute made from cashews! Don't like it? Try enhancing the flavor of your dishes with nutritional yeast, widely used in the vegan community for that purpose!

But wait, no more cheesecake? False! Cashews come to the rescue once again!

Scrambled eggs are so delicious! Did you know you can make scrambled tofu as a replacement?

Let's try silken tofu instead of yogurt in our breakfast smoothies. Use lentils to replace ground meat in classic meatloaf recipes. Butternut squash puree can replace cheese sauce for macaroni. The options are endless!

The vegan market is experiencing exponential growth, and culinary options are becoming increasingly diverse. Simply discover simple and easy substitutions to enjoy your favorite recipes and dare to try new flavors! Additionally, many cultures incorporate plant-based proteins into their staple diets. Let's draw inspiration from Asian, Indian, or Mexican recipes!

3. Tofu as the Sole Source of Plant-Based Protein... False!

Tempeh, legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.), nuts and seeds, and textured vegetable protein (TVP) are all good sources of protein. Here are some examples of recipes using protein sources other than tofu:

*TVP is made from defatted soy flour, which is then compressed, processed, and dried to produce granules resembling ground meat when rehydrated.)

4. Foods to Include for a Balanced Nutrient-Rich Diet

Nutritional yeast: A great source of vitamin B12, a nutrient primarily found in animal-based sources. Just 2 tablespoons (30 ml) can fulfill 130% of our daily vitamin B12 needs! This cheesy-tasting food is perfect for adding to sauces, dressings, or as a seasoning for popcorn, homemade pizza, and more.

Sources rich in vitamin C: Iron from plant-based sources (non-heme iron) is less readily absorbed than heme iron from animals. Therefore, consuming vitamin C can enhance the absorption of plant-based iron during digestion.

Including a vitamin C-rich food with your meal is an important step in optimizing your iron intake when following a vegan diet. The richest sources of vitamin C include (from richest to least rich): guava, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, kiwi, orange, mango, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

5. Draw Inspiration from Others' Discoveries

Useful recipe books:

Gatherings/Informative Websites:

By following these tips, you can start your transition to a vegan diet gradually and stress-free. Explore the diverse options for culinary substitutions and draw inspiration from the recipes and discoveries of others. Remember to include a variety of foods to ensure you receive all the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned vegan, the vegan world offers delicious and healthy possibilities to explore. Enjoy your culinary journey and embrace your vegan choice to the fullest!

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist