Veganism 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Plant Based Eating

Veganism 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Plant Based Eating

Research suggests that as of 2023, nearly 1.1% of the world’s population, i.e. approximately 88 million people, were vegan. What’s even more interesting is that this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.

But what exactly is a vegan diet?

Why should one choose it over other diets? 

And where exactly should one get started?

If these are some questions that are pestering you, worry not! For you have landed at the right place. This comprehensive guide is aimed at providing beginners with a thorough understanding of veganism, understanding the reasons for its popularity and answering any other question they might have.

Furthermore, for those considering switching to veganism, this guide will also equip you with the knowledge and resources needed to start your plant-based journey.

Let’s get started!

What is Veganism?

Veganism, at its core, is a lifestyle that abstains from the consumption of animal products. However, it’s not just limited to the food we consume. Instead, it encompasses a holistic commitment to minimizing harm to animals, involving choosing brands committed to avoiding animal-cruelty, avoiding the use of leather and leather products, etc. 

The motivation behind choosing veganism is multi-faceted, grounded in ethical considerations, environmental concerns, and a growing awareness of the health benefits associated with plant-based diets.

Is Veganism the Same as Plant-Based Eating?

Yes, and No. While all vegans consume a plant based diet, not all plant-based eaters can be considered vegan.

Both Veganism and Plant-Based Eating prioritize plant-centric diets, but veganism encompasses a holistic lifestyle avoiding all animal products, including clothing and cosmetics. Plant-Based Eating, on the other hand, primarily revolves around dietary choices. 

Why are People Going Vegan?

Ethical Considerations

One of the primary drivers of veganism is a deep concern for animal welfare. The ethical stance of veganism rests on the conviction that animals are sentient beings deserving of a life free from suffering.

According to a report by the Humane Society International, factory farming, a prevalent method of animal agriculture, is responsible for widespread animal suffering, with billions of animals subjected to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. 

The ethical imperative to reduce or eliminate participation in such practices forms a powerful rationale for adopting a vegan lifestyle.

Environmental Concerns

Livestock farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and depletion of natural resources. A study published in the journal "Nature" estimates that the global livestock industry contributes to 14.5% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. 

Choosing a plant-based diet is seen as a proactive step in reducing one's carbon footprint, mitigating deforestation, and promoting sustainable land use.

Health Considerations

Numerous studies have linked vegan diets to a reduced risk of chronic heart diseases. 

Plant-based diets have also demonstrated potential in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens, highlighting the association between meat consumption and cancer.

Furthermore, plant-based eating is associated with improved insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Getting Started with Veganism

Starting out on a vegan journey involves thoughtful planning and consideration of individual preferences and lifestyle. The transition to a vegan lifestyle can be approached in two primary ways: the gradual approach and the cold turkey approach.

Gradual Approach

Many individuals find success in gradually transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, allowing time for adjustment and learning. This method involves progressively reducing animal products while incorporating more plant-based foods into daily meals. 

By gradually substituting meat and dairy with plant-based alternatives, individuals can explore diverse flavors and discover satisfying alternatives, easing the process of eliminating animal products from their diets.

Cold Turkey Approach

Contrastingly, some individuals prefer an immediate and decisive shift to veganism, known as the cold turkey approach. This method involves cutting out all animal products abruptly. 

While this approach can yield rapid changes, it requires careful planning to ensure proper nutrient intake and avoid potential deficiencies.

Whichever approach one chooses, understanding the nutritional aspects is crucial. It is important to ensure the adequate intake of essential nutrients such as protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids during the transition. It is also advisable for individuals to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to create a well-balanced and personalized meal plan.

Vegan Food Alternatives

For those new to veganism, the prospect of finding suitable alternatives can be daunting. Here’s a list we have prepared for you to help you get started:

Plant-Based Protein Sources

1. Legumes

Legumes are a primary source of plant-based protein. Varieties such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are not only rich in protein but also provide essential fibers and nutrients. 

2. Tofu and Tempeh

Derived from soybeans, tofu and tempeh are versatile and protein-packed alternatives to animal products. Tofu, with its neutral flavor, absorbs the taste of the ingredients it's cooked with, making it adaptable to various dishes. Tempeh has a nutty flavor and a firm texture, and adds a unique element to sandwiches, salads, and stir-fries.

3. Quinoa

As a complete protein source, quinoa stands out for its nutritional density. A novice vegan might find this grain to be an excellent starting point. Other grains such as bulgur, farro, and barley can also be explored for their nutritional benefits and adaptability. 

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are not only rich in protein but also provide healthy fats and essential nutrients. Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are excellent additions to a vegan diet.

5. Edamame and Seitan

Edamame, young soybeans, are a protein-rich addition to salads and stir-fries. Seitan, a high-protein meat substitute made from wheat gluten, serves as a hearty option for those missing the texture of meat.

Dairy Alternatives

1. Plant-Based Milks

Soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk are popular choices, each offering unique flavors and nutritional profiles. Soy milk stands out for its protein content, almond milk for its nutty taste, and oat milk for its creamy texture. 

2. Vegan Cheese

Made from plant-based ingredients such as nuts, soy, or tapioca starch, vegan cheeses come in various flavors and textures, including slices, shreds, and spreads.

3. Vegan Yogurt

Vegan yogurt offers a dairy-free alternative that mirrors the creamy consistency of traditional yogurt. 

Egg Replacements

1. Flaxseeds and Chia Seeds

Flaxseeds and chia seeds are popular natural egg replacements, particularly in baking. When mixed with water, these seeds create a gel-like consistency that mimics the binding properties of eggs. 

The omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds and chia seeds add a nutritional boost to recipes. 

2. Commercial Egg Replacers

These products, often made from starches, leavening agents, and other plant-based ingredients, come in powder or liquid form. Notable brands include Ener-G, Bob's Red Mill, and Follow Your Heart.

Snacks and Desserts

1. Nut-Based Snacks

Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and cashews, whether enjoyed on their own or incorporated into energy balls and trail mixes, provide a satisfying crunch and a source of healthy fats.

2. Fresh Fruits

Fresh fruits, nature's candy, offer a naturally sweet and refreshing snack option. 

3. Vegan Chocolate and Treats

The popularity of veganism has spurred the development of a wide range of vegan chocolate bars, cookies, and other sweet treats.

Vegan Chocolate Protein Brownie Bars from 100calsnacks.com are a great option to consider. Besides being vegan and 100% natural, these snack bars contain only 2g net carbs per serving, also making them keto-friendly.

What’s more?

  • They are free from added sugar and sugar alcohols
  • Each serving contains around 5g of protein
  • They are infused with superfood adaptogen for calmness and energy
  • They are made using non- GMO ingredients
  • They are gluten free
  • THEY TASTE AWESOME

How about you try out for yourself and find out?

4. Dairy-Free Ice Cream

Vegan ice cream, often made from coconut, almond, or soy milk, has become a staple in the frozen desserts aisle. Ben & Jerry's and So Delicious are some brands offering an extensive selection of vegan ice cream flavors, ensuring that individuals can still enjoy classic treats without compromising on taste or texture. 

Staying Informed

When it comes to following any diet, the importance of staying informed cannot be overstated. Staying informed allows individuals to align their vegan practices with the latest evidence, ensuring that they make well-informed decisions regarding nutrient intake, potential health benefits, and the ecological footprint of their food choices.

That said, here are some resources to help you expand your knowledge on the subject:

Books and Documentaries
  1. "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer: An exploration of the ethical, environmental, and health implications of consuming animal products.
  2. Forks Over Knives (Documentary): Examining the health benefits of a plant-based diet through personal stories and scientific evidence.
Online Resources and Communities
  1. Nutritionfacts.org: Dr. Michael Greger's website provides evidence-based information on plant-based nutrition.
  2. Reddit's Vegan Community (r/vegan): A supportive online community for sharing experiences, recipes, and advice.

Continuing Education on Plant-Based Nutrition

Plant-Based Nutrition Certification: Programs like the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies offer certifications in plant-based nutrition.

 

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