Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine being vegan. I lived for string cheese, couldn’t get enough steak when the opportunity presented itself, and thought grilled chicken could only be made better if made en masse.
Then I started watching the documentaries on Netflix—Forks Over Knives, Food Choices, Cowspiracy.. too much evidence was presented on the importance of going vegan—not just for us, but for the planet. So just before Thanksgiving last year, my boyfriend and I made a pact: after the holiday, it was all plant-based, all the time. Over the last few months, we’ve hit a few speedbumps, but not once have either of us felt “deprived.” It’s easy to make mistakes when changing your diet or lifestyle, but with some simple research, we were able to remedy them all. Here are the top ten mistakes you’re most likely to make when going vegan.
1. Not eating enough variety.
When you first stop eating animal products, it’s easy to get stuck on what’s easy. We ate pizza four times in a week once, and pasta five times. Both are extremely easy to make with various sauces and toppings, and while carbs are good for you (your brain runs on them!) and pasta does contain some protein, you need other nutrients, too. Add in more vegetables—frozen are fine and have all the same nutrients as fresh!
2. Being obsessed with protein.
You don’t need as much protein as you may think you need, and if you’re eating enough variety, you shouldn’t have a problem getting enough of it, or any nutrient for that matter. No Meat Athlete’s website states that the total number of calories from protein that you need is between 10 to 15 percent of your total calories.
3. Eating too many meat and cheese substitutes.
People say going vegan is too expensive for a reason—they’re thinking of all of the substitutes they’ll “have” to buy when they go vegan… but you don’t have to buy them! There are plenty of products out there from companies that make fantastic meat and cheese substitutes, but they aren’t necessarily healthy, and you can make plenty of substitutes at home for a fraction of the price. Looking to cut it out? Try making veggie burgers with beans, vegetables, and spices, baked in the oven to cut out oil, or make your own cashew cream sauce for pasta to make mac and “cheese”.
4. Eating junk food and calling it healthy.
There’s plenty of vegan junk food, but if you think you’re going to eat rows of Oreos and bags of Fritos and clear out your arteries, you’re kidding yourself. I could eat Fritos all day every day, but empty calories are empty calories. You’ll still gain the weight, still feel bloated, and still feel awful after eating if you’re eating only junk food.
5. Thinking you can’t eat junk food or baked goods.
I’ve been told that vegans can’t eat cake, cookies, pie, doughnuts, or ice cream. I’ve also made and eaten all of those. Over Christmas this past year, I made a chocolate cake to rival all chocolate cakes, and my family finished it in a day with rave reviews. I then made dozens of chocolate chip cookies at my boyfriends’ parents’ house, and while they were met with some skepticism at first, they were gone by the time we left three days later. Last weekend, we made French toast for the first time since going vegan, and it was awesome. Almost everything can be made vegan and taste amazing.
6. Assuming you don’t have to go to the doctor because you’re invincible now.
Being vegan doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go to the doctor. Everyone needs an annual check-up to make sure everything’s working as it should. Also, you’ll still get sick, and you’ll still get colds, though your immune system is boosted since you’re consuming more overall nutrients.
7. Not eating enough calories.
Eating more vegetables—and therefore more fiber than you may be used to—can trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten enough calories. The thing is, though, that you’re going to need to eat more—your body is digesting everything so much more easily now that it’s not having to work so hard to process the meat, so lunch may just go right through you. Also, think about it: you’re cutting out a whole food group from your plate, so you’re going to have to compensate for those calories. To maintain your weight, you’ll need to eat more food than you normally would have before.
8. Thinking the clock is reset every time you slip up.
It’s okay to slip up and accidentally buy or eat something that isn’t vegan; it doesn’t make you a horrible person, just a human being. We once forgot that not everyone buys vegan mayo, and assumed that the mayo in a sauce on a veggie dog was vegan, just because the rest of the veggie dog was…. nope! But you keep on living, and try harder next time to be more aware of what you’re consuming.
9. Not trying new things.
Just because something is different, that doesn’t make it bad. My boyfriend and I went to an almost fully raw vegan restaurant for lunch once, but had I known that nothing there was cooked, I might not have gone. I ended up getting a collard wrap that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried, and it was awesome. Trying new things is integral not just as a vegan or vegetarian, but as a human being.
10. Not having more than one reason to go vegan.
For some, one reason may be enough, but studies show that for most people, they need two or more reasons to go vegan, whether for health, ethical, or environmental reasons. Do your research, and find out what’s important to you. Animal agriculture is the number one cause of global warming; do you want to contribute to that, or fight against it? Have you read that eating a plant-based diet can help fight heart disease and high blood pressure or even prevent seemingly genetically predisposed diseases? Do you want to save the cows from their untimely death at two years old, when they should be living 20 or more years when not farmed? Find your reasoning, and do your research.