So you’ve decided to venture down the road toward a cruelty-free, plant-based lifestyle. Welcome to the club! The road to veganism can be both rewarding and fraught with uncertainty. Know that much of these waters are murky because you are changing daily habits that have been ingrained since you were a wee one. It can be tough to start doing things differently after years of being in your comfort zone.
There are ways to overcome these hurdles and become a joyful vegan, however. Here you will find some of the most common reasons people have difficulty staying vegan and how to find a way to get through these rough patches. With practice, support, and doing your research, veganism can be a pleasure.
1. “Giving up” cheese.
Ahh, cheese. Most likely the most difficult animal-based item to “give up” on a journey into veganism. Luckily for everyone, no one has to sacrifice the creamy, luscious texture of cream cheese or the sharp, firm, umami flavor of cheddar. All of these sensations can be achieved through plant-based foods – it just takes a little experimentation and research to see what’s out there.
One fun way to explore the world of plant-based cheeses is to hold a vegan cheese taste-testing event! Purchase some flavors online or at the store – or whip up some recipes at home – to serve with crackers and fruit or to melt into a mac cheese dishes, potluck style and see which ones you like best.
2. Dining out.
Where can a vegan find some grub around here? Nowadays, this question has become less and less relevant as restaurants are recognizing the growing plant-based trend and more vegan-friendly ethnic foods are readily available around town. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are always a safe bet, but plenty of other spots have at least one cruelty-free (or customizable) item on the menu.
Dining out can still require a little bit of research, however. Most places have an online menu you can browse and you can also call in or ask your server if a specific dish has animal ingredients. Be sure to be specific: “Does this hamburger bun have eggs? Does this dressing have milk or butter in it?” Keep a log of the veg-friendly spots around town and you won’t go hungry.
Happycow.net is a great resource for finding the nearest vegan- and vegetarian-friendly establishments.
3. Societal scrutiny.
Unfortunately, we are still in a place and time when a lot of folks don’t understand why someone would want to be vegan, and some people will give you a lot of grief for your decision. Fear not, however, because there are places you can find camaraderie with other veg-minded people to balance out the scrutiny.
Try connecting with other vegheads through meet-up groups and clubs, in online forums or groups, or through social media. You are most definitely not alone in your decision to live compassionately – it’s just a matter of surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals so you can remind yourself of this.
4. Being the center of attention.
You’ve heard the joke before, right? “How can you tell someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!” Har, har, har… The reality is: there are some vegans who are loud and proud about their lifestyle and others who prefer not to be outed at every social function they attend. Being put on the spot and barraged with questions about your value system isn’t something everybody is up for at the drop of a hat.
Yet, vegans are seen as safe territory for interrogation, as it is a practice based on ethics and compassion, not religious affiliation (a topic considered taboo to question someone about at the dinner table). So, as a vegan, you are likely to get uninvited questions about why you live a cruelty-free lifestyle.
If you are not up for a discussion, that is completely okay. You can let the person know this gently (“I’d rather not talk about it over dinner, but let’s talk later”) or even suggest many of their questions could be answered by checking out a gripping documentary on the subject. Just like any group of people, you are not required to do emotional or intellectual labor for people curious about how you live your life. Throw folks some tools to do the research themselves and let them know when you’d be happy to follow-up with them.
5. Worrying about nutrition.
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” says the ADA, confirming that health can be easily obtained and maintained through plant-based eating. “Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
As long as your diet – vegan or otherwise – does not consist solely of Oreos and soda, you will probably be in okay shape. Constructing our dietary choices around whole foods and avoiding processed stuff in excess is always going to be a safe bet. If seeking the help of a nutritionist or dietitian will help you feel more prepared to meet your nutritional needs, then have at it. Otherwise, keep it balanced, keep in touch with your doc, and your nutrition should be stellar. Here are some nutritional guides for vegans seeking a balanced diet:
- Vegan Sources of Protein
- Vegan Sources of Iron
- Vegan Sources of Calcium
- Vegan Sources of Omega 3s
- Vegan Sources of Vitamins and Minerals