The Beginner’s Guide to a Vegan Lifestyle

A vegan lifestyle carries its weight in health benefits and environmental perks, but starting on a plant-based path can feel like uncharted territory for many. If you’re considering a plant-based change but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about diving into the vegan lifestyle.

What exactly is a vegan lifestyle?

To put simply, a vegan diet steers clear of any animal products including meat, eggs, and dairy. Instead, the veg-friendly life consists of a mix of grains, vegetables, fruits, starches, and nuts — all the plant-based goodies. People often opt for a vegan lifestyle for sustainability, ethics, and health reasons, but no matter why you make the switch, a vegan diet is chock-full of benefits inside and out.

Trust quality over quantity.

Embracing a vegan lifestyle is all about championing the clean, vitamin-packed, and sustainable ingredients that occur in our world — naturally. While it’s possible to consume a diet of entirely processed foods and call it vegan, balancing whole ingredients (like grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables) will make your life a whole lot sweeter. When you focus on everything you can consume, rather than what you can’t, your menu becomes much more liberating. Filling your meals with leafy greens, protein-packed beans, hearty grains, and naturally creamy oils will keep you satisfied and cover all of your nutritional bases.

Don’t sweat the protein.

A vegan diet has plenty of protein — and then some. A common concern people have when vetting a vegan lifestyle is where they’ll find their protein source. Rest assured, the plant-based life is no stranger to protein. From quinoa (which packs 9 grams of protein per cup) to black beans (which pack 16 grams), plant protein is ready and available. Unlike meat, plant power is free of unsavory side effects like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and inflammation. Instead, vegan protein packs essential antioxidants, fiber, and minerals to keep you powered from head to toe.

Embrace the substitutes. 

Cutting out animal products doesn’t mean your diet will be deprived of the staples you love. Swapping in nut, oat, and coconut milk substitutes for your daily creamer, cheese, and dessert is a great way to enjoy the best of both worlds. Getting creative with veggie swaps (like jackfruit, mushrooms, and cauliflower) allows you to put a spin on your meat-based favorites.

Sit back and reap the benefits. 

A vegan lifestyle is full of health benefits that go beyond skin deep. Not only will eliminating meat help you keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at an all time low, embracing a balanced mix of clean, plant-based foods will help lower your chances of obesity and diabetes. Replacing animal products (and the saturated fats that go along with them) with real, from-the-earth nutrition can even help you lose weight. Instead of counting calories, consuming high fiber and minimally processed foods helps you stay fuller longer. Mixing in healthy fats and omega fatty acids (like olive oil and avocados) helps combat stress to keep you cool, calm, and collected.

A vegan lifestyle is not only better for your health, it’s better for the environment too. As a consumer, embracing a plant-based diet is one of the biggest (and arguably easiest) positive changes you can make for the environment. Cutting your meat and dairy consumption reduces your food carbon footprint by 73%. Even simply swapping out one meal a week helps save water and reduce gas emissions, all while harnessing the plant-based benefits.

Be patient.

At the end of the day, we’re all human. You don’t have to disrupt your diet overnight. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your way of life. It’s important to give yourself time to adjust and develop new habits.

Like any diet preference, you’re going to meet some challenges along the way. Whether it’s a friend’s dinner party or a new restaurant, staying mindful and planning ahead are some of the best ways you can stay true to your preferences while living in the moment. With prepared plant-based meal delivery services, like Thistle, eating well and feeling even better is now easier than (plant-based) pie.