Traditionally, the biggest reason people move to a vegan diet is because of ethical concerns regarding animal wellbeing. This is laudable considering the many inhumane conditions that animals endure in factory farms before, of course, being taken to slaughter.
But what happens when someone pivots to a plant-based diet for moral reasons and neglects to get enough fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts (you know, actual plants?) They usually get sick. Thus, I give you, the “Oreo vegan.”
Here, we see an individual whose only nutritive requirement is that whatever they consume be free of animal by-products. This means popular junk foods like french fries, soda and, yes, the infamous dairy-free Oreo are often their daily staples.
While these salty, sugary, fatty foods might taste good, they offer no wholesome value and consequently result in sub-optimal health. These vegans complain of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, poor energy, anemia and more.
Worse, they often end up blaming veganism for their problems, give up on it and say, “It doesn’t work.” That’s like using a fly swatter to play tennis and blaming the ball when you can't return a backhand.
How then does someone switch to plants and actually eat real ones? Here's a few ways:
1. Quit like a smoker
I admire the person who can instantly go cold turkey (savor the pun) by dropping meat and dairy overnight. But change is usually difficult and switching to a plant-based diet is no different.
Think like a smoker. If you've puffed on nicotine for years and ever tried to quit, it was probably hard to kick the habit instantly. Go easy on yourself. Take a few weeks (or even months) to phase out meat and dairy. This will help you feel less overwhelmed at first, especially if you have no prior nutritional knowledge.
The good news is there are plenty of resources to make the plunge easier, including these cooking videos, pre-packaged vegan meals delivered to your home, and this guide to helping you go vegan in just 22 days. Full disclosure: I haven't read it, but it's backed by Beyonce just in case your purchase decision need be influenced by a pop star who made millions belting out "Gimme that daddy-long stroke."
2. Find something sweet to distract you from wanting that cheeseburger
Personally, going vegan was a relatively smooth transition for me. I think it was because I kept lots of fruit at my side to mitigate cravings.
But there were two other things I relied on, and continue to depend on, that I'm confident you'll love. Both are sweet. Both are healthy. And both are great options for any diet.
The first is kombucha, a fermented tea that tastes amazing and is great for your gut health. Try to keep a bottle or two of Health-Ade near you throughout the day. Because it has a sugary taste, it's a great soda substitute but also helps resist the urge to eat dairy-riddled candy and other stress foods. Read more about kombucha in my previous post here.
The second is GoMacro protein bars. I once took a day off from work and did nothing but research protein bars (don't act like you haven't done it too.)
Since most protein bars are nothing but chemical garbage, I was skeptical about finding one worthy of being called healthy. Fortunately, I found GoMacro.
After discovering the ingredients were organic, minimally processed, and yielded a good amount of protein, I knew GoMacro was worth a shot. The best news? They're hearty and taste like a candy bar. Goodnight and God bless, Snickers.
3. Find power in community
The plant-based movement is skyrocketing. With a 600 percent increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S. in just the last three years, it's a fair bet this number will continue to grow. Which means it's never been easier to find communities and make new friends.
Facebook and MeetUp.com have countless groups you can join with just a simple search. Need more resources? Reach out to me and I'll do my best to help you on your quest.
In the meantime, stay away from the Oreos ...