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    Posted November 4, 2013 by
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    How to Become a Vegan

     

    Vegan's not just a buzzword: According to a 2012 survey, seven percent of Americans polled consider themselves vegan, more than those who count themselves as vegetarian. Thinking of joining them? Here's what the experts told us.

     

    Think of it as an evolution.
    When going vegan, "people get so caught up in rules, they become anxious," says Terry Hope Romero, author of the book Vegan Eats World. "Relax and learn to love to cook, explore new cuisines, and be adventurous with food. Most importantly, be easy on yourself. Don't view a vegan lifestyle as the finish line, but as an evolving process of conscious eating." Vegenista blogger Melissa Bechter says, "As my commitment to a cruelty-free lifestyle became stronger than my cravings, I found that eventually I lost my taste for animal-based foods."

     

    If you want, start quietly.
    It might be easier to become a vegan if you can avoid questions or scrutiny from others. "Don't announce what you are doing; focus on yourself and being conscious of your surroundings, body, and food addictions first," says longtime vegan John Salley, a four-time NBA champion and a partner of Vegan Vine wines. "Be still and strong in your ability to control your own life."

     

    Find a vegan support group.
    Once you begin your vegan diet, "you'll need someone to rant to about how many times a day you get asked where you get your protein," says Jill Wiseman, co-founder of e-commerce site Vegan Cuts. Whether your support lives next door or is through a Facebook page, you'll widen your world of vegan-friendly products, recipes, and restaurants. If you don't know where to look, Crystal Tate of Food for Lovers recommends 30 Day Vegan Challenge: "[The] daily tips and videos hold your hand through grocery shopping, dining out, and trying new recipes."

     

    Don't worry about getting enough protein.
    If you're trying to become a vegan, "rich sources of concentrated protein on some healthy food includes beans, soy products like tofu and seitan, quinoa, nuts, and hemp seeds," says Moran. Plus, there are vegan protein powders you can add to water and shakes. As long as you include these staples along with protein-rich veggies like asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli, you should meet your daily requirements.

     

    Focus on vegetables (and fruits).
    "Many who claim to be vegetarian or vegan are really starch-atarians filling meat voids with pasta, fries, bread," and other non-plant substitutes, says Ashayla Patterson of the bakery Sweet Artique. Try to eat more healthy meals, whole foods to give your body the vital nutrients and antioxidants it needs.

     

    Going vegan doesn't mean deprivation.
    "When you remove animal products you lose a lot of the fat and salt, which is often what contributes to the can't-put-it-down taste," says Kroecher. He likes to add rich, complex flavors with walnuts, avocados, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, fresh basil, cold-pressed flax seed oil, and unrefined grey or pink sea salt. Other ingredients to consider include nuts, dried fruits, protein powder, chia or hemp seeds, and Spirulina, a protein-dense freshwater algae.

     

    You can still eat out.
    Even fast-food places are starting to offer vegan options on their menus. In select restaurants, Mexican chain Chipotle serves Sofritas, a shredded, organic tofu cooked with chipotle chiles and roasted poblanos. National chain Tropical Smoothie Cafe will substitute plant-based protein Beyond Meat (which shreds up like cooked chicken) in all salads and sandwiches at no extra cost. New York-based chain Fresh & Co., which also serves the "Vegan 'Unchicken'" says that items with it are among the most popular on its menu and even meat-eaters are opting for it. You can find other choices on this comprehensive list from PETA.

     

    By Perri O. Blumberg

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