A friend of a friend recently asked for advice regarding her teenaged daughter suddenly going vegan. I was delighted, but the mother of this girl was distraught with many valid concerns. ”Is this a healthy diet?” ”Is this dangerous?” ”What can she eat?” ”What can I cook for her?”
I began brainstorming with The Vegan Tri Wife and we quickly found ourselves discussing micronutrients, recipes, supplements, restaurants, and social issues. We wandered off on tangents and found that our seemingly simple lifestyle could seem very complicated to the uninitiated.
Maybe the Universe has a plan, or maybe it’s just coincidence, but at exactly this time I just happened to be reading The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss. Now the book is not for everyone. Some vegans will likely be offended or disgusted with many parts of the book, but I was more interested in it’s claim to not only teach us how to cook, but to teach us “how to learn anything.” And according to the book, a key principle to learning anything is simplification.
Enter the one-pager. From the book: ”The goal here is to make something intimidating unintimidating, so you don’t quit. You have the rest of your life to seek out and master the exceptions if you want.” I’m not writing the ultimate vegan guide for life. Just a few simple guidelines someone can put on their fridge and refer to when getting started on a vegan diet. A few tips to help address the initial concerns, reign in and contain the tangential thoughts and worries, and keep going while finding their way on this new path. I want to answer the questions, “What should I know right now?” and “What can I make for dinner tonight?”
The Going Vegan One-Pager
First Things First
“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.”
Always the first question: “Where do you get your protein?” Protein can be found in beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, seeds, soy — tofu, tempeh, soymilk, whole grains, and even vegetables. Even athletes, with minimal planning, can usually get enough protein from whole foods.
Take a supplement now, learn more later. Take 250 mcg daily or 2500 mcg once a week.
Easy. A lot of breakfast foods are already vegan: whole grain toast with nut butter, fortified breakfast cereal with any non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice, etc.), fresh fruit, granola, or oatmeal.
With salads and wraps, you can eat essentially the same lunch everyday, making it easy, but with endless variety. Use whole grains, include foods from the protein list above and a rainbow of leafy greens and other veggies.
For dinner, try this idea from No Meat Athlete: A grain (rice, couscous, quinoa, pasta, etc.), a green (kale, spinach, etc.), and a bean (black, pinto, kidney, etc.). It’s a simple formula which generally ensures excellent nutrition and variety.
- Choose whole foods over processed most of the time–good advice for any diet.
- Explore ethnic cuisines like Indian, Middle Eastern, Asian, etc. for new, already vegan recipes.
- Let your doctor know about your new diet. At your next physical, simple blood tests can let you know if you’re on the right track or need to make adjustments. You may even find encouragement in seeing your cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, and LDL improve.
- Look for already-vegan recipes to start. You’ll likely be disappointed with fake meat substitutes at first.
- Find a few go-to recipes to fall back on. Two of my favorites, Minnesota Winter Chili, and Mushroom Lentil Burgers, are both from Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run.
Whether you go vegan overnight, or phase it into your life one day a week or even one meal a day, you’ll likely find that your culinary horizons expand with a world of new options you had never considered before. You’ll also be doing good for your health and the health of the planet. Enjoy!