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Going vegan is a big decision. It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed by all the new information out there that you’ve never considered before.
Switching to a vegan diet is a great way to make positive changes for your health, the environment and of course, animals. But like any lifestyle change, it’s a process that will involve experimenting, having some slip ups, and learning from your mistakes.
And I’ve learnt from a lot of mistakes since going vegan in 2015!
I wanted to share some of the most common mistakes I see people make when switching to a vegan diet – and tips to help you avoid them.
Common mistakes to avoid when going vegan
Assuming all vegan food is healthy
One of the biggest mistakes new vegans make (me included) is assuming all vegan food in automatically healthier. While a diet rich in plants is great for your health , it is 100% possible to be a junk food vegan. Vegan icecream, hot chips, crisps, oreos, high-fat desserts – the struggle is real.
When I first went vegan, the sight of a vegan choc chip cookie or donut was such a novelty that I just had to have it! Eventually, I realised that those foods aren’t going anywhere, and I don’t need to eat it just because it exists!
There’s nothing wrong with eating ‘junk food’ of course, but just remember that nutritional values don’t go out the door just because something is vegan.
Failing to plan ahead
Another mistake to avoid when going vegan is not planning ahead. What happens if you’re out of the house and start to get hungry but have no vegan snacks on hand? Or if you realise there are no vegan options near you? Do you throw in the towel and eat something that’s not veagn?
Or what if you get home after a long day and realise you have nothing prepared for dinner, so you order your favourite ‘cheap and easy’ non-vegan take out because you’re just too tired?
It’s so easy to get caught in these situations and fall back to old habits as a beginner vegan. The key is to avoid putting yourself in these positions in the first place.
So, what can you do? Keep snacks like nuts and dried fruit in your bag or car, bulk cook staples like rice, sweet potato, beans or oatmeal that you can throw together in five minutes, and stock up your freezer or pantry with ‘lazy day’ options like frozen vegan pizza, pre-made frozen meals, baked beans, or canned soup.
Same goes for eating out as a vegan! Plan ahead and look at the menu to suss out your options.
NOT EATING ENOUGH CALORIES
It can be easy to under eat and under fuel on a vegan diet without knowing it, as most plant foods are naturally lowered in calories than animal products. A mistake I see a lot of new vegans make is taking away the ‘meat’ part of a meal and not replacing it with more plants.
I’ve seen a few people ‘give up’ on a vegan diet claiming they are constantly hungry, tired or not getting adequate nutrients. But it turns out they were only eating three bananas for breakfast, a small store-bought chickpea salad for lunch, and a handful of tofu with veggies for dinner.
This is your permission slip to pile on those veggies, beans, fruit and grains! Eating a sufficient amount of calories from a wide variety of plants will not only keep you full and energised, but also ensure you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. If you want to make sure you’re getting enough calories in the beginning, you could use an app like Cronometer to track a week’s worth of food. Slowly, you’ll gain an understanding of what it looks and feels like to eat enough during the day to feel you best.
THINKING YOU HAVE TO BECOME A ‘MASTERCHEF’
A lot of people tell me that they could only go vegan if they ‘had a personal chef’ to make their food. Despite the fancy meals you might see on Instagram, cooking vegan food can be super simple!
To be honest, most of my main meals are a bunch of starches and veggies thrown together and topped with a sauce of choice or hummus.
A lot of your favourite easy meals could be vegan without you realising it. Baked beans on toast, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cereal with fruit, or veggie pasta anyone?
copying what vegan influencers are eating
Repeat after me – just because a famous vegan YouTuber eats smoothie bowls every day for breakfast, that doesn’t mean you have to. Just because they eat ‘x’ calories a day, that doesn’t mean you should eat the same amount.
This is a trap I fell into when I first went vegan. I drove myself crazy trying to copy a bunch of YouTubers who had different eating habits and styles, that I lost touch with what made me feel my best.
I highly encourage you to experiment with new foods on a vegan diet, but treat ‘what I eat in a day’ YouTube videos as inspiration and not ride-or-die nutritional advice. What works for someone else might not work best for your schedule, climate, budget, taste buds or body.
Spending way too much money on fancy vegan ‘alternatives’
A common misconception about veganism is that it’s super expensive. While yes, vegan mock meats and ‘cheese’ products can be pricey, you don’t need to spend a ton of money of plant-based alternatives. Vegan ‘meats’ are a fun, tasty and convenient option when you’re first transitioning or want to try something new, but they don’t need to make up the bulk of your diet.
Prioritise stocking up on cheap plant-based staples like rice, oats, beans, potatoes, in-season produce and frozen veggies. You’ll find basic veggie burgers and tofu for decent prices at most supermarkets. Like with any lifestyle, veganism is as expensive as you make it!
not making an ethical connection
There are many reasons why people decide to go vegan. Some come to veganism in an effort to improve their heath or loose weight.
And while it’s totally fine to spend the rest of your life eating plant-based for health reasons, making the ethical connection creates a new level awareness, selflessness, and kindness in your life.
Whether it’s watching some vegan documentaries or doing your own research on the animal agriculture industry, making that extra connection will solidify your “why” and make veganism easier to stick with long term.
being hard on yourself when you slip up
And trust me, you will slip up at some point, even if you don’t mean to.
There have been many times when I accidentally ate something with cheese or cow’s milk it in, and only realised afterwards. Instead of getting super stressed and annoyed at yourself, it’s a lot easier to just accept it, forgive yourself, and make a mental note for next time.
It’s already in your body so there’s not a lot you can do about it!
not learning how to read food labels
If you don’t have allergies or intolerances, you might not have put too much effort into reading food labels. But when you go vegan, you realise it’s something you just have to do.
Unless you want to spend hours at the supermarket, learning what to look for on food labels is essential for a stress-free trip to the shops. Check out my top five label reading hacks here.
trying to do it on your own
Like a lot of things in life, it’s easier and more enjoyable with a friend. If you can find a support system to back you up and help you stay on track, you’ll be more successful on your vegan journey.
If you can’t find someone to join you, connect with vegan meet-ups in your area, subscribe to vegan blogs, join vegan Facebook groups and attend local vegan festivals and events. Start by finding a community online and before you know it, you’ll find your local veggie crowd.
Not only can you lean on them when you’re struggling, but it’s nice to have someone to share vegan recipes and memes with!
You don’t have to make these common vegan mistakes
Learning how to avoid these common vegan mistakes early on in your journey will help make the transition easier and stress-free. At the end of the day, remember that you are only human and can only do your best!
Are you struggling with any of these at the moment? Let me know in the comments and we can talk through it!