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Vegan for a year 02/20/11

Nine years ago I quit eating meat. Almost. JL shares her story.

Nine years ago I quit eating meat. Almost. I was in Kenya for work. We were in a small village in the Rift Valley. There was a celebration held for an auspicious occasion and my colleagues and I were guests of honour. Early in the day an elder from the community brought a goat to the site of the celebration – a true demonstration of generosity. The goat was presented and subsequently killed and boiled. That evening, we were offered the goat for dinner. To refuse it would have been an affront (or so I told myself?) Essentially I met a goat, shook his hand then ate him. I became a vegetarian.

One year ago I decided to eliminate all animal-based foods from my diet. I went vegan. Yesterday marked my “vegan”-anniversary (for more details read my vegetarian to vegan story). It was one of the easiest transitions I have ever made.

A few things I have learned along the way…

Don’t worry about the protein
What? Why would I say such a thing? Because the most annoying question a new vegan gets is “But where do you get your protein?” This perpetuates the myth that the only way to get protein is from animal products (flesh, egg and milk). This is simply not true. There are a huge variety of plant-based proteins, from beans/legumes, to fruit and grains to leafy greens. I’m not suggesting that you be irresponsible – in fact, I encourage a nutrient dense vegan diet – I’m simply saying don’t let people influence you with misinformation.

Do think about getting B12, Vitamin D and Calcium
I’m not an expert, so I’m going to direct you to this article on B12, this one on Vitamin D and this one on Calcium.

When I decided to go vegan I did my research and met with a nutrition counsellor. I wanted to be a healthy vegan. I make sure to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods and believe that I get a great deal of necessary vitamins and minerals directly from my food. I do, however, take supplements for insurance. I take a daily Vitamin D/Calcium/Magnesium supplement and once a week I take one 3,000mg B12 lozenge. I have had my blood tested twice in the past year and my Vitamin D and B12 levels are excellent.

Do stock the pantry
The best way to get started is to stock up on vegan essentials. You’ll want lots of beans, greens, grains, fruits, veggies, condiments, spices and herbs to start creating delicious, healthy, nutritious meals. Most (good) vegan cookbooks begin with a “pantry list” to get started. Don’t feel like you have to buy everything; start slow by adding a few things to your grocery list each week. One strategy is to pick a few recipes you want to try each week, pick up the “new” ingredients required, and you’ll slowly build up your pantry. You’ll also discover new things, such as nutritional yeast (a great source of B12!) and Bragg Liquid Aminos, both of which I now use all the time. A year ago I had never heard of either!

Do read
I started by reading food blogs. I may have gained a few pounds just from looking at gorgeous pictures of vegan meals on blogs. Almost any new food or recipe I tried came from a blog. I never would have dreamed that I would bake kale chips or sprout beans. I read these food blogs faithfully. I highly recommend JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale. (Come on, you saw that one coming, didn’t you?)

I have collected a good number of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks that not only provide me great recipes but also great facts and information on a healthy vegan diet.

Do Relax
It is pretty easy to get uptight about all of this. Am I doing it right? Am I really a vegan if…? This is a process, trust me. Figure out what this whole “going vegan” thing means to you…is it about the food? Is it about the animals? Is it both? Oh, and guess what? You might change your mind over and over. Don’t get hung up on labels. Do be true to yourself and do the best you can. Ask questions. Do research. Enjoy the journey.

JL Fields is a food and fitness writer. She blogs at JL goes Vegan: Food & Fitness with a side of Kale. You can follow JL on Twitter.

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6 Responses to this article

editor February 20, 2011 Reply

Thanks for sharing with us JL. I am definitely going to check out all the food blogs you mentioned for some inspiration.
Congratulations and good luck as you travel further on your food journey.

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JL February 20, 2011 Reply

Thank you so much! And thank you for the opportunity to share my story.

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Zenobia February 20, 2011 Reply

Fantastic decision! and very informative post. Being vegan is easy! You may lose a few friends along the way, but hey ;)

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JL February 20, 2011 Reply

Thank you! And I IS easy!

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Kate @ February 20, 2011 Reply

JL, thank you for sharing! I always wonder at what point does one decide that meat is finally off their plate. I think the goat experience would have done it for me, too.

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JL February 20, 2011 Reply

Yes, the goat got me. I think it’s interesting that I became a vegetarian for an animal but vegan for diet. Though it didn’t take me long into the vegan journey to find myself in the camp of “I went vegan for diet; I remain vegan for the animals.”

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