Why do some people stay vegan long-term while others don't? These are the tricks that have helped me stick with a vegan diet for over 15 years.
Why do some vegans not stick with it?
A high number of people who go vegan end up jumping ship, and many say it’s because they felt like they weren’t getting good nutrition or felt like vegan food was boring. Some ex-vegans even make headlines talking about how they "escaped" veganism.
Many ex-vegans were on dangerously restrictive diets, like the Blonde (ex) Vegan’s 800 calorie a day starvation diet.
Going vegan for health can be incredibly beneficial. It’s when a person takes pure eating too far that they get into trouble, whether they’re eating vegan or restricting their diet in some other way.
I am not saying that all ex-vegans were doing it wrong. When you’re dealing with chronic health problems, for example, you may become ready to try anything to heal.
Sayward Rebhal wrote a great piece on her own health struggles and how they caused her to question her veganism. It was her ethics that kept her searching and led her to the true root of her health problems, even when doctors told her to eat animal products.
Not everyone has that resolve, especially in the face of debilitating health issues.
What I’m saying is that we need to stop thinking of veganism as a weight loss plan. Veganism is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle centered around protecting animals.
If you truly want to adopt and to stick with a vegan lifestyle, you have to do it realistically. That means expecting some hiccups along the way and learning to adapt, not to restrict.
There’s certainly an adjustment period when you go vegan, and I think that focusing on a balanced diet is one of the keys to sticking with a vegan diet.
I don’t mean just balanced in nutrients, though. You have to have a balance of textures and flavors to keep from getting bored.
These are some of my favorite ways to keep my vegan diet balanced and interesting.
Make sure you’re getting enough calories.
When you go vegan, you’re cutting whole food groups out of your diet. A lot of new vegans lose weight simply because they’re not eating enough calories.
Going vegan isn’t just about cutting foods out -- it’s about replacing animal foods with plant alternatives. Slice some avocado onto that veggie sandwich! Add a handful of cashews to your grain or noodle bowl! Top that salad with beans and sunflower seeds! Splash out on some vegan cheese and make NACHOS!
If you’re eating vegan and feeling tired and hungry all the time, chances are, you need more calories.
Take a B12 Supplement
B12 is the one vitamin that's incredibly difficult to get enough of from plant foods. If you’re worried about getting proper nutrition, get yourself a good B12 supplement.
Yes, you can get some vitamin B12 from nutritional yeast and seaweeds, but chances are they’re not fulfilling all of your body’s requirements.
Take a B12 supplement. Do it. Here’s some solid advice from a registered dietician on how to choose the best one.
Eating plant-based fats, like nuts and avocado, can also help satisfy cravings for meat. That might seem strange, but since meat contains a lot of fat, these fatty plant foods will push the same buttons.
So drizzle a little oil on your salad, toss your veggies in oil before roasting, and pass the cashews and the avocado, please!
Eat that protein.
Once you get the swing of how to eat a satisfying vegan diet, you don’t really need to worry about protein, but if you’re used to getting most of your protein from animals, you might need to be a little bit mindful at first.
If you're worried that vegan protein sources are expensive, you're half right. Vegan meat alternatives can be incredibly pricey! Here are affordable sources of plant-based protein to add to your day:
You can make endless meals by choosing one or two of the protein sources above as the star!
Pile on the umami.
Chances are, you’ve heard of umami, also called "the fifth taste". Umami is a savory flavor that makes foods satisfying, and incorporating plant-based foods with an umami punch helps make any vegan meal more satisfying.
Some common vegan umami foods are:
- tamari or soy sauce
- nutritional yeast
- balsamic vinegar
Don’t be afraid to substitute.
Chances are, you can adapt your favorite recipes to be vegan.
Miss sweet and sour chicken? Meet sweet and sour chickpeas! Craving bacon? Welcome to the wonderful world of vegan bacon! Want a chicken sandwich? Grab one of the myriad vegan patties, and make one that's just as drool-worthy as the drive through.
Getting the hang of substitutions takes time, but once you have them down pat, it’s easy to satisfy cravings, veganize recipes and even find great vegan food at almost any restaurant.
Focus on what you *can* eat.
It’s easy, especially when you’re eating out, to dwell on the food you can't order as a vegan. Eating vegan means re-imagining your plate and those glossy restaurant menus. Animal foods are off your menu, so skip on past animal-heavy dishes.
If you do get stuck on a dish, think about substitutions you could make to veganize it. Could you have avocado or nuts (or both!) instead of cheese? Mushrooms or beans instead of meat? Oil instead of butter?
If you truly can’t veganize something you want, move on to the things you can have.
Dive into the community.
The vegan community is a wonderful, supportive place. There is no way I’d have stuck with veganism for so long without amazing people sharing their recipes, tips and substitutions.
I know that it can be hard to make real life vegan friends, but even having an online community can make a difference. You need someone to vent to about that aunt who asked if you still eat fish. Or the thousandth person to tell you that they'd die without cheese.
Sign up for my newsletter for weekly vegan recipe inspiration. I read and respond to all of your replies and am here to help!
You can also find tons of great support systems on social media. Just be choosy -- find vegans to follow that feel supportive and positive. There's a lot of bad information out there, so proceed with caution!
Focus on the animals
People come to veganism from several different directions: health, the environment, or animal rights.
In my experience, the people who stick with a vegan diet are the ones who come around to doing it for the animals. Once you start connecting animals on your plate to animals you want to protect, it's easier to pass up those foods.
A chicken nugget doesn't seem like food if you love the chicken. Besides, you can make vegan chicken nuggets that are totally delicious, no animals harmed!