About three months into my first attempt at veganism, I ordered a Domino’s pizza and ate all of it.
As I sat at the kitchen table, devouring a greasy mass and crying about how much I had missed cheese, I realized that I must of done something wrong.
While I’m happy to report that I’ve continued to be vegan after that mishap, I’ve found that vegan diets fail for many hopefuls and there are several reasons as to why. Most commonly, a transitioning vegan who isn’t educated about their diet might not get enough nutrients to support a healthy body and mind.
Although a balanced vegan diet is certainly attainable, it is true that there are a few essential vitamins and nutrients that are not found in plant foods. It is also true that lacking these vitamins and nutrients can cause moodiness, fatigue and sickness. Throughout my two years on a plant-based diet, I’ve learned how to avoid the aforementioned negative experiences. Here are my tips for how to stay happy and healthy on a vegan diet:
1). Use a calorie counting app (but don’t count your calories).
I log everything I consume into My Fitness Pal. I don’t do so because I’m concerned with my calorie intake, but because I want to keep track of my protein, fat and carb intake as well as my sodium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron intake. This is endlessly helpful because I have a tangible display of what I’m lacking–when it comes time for a meal, I can simply view what macronutrient or vitamin I need more of and incorporate it into what I’m about to eat. My Fitness Pal is also provides evidence that vegans DO eat enough protein (sometimes too much–93 g yesterday!).
2). Take supplements.
I take four daily supplements–a vegan multi, a B-complex, a D vitamin and an Ashwagandha capsule for mood support. Something as simple as taking a few pills with my breakfast makes me feel exponentially more energized. Since it’s hard to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 and vitamin D on a plant-based diet, I think it’s most efficient to take a supplement in the morning and continue to eat whole, nutrient-rich foods throughout the day.
3). Vegan protein powder.
If you’re concerned about protein, you shouldn’t be. As previously covered on my blog, Americans have a skewed perception of protein sources. Still, I make an effort to incorporate an abundance of plant protein into my diet. One of my favorite sources is vegan protein power, which I typically blend into my banana ice cream, smoothies or pancakes. I use Garden of Life Raw Protein Powder, which packs in 17 g of protein per serving.
4). Eat junk food (occasionally).
Unless you were raised vegan, you’re going to crave fatty, oily comfort foods every once in a while. It’s OK to give into these cravings, and it’s possible to do so without harming any animals. Since I have a huge sweet tooth, I tend to crave cookies, donuts and ice cream. When I do, I listen to my body and pick up some non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s or Uncle Eddie’s vegan cookies. It’s unrealistic to expect your body to accept a completely whole plant foods diet, and it’s normal and healthy to make a vegan grilled cheese or eat Oreos (they’re vegan!) every so often.