It’s the start of a new year with many choosing to make changes to benefit not only their health but also want to show more compassion for animals and the planet. Or may just want to learn something new or learn how to consume more vegetables.
We have created a practical guide to help get you started.
First, I want to go through the definitions of what vegan, plant-based and whole food plant-based mean. These are the most common terms you hear and see and they do mean different things.
A vegan is someone who chooses not to consume or wear anything that came from an animal; this includes their by-products. Eggs and milk from an animal are by-products.
You might see people say they are vegan for the animals, the planet and/or for their health.
Veganism at its core is the feeling of being morally and ethically aligned with one’s beliefs. And that belief is choosing to do their best not to cause harm to any animal.
It is NOT a diet. It is a way of living.
When someone says they are not consuming animals for any other reason, this is called being, “plant-based.”
Being plant-based means you are choosing not to consume animals for other reasons but may still buy the lotion with dairy in it, the makeup that is still being tested on animals, or cow skin leather boots.
When it comes to eating out or buying groceries, the problem with the growth of vegan and plant-based options in the last couple of years is the term got highjacked.
Companies have taken the term, plant-based, to label their items as having more plants in them but the product may still contain dairy and eggs.
This is vegetarian. Why not call it that? Here’s why. Vegetarian is not a hot trendy word right now but plant-based is.
They highjacked it.
So, when you see an item in your grocery or on the menu at your favorite restaurant and it says, plant-based, you HAVE to ask if it contains any animal products.
–> This is also why you see many people asking for vegan options that may not be ethically vegan. It’s a catch-all for any animal.
Whole Food Plant Based
Whole Food Plant Based is a term created by Dr. Colin Campbell, in the early 80s, to distinguish a processed vegetarian/vegan diet from one that is better for your health where your intention is to eat whole foods.
I feel that since the 2010s, a Whole Food Plant Based Diet took off when people began to really question what they were putting in their bodies and/or were searching for ways to potentially reverse diseases and lose weight.
This is also when documentaries like Forks Over Knives, came out.
Whole Foods are all of your fruits & veggies in their whole form, beans/legumes, grains and overt fats; nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and coconut. No oil or butter.
Think about what the origin of your processed food was, that’s your whole food.
You can find a lot of great info from Dr. Campbell at https://nutritionstudies.org/
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is another great resource https://www.pcrm.org/
Know Your Why
After reading through the definitions, you may have a better idea of what you fall under.
If you are new and just getting started, knowing your why and writing it down somewhere will help keep you on track.
Be open to your why changing as well. I have seen this happen a lot in the plant-based community. They stick a toe in to see how it is and end up learning a lot more than they may have intended to… especially when it comes to the treatment of animals, what it takes to sustain an animal, and then what effect that has on the planet.
Please remember, there is no perfect person. Set your intention to do the best you can each day.
For me, I knew at a very young age that I wasn’t supposed to eat animals (morally and ethically).
But this was the early 80s.
I tried to tell my family and even went on hiatuses where I wouldn’t eat a specific animal, like eggs. But ultimately, I did not know I could functionally live without it and was told I was wrong for feeling the way I did.
(up until my husband went vegan, I was the only one in my circle of family and friends who did not eat animals)
And because I was told I was wrong on a few things that deep in my gut I could feel through my very young developing ages, I have not truly trusted my intuition until recently. Or even realized I was doing that.
(it’s actually sad and something I’m working on healing and trusting)
The one that nagged at me though was eating animals. It just NEVER sat right within. It never made any sense. In 2008, I began eating vegetarian striving to be vegan. And have officially been vegan since April 2012.
An ethical vegan.
Being married to a vegan obviously made me very aware of what I was eating and the process behind it. However, while I always supported Jen in going vegan, I never felt she pressured me into going vegan as well.
For me, I just couldn’t rationalize any longer allowing animals to be treated in ways I could never personally do, but my food choices allowed them to happen. I also came to terms with the fact that the way we currently consume meat is not sustainable on this planet.
I went pescatarian for a full year before deciding one day, in 2018, to make the leap to going fully plant-based and haven’t looked back since.
Eating Out (in the United States)
Eating out can be tricky but it is SO much easier than it used to be. For one, the word vegan is much more known in the world so a lot more people understand what it means.
Our website VeggL.com can come in handy. It now has over 350 Vegan Guides in the United States for:
We also have our VeggL App.
The VeggL App
Download the ultimate on-the-go vegan resource. Quickly access over 400 vegan guides for restaurants, airports, sports venues and theme parks. Get unlimited access to all our guides with the free version. Upgrade to Pro to go ad-free!
Never get frustrated by not knowing what you can get to eat ever again!
You can choose the free version which directs you to the guides on the website or choose the paid Pro version. The paid version has NO ads which makes it streamlined and a bit easier to read. You get a 30-day free trial to see if you like the paid Pro version.
Our most popular vegan guides are:
This was our number 1 guide for 2022. I have broken down every category and made this very easy for you to learn how to order your favorite drink at Starbucks.
While they have yet to add a vegan cheesecake, The Cheesecake Factory has a lot of really great vegan options! Plus they’re delicious. You will not be disappointed.
With the addition of Beyond Orange Chicken, Panda Express has done well in the vegan/plant-based community for 2021 & 2022. This is a company that I feel has been listening, even before this past year. Not only did they add a plant-based chicken but they had been making changes to allow for us animal-free people to enjoy their food.
But they will tell you (as do we on their guide), cross-contamination is an issue there. And if you are a pure vegan (will not allow for the slightest cross-contamination), we do not suggest you visit here.
That is your choice though. You do what is comfortable for you. We notate cross-contamination on every guide and asterisk items that we know share a fryer and/or grill.
–> And as a side note: We do not do any advertising for VeggL… it’s had a very grassroots growth so if you find it helpful, we appreciate you passing it along to anyone you know who could use it. 🙂
When choosing restaurants that are local or are not on VeggL, we do a couple of things.
I have the Happy Cow App and will do a quick search to see if any vegan-friendly restaurants are close by or in the destination I’m going to.
If I do not see anything, I Google search vegan restaurants in that area and then look at any menus that appear to possibly have something.
If you prefer not to do all of this searching and know what restaurant you are going to, call them. Ask for a manager and then ask if and what vegan menu items they have or could be modified.
Be aware though, when eating out at a restaurant that is NOT 100% vegan, cross-contamination can/will be an issue. Fried items may share a fryer with their animal menu items. Grills may share space as well as prep space.
You choose your level of comfort. Ask questions.
But please know, a restaurant that does not have a vegan/plant-based option on their menu is not obligated to make you one.
Do a lot of them? Yes. But don’t be an arse when they say it’s not an option. Kindly let them know it could be beneficial for their business if they did though.
Eating at Home
With the world of vegan and plant-based being so popular now, eating at home is very easy… once you get the hang of it and find your staples!
I say easy because vegan recipes are out there; millions of them. And for all different cuisines. Just type Vegan and then whatever you are wanting to make into Google and you’ll have your pick.
If you are comfortable, expand your taste buds! Eating vegan opened my world up to more veggies than I had ever tried, grains, fruits, spices, and cuisines.
Go into it with an open mind. It is fun!
But to start…
Take your favorite meals and begin by making a few replacements.
Switch out the beef in your pasta with beef sauce for a plant-based ground. Make sure you read the directions and season it though!
I have a family member who was trying to eat more plant-based and made Gardein’s plant-based ground as-is then told me it wasn’t good. I asked if she seasoned it. Nope. I asked if she typically seasoned her animal beef when cooking it, and she said yes. Ummm, hello!
What most people who eat meat do not realize is, they like the taste of the seasonings on it more than the actual animal itself. Just take those seasonings and use them on plants.
Go easy on yourself.
Take a couple of trips to the grocery when you have time to read labels.
Be aware that if you have been eating the same recipe for 5-30 years, it is going to take your taste buds time to adjust if you are having to drastically change it.
But also be open to no longer eating that recipe until your taste buds have changed.
I had to do this with Ryan. In fact, I had to stop calling meals by their original name because they came with expectations of what it was going to taste like. Once I called it something different, the expectation was gone and all we had to decide on is if we liked it and wanted to make it again.
Most people rotate just a few meals anyways so find the ones you like and rotate those. When you get a whim to try something new, look up a recipe.
Processed vegan food is going to be more expensive so it’s our advice to create meals based on whole foods first then throw some processed food in there every now and then. While vegan/plant-based food can be healthier (there is no cholesterol in plants), processed foods are also typically higher in fat, sugar and salt.
This leads us into…
Learn About Nutrition
Prior to being vegan, I was interested in learning about nutrition because of a family history of heart disease. At that stage in my life (early/mid 20’s), I wasn’t fully connecting what we ate with our overall health though.
After finally choosing to listen to my intuition and be vegetarian then later vegan, I became very interested in how what we eat affects our mind and body.
A huge piece of that is thru searching for vegan information, I was being exposed to those conversations.
This is also when I became exposed to the entire cycle of consuming an animal (especially with factory farming) and its effects on the environment.
I’m not saying you have to be engulfed but make an effort to be aware of what you are eating and be open to learning how it can help and harm you.
As a rule, I have developed habits of getting my greens in daily and thinking about the rainbow when creating my grocery list for the week. An easy way to get in a variety of vitamins and minerals is to look at your shopping cart, does it have color? Each of those colors represents the vitamins and minerals we need for our bodies to thrive.
Get your blood panel done and make sure your Vitamin D and B12 are tested as well. These two are typically not included but make huge impacts on your health when you are deficient.
Knowing if you have any deficiencies can also help guide you in learning about nutrition. Use your results to learn how to take better care of your body.
In addition to learning about your nutrition intake, do some research on gut health. Your gut health connects to your brain health along with strengthing your immunity.
The brilliant thing about your gut health is it starts with prebiotics. Prebiotics help the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and are in many of our fruits, vegetables and grains because they contain fiber!
Do you know what does NOT have fiber? Animals.
Are you starting to see how all of this is connected? Pretty cool.
Most importantly… change can take time. Being aware and being ok with that is what’s going to help you consistently do it.
But please do not be afraid to open yourself to wanting something different for yourself. To be a better you. It’s what we’re all trying to do.
Even if you’re that person who won’t touch a piece of broccoli but will consume the flesh of an animal, you’re never too old to learn more, grow and connect what you are eating to your health and the world around you.