When you’re new to a vegan diet, it can be easy to get confused by a whole world of new information you may have never considered before. Many people start by focusing on what they eat. Switching to a vegan diet is a great way to make positive changes for your health, the environment and of course, animals.
While living a vegan lifestyle encompasses much more than just what you eat, I’ve written this post to focus primarily on mistakes to avoid when you’re new to a vegan diet and common questions people have when switching to eating plant-based foods.
7 Mistakes To Avoid When You’re New To A Vegan Diet
1. Failing to plan ahead
What do you do when you’re out of the house and you start to get hungry but you realize you don’t have any food or snacks with you? Then you realize there are no vegan options anywhere nearby. Do you give up and eat something that’s not vegan? Do you go hungry?
Neither of those options sound good to me!
Or what about when you get home from work late and realize you don’t have anything planned for dinner. You’re tired. You’re hungry. And you start to crave your old favorite take-out food that happens to not be vegan.
Do you give in to the craving?
It’s so easy to fall into this trap when you’re trying a vegan diet. The number one mistake I see new vegans making is not planning ahead. You don’t want to put yourself in a position to fail at your goal of eating a vegan diet. That’s why I am a huge advocate meal planning.
2. Getting confused by food labels
It’s easy to get confused when you’re looking for foods to eat and are new to a vegan diet. Animal products find their way into many foods that may seem vegan-friendly at first glance. There are a few of main things you can look for when purchasing new products to ensure that they’re vegan:
- Check the allergens list. If dairy or eggs is listed here then the product is not vegan.
- Check the ingredients list. There are common label warnings saying “may contain traces of milk,” “made on shared equipment with milk,” or “made in a factory that also processes milk.” These are mostly there to warn people who have dairy allergies. If you don’t have an allergy, then I wouldn’t be too concerned about them. But it’s a personal preference. Just know that more products have these than not.
- Familiarize yourself with alternate names for animal products. There are many things disguised by names you may have never heard before. Here’s a list of some ingredients to avoid when new a vegan diet.
3. Assuming all vegan food is healthy
It’s 100% possible to be a junk-food vegan. Does delicious vegan ice cream exist? Yes! Is it healthy to eat a pint of it every day? Probably not.
Many people try a vegan diet because of the health benefits they’ve seen touted in the news or amazing results others have attained in reversing disease by eating plant-based foods.
This is a wonderful reason to eat a vegan diet. But keep in mind, that these health benefits are primarily achieved by eating whole plant foods and limiting processed products (in addition to the complete removal of animal products).
Also, in order to avoid nutrient deficiencies, it’s important to eat a wide range or whole plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
4. Feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t have your favorite foods anymore
One of the phases I went through when I switched to a vegan diet was a sense of loss or mourning an old way of life. It may sound silly, but when you think about it, we have a lot of emotions, family ties and traditions tied into the foods that we eat. Suddenly deciding to remove recipes and meals that we’ve eaten our whole lives and that are often tied to emotions and memories can be create a challenge.
It’s important to recognize these feelings and be gentle with yourself rather than focus entirely on willpower or even feel shame for having emotional ties to foods with animal products.
The key here is your attitude.
It’s also very helpful to have support from like-minded people. If you’re looking for support, please join us in my Facebook group, Going Vegan Mindfully.
5. Spending way too much and deciding being vegan is too expensive
As I mentioned above, there are so many amazing vegan alternatives to animal products. Many of these options are processed foods like frozen meals, snack foods, desserts, candies, etc.
While these products are nice to have around and make it easier for some people to even be willing to try a vegan diet, I don’t recommend buying them in mass quantities. Not only are many of them highly processed (AKA not necessarily healthy) they can be expensive when you buy a lot of it.
If you’re looking to eat a vegan diet on a budget, it’s important to focus on whole foods such as fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, beans, etc. A lot of times buying foods into there natural form and/or in bulk can make eating a vegan diet very cost-effective. However, it does require more preparation. Which leads me to the next mistake to avoid on a vegan diet…
6. Refusing to prepare your own food
With so many vegan products available, it is ridiculously easy to eat a vegan diet these days. But as I mentioned above, while processed vegan foods are nice to have, they are not always the healthiest or the cheapest option.
If your health and budget are important to you then it’s important to make it a priority to set aside a little time daily or weekly to do some vegan meal prep. You don’t have to be a professional chef to be able to make delicious and easy vegan meals. It DOES take planning and practice.
But I promise you, once you find a few recipes you like, you can get into a routine where it seems like second nature. And you don’t have to make everything from scratch either. With a little strategy, you can put together whole-food, plant-based meals that are super easy and tasty.
7. Giving up on your vegan diet when you’re traveling or eating out with friends
My husband and I travelled to Italy for our wedding and honeymoon only 4 months after I went vegan. Everyone thought I was insane for avoiding the world-famous cheeses, meats and…gelato!
However, I kept an open mind and planned ahead and I enjoyed amazingly delicious Italian food everywhere we went!
It can definitely be challenging to stick with your vegan diet when you’re surrounded by friends and family who eat animal products – everything YOU used to eat. Not only do you want to stay true to your goals, a lot of times you also have to answer tons of questions and occasionally find yourself in the position of defending your dietary choices.
If you’re planning on traveling, going to a dinner party or just having a meal with non-vegan friends, it becomes even more important to plan ahead and be prepared. Be sure to download my free guide to eating out as a new vegan for tips on how to do that.
Have more questions? Please leave a comment below or share it in the Facebook group.