Have you ever wanted to try going vegan? According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, people who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle experience a number of health benefits, including reduced risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. On top of that, plant-based diets reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming and processing meat, while saving the lives of countless animals.
There are a few vegan must haves that can help anyone ease the transition to a meatless meal plan. A few basic tools and ingredients can make cooking easier, provide important nutrients like protein, and guide a burgeoning vegan diner toward plant-based menu items at restaurants. If you've ever wondered how to become vegan, these tips will empower you to overcome some common roadblocks.
Tofu: learn to love it. This soy-based protein contains 10 grams of protein in just half a cup, calculates the USDA. It is also rich in calcium.
This staple can be used in everything from stir-fries to egg-less breakfasts to even brownies. Its versatile nature and mild flavor is a perfect pairing for your favorite sauces. Tofu tacos, tofu smoothies, and tofu with broccoli are just a few ways to incorporate protein into your vegan diet. Tofu is also a key ingredient for quick, healthy 30-minute recipes any time of day (or night).
Soups, hummus, and sauces are just a few of the tasty plant-based recipes that you can make using a high-quality blender, but smoothies are what get my blender's motor running on a daily basis. Quick, healthy, and full of vitamins and nutrients, smoothies are great for breakfast, lunch, or a post-workout snack.
You'll want to stock up on bananas and avocados (more on this delicious vegan staple later!) to have a creamy base for just about any smoothie. Get started with Sher's gluten and dairy-free smoothie recipes—substitute maple syrup instead of honey to keep it vegan—and enjoy these filling and flavorful drinks today.
One of the hardest parts of adopting a vegan lifestyle is navigating menus when out to eat. Luckily, Spoon University has compiled a handy guide to plant-based eating at popular fast food restaurants and chains across the country. From veggie burgers to cheese-less pizzas to breakfast favorites, this handy list will empower you to go out for meals with friends without stressing about maintaining your vegan lifestyle. Zagat's online search tool also allows you to find nifty new meat-free dining establishments in your hometown or a city you're visiting.
One of the hardest ingredients to give up for many vegans—this writer included—is cheese. Finding a non-dairy alternative to use as a topping on everything from bean chili to cheese-less pizza to toast is key to success. Avocados are an ideal dairy substitute, as their creamy consistency and delicious flavor make you feel like you are having a treat rather than depriving yourself of something. And who doesn't love homemade guacamole?
Your Favorite Recipe, Veganized
Whether you have a sweet tooth or you prefer savory snacks, you are going to want to find a vegan alternative for your favorite recipes. Using ground cashews on top of plant-based pizza or pasta is a great way to trick your brain into thinking that you are enjoying Parmesan cheese. And most cocoa powders are vegan, so—with an adjustment or two—you can remain the chocoholic you've always been.
If you love baking, you can still make your favorite delights like vegan pie (try this roundup from the New York Times). Apple sauce or corn starch is an ideal alternative to eggs, and a variety of oils can be substituted for butter in cookies, cake, muffins, and more. Experiment with textures to see what works best. Who knows? You may even like the new version better. Besides imitating any beloved meaty, buttery foods, vegan cooking is all about discovering new and different favorites.
Plant-based living is healthy and environmentally friendly, but it should also be easy. Armed with a few vegan must haves, you can confidently begin the transition from omnivore to herbivore. And, when in doubt, you can always ask your online community for recommendations.
Share some of your vegan essentials with a #GoodMatters tweet!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It’s Good
Adopting a vegan lifestyle has been proven to benefit personal health as well as the environment, and with a few tips and techniques, going plant-based is easier than ever. From eating out to satisfying your sweet tooth, you can still indulge in your favorite foods while enjoying meatless meals.