What is a vegan?
the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in one’s diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.
a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather).
a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
My favorite definition is by The Vegan Society because it explains that veganism is a more than just a diet. Veganism is a lifestyle with its own unique set of values that encompass the diet. Many people get hung up on thinking that veganism is just a diet, and I was one those people. I transitioned to veganism selfishly to benefit my health, and I quickly learned the benefits of living cruelty-free. Vegans do not believe in harming or exploiting any living thing including everything from skincare products to entertainment venues like zoos and aquariums.
Why there aren’t more vegans
The Humane League Labs is a research project of The Humane League that carries out direct testing to improve vegan advocacy efforts. In April 2014, they conducted a study of 3,300 respondents concerning diet change and demographic characteristics of vegans, vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and omnivores. They found that 88% of vegetarians, 74% of semi-vegetarians and 54% of omnivores were willing to reduce animal product consumption. They also went into detail about why people who are willing to go vegetarian or vegan have not yet. Displayed below are the reasons coded and tabulated from free-form answers. In the box below the data are resources aimed directly at helping in those specific areas.
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.
There are many things in life that aren’t convenient, in general being a good man is not convenient, but it is worth it. This is the same for transitioning to veganism, except it is not as inconvenient as people think. Today being a vegan is easier than ever. Below is a simple 3 step guide on how to get started and you will quickly find that it is not that difficult at all.
I also wonder how is convenience measured? Changing your diet now is far more convenient than living with heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol or obesity later on in life. For more on that see the health tab.
Additionally, think about the animals. The small inconvenience of a vegan lifestyle pales in comparison to the detrimental impact on the animals that are exploited. Peta estimates that a vegan saves nearly 200 animals per year, to me that is well worth the small inconvenience you might encounter when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. I imagine myself looking at a poor baby pig who can think and feel, and telling it that its life is not worth a little extra effort on my part.
I am extremely fortunate that I don’t live with my parents, and my wife is a vegan. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. I read a lot of the comments in the survey, and I realized how hard it must be for people who would like to go vegan, but lack family support. I had issues in the past with my family and their lack of support for my lifestyle and it made it very hard. At the time, I did not handle it correctly, and it caused a lot of tension. I learned from my mistakes and realized that our families care about our health and well-being, but might have a hard time understanding our decision or properly expressing their concern. There are two things you can do right away to try and gain the support of your family.
Educate yourself. I cover this in detail below, but I wanted to mention it again as It will help you immensely with an unsupportive family. Think for a while about why you want to go vegan and the questions you might have. Your family will probably ask those same questions, so come up with answers beforehand. Be prepared to explain yourself and do it well. It’s all about direct communication, so once you are educated try this conversation:
I’d like to become a vegan. The vegan lifestyle appeals to me because (fill in the blank). I understand that you might have concerns about (fill in the blank), but I have conducted extensive research that proves you don’t have to worry because (fill in the blank). I am not trying to change anything about your way of living. This is something I am doing for myself (or the animals, health, etc). If you have concerns about me becoming a vegan, I would love to discuss them as they come up. I love you very much, and I need your support more than ever as I make this important transition in my life.
Lead by example. If we look sick, have no energy, and seem miserable about transitioning to veganism, we will have a hard time gaining the support of our families. On the other hand if we look fantastic, are always full of energy, and excited about our new lifestyle our families will not only support us, but they might follow our lead. Tell everyone how great you feel about living cruelty-free, you might be surprised at how they respond. Sometimes in a family you might run into people who are jealous of your success on your new lifestyle, don’t let that bother you and think of it as a compliment. I’ve found that whenever you try to better yourself at anything, you will find plenty of people ready to put you down.
Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.
-James W. Frick
A lot of people claim that being vegan is more expensive than a standard diet, and it isn’t. The high price of a vegan lifestyle is a common misconception. We also can’t put a price on good health because despite how rich we might be it means nothing without our health. Additionally, being unhealthy is extremely expensive, Peta points out that the average cost of artery bypass surgery is $3,714, and the average cost of coronary bypass surgery is $57,439.
In an attempt to eradicate the common misconception that being vegan is expensive, Rory Freedman took the food stamp challenge. She limited her weekly budget to $33, less than the amount people are provided under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
I focused on high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. I bought whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, carrots, kale, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, apples, mangoes, pears, nectarines, bananas, black beans, white beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, and organic peanut butter. I skipped indulgences like vegan ice cream, prepared items, and packaged foods. I made a list in advance and I didn’t make any impulse purchases at the store.
Plant based on a budget is also an amazing resource filled with tons of recipes, advice, and a great message.
What we’re trying to do at Plant Based on a Budget is to show how affordable, easy, and delicious eating a plant based diet can be, how you don’t have to shop at specialty grocery stores or restock your pantry with all kinds of unfamiliar products and substitutes, and, most of all, how you don’t have to sacrifice time, taste, or money in the pursuit of healthier, tastier eating.
More than anything, we think that everyone should be able to cook delicious, healthy food without spending a fortune. That’s the goal of this site: plant based, on a budget.
Another tremendously useful resource is Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day: A Game Plan for the Budget Conscious Cook by Ellen Jaffe Jones.
I’ve provided plenty of resources proving that being a vegan isn’t any more expensive than the standard American diet. If you still think you can’t afford it, you need to sit down and create a budget. Take a good hard look at where you spend your money and see what you can eliminate. Maybe you are paying $150 a month on cable, or $200 on alcohol, it’s time to analyze your priorities and invest in your health! You’ll be glad you did.
Could you look an animal in the eyes and say to it, ‘My appetite is more important than your suffering’?
I loved the taste of meat. I grew up eating lots of meat and enjoying it, so I understand how people can be apprehensive about a vegan diet lacking taste. I quickly learned that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Today you can make any of your favorite meals vegan with fantastic meat and dairy substitutes. Now it is easier than ever to create food that tastes great and is good for the environment. I often have people over my house or bring them vegan food from the local vegan bakeries, and they always rave about how delicious it is. I also recently got married to the woman of my dreams, and we had vegan food for our rehearsal dinner and our wedding. Many of the guests were complaining beforehand about how they weren’t interested in vegan food. All of them left completely satisfied telling me it was some of the best food they have ever had, and without a doubt the best food they’ve had at a wedding.
If you are a recovering meat lover like I was, look for brands like beyond meat who are revolutionizing meat substitutes. Beyond Meat has mastered the art of mock meat, and prove it with the beast burger.
The Beast Burger™ features 23g of protein, more omegas than salmon, contains calcium, antioxidants, B-6, B-12, C, D and E and also includes our Beyond Nutrient Blend™ which is specially formulated from all-natural ingredients to aid in muscle recovery for those days when you leave it all on the field, track, or road and a piece of chicken or boring burger just won’t cut it.
Beyond meat also provides an amazing description of what meat actually is on their website. It really got me thinking and excited for the future.
Meat is actually pretty simple: amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, trace minerals and water combined to give us that familiar chew, resistance, and variation. But what if we are able to take these same inputs from plants and combine them to look and feel just like animal meat? What you’d have is meat for the future. Meat from plants.
I first learned about Beyond Meat in an article by Outside Magazine titled This Top-Secret Food Will Change the Way You Eat. The article shares the inspirational story of Beyond Meat’s CEO Ethan Brown.
For a complete list of delicious substitute options like Beyond Meat check out PETA’s Favorite Vegan Substitutes.
Another thing to keep in mind on a vegan diet is that your taste buds change over time. You begin to appreciate healthy vegan food and the cravings for meat slowly subside. Furthermore, even if you absolutely don’t think vegan food tastes as good the standard American diet you have to ask if taste is really that important. Is something as simple as taste worth the harm it causes your body and the environment?
The New York Times published an amazing article A Chicken Without Guilt by Mark Bittman where he asks the question:
Would I rather eat cruelly raised, polluting, unhealthful chicken, or a plant product that’s nutritionally similar or superior, good enough to fool me and requires no antibiotics, cutting off of heads or other nasty things? Isn’t it preferable, at least some of the time, to eat plant products mixed with water that have been put through a thingamajiggy that spews out meatlike stuff, instead of eating those same plant products put into a chicken that does its biomechanical thing for the six weeks of its miserable existence, only to have its throat cut in the service of yielding barely distinguishable meat?
I also learned on veganfusion.com that the “Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), based in San Diego, is starting a new campaign of billboards to educate drivers and other passersby, in the quick moments they pass, with a hopefully lasting message about veganism.”
The image sends a clear message about taste being a poor reason for abandoning a vegan diet.
Where do you get your protein?
As a vegan there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear those dreaded words. I usually politely answer the question with my own question, “How much protein do you actually need?” This is a good place to start, and often people stumble on the answer. It’s different for everybody and the more you research the more you will find that nobody knows for sure. Let me preface this by saying I have no certification to advise on nutrition, but I aim for about 1 gram per pound of lean body mass. That is what works for me, many people recommend much less. If you want more specific information, I will leave that to the professionals in the resources section below.
My next follow up question after I am interrogated about my protein is “how much protein do you get a day?” Usually this results in more stumbling because most people have no idea unless they are tracking it. So then I quickly pull out my phone and show them my weekly average for protein over the past 7 days using cronometer.com. Here is my summary for the previous week.
I have about 150lbs of lean body mass and cronometer shows that I have averaged 159.8 grams of protein per day. It’s easy to prove that I am getting enough protein, which is one of the reasons I have been tracking everything I eat for a few years now. I am an aspiring bodybuilder so it allows me to see trends and changes in my diet for my different goals, and ensures I am getting all of my proper nutrients. If you are worried about any aspect of nutrition when transiting to a vegan diet, I highly recommend tracking your food. I use cronometer.com, but I also know a lot of people who use myfitnesspal.com. When you track your food, you take all of the guesswork out of the vegan diet.
Once you know how much protein you need and how to track it, you need to know how to fit it into your vegan diet. Vinchay Labs who promote an active lifestyle through innovation and education within the health and fitness space created an amazing image that shows some of the best plant-based protein sources.
Peta will actually send you a free “where do you get your protein” card.
When Friends Ask: Where Do You Get Your Protein? by Dr. John McDougall
Where does Torre “ThaVeganDread” Washington get his protein?! by bodybuilder Torre Washington. If you haven’t seen Torre Washington make sure you take a look to see what is possible on a vegan diet. You will be amazed.
Dietary Protein: How Much is Optimal for Muscle Gain? by bodybuilder Derek Tresize
Top 5 Time-Tested Vegan Proteins For Building Muscle by Thomas Tadlock
Vegan Athletes… How do you get your Protein? by bodybuilder Robert Cheeke
25 Delicious Vegan Sources of Protein (The Ultimate Guide!) by One Green Planet
Protein in the Vegan Diet by Reed Mangels The Vegetarian Resource Group
Vegetarian Protein Foods by No Meat Athlete
Protein—A Primer for Vegetarians by No Meat Athlete
Where Do You Get Your PROTEIN On A Vegan Diet? | Dr Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org by the Bite Size Vegan. This is an amazing video that everyone should see. Bite Size Vegan is a great resource and she will even give you a free e-book answering all of your vegan questions if you sign up for her mailing list.
Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein? by NutritionFacts.org
Slaying the Protein Myth by Rich Roll
“It is not your right—based on YOUR traditions, YOUR customs and YOUR habits—to deny animals THEIR freedom so you can harm them, enslave them and kill them. That’s not what rights are about. That’s injustice.”
– Gary Yourofsky
I could not understand at first how you could have an ethical opposition to the vegan diet. When I dug into the actual results of the survey, it made slightly more sense. One comment was:
I’m already ovo-lacto vegetarian. My local dairy delivers cow milk in glass bottles, which are then collected and reused. By contrast, milk of coconut, almond, or soy come in disposable cardboard boxes, promoting waste.
In my opinion, the small amount of waste more than makes up for the atrocities cows are subjected to on a dairy farm.
There were also several comments where people mentioned that they would like to reduce their meat consumption but were already supporting cruelty-free or cage-free options. I find this cruelty-free movement very interesting. I would love someone to tell me how we can keep animals captive and kill them for food without any cruelty. This is just an excuse people tell themselves to feel better about their choices, the only real cruelty-free option is being a vegan.
Bite Size Vegan did an amazing video on this subject called The Humane myth: Free-Range and Cruelty-Free.
Through her video, I found out about HumaneMyth.org a community of former farmers, animal rescuers, animal sanctuary founders, educators, and artists working to create a just and nonviolent future. The purpose of their website is to correct the misinformation that is associated with the Humane Myth, and to inspire a form of working for the peaceful transformation of our society that fully respects the inherent dignity and worth of animals and people alike. Below I included two slideshows from HumaneMyth.org detailing the myth of happy cows and cage-free eggs.
Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
There are various health concerns surrounding the vegan diet, and there is no way I could address them all, nor am I qualified to do so. I have two recommendations if you are concerned about your health on a vegan diet.
educate yourself. This is explained in detail below with important resources.
Try it, you have nothing to lose. I am the type of person who would much rather conduct an experiment than spend hours buried in research. I have lived as a meat eater and as a vegan, and I feel more healthy on a vegan diet. It’s pretty simple to me. I don’t need a bunch of data to prove that as a result of my vegan lifestyle I feel better and more healthy than I did when I ate meat. Whenever I get a physical examination, the doctors are amazed by my low cholesterol levels, I am hardly ever sick, I have low body fat, and I have tremendous amounts of energy. That’s good enough proof for me. Try being a vegan and pay attention to how you feel, it’s better than reading about it in a book.
The bite size vegan also created a must watch video highlighting the health aspects of veganism.
let’s start with a list of diseases from a diet rich in animal products: high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, various cancers, gall stones, coronary artery disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease and dementia. Vegans have a ridiculously lower incidence of these diseases.
She also specifically addresses us vegan men.
Now, for the men out there, I know you have to be thinking “well, I have to be manly and virile and so, I need to eat meat.” think about this: animal products are high in fat. Diets high in fat restrict blood flow in the body. Blood flow (think about it) is absolutely essential for your most manly of man organs – in other words, vegans do it harder and longer.
No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.
I would not consider myself a good cook, but it is still easy to be a vegan. Normally I have smoothies for breakfast, oatmeal for a snack, salad for lunch, a big dinner with rice or some pasta, and a protein shake before I go to bed. I try and keep it pretty simple. Every once in a while if I try and get fancy I pull out Thug Kitchen. Before I found Thug Kitchen I would never follow a recipe and pulling out a cookbook was out of the question, but this book is hysterical. I find myself giggling to myself as I go through the recipes. It is a cookbook made for a vegan man. (There is a lot of foul language so don’t read it if you are sensitive to that kind of thing.) The recipes are simple and easy to follow, they also don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients. I have followed their recipes to make food for my wife or to bring to parties and every time the food has been a hit. They also maintain a blog with a ton of amazingly easy recipes. Below you can see a sample from their book that I pulled from their website.
I am not going to spend too much time on diet as a reason to not go vegan because veganism isn’t a diet. Veganism is a lifestyle, a choice to live consciously, and cruelty-free. Whenever I hear the word diet, I feel that it has a connotation of restriction, and there is nothing restrictive about the vegan lifestyle. I choose to eat abundantly without causing harm to living animals. Diets also seem temporary, but veganism is a way of living that lasts a lifetime. The Vegetarian Resource Group created an amazing image that answers most of the questions regarding a vegan diet. Their website is also full of fantastic information so be sure to take a look at it. You can also see the health tab in this same section for similar information.
Being vegan is easy. Are there social pressures that encourage you to continue to eat, wear, and use animal products? Of course there are. But in a patriarchal, racist, homophobic, and ableist society, there are social pressures to participate and engage in sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism. At some point, you have to decide who you are and what matters morally to you. And once you decide that you regard victimizing vulnerable nonhumans is not morally acceptable, it is easy to go and stay vegan”
To live a vegan lifestyle we need to stand tall and sometimes stand alone. We need to be able to answer proudly for what we believe is right regardless of social pressure. To knowingly engage in an activity that is wrong because of social pressures shows clear weakness in character. Social pressure is the worst excuse of them all, stand strong, and be a vegan.