Kelsey's Vegan Startup Kit (8 Necessities)

 Shopping for fresh vegetables at our local grocery store

Shopping for fresh vegetables at our local grocery store

If you’ve found this article because mayyyybe just 1% of you is curious what vegans need at the beginning of their meat-free journeys -- welcome!

If you’re reading this because you just closed out of Netflix after watching “What the Health?” or “Cowspiracy,” and want to know, “Where do I go from here?”  -- I’ve got you covered.

Or…

If you’re transitioning from vegetarian to vegan and are curious how to curb that cheese craving -- let’s chat.

You may be thinking about how to go vegan and stay vegan.  If that’s the case, it’s undeniable that you’ll need a few things to substitute what you’re used to eating with plant-based, cruelty-free options.

It’s okay if moving towards veganism is a slow, but steady endeavor for you; no one is forcing anything on you here.  The vegan community I believe in supports one another at any point of his or her journey towards a life free of animal products.  Most vegans, unless brought up vegan since birth, were non-vegan at one point or another.  Try to remember that.

It’s crucial for it to be less about the label of being vegan, the titles, categories and it to be more about educating the foundation and reasons behind it all.  Some people may call themselves vegans, but we can also go by lots of other things that represent what we stand for.  At the end of the day, we’re a community here moving towards a more compassionate world filled with self-love, sustainability and healthy living.  However you get there is up to you, but I’m here to help you take your first step.

This list of eight necessities for a new vegan is based on my personal experience and a bit of research.  I used to believe I had to give up mac ‘n’ cheese or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to do this vegan thing, which was a tough thing to wrap my head around.  But, my friends, fear not, you don’t have to give up anything that can’t be replaced with a plant-based alternative.

How AWESOME is that!?

Okay, enough chatter, let’s get to it!

1.     Vitamin B12

You may or may not know the importance of adding vitamin B12 to your supplement spread.  Vitamin B12 is crucial for most people, especially vegans, and it has a few important jobs for our bodies.  Some of its top duties are:

  • Assisting in the DNA production process
  • Helping to maintain healthy nerves and blood cells
  • Preventing megaloblastic anemia (a condition that decreases the amount of oxygen carried in your blood)
  • Contributing to a healthy brain and immune system

Vitamin B12 is an energy vitamin found organically in nature.  Historically, humans have gotten their supply through eating animals who have consumed it in nature or drinking from creeks and rivers themselves.  Present day, society's consumption of food has shifted with the introduction of mass food production and animals being raised in controlled environments.

A common misconception of vitamin B12 is that it is available in meat, poultry, eggs and other animal products because the animals humans would eat would absorb the vitamin naturally through grazing organically grown plants.  While this could be true with wild animals or free range farms, animals now, however, are not always raised as they used to be.  Nowadays, it is typical the animals humans consume have eaten manufactured feed and controlled food sources through their entire lives.

How to know if you're vitamin B12 deficient?  I was wondering myself so I did a bit of research.

If you are vitamin B12 deficient, some symptoms you could experience may be fatigue, forgetfulness, and/or depression.  If you take heart burn meds/acid blockers, you are over the age of 50, or you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be at a higher risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Taking vitamin B12 is crucial for vegans and honestly, most meat eaters, too.  I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, or a certified health coach, but every source I have checked states that without a doubt, vitamin B12 is imperative for a vegan lifestyle.

A quick caveat to add here is that it could be wise to head to your local doctor and get tested for any deficiencies your body may be experiencing.  Signs and symptoms of deficiencies may go undetected, so be sure to speak to a trusted medical care provider and see what s/he recommends.

SOURCE

2.     Nutritional Yeast

If you’re a big fan of cheese, nutritional yeast needs to go on the top of your shopping list.  Nutritional yeast is most comparable to parmesan cheese.  It’s a natural ingredient that makes vegan cheese, well…cheesy.

You can find it in almost every health food store and even in most mainstream grocery stores.  My boyfriend, Nick, and I have made vegan nacho cheese, Alfredo sauce, and mac 'n' cheese sauce with the assist from nutritional yeast. 

The best part about the gooey goodness of these said cheeses is that they don't leave you lactose intolerant homies with a stomach ache...or the possible worse options.  I would be devastated if someone said I couldn't make vegan cheeses, so definitely grab yourself some nutritional yeast.

3.     Cashews

Piggy backing on #2, cashews are a MUST for those of you trying to give up cheese, but those not willing to give up a comfort food that so many of us enjoy.  I 10000% don't blame you!  Life is too good to give up the tasty stuff.  We just like to remix it with more ethical ingredients. :)

Cashews can be used very diversely when making vegan creations.  They can be made into butters, sauces, cheeses, milks, and spreads, but also a raw handful can be a lifesaver when you need a quick snack or energy boost.

They can sometimes be a bit pricey depending on where you shop, but their vastness is unbeatable.  Buy a bag full and try out some recipes.  The beginning of anything comes with trial and error.  I'll just say, it's a huge error to leave cashews out of your vegan spread!  (Unless you're allergic to nuts, then scrap it!)

4.     Vegan chocolate

Where are my chocolate lovers out there!?  If you think going vegan means a life without chocolate, you are dead wrong.  It’s 2018 for pete’s sake!  If they can clone monkeys and sheep, they can certainly make chocolate without milk. 

Look for 100% cacao chocolate bars or nibs, they’re the most unprocessed form of chocolate.  Plus, they’re a iron-rich and magnesium-fuelled super food including antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamins.

You may also find that most organic chocolates do not contain milk or even traces of milk.  If you live in the States and have a Trader Joe's in your neighborhood, head over and get The Dark Chocolate Lovers chocolate bar!  They are so unbelievably tasty.

5.     Fresh fruits & veggies (organic!)

When shopping for your fruits and vegetables, in-season goods are the way to go!  Try to choose organic veggies and fruits to avoid those nasty chemicals and to ensure your nutrients are the freshest & crispiest possible.

Here is a seasonal fruit and vegetable chart from two of my favorite health gurus.  It should let you know when your favorite fruits and veg are best to buy:

 Source: Karina & Katrina's Love Your Body Series Vegan Edition

Source: Karina & Katrina's Love Your Body Series Vegan Edition

6.     Milk/dairy alternatives

 Our selection of non-dairy milks here in Queenstown, New Zealand

Our selection of non-dairy milks here in Queenstown, New Zealand

If you’re thinking coffee, tea, yoghurt, ice-cream, butter, cream cheese, etc. there are plenty of substitutes.  It may take you some time to find the ones you like, but there are tons to chose from.  Soy, almond, coconut, hazelnut, rice, oat, dairy-free milks are available at most grocery stores, even most coffee shops.

 Some are better than others...

Some are better than others...

Coconut ice cream and yoghurts are incredibly tasty and butters can be replaced with olive oil spreads.  Cream cheese tends to be pricey, but vegan alternatives do exist.  Do a bit of research about the shops in your area; it’s very likely you’ll be able to find a replacement for your previously consumed dairy products.

7.     Imitation meat

 Surprisingly good beef free chunks I bought locally made by  The Alternative Meat Co.

Surprisingly good beef free chunks I bought locally made by The Alternative Meat Co.

I know, it sounds weird.  Imitation meat…what is it even made of?  I was hesitant at first, too, but there are some crazy (even delicious) alternatives out there.  Imitation meat can nowadays be made into bacon, sausages, and even burger patties. 

There’s beef, chicken, and pork options and they’re scarily tasty.  A lot of them are made with soy, so be careful not to eat too much.  Consuming high levels of soy can impact female reproductive development and female fertility, but, like anything, eating it in moderation is fine.  (Source)

Try making some of your favorite recipes with a meat alternative and see how you feel afterwards.  I bet you’ll feel less sluggish and even have a hard time admitting it doesn’t taste good.  If you’re trying to make a big change in your life, such as going vegan, you’re going to have to be open-minded.  Plus, you can see it as a foodie adventure for your mouth!  Trying something new is always interesting.  You’ll regularly find that’s the case during your first year of being vegan.

8.     A vegan friend & community

If you’re trying the “vegan thing” for the first time or transitioning from vegetarian to vegan, you’ll need a support person.  When I finally chose to go vegan, I had watched enough documentaries and read enough books to turn me off from eating meat entirely, BUT I still needed someone to talk to about the journey.

Try to find someone you know who’s been a vegan for a while or someone who has recently taken on an animal-product-free lifestyle so you can chat about the ups and downs of it all.

Plus, it’s always cool to share articles, videos, stories, jokes, and comments with someone who will appreciate them instead of the with the people who judge you, don’t understand, or simply don’t care.  Most new endeavors are more fun to accomplish with friends than alone.  Find your tribe.

Well, there ya have it!  The eight things I needed to start off my voyage into veganity.

To be honest, I never truly felt like I was "giving up" anything when I decided to become vegan.  In fact, the view I used to have on the non-vegan foods I loved was completely changed for me when I eventually learned as much as I did about the reasons behind it all.  

Fortunately, there are tons and tons of products being created all the time from companies across the globe.  One of my favorite things about being vegan is experimenting with ingredients I had never used before and testing out new recipes and creating our own.

Be kind to yourself during this process and keep an open mind.  This is a big learning curve, so don't stress yourself out if changing everything at once seems like too much.  Eliminate and replace one thing per week if it will help you ease into it all.

If you feel I've missed something vital or if you have thoughts on what I've listed above, please leave a thoughtful message below.

You got this!

Kelsey PowellComment