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Six Tips: How to Go Vegan or Vegetarian in 2009



It's a new year and if you or a loved one is looking to GO VEG in 2009, by experimenting with a vegan or vegetarian diet, this is the post for you! 



These are 6 tips to help you along your road to veggie living.

I recently read some advice, from Katie Molinaro of The Huffington Post, that I strongly disagree with. 

She says about embarking on a new veggie diet:


I think this is horrible advice. It can actually be very challenging for a veggie newbie to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.  It takes some solid nutrition know-how to avoid any nutrient deficiencies in our new veggie diet.
Iron, vitamin E, protein, calcium, vitamin D and the dreaded vitamin B12 must all be closely monitored in your new diet.

Here are a SIX TIPS to get you through a successful "GO VEG" year!
1. Choose New Protein Foods
When you are removing meat from your diet, you will need to be adding new protein-heavy foods. So here is a list of protein-rich, nutrient dense veggie foods. Choose a few and research them:Tempeh (recipe here)
Tofu
Seitan
Almond Butter
Soy, hemp or rice milk
Veggie Singles Cheese
Quinoa
Beans (soy, black, red, pinto, garbanzo)
Brown Rice
(Bean and rice combo makes a complete protein)
Spirulina"Fake" Meat Brands (Boca, VeggieDogs, Gardenburger, etc.)

2. Eat Your Favorites
The only way  you will ever stick to a veggie lifestyle is is you are eating foods that you like. So, take your five favorite meals and modify them to suit your new lifestyle. Use the protein rich foods from above to change out the meat items for veggie friendly items.

3. Get Your B12!
B12 is the hardest vitamin to get if you are going veg. Vegans have a most tricky time since most animal products contain b12, but few veggie sources exist. Here are a few ways to get your b12:
Take a vitamin. B12 vitamins are easy to take and easy to fine.
Eat these foods:
Spirulina! 
My favorite source of B12 is the natural kind,  aka spirulina.Add a few scoops to a smoothie and you are set!
Fortified foods: soy milk, cereal, vitamin waters: You can actually get your RDA of b12 from a quality fortified soy milk. Read the label and adjust your intake as needed.
Not going vegan? You can get b12 from dairy and egg products. 

4. Iron, vitamin E, vitamin D, protein, calcium and iodine oh my!
Look out for these nutrients when going veg! 
These are most likely going to be your trouble areas.
Vitamin E and iron:
Leafy greens are an excellent source of both. You can also purchase an iron skillet and cook your veggies in it to add a bit of iron the old-fashioned way.
Iodine: Iodine can be found in seaweed/kelp/sea vegetable products. Also, iodized salt. Non vegans can get iodine from yogurt, cow's milk, cheese and eggs. Strawberries even have a good amount of natural iodine in them! You can get 10% your RDA of iodine from a cup of strawberries.
Vitamin E: Eat your greens! If you are eating a few servings of dark leafy greens a day you will be fine.
Calcium: Calcium fortified soy milks are a great source of calcium. Read that label and don't skimp on purchasing a good fortified brand of soy milk. Silk, Eden Soy, VitaSoy, and even the 365 Whole Foods brands are great. Almond, rice and hemp milk are also available in fortified versions. Another great source of natural calcium? Greens!
It's true, broccoli and other greens are actually better sources of calcium than cow's milk.
Per 100 calorie servings check out these calcium amounts:
Cow's milk: 245 mg 
VS.
Arugula: 1,300 mg Watercress: 800 mg Spinach: 450 mg Broccoli: 387 mg

Vitamin D: Sunlight. Yes! Especially in winter, make sure you get some natural D from the sun. And again, fortified soymilk. 
Protein: See tip #1. Any of these foods will be highly concentrated in protein. Two Boca spicy chik'n burgers a day will give you 22 grams of protein. Add a few glasses of soy milk (maybe that soy chai at lunch and soy latte before work (around 6-11 grams each), and you are already at around 40 grams of protein.
Protein Needs:
People always ask me where I get my protein. Tempeh, grains, veggies, tofu, seitan, hemp, soy, rice, pea and more are all amazing protein sources. I like around 50 grams of protein a day, but your needs will vary depending on your lifestyle, age and body type/structure.
5. Stock Up o the Right Tools: Books, Vitamins, Menus/Dining Options
MENUS/DINING: Google vegan, dining and the name of your town. You should have at least a few vegan/veggie friendly dining options in your town. Get a copy of a few of these menus and do a taste test! 
Order that 'grilled seitan' dish and the 'fried tempeh' appetizer or try the 'tofu-pesto sandwich'. A great online resource is http://www.vegdining.com and also if you are in NYC, http://www.supervegan.com. A few of my favorite NYC dining options for a veggie diet:
Candle 79, Josie's, Blossom, Caravan of Dreams, Chipotle, Pure Food and Wine, Organic Avenue, Counter, Liquiteria, Earth Matters, Le Pain Quotidien, Spring Street Natural, Viva Herbal Pizzeria and even Starbucks for an easy bagel/almond butter/soy chai breakfast.BOOKS: Get a few good vegan/veggie lifestyle books to learn more. (I'll let you know when I finish writing my book...)  My long-time favorites are: Marilu Henner's "Total Health Makeover", Rebecca Woods, "Whole Foods Encyclopedia" and a great cookbook is "Veganomicon". For kids,  Marilu Henners "Healthy Kids" book is fabulous. I am even quoted in the college students life section-from way back in the college days. Yay.
VITAMINS: I would highly recommend taking a vegan friendly multivitamin supplement (pill or powder form), at least until you get used to your new diet. I like The Ultimate Meal Shake Mix by Ultimate Life. You can find it at Whole Foods. There are a plethora of vegan multi vitamin pill brands out there. Whole Foods also has a great selection. 

6. Take it One Day at a Time 
I get it. Going vegan/veggie is hard! A life without double cheeseburgers and bacon? Try a vegan version of your favorite meat recipe and you might be surprised... If you are in LA, NYC of SanFran,  definitely dine out at one of the top vegan restaurants and let a pro chef show you how its done. Trust me,  one seitan cutlet from Blossom in NYC and you will be forever changed. 
When I switched from vegetarian to vegan, I thought I couldn't do it. I was a major Frozen Yogurt addict. Big time.  
A life without cookies and cream fro-yo from The Big Chill in West LA? 
No way. Can't do it! 
But eventually I found that the benefits of my new dairy/meat/egg free diet outweighed the negatives. And I would never go back to my old ways again. Plus, there are some amazing soymilk frozen yogurts and soy creams out there.
...Soy Delicious brand Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough...yum...enough said.

So congrats on your attempt to go veg in 2009. If you need any more tips or advice simple add some comments and I will respond with a helpful and honest answer or even just some more encouragement.

PS...I know that a vegan diet is not for everyone. I wish it was, but I am a realist. I see how far our society is from fulling accepting veganism as the majority diet.
So I encourage anyone who thinks they can't give up animal products to at least try to eat more vegan-style foods as listed in tip #1. Cutting back on animal products will serve your body very well. You'll be eating less saturated fat and that is a very good thing. Animal products are the main culprit for saturated fat in a diet. And a diet high in saturated fats is correlated to heart disease and even cancer. And if you do occasionally eat meat,  always choose farms that treat their animals well,  grass-fed beef and cage free eggs..etc. Read a helpful post on this topic here.

Good luck in 2009. If you want to try some super foods and wellness tips, check them out in my posts below!
Top Ten Wellness Tips for 2009
Top Ten Superfoods for 2009





Vegan on Foodista

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