The Ultimate Guide to Going and Staying Plant-Based
My journey is a familiar one for many vegans, it evolved over time. I grew up with parents who ate meat and consumed dairy and eggs everyday. That was my early influence and I knew no better. I decided in my teens I did not like red meat and pork, simply because it was gross to me. But for the next three decades I continued to eat chicken, fish, and dairy.
Then, one day, I stopped ignoring the problems. The problem with consuming food not intended for me—dairy. I stopped ignoring the fact that our oceans are only a few decades away from collapsing. I stopped pretending chickens are unintelligent and lacking sentient emotions. I stopped making choices out of convenience.
I just stopped and then I started.
I started exploring alternatives, I started having more compassion, I started investigating and expanding my knowledge. I pulled the wool from over my eyes and realized that being vegan had constraints, but those constraints were beautiful.
Whether you are just starting or well into your journey, I’d like to share three things that I think will help you.
1. Be clear on why you are doing this.
There’s going to be haters. There’s going to be people who don’t get it and there’s going to be friends that just don’t know how to support you. That’s why you need to be crystal clear on your motivation. When you feel alone or unsupported you can immediately drill back down to your why—your beliefs. In my case, I’m committed because I want to live a life of non-harm. I believe animals, such as cows and pigs share all the same emotions we have including fear, love, and sadness. They suffer pain the same way we do I don’t want to harm any animal, even when it’s inconvenient for me.
One of my favourite resources for dealing with the constant barrage of anti-vegan arguments is César’s article, Responding To Every Anti-Vegan Argument. His article contains answers to the familiar, ‘but where do you get your protein from?’ to arguments like, ‘hundreds of thousands of people would lose their jobs if we stopped eating meat.’
2. Find a friend or an ally who is on the same journey, even if they are at a different point.
Join a Facebook or MeetUp group that focuses on plant-based lifestyles. But be sure not to allow yourself to create a filter bubble that turns you into a righteous vegan who forgets to also have compassion for other humans. You can also find vegan mentorship programs online, including PETA’s find a need help finding a vegan mentor program. Vegan22 has a good system that takes you through a 22 day challenge. The point here is to have someone in your corner.
3. Educate yourself on your health. You can’t live a healthy life on tofu and salad.
You need to understand what vitamins, minerals, and proteins you need to lead an active lifestyle. Read about B12, understand fat is not your enemy and which plants provide what vitamins and minerals. There is a small commitment here to educate yourself, but don’t be scared because even if you did no reading and you just ate whole foods, a wide assortment of vegetables, beans, quinoa, and some non-dairy yogurt with berries every day, you’d be fine. Trust me on this one.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. - Gandhi"
Why You Might Be Here
Every year 58 billion land animals and more than 20 billion sea animals are killed for human consumption. The majority of these are slaughtered while they are still babies, living a fraction of their natural life span.
Why You Want to Ditch the Dairy
Not that I like to compare one type of animal suffering to another, but I often feel that it would be better to be an animal that is raised and slaughtered than a dairy cow who is kept alive to be repeatedly impregnated and milked their entire life.
Cows in the dairy industry, arguably, live more miserable lives than cows raised for meat. This is because they are continuously abused throughout their lives for their milk and then killed.
Since cows only produce milk when they’re pregnant, the process begins with forced artificial insemination of cows. The farmers insert their arms into the sexual orifice of the cows and pump bull semen into them to impregnate them. This is a necessary step for milk production and occurs in small family farms all the way to factory farms.
Once the cow has a baby, two things may happen. If the baby is male, then he is no use for the farmers since he will never produce milk. Therefore, the baby is either killed at the farm, or sold to the veal industry for meat. If the baby is female, then she will have the same future as her mother and will go through several of cycles of emotional and physical abuse. In both cases, the mother is not allowed to stay too long with her baby, and cows tend to cry for days after their baby is stolen.
After about two or three milking cycles, the cow’s milk production becomes unprofitable, so the cow is killed. At this stage the cow is usually six years old. The natural lifespan of a cow is around twenty years.
This video is very educational and summarises the dairy industry in five minutes: Dairy Is Scary.
To learn more about the truth of dairy, download our Ultimate Guide.
"Aggressive marketing of the supposed virtues of milk-drinking results in confusion; people don’t know who to believe."
Why fish and seafood should be a food you only consumed in your past
Many of us aren’t as exposed to the impact of fish consumption on the environment as we are with land animals. But for those who already shy away from consuming animal products for environmental reasons, the global fish industry can’t be ignored.
Industrial fishing trawlers destroy everything in their path, including coral reefs and kelp forests, which are vital to ocean health and the sustainability of global fisheries. Bottom trawling involves dragging an enormous weighted net across the ocean floor, catching everything and discarding up to 90% as bycatch. Little wonder that bottom trawlers have been called the bulldozers of the ocean.
Trawling nets can also be dragged above the ocean floor, once again indiscriminately taking far more species than are desired. Long-line fishing, where a long main line (which can span over 30 miles, or 528 football fields) is strung out across the ocean connecting to a series of smaller lines with baited hooks, is also indiscriminate and destructive. Trawling and long-line fishers catch innumerable other species such as dolphins (a species that research suggests is self-aware), sea turtles, sharks, and others as ‘bycatch’ which are then discarded as waste. According to a 2009 study in Marine Policy, 40% of the global fisheries catch is bycatch, which is devastating for underwater ecosystems.
Add this to the acidifying effects of climate change and the pressures on global fisheries to feed a growing population, and scientists have bleak feelings about what the state of our oceans will be in the near future, with one influential study in the well-respected Science magazine suggesting that global fisheries will collapse around 2050.
To learn more about the how seafood impacts the environment and your health, download our Ultimate Guide.
Wait, what about eggs...eggs are OK, right?
There are two types of chickens that humans mass produce: laying hens (raised to lay eggs) and broilers (raised for their flesh). Ninety percent of the land animals killed each year for food are chickens, and it’s estimated the average North American consumes more than 60 lbs of chicken meat and over 200 eggs per year.
Here’s the worst part, naturally, laying hens would lay about 20 eggs per year, but farmed hens, who are descendants of the jungle fowl of Southeast Asia are fed a cocktail of vitamins and sometimes drugs that force them to lay as many as 300 eggs per year. Even on organic farms hens are fed food that increases their natural cycle so that they lay an insane number of eggs each year.
Free range simply means the chickens are not in cages, but most free range chickens are in a barn with 10,000 other chickens and no exposure to the outdoors. The parents of all egg laying hens are locked in breeding sheds and never see their offspring who are artificially hatched in incubators. As male chicks cannot lay eggs, they are killed the day they hatch (gassed, drowned, or ground alive). Laying hens are killed after 18 months, when they are no longer seen as profitable and used in pet foods or for chicken flavouring in foods.
This is all aside from the health issues...
To learn more about eggs, download our Ultimate Guide.
"Even on organic farms hens are fed food that increases their natural cycle so that they lay an insane number of eggs each year."
Protein, Calcium, and Iron
It’s the most common question vegans get:
“Where do your protein from?”
This immediately tells me that this person knows next to nothing about nutrition. I often reply with “I get my protein from the same place the animals you eat get it, plants.”
Every morning I have a shake and get nearly 40% of my needed protein using hemp protein, almond butter, and a few walnuts.
What the heck is protein anyway? If you’ve ever taken a high-school biology class, you may remember a little thing called ‘amino acids.’ Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and if you’ve ever stepped into a gym, you’re likely to hear the word ‘protein’ at least a hundred times.
Protein is basically just a huge string of 20 amino acids, all delicately formed to provide our bodies with support, energy, and sustenance. Fat and carbs do the same, just in different ways. Protein builds our muscles, fuels our brains, keeps our skin and hair healthy, and keeps our organs running properly. It triggers neurotransmitters in the brain to improve our moods, lower blood sugar, and even help us focus. Protein is an important nutrient, but you don’t need a tub of whey protein or a piece of chicken to get your fill.
Amino acids are prized as the source for everything from energy, recovery, muscle hypertrophy, fat loss, to strength gains. Since amino acids are so important for growth, and recovery, you’d think you already know everything there is to know about them, but unfortunately, amino acids and protein are actually misunderstood and commonly confused by vast amounts of would be experts everywhere and on every level.
Of the 20 amino acids in your body's proteins, nine are essential to your diet because your cells cannot manufacture them: they are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. But guess what? You can get them from plants.
Complete plant-based proteins do exist, and you don’t have to eat beans and rice together, or even at all, to obtain enough protein on a vegan diet. Plant-based foods are chock-full of protein, and if you’re concerned about the myth that these proteins aren’t “bio-available” or complete, just think back to where the animals everyone eats get their complete, bio-available proteins.
To learn more about protein, download our Ultimate Guide.
Building the Ultimate Vegan Pantry
Building a well thought out, well organized pantry is important for any home that wants to eat healthy and be creative with their meals. For a vegan, it’s an essential step.
I consider this to be the secret weapon in my pantry. Just 10 of these nuts have about 18g of good fat (monounsaturated), helping you to power through your day. Monounsaturated fats are pretty well known and accepted nowadays as healthy. There’s many studies that show the health benefits linked to these, including improved insulin resistance and better HDL/ LDL cholesterol levels. I use macadamia in my homemade bars, trail mix, and will throw 5-10 into a shake instead of pumpkin seeds.
The Brazil nut tree is among the largest of trees in the Amazon. It may live for 500 years or more and according to some authorities often reaches an age of 1,000 years. What more do you need to know to put this nut on your list. They are actually a seed contained in a pod, so they are technically not even a nut. In addition to being the best selenium food source in the world, Brazil nuts have zero cholesterol and a whopping 14g of protein in every 100g serving.
Flax a fibre crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world and is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. It’s a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin B1, and copper, and who doesn’t love copper? Keep in mind flax seeds need to be ground in order to be nutritionally functional. I put a few tablespoons of flax seeds into my oatmeal just a few minutes before it’s finished cooking, allowing them to open up, this way I don’t need to grind them. It also can be used as an egg replacement using the same technique as I reviewed under chia. And like many of the other items I have in my pantry high in protein, 31g per cup.
One cup has 58g of good fats, both poly- and monounsaturated and monounsaturated, that’s a huge dose of goodness that your body will love to burn. I love to roll my energy balls in sesame seeds to give them a bit of crunch. I sprinkle them on my tofu steaks and add them to salads. Lots of fibre and a greater protein to carbohydrate ratio when the fibre content is taken into consideration.
Grains and Flours
Wheat berries are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels that contain all three parts of the grain, including the germ, bran, and starchy endosperm. Only the hull, the inedible outer layer of the grain, has been removed. As a result, wheat berries retain all of the grain’s vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. They take much longer to cook than rice or quinoa, but it’s delicious, keeps well in the fridge for a week and like quinoa, makes a great salad topper or base for things like stir fry.
There’s a lot you can do with cornmeal and it’s a staple in my pantry. It’s one of my go-to ingredients for breading things I want to fry since it gets nice and crispy. I’m a big fan of polenta, so I use it to make both creamy polenta as a side dish or pour it into a pan after cooking so it forms into a cake, that can be cut up and eaten as cornbread.
It’s my base for shakes and I use it in baking. I only buy unsweetened as it’s completely unnecessary to buy sweetened nut milks. Every month there is a new entrant in the space. There’s now chickpea, flax and pea protein ‘milks’
I have both canned and dry beans. I almost always have canned chickpeas and navy beans and use them in salads, stews, chilis, and to make dips. The dry ones I like to sprout, along with lentils. Mung beans and adzuki beans are small and sprout within 2 days. Lentils and beans contain phytic acid, which can be difficult to digest. Sprouting neutralizes the phytic acid, which means more vitamins and minerals can be absorbed by your body as they’re digested. I highly recommend sprouting beans and lentils every week. They keep in the fridge for at least a week and are very versatile.
Oils and Spices
This is neither an oil or a spice, but I place it here because I use it like a spice, and one that I use everyday. It’s a deactivated yeast, usually a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It has a strong flavour that is best described as cheesy or creamy. I use it in soups, stir frys, and as a cheese substitute - it perfectly replaces parmesan in pesto. Best of all, only two table spoon provides 9g of complete protein, providing all nine amino acids the human body cannot produce. Nutritional yeasts do not contain B12 unless they are fortified with it, so I always ensure I’m buying one that is.
RAW APPLE CIDER, RED WINE, SHERRY, AND BALSAMIC VINEGARS Mostly for salad dressings, but I use a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar every morning in a warm glass of lemon water. Not only does it have an alkaline pH, it also supports intestinal health by controlling candida populations. Just keep in mind balsamic vinegar is high on the glycemic ingredients.
"Building a well thought out, well organized pantry is important for any home that wants to eat healthy and be creative with their meals. For a vegan, it’s an essential step."
Animal Flesh and Fluid Substitute Directory
One of the challenges with committing to a plant-based, harm free diet, is we only know what we’ve been brought up on. We bake with milk and eggs. We use chicken stock when making soups. We use honey to sweeten and ground meat for burgers. But with the right ingredients, a vegan diet can be as sumptuous as any other and much healthier. We’ve included a detailed section below to help take the mystery out of what to use as an alternative to the traditional non-vegan ingredient. We’ve listed both commercial products as well as recipes to make your own. Of course, we recommend making your own because it’s healthier and cheaper! A big thanks to Gina Sample of The Vegan Lab for assembling this section.
When first transitioning to a vegan diet, some feel the need to add fake animal products, such as fake meats and cheeses, to their meal plan. That’s fine if it helps you move away from the cows and remove saturated fats from your diet. But remember, many of these packaged items are highly processed and you may be better off without them. So please be aware and ALWAYS read the label for the list of ingredients.
Hidden Animal Sources - Most packaged products in our stores are well labelled to indicate whether or not they meet vegan requirements. However, it’s always good to check ingredient lists to ensure you know what you’re getting. Sometimes, foods you wouldn’t normally associate with animals contain their by-products.
Look out for:
Usually derived from by-products of the meat and leather industry, gelatin is often found in gummy bears, marshmallows, soups, sauces, and gel caps (think supplements). Vegan alternatives are sometimes available and are generally labelled.
Is often filtered through charred animal bones as part of the bleaching process. You can avoid this by looking for unbleached sugar products or ones that are labelled “vegan.”
Many canned and restaurant soups use chicken stock or broth as a base. Even miso soup often has a dashi broth, which is made using seaweed and bonito (a type of fish) flakes. Always check the ingredient list or ask the chef or server.
To learn more about substitutions and to see replacement guides, download our Ultimate Guide.
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Resources for Meal Delivery
Each week Green Zebra creates a new, plant-based, gluten-free menu with three Mains + three Sides. You can order the Large Plan or the Small Plan. Each meal consists of a larger main dish and a smaller, complementary side dish. The serving sizes are based on the meal plan size that you choose. Green Zebra also offers à la carte, if you prefer to create your own customized order or want to add to your meal plan, you can shop à la carte from their entire selection of products. There is a $50 minimum for à la carte orders.
Check out their delivery area.
Upbeet Foods is a Toronto based food delivery & catering service. Their website says the business was launched to deliver plant based delicious vegan and gluten-free meals right to your table. They go on to say, ‘our goal is to leave you feeling wholesome and energized, so you can invest your time in living positively.’
They deliver twice a week in order to get you the freshest meals possible. Check out their delivery area.
To discover more vegan food delivery options, download our Definitive Guide.
Cook Your Own Food
In our Definitive Guide, we list 40 harm-free, plant-based, incredibly nutritious, ridiculously tasty, easy to make recipes. Here are a few of our faves:
Spinach & Asparagus Quiche by plantbasedcityliving.com
A lot of people find being vegan challenging when it comes to finding brunch options. This quiche is a great choice for Sunday morning, but it’s also a great dinner option too! And if you’re looking for an easy meal to cook in advance for lunches, ding ding ding, this one’s a winner!
Packed with protein and healthy fats, this bowl keeps you going all morning long, and its subtle, earthy flavours and thick texture are the perfect base for loading on all kinds of toppings.
Ultimate 4-Layer Vegan Sandwich
Toasted sprouted grain bread is slathered with hummus and homemade sun-dried tomato hemp pesto all topped off with sliced avocado, tomato, and red pepper flakes. This is one vegan sandwich that you won't soon forget!
Glowing Green "Pasta" Primavera by ohsheglows.com
A fresh take on a lightened-up version of pasta primavera. Rather than using pasta, the recipe calls for fresh carrot pasta which is simply carrots that are julienned into very thin strand-like noodles
Vegan Rice Krispie Squares by plantbasedcityliving.com
Finally, a Vegan version of the much beloved childhood favorite - The Rice Krispie Square! They are simple and easy to make, you just need to know where to find the right ingredients ;)
Fail-Proof Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Buttercream by ohsheglows.com
Go-to, never-fail vegan cupcakes with a layer of salted buttercream and sprinkles for a festive twist.
To see our complete list of recipe's, download our Ultimate Guide.
If we haven't told you about our Ultimate Guide to Going and Staying Plant-Based, download it here with the rest of our guides;)