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How To Safely Transition To A Vegan Diet

Once thought to be exclusive to hippies and animal rights activists, veganism has become a mainstream diet that's extremely popular. The idea of being vegan means not consuming any meat, fish, dairy, or other animal by-products like honey. It's a strict diet that isn't easy to transition to — especially if you've been a meat eater prior to considering veganism. While it might not be easy, it can be done successfully if you give yourself enough patience, and do the right research on becoming vegan in a safe, healthy manner.

The biggest thing to remember when becoming vegan, according to Reader's Digest, is to go at the pace that works best for you. This could mean going from a meat eater's diet to pescatarian, or another version of vegetarianism if going vegan seems too harsh right now. In fact, becoming a vegetarian is a strong first step that can eventually lead to becoming a full-on vegan. You also don't need to make a big deal about changing your diet; if you don't want others to know, then simply don't tell anyone. That can take some pressure off worrying about what others think about this lifestyle change. After all, you're doing this for yourself — not for anyone else. If you want to be vegan for someone else, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons.

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When you do decide to practice veganism, you will need to keep your vitamin B12 and iron levels in check. Vitamin B12 is found in plants, but it's harder to absorb it than if you were relying on meat to get enough. Iron is also not as high in plants as it is in meat, making it difficult to consume enough on a vegan diet. If you have low levels of vitamin B12 or iron, this can cause tiredness, loss of appetite, and other health problems. To combat this, Health.com suggests taking supplements for both. This will raise your levels for both in an easy way. Bonus tip: if you do take an iron supplement, take it with something that's rich in vitamin C (i.e. orange juice) to help your body absorb iron faster.

The biggest concern any new vegan has is getting enough protein after cutting out meat and fish. One way to fix this is to ensure that you always include a protein-rich ingredient in every meal you eat- from breakfast to dinner. If you snack a lot, make sure they also contain a decent amount of protein. Foods such as lentils, beans, and quinoa are just some of the high-protein options to consume that will make up for what you lose from ditching meat and fish.

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If you're unsure of vegan-friendly meals, think back to your favorite recipes or meals that you ate before going vegan. You can easily swap out any offending ingredients out for its meatless counterparts. If you're quite the cook, you can look up easy or difficult vegan recipes (depending on your cooking skills) through Google or Pinterest. If you're actively losing or gaining weight—or you're someone who can't navigate their way inside a kitche—you can look for vegan meal plans. These will give you ideas for vegan-friendly meals that are also extremely healthy, all while fitting your calorie and macronutrient needs.

As with any diet, consult your doctor prior to making the commitment to veganism to ensure that you can get all the important vitamins and nutrients you need. This is more important if you're going from a meat eater's diet to a vegan one because it will be a shock to your body to make such a dramatic change. Your doctor can determine how you can become a vegan without negatively impacting your health overall. While becoming vegan is tricky and can seem like a daunting decision, it can be done with the right resources- and the right foods, of course.

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