How to be vegan and healthy, loss weight and stick to the budget?  How to be vegan as a teenager or a pregnant woman?  There are all extremely valid questions which I will endeavor to answer on this page and throughout this entire Vegan blog.

Vegans and vegetarians are similar in that neither of them eats red meat (beef, pork, lamb, venison, etc.) or poultry (white meat chicken, turkey, quail, pheasant). But then they are also quite different because while vegetarians eat dairy products, eggs, honey, gelatin and some even eat fish, vegans eliminate all those entirely off their menus. However, the difference between vegans and vegetarians are not limited to culinary habits. On the one side of the spectrum, vegans are careful about avoiding all animal products in the clothing they wear, in the cosmetics and toiletries they use, in the household items they welcome into their homes, in the medications they ingest, etc. On the other side, vegetarians are usually nonchalant about incorporating fur, leather, wool, silk, down, etc. into their daily lives.

So, what is vegan and how to be vegan remains to be addressed here and I shall immediately proceed with that task but I first want to impress upon you and all my other readers that veganism has in fact sprung out of vegetarianism. In fact, the term “vegan” was coined in 1944 by a British gentleman named Donald Watson who had been a member of the Leicester Vegetarian Society and saw a need to make a formal distinction between those who eat milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, eggs, etc. and those who do not.

People are motivated to become vegan by countless factors but the most prevalent, in my opinion, are the desires to attain better health, the following of religious dogmas and the aspiration to reduce or eliminate the suffering of other beings. At the end of the day however, what drives individuals to veganism can vary greatly but once they take the first few steps, the path becomes quite narrow. To make that crossing over from animal-based meals to plant-based ones a bit easier, here are a few suggestions:

a. Start out by shopping in health food stores or where vegan products are readily available and where there are plenty of delicious substitutes for conventional non-vegan products. Be sure to check out the vegan “meats,” vegan “cheeses,” vegan “yogurts,” vegan “milks,” etc.

b. Make an effort to purchase organic products, especially produce. Otherwise you might be ingesting animal byproducts that have been processed for coating the outer skins of apples, pears, plums, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc. If and when acquiring organic is not an option, be sure to scrub your fruits and vegetables with a firm brush doused in soapy water and then to also peel them before eating.

c. Have your first vegan meals at home because that is where you will have most of the control over the ingredients that go into the dishes you prepare. I have been a strict vegan for over four decades and I still prefer eating my own cooking because that is the only time I can be 100% sure of what goes into my meals.

Now, that does not mean that eating out is never an option. There are plenty of good vegan restaurants that are trustworthy. But when I get invited by non-vegan friends to dine at their homes, I usually bring a few vegan dishes for myself and anyone else who wishes to taste them as well. On rare occasions I am asked to meet meat-eating friends or colleagues at conventional restaurants at which times I usually just order herbal tea. “Is that hard?” you might ask. No, compromising the principles about which I am so passionate would be much harder. “Don’t the others mind when you eat nothing”? No, they respect my lifestyle as I do theirs.

d. Read labels of store bought packaged food items very carefully because they may be quite deceptive. For instance, a “Soy Cheese Alternative” may still contain animal byproducts such as casein which is a milk protein derived from cows. The same may apply to “Non-Dairy” items. The word “Natural” looks very appealing on a label but it by no means guarantees that the product in question is vegan and solely consisting of plant-based ingredients.

My rules of thumb have always been simple:

  • If I am not familiar with an ingredient, I will not but the products.
  • If the product in question does not prominently display the words “Vegan” and/or “Parve” on the packaging, I will walk away from the product. And, by the way, “Parve” on its own does not guarantee that the product is vegan because eggs are considered “Parve.”
  •   I usually reject products that come with very long lists of ingredients because that also indicates that they have probably been processed more extensively than necessary and doused with too many additives.

Many studies have shown that vegan diets consisting of a good balance of organic vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds, pulses, etc. provide sufficient folic acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, omega-6 fatty acids, carbohydrates and dietary fibers. However, there are a few nutritional essentials which are easy to miss while sustaining a restrictive vegan diet. So, I always advise new vegans to pay close attention when planning their daily intake of food because that will prevent unhealthy deficiencies:

  • Protein. Meat-eaters get their protein from the flesh of animals they eat. Vegans can acquire their proteins from nuts, soy and beans, whole grains.
  • Calcium. Most people acquire their calcium from dairy products but vegans can find that all important mineral in leafy green vegetables and tofu.
  •   Iron. For vegans who are limited to eating plant-based foods, iron is most abundant in molasses as well as a variety of beans and seeds, tofu, whole grains, etc.
  •   Iodine. Besides iodized salt, vegans can get their iodine from Jerusalem artichokes, spinach, potatoes, fennel and hyssop.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids. While vegetarians and meat eaters derive most of their omega 3 fatty acids from fish, vegans can derive them from seeds (flax, hemp, pumpkin), walnuts and marine algae.
  • Vitamin B2. Also known as riboflavin, vitamin B2 can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegatables.
  •  Vitamin B12. This is most common in animal products but can also be found in yeast and plant algae.
  • Vitamin D. This crucially important vitamin can be acquired by exposure to sunlight as well as by eating mushrooms that had been exposed to UVB rays from the sun or other artificial means.

With intuitive foresight, healthy measure of tenacity and the willingness to study reliable sources on how to be vegan, as well as a good measure of focused planning; transitioning into veganism and the vegan lifestyle should not at all be too difficult for any individual. Where there is a will there is a way!

For added information about how to be vegan, please consider reading my most recently published ebook about being vegan, which is now available for easy download to your Kindle, iPad or PC.

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