Five years ago, the idea of veganism was one that many people had never pondered, or even heard of. Today, the vegan movement has gained an enormous amount of new members that are committed to maintaining a non-meat and non-dairy lifestyle.
The Vegetarian Resource Group defines a vegan as a person who “does not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans… do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.”
One of the key elements in transitioning into veganism is finding vegan alternatives to meat, fish, and dairy, that do not compromise the necessary levels of protein, iron, B12 and other necessary nutrients that come from consuming the foods that vegans are committed to omitting from their diet.
“You have to pay a little more attention to meeting the needs of your body,” Nutrition teacher and vegetarian Kristine Lockwood shares. “If you’re not eating any dairy you might need extra calcium. You have to make sure you’re meeting your amino acid needs, those are used to build proteins in your body.”
One thing to remember for those considering entering the world of veganism: it takes time. It may be easier on the mind to transition out of a diet including meat, to give yourself time to get used to life without meat and dairy, and to discover replacements for the lost nutrients.
“It’s fine to do it all at once as long as you have a plan,” Lockwood said. “It might be easier on your life to transition, that’s more of a mental thing of giving up [foods] that you like.”
SPFHS junior Shakir Philippe takes pride in maintaining a vegan lifestyle.
“I am vegan because it is the best lifestyle for me,” Philippe said. “I believe in coexisting with other living species nonviolently.”
Philippe did not make the decision to cut animal-produced products out of his life without inspiration.
“My dad was my biggest inspiration… he has been a vegetarian my whole life and always lived a healthy lifestyle.”
Aside from the food they eat, vegans do not use any products that require harming or extracting anything from animals, i.e. honey, fur, leather, skin, etc. Many vegans choose their lifestyle out of love and respect for all living creatures.
“I try to buy clothes that are made of organic cotton,” Philippe said. “When buying soap, shampoo, conditioner, perfume, makeup, or any other cosmetics, I make sure the product was not tested on animals and is made with natural organic ingredients.”
While cutting meat and dairy out of one’s diet can be a massive change, vegans tend to get creative with recipes to keep their diet from becoming dull.
Over the years, vegans have established a strong presence on YouTube, presenting their favorite vegan recipes, as well as makeup and clothing brands. They are also sources of sage advice for members of the vegan community, new and old alike.
YouTubers like Chary Jay, Eco-Vegan Gal and Sweet Potato Soul are constantly posting videos discussing the vegan food that they eat on an ordinary day, with segments called “What I Ate in a Day.” They also introduce delicious, beginner-friendly recipes. The Oh She Glows cookbook is also a vegan go-to, as it features more than 100 plant-based recipes.
Philippe has advice for those considering veganism.
“My best piece of advice would be to take it slow,” Philippe said.“When I began to go vegan, I went pescetarian first, then vegetarian, then finally vegan. However long it takes… [you] take it one step at a time.