10 Tips for New Vegans from a Registered Dietitian
Here you’ll find 10 tips for new vegans from a plant-based registered dietitian. Are you new to a vegan diet or just considering making the change? These tips could help you adopt a vegan diet in a sustainable and realistic way.
There’s a lot to learn when making the switch to a vegan diet, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. With some learning and preparation, a vegan diet can be exciting and sustainable long-term.
Here are my top tips for new vegans:
Take Your Supplements
As a dietitian, I prefer to focus on getting nutrients from food when possible. That being said, there are times when supplements are necessary or helpful. On a vegan diet, the one supplement you should be taking is vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12: You can get vitamin B12 from fortified foods, such as nutritional yeast or plant-based milk, but a supplement can be easier and more reliable. Take at least 2500mcg once per week for maintenance OR 1000mcg 2-3 times per week OR 25-200mcg daily. It’s best to talk to a dietitian as individual needs may differ and you may need more if you haven’t been taking a supplement for a while.
Other supplements that you can consider:
- Vitamin D: If you’re in the northern hemisphere.
- Omega-3: You can get plant-based omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by eating ground flax seeds, flax oil, chia seeds, walnuts and hemp hearts regularly. An EPA/DHA algae supplement can be helpful and can ensure that you’re getting what you need.
- Iodine: Make sure you’re using iodized salt, but it’s safer to take a supplement as our salt intake can vary.
- Iron: This is only recommended if you have a known or suspected iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia. You should be getting blood work done regularly to check your iron and B12 levels. Talk to your doctor and/or dietitian if you suspect an iron deficiency.
Instead of taking these supplements individually, it can be convenient to take a multivitamin with vitamin D, calcium and iodine to ensure you’re getting what you need.
Increase Your Fiber Intake Gradually
A vegan diet is generally higher in fiber than an omnivore diet. Why? Because fiber comes from plants! When you substitute meat with plant-based proteins, such as beans, nuts and seeds, you’ll automatically increase your fiber intake.
While fiber is great for our health and digestive system, it can cause discomfort if you’re not used to it. I often hear from clients that vegan meals make them bloated. This is normal, especially if you’re used to a low-fiber diet.
Instead of jumping right in, I recommend increasing your fiber intake gradually. Start with a small amount of beans and increase it with time. You can do the same with fruits, vegetables and whole grains (which should be a part of any diet). It’s also important to drink plenty of water when you eat more fiber. This will help reduce bloating and gas.
If you struggle with digestive issues, it can be best to get individualized help.
It’s difficult to meet your nutrient needs when you don’t eat enough. Make sure you’re filling up on nutritious foods and avoid calorie restrictions. If you’re restricting calories on a vegan diet or if you’re losing weight unintentionally, please talk to a dietitian.
Make Your Meals Filling and Satisfying
Are you still hungry after eating a vegan meal? Try these tips:
- Add fats! Don’t be afraid to use oil in your cooking. Add avocados, nuts and seeds for healthy fats. Fats help you absorb fat-soluble nutrients, plus they help you feel full after a meal.
- Have protein with every meal. Or most meals at least, you don’t need to aim for perfection. Protein can make a meal more filling and satisfying. This can include beans, lentils, tofu, meat alternatives, nuts, seeds and more.
- Enjoy carbs with your meals. Carbs make meals more satisfying and comforting, plus we use carbs for energy! Try to choose whole grains more often to get more fiber.
- Add flavor! It’s so important to enjoy our meals. Make sure that you add your favorite flavors to your meals to make them more satisfying. This can be done by adding sauces, condiments, spices, nutritional yeast or more!
Vegan diets don’t have to be high-carb, low-fat, raw, whole foods only. Try to limit restrictions as much as possible. A vegan diet can already be restrictive, you don’t need to make it seem more complicated. PLUS, these restrictions can make a vegan diet less sustainable long term and can increase your risks of nutrient deficiencies.
Also, if people associate veganism with eating only nutritious whole foods, they may not be inclined to try it. Instead, let’s make vegan diets realistic and exciting!
Try focusing on what you can add to your diet instead of what you can take away.
Add Fun Foods
Don’t be afraid to try vegan meat alternatives or new store-bought vegan products. Using these can make a vegan diet exciting and more sustainable long term. I’m not encouraging you to eat these at every meal, but they can absolutely be a part of a balanced healthy vegan diet. They keep your diet interesting! Plus, we all need quick meal options sometimes and meat alternatives or packaged meals can help.
And of course, desserts can be a part of a balanced vegan diet!
Try Different Recipes
Eating the same meals over and over can get boring for anyone. Buy some new vegan cookbooks, find some vegan food blogs or share recipes with friends. Keep it interesting!
My favorite vegan cookbooks: All three Oh She Glows cookbooks.
It’s also helpful to find vegan versions of your favorite foods, whether it’s store-bought or homemade. This could be your favorite comforting meals or childhood favorites.
You Don’t Have to be Perfect
You don’t have to be a “perfect” vegan. If doing the switch overnight feels right to you, then go ahead! However, this is not the only way. You can start with a vegetarian diet or you can start by eating a few vegan meals every week. There’s no right or wrong way to make the switch, as long as you’re making it sustainable and realistic for you.
If you jump all in and have the “all or nothing” mentality, there’s a bigger risk that you’ll give up your vegan diet. Instead, find a balance that works for you. Maybe that’s starting slowly. Maybe that’s allowing yourself to be flexible when you travel. In the end, more “imperfect” vegans will have a greater impact than just a few “perfect” vegans.
Don’t Do It For Weight Loss
Veganism is not a weight loss diet. Will you lose weight on a vegan diet? Maybe, maybe not. It shouldn’t be the goal. There are so many reasons to be vegan. Adopting a vegan diet to lose weight may be unsustainable long term. What happens if you don’t lose weight? Will you stop?
Talk to a Dietitian
Finally, if you have any questions or concerns, try talking to a dietitian. We can help you meet your nutrient needs, plan balanced meals and so much more. Everyone is different and getting individualized help from a dietitian can be very helpful.
Looking for dietitian support? Book a free 15-minute discovery call or an appointment with me here.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace individualized nutrition or medical advice.