So you’ve decided to take the plunge into veganism. Whether it’s for your waistline and overall health, your skin or for ethical reasons, there are a few key things you need to know before turning completely green.

The transition isn’t always easy
I hate to be a spoilsport, but sometimes it is downright hard. You might feel hungry all the time. You might not know what to eat, so you skip meals. You might get bloated after eating a bowl of broccoli or one chickpea patty and then reach for something unhealthy or processed instead. Vegans who have transitioned from a high animal protein or paleo diet may experience sleepless nights or lethargy due to unstable glucose levels from a carbohydrate dense diet. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick it out and allow your body to regulate itself.

You need to prepare properly
In order for veganism to become a long-term lifestyle change, you need to prepare your house, your brain and your body accordingly. Clearing out the house is your first step – ditch or gift your non-vegan food options. FYI, there are quite a few foods that can slip under the vegan radar so make sure you check all ingredients. For example, some Red lollies contain an ingredient called Carmine (made from insects), Jelly and some soy yoghurts contain Gelatin (an additive made from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals), vegetable soups can often contain chicken stock and a lot of vitamins or capsules contain “gelatin” and “hydrolysed collagen protein”.

It is then time to start educating yourself. Read books by people who successfully lead a vegan lifestyle, or turn to YouTube for some vegan inspo from vloggers who post about their vegan lifestyle every week. Search google for delicious recipes that will keep you feeling full and prepare your fridge with vegan snacks so you’re never caught off guard and without plant-based fuel.

You can still have a life
There are vegan meal options out there! Look for the little (v) next to the menu options. Vietnamese, Indian and of course, All Real Food, is a great takeaway, on-the-go option when you’re not sure. Our self-service machines cater to all dietary requirements and contain vegan options; from vegan raw treats to superfood salads, vegan granola, chia pots and other breakfast options (see menu here).

Plant-based protein is essential at every meal
Learn your plant based proteins, and get them in at every meal. I’m talking quinoa, beans, nuts and seeds all day! If you struggle with IBS symptoms and find it difficult to digest beans and certain grains; turn to starchy, high protein vegetables, leafy greens and supplement your meals with plant-based protein powder (Amazonia have an amazing vegan protein powder with no refined or artificial sweeteners). You will feel fuller and more energized for it, and benefit from a reduction in a bunch of health-risks like cancer and heart disease.

Iron-rich foods are your friend
No one wants to be anaemic! It is not pleasant being exhausted 24/7. Ladies in particular are at risk of anaemia on a vegan diet. So if you’re feeling flat, consume an iron-rich cup of green leafy veggies. The body requires vitamins C to effectively absorb iron so we suggest combining iron rich leafy greens like spinach and kale with fresh lemon or orange juice to create your favourite green smoothie bowl. Top with granola, nut butter or fruit to create an iron rich, plant-based breakfast.

Getting your omega-3s isn’t easy
Inflammation can cause all sorts of issues, and a vegan diet can be very low in its natural enemy, omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll need to make sure you add in chia seeds, flaxseeds and even spirulina on a regular basis, especially if you have any kind of chronic condition.

Symptoms may only be short term
When you first eat a plant-based diet, you can experience a lot of symptoms – especially if you’re coming across from pure junk food or a high animal protein diet. Things like digestive upsets, skin breakouts, mood swings and changes in appetite and sleep patterns can be normal in the short term, so don’t stress unless they continue to cause issues.

Nobody likes an obnoxious vegan
Let’s keep this simple. Friend who shares information with others when asked to share an opinion or insight? Cool! Friend who shoves information down throats and tags all their friends in violent animal-cruelty videos? Not cool. Be a cool and respective vegan and understand that while it may be the right choice for you and your body, it may not be for everyone!

Seek professional guidance
You should always have a GP, nutritionist or naturopath along for the ride when it comes to veganism, just to make sure it’s making you healthier and not sicker. So make sure you let them know about your choice and keep an eye on your nutrient levels by listening to your body when it experiences certain symptoms, and getting a blood test and regular check ups if you’re not feeling like your usual self.

It may not be for you
At the end of the day, if you’re feeling sicker, more tired and generally blah no matter what superfoods and supplements you include, the lifestyle and diet may not be for you. Like cars require a certain type of fuel, some bodies require certain foods to thrive and run efficiently. If your engine isn’t built for a 100% plant based diet, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you initially adopted veganism for ethical reasons, there are still ethical choices you can make when shopping for your produce. Shop local, buy organic and make a conscious effort to understand where your produce has come from and how it has been treated  and make an ethical decision based on what is in front of you. If you can’t be vegan 100% of the time, trial an 70-80% vegan lifestyle and opt for quality over quantity. Pay more for quality, ethically sourced animal products and eat less of them. Create a lifestyle that works for you and supports your beliefs, but do not jeopardise your health in the process. We are all human and individual and what works for one person won’t always work for another. Make informed choices and your body and mind will thank you for it.

What do you wish someone shared with you when you first started transitioning to veganism? Let us know!

Nicola Inger – Health & Lifestyle blogger 
Nicola started her health food odyssey in 2015 when she realised her passion for nutrition, with an emphasis on full-fat, sugar-free  recipes and eating for your hormones. To date, she has used her blog and social media presence to launch a successful sugar-free, gluten free granola business, an eBook on eating for your hormones and an exclusive swimwear collection. Nicola has a background in Health Science (nutrition) and holds a Bachelor of Business majoring in Public Relations.