Arthur Prelle How to Go VeganIt’s all the rage these days to forgo all animal products in favor of raw totally plant-based diets. Different from being a vegetarian, which still allows dieters to consume foods and goods that come from animals like eggs, honey, and wool, being vegan means abstaining from all animal products or byproducts, including but certainly not limited to sugars refined with animal fats, anything dairy-based, meat broth-based soups, and much more. Veganism has come into vogue lately as documentaries like Fed Up have explored the ugly underbelly of the food industry in the United States and turned up some stomach-turning truths about how foods are processed and manufactured.

The dawn of social media, particularly the likes of Instagram, has also made the community of raw, healthy eaters even more enticing both for the good of the environment and for the body. Naturally, given how much meat and other animal products Americans consume regularly, you may think it’s nearly impossible to be an American vegan, but a little bit of forethought can go a long way in making veganism an invaluable experience of mindful and healthful living. Here are some starting tips:

Load up on local veggies | Best diet practices indicate that even non-vegans should make vegetables the star of their meals. They’re less calorically dense and fill up a tummy on fibers and water so that there’s less room for unhealthful stuff like junk foods. As you meal prep and hunt on Pinterest for good recipes, always plan around your vegetables. Invest in spices, herbs, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars to add flavors from across the globe to your veggies of choice. Before you know it, your cravings for meat will be gone in favor of some flavorful greens!

Research Plant-based proteins | A major concern of those aspiring to veganism is how they’ll take in the appropriate amount of protein, given that the main sources of protein for Americans are meat- or egg-based. Rather than reaching for cheese or a hard-boiled egg when you need protein, opt for something in the bean, legume, or nut family. From soybeans to almonds, these foods are chock-full of proteins in that they have a lot of the nutrients needed to sprout into a full-grown plant someday. As you transition, ensure that there are beans spilling out all your cabinets.

Read the Labels | Unfortunately, shoppers are wont to conflate labels like “vegan” or “gluten-free” with “healthful,” and that’s not necessarily the case all the time. Packaged vegan foods can often be laden with extra fats that make them just as damaging to your arteries as non-vegan foods. Don’t let your guard down just because a food item claims to have no animal products in it. Continue to seek out vegetables above all else.

Get in your iron and B-12 | Dieticians warn vegans about some proteins that humans truly cannot get except through meat. Make sure that your new diet contains some precious metals and minerals. B-12, for example, helps our bodies break down foods, but we get it exclusively from meats. Humans’ main source of iron is usually red meats. You can usually be crafty about finding supplements or fortified cereals and nut milks that will help you reach your daily recommended dosage of these invaluable substances.