How to Look After Your Mental Health When You Go Vegan
Are you thinking of going vegan? Whether you want to give up animal products for environmental, health, or animals rights reasons, it’s important to ensure that the change to your lifestyle won’t negatively affect your mental health.
You should be particularly conscious if you’ve ever suffered from an eating disorder or mental health issue. These factors don’t mean you can’t go vegan – they just mean it’s even more important to take good care of yourself during what can feel like a big life change.
Be Sure That Going Vegan is Right For You
Before you go vegan, you should think carefully about why you want to do this and how it could affect you. If you’re planning to go vegan because you want to lose weight, do you think you’ll be able to plan your meals in a healthy way? If you want to go vegan to help the environment, will you stay motivated to stick to your new lifestyle? If you’re going vegan because you’re concerned about animal cruelty, will you find it difficult to talk to family and friends about your decision?
Make a list of all the reasons you want to go vegan, followed by all the concerns you have. Your list of reasons might include animal welfare, being more eco-friendly, and eating more fruit and vegetables. Your list of concerns could include things like not getting enough nutrients, struggling to eat out socially, or obsessing over meal plans. Once you’ve got a clear list of concerns, you’ll be able to work towards solutions, which should make your vegan journey easier and healthier.
Get Advice if You’ve Ever Suffered From an Eating Disorder
It’s quite common for eating disorder sufferers to go vegan in recovery, but it’s important to make sure that you’re making the choice for the right reasons. While veganism can be a completely healthy way to eat and live, it can also be a way to restrict calories.
If you’re in recovery from a disorder like anorexia, it’s important to discuss your decision with your care team. They’ll help you to plan a diet that gives you all the calories and nutrients you need and can also support you through the emotional aspects of the decision. In some cases, you might be advised not to go vegan right away, or to transition slowly. It’s important to be open and honest, and clear about your reasons for wanting to go vegan.
Decide How Quickly to Transition
Are you planning to cut all animal products out of your diet immediately? Or would you prefer to transition slowly? There’s no right or wrong answer, and what’s best for one person might not be right for another.
If you tend to struggle with change, slowly altering your diet might be best. You could start by going vegetarian, then gradually swap dairy products for vegan alternatives. On the other hand, if you’re really distressed by consuming animal products, putting together a plan that allows you to safely go vegan right away might be the best choice.
Put Together a Meal Plan
Once you’ve decided that going vegan is right for you, you’ll need to start thinking about what you’re going to eat. One of the biggest mistakes people make when newly vegan involves not eating enough food. If you’re used to eating meat and dairy, you probably get a lot of calories from a small amount of food. When you switched to a plant-based diet, you’ll need to eat larger plates of food to ensure you get all the energy you need. Failing to eat enough food can make you feel tired, depressed, and unmotivated, so it’s really important to plan meals that contain all your necessary calories for the day.
Planning your meals doesn’t just help ensure that you’re eating enough calories – it also helps you to feel more organized and less overwhelmed. Draw a table or make a spreadsheet with columns labeled, ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’, ‘Dinner’, and ‘Snacks’.
Fill in at least two weeks’ worth of ideas so that you won’t get bored of eating the same thing all the time. Be sure to include some vegan versions of your favorite comfort foods, or you might feel sad when you realize you can’t enjoy them.
Sticking to a routine is good for your mental health and wellbeing whether you’re vegan or not, so having a meal plan is always smart.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Cereal with non-dairy milk and dried fruit
- Mashed avocado on toast
- Scrambled tofu breakfast burritos
- Oats with almond milk and banana
- Vegan sausage sandwich
- Couscous and roasted vegetables
- Vegan cheese salad sandwich
- Tofu, stir-fried vegetables and rice
- Jacket potato with vegetable chili
- Pasta and mixed bean salad
- Lentil shepherd’s pie
- Vegan pizzas and salad
- Pasta bake with vegan cheese
- Chickpea curry and rice
- Tacos with vegan mince, salsa, and guacamole
- Peanut butter and apple slices
- Carrot sticks and houmous
- Oat energy balls
- Mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Tortilla chips and salsa
Make a healthy meal plan that you’re excited to follow and going vegan will be a lot easier on both your mental and physical health.
Make Sure You Take The Right Vitamins
It’s possible to get almost all the vitamins you need from a well-balanced vegan diet, but there are still some supplements you shouldn’t miss out on. Vitamin B12 is hard to get on a vegan diet unless you’re consuming lots of fortified products, like plant milk. Other vitamins aren’t impossible to get but might be worth supplementing if you’re not eating many foods that contain them.
When you’re deficient in B12, you can experience anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, and a decline in mental abilities. To avoid these symptoms, be sure to take a B12 supplement each day. Supplements are available in the form of tablets and sprays. Foods like vegan milk and cheese are sometimes supplemented with B12, but they’re unlikely to fulfill your daily requirements on their own.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause tiredness, depression, and problems with your memory. It can be hard to get enough vitamin D on a vegan diet, particularly if you don’t live in a very sunny location. Some mushrooms contain vitamin D, but the levels vary according to how they’re grown. Stay safe by taking a regular vitamin D supplement.
Omega-3 is important for brain health and can be difficult to get enough of when you’re vegan. It’s found in foods like linseed, hemp seed, and walnuts, and can also be purchased in supplements. By taking a supplement and including nuts and seeds in your diet, you should be well protected.
Speak to a Dietician for Personalized Advice
Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of going vegan? Worried that you won’t eat the right foods and could end up damaging your mental and physical health? Seeing a dietician for personalized advice and help with meal planning is a really good idea if you’re feeling like this.
They’ll be able to advise you on the healthiest way to change your diet and address any concerns you might have. If you don’t want to see a dietician in person, consider looking for an online nutritionist. You’ll get help and advice from the comfort of your own home and won’t have to spend a fortune.
Attend Vegan Events to Meet Like-Minded People
Have you tried chatting to friends and family about your new vegan lifestyle and been met with ridicule? Whether people are teasing you are just aren’t interested, being all alone on your vegan journey doesn’t feel good. Luckily, it’s easy to build a support system by attending vegan events in your local areas.
Most cities run everything from potlucks and cooking classes to days out and casual drinks nights, so you’re sure to find something that suits you. Meeting like-minded people will make you feel welcome and included, which is sure to be good for your mental health. Don’t worry if you don’t find the perfect group right away – it could take a few tries to find the right fit. If you’re nervous, ask a friend to come along with you – it might even pique their interest in veganism!
Ask Questions and Get Advice on Online Forums
Not keen on the idea of attending real-life events? Luckily, there are tons of supportive online forums relating to veganism. You’ll be able to connect with others, ask questions, get advice, and pick up handy tips and tricks. Joining a group for your local area is a great way to discover vegan restaurants and stores nearby, while general groups are a great place to make friends. Online forums are a great place to start if you’re nervous about attending events and want to chat to a few people first.
Going vegan is a great decision for the animals, the environment, and your health. However, making a big lifestyle change can impact your mental health, so it’s important to plan ahead and take good care of yourself. Follow the tips above to make sure your mental health remains a top priority during your vegan journey.