Vegan Wonder

Conquer Cravings and Stay on Track: Your Vegan Journey Made Easier

Embarking on a vegan lifestyle can be incredibly rewarding, both for your health and for the planet. But let’s be honest, it’s not all kale smoothies and ethical high fives. There will be times when you want to tear off that “Vegan” sticker, scoop up a handful of cheese puffs, and throw them at the smug face of some guy eating a turkey sandwich.

Welcome to Cravingsville. We’ve all been there. And while a bag of cheddar puffs may temporarily make your taste buds sing the national anthem, your vegan heart (and arteries) will thank you for resisting.

Understanding Cravings

Cravings are a tricky beast. They can be physical or emotional, and they can hit you like a wave, leaving you feeling powerless to resist.

The Science Behind Cravings

Cravings have both physiological and psychological components. Physiological cravings are driven by your body’s need for certain nutrients, while psychological cravings are triggered by our brains’ associations with specific foods and experiences.

Physiological Cravings

For vegans, these cravings often center around animal products. Your body may crave the iron in red meat, the calcium in milk, or the protein in eggs. And while it’s important to listen to your body, it’s equally important to give it the right kind of fuel.

Don’t worry, you won’t be doomed to a life of spinach salads and lentil soup. There are plenty of vegan-friendly sources of these nutrients. Spinach, of course, is high in iron, but you can also find iron in fortified cereals, lentils, and dark chocolate. And while milk may seem like a no-go, there are plenty of plant-based milks that are fortified with calcium, like soy milk and almond milk. Just make sure to read the labels.

But your body may crave more than just animal products. It’s also possible to crave processed and sugary foods. These cravings are more likely to be psychological in nature, but they can still wreak havoc on your health if you give in.

Psychological Cravings

These cravings can be harder to manage because they’re not tied to your body’s need for a specific nutrient. Instead, they’re linked to emotional states and environmental cues.

Are you stressed out at work? You might crave something sweet to take the edge off. Are you watching a movie and the characters are eating pizza? You might suddenly find yourself craving a slice, even though you’re not hungry.

Understanding the psychological drivers of cravings can help you manage them. So let’s talk about how to do that.

Strategies to Manage Cravings

The first step in managing cravings is to identify what’s triggering them.

Identifying Triggers

Are you feeling emotional? You might be more likely to crave something sweet or salty. Or maybe you’re just really freaking hungry. In that case, your body is sending a loud and clear message that it needs food, pronto.

Emotional Cravings

When you’re feeling emotional, you might be more likely to crave comfort foods. These can be anything from ice cream to potato chips to pizza. And while there’s nothing wrong with indulging in these foods from time to time, they can be high in fat, sugar, and sodium, and can wreak havoc on your health if you’re eating them regularly.

If you find yourself reaching for these types of foods when you’re feeling down, try to find other ways to soothe your emotions. Take a walk, listen to music, or call a friend. These activities won’t give you the same rush of pleasure that food might, but they can help you feel better in the long run.

Environmental Cravings

These cravings are triggered by your environment, rather than your emotions. You might suddenly crave pizza if you’re watching a movie where the characters are eating pizza, or you might crave ice cream if you walk by an ice cream shop.

One way to manage these cravings is to slow down and savor your food. Whether you’re eating at home or out at a restaurant, take your time and enjoy each bite. This can help your brain register that you’re full and satisfied, even if you’re not shoveling food into your mouth as quickly as you can.

Another way to manage these cravings is to recognize the difference between hunger and cravings. If you’re not sure whether you’re really hungry or if you just want something specific, take a few minutes to assess your hunger. Have you eaten recently? If so, you might just be experiencing a craving.

Satisfying Substitutes

Now that we’ve talked about how to identify your triggers, let’s talk about how to manage them. One of the best ways to do this is to find satisfying substitutes for the foods you’re craving.

If you’re craving something sweet, try a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. If you’re craving something salty, go for some hummus and veggies or a handful of whole grain crackers. If you’re craving something savory, make yourself a big salad with lots of veggies, some beans, and a delicious dressing.

These types of snacks are not only vegan-friendly, but they’re also nutrient-dense. That means they’ll give you the energy and nutrients your body needs without spiking your blood sugar or filling you up with empty calories.

If you’re craving cheese or meat, there are plenty of vegan-friendly alternatives. You can find vegan cheese at most grocery stores, and there are plenty of plant-based milks that can be used in place of dairy milk. For meat, there are a number of vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes, like tempeh, tofu, and seitan. Just make sure to read the labels and look for options that are low in sodium and added sugars.

Navigating Social Situations

Going out to eat or attending a party can be tough when you’re trying to stick to a plant-based diet. But with a little bit of planning, you can enjoy these social situations without falling off the vegan wagon.

Dining Out

Before you go out to eat, take a few minutes to look up the restaurant’s menu online. Many restaurants now offer vegan options, but it’s always a good idea to know what they are ahead of time. If you’re unsure about a specific dish, don’t be afraid to ask your server if it can be made vegan.

Many restaurants also offer vegetarian or vegan sections on their menus, so you might want to ask your server if they have one. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could try asking your server if they can make a vegan version of one of the non-vegan dishes on the menu. Some restaurants are more accommodating than others, but it never hurts to ask.

Gatherings and Celebrations

If you’re going to a gathering or celebration, your best bet is to bring your own vegan dishes. Not only will this ensure that you have something to eat, but it will also give other people an opportunity to try vegan food and see that it’s delicious.

If you’re attending a potluck or buffet-style event, consider bringing a vegan version of a classic dish that people are familiar with, like vegan chili or vegan lasagna. If you’re unsure about how the dish will be received, you could also consider bringing a vegan appetizer or dessert that people can snack on while they’re waiting for the main meal to be served.

But even with the best of intentions, you might still encounter some resistance or skepticism from other people. Don’t let this get you down. Just explain that you’re trying to make a change in your life and that you’d appreciate their support. And if all else fails, you can always fall back on your favorite line: “It’s not meat, it’s mysterious plant stuff. Try it!”

Maintaining Motivation

Sticking to a vegan diet can be tough, especially when you first start out. But with the right mindset, you can overcome any craving or slip-up.

The first step is to develop a vegan mindset. This means focusing on why you want to be vegan in the first place. Are you doing it for the animals? For the environment? For your health? Whatever your reason, make sure it’s a strong one. And when you’re feeling tempted or overwhelmed, remind yourself of that reason. It will help you stay motivated and on track.

Another important part of maintaining motivation is to celebrate your small victories. Did you make it through a dinner party without giving in to the siren song of cheese dip? Did you successfully order a vegan meal at a restaurant without embarrassing yourself? Did you cook a vegan meal that your family actually enjoyed? Whatever it is, take a moment to bask in the glory of your success. And then, get ready for the next challenge.

But even with the best of intentions and the strongest of willpower, you might still slip up. Maybe you gave in to the cheese dip after all. Or maybe you accidentally ordered a pizza with pepperoni on it. Whatever happened, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, identify what triggered your slip-up. Was it a specific food or situation? Once you know what triggered the slip-up, you can take steps to avoid it in the future.

If you found yourself face-first in a pile of cheese dip, try to find a satisfying substitute for the next time you’re at a gathering. Bring your own vegan dip to the next party or suggest that the host make a vegan option. And if you accidentally ordered a pizza with pepperoni, make sure to double-check the menu next time or ask your server if they can make a vegan pizza without it.

The important thing is to not let one slip-up derail your entire vegan journey. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. The key is to learn from them and move on.

Building a Sustainable Vegan Lifestyle

Now that you have a plan for managing cravings and staying motivated, it’s time to talk about how to build a sustainable vegan lifestyle. Because let’s be honest, a bag of hummus and carrots isn’t going to cut it forever.

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients you need is to plan your meals in advance. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours meal planning every week, but it does mean taking some time to think about what you’re going to eat and when. You can do this by making a list of vegan meals you like and then scheduling them into your week. This will help you avoid the trap of relying on the same few vegan foods over and over again.

Another tip for meal planning is to batch cook and meal prep. This doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire Sunday in the kitchen, but it does mean making extra food when you cook and then using it for future meals. For example, if you’re making chili for dinner, make a big pot and then use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or if you’re making stir-fry, make extra vegetables and use them in salads or wraps throughout the week.

One of the biggest challenges of going vegan is finding new recipes and ingredients. But with a little bit of effort, you can discover a whole world of delicious vegan foods.

Start by exploring vegan recipe sites and blogs. There are tons of great resources out there, from big name food blogs to small, niche sites. Try searching for recipes based on the types of foods you like or the cuisine you’re in the mood for. And don’t be afraid to experiment with new ingredients and techniques.

Another great way to find new vegan recipes is to follow vegan food bloggers and influencers on social media. Not only will they share delicious recipes, but they can also offer tips and tricks for cooking and meal planning. Plus, they often share vegan-friendly products and restaurant recommendations, which can be a lifesaver when you’re first starting out.

Finally, if you’re really struggling with cravings or need some extra support, consider reaching out to the vegan community. There are tons of online forums and social media groups where you can connect with other vegans and get advice and support. You can also look for local vegan meetups or events in your area. Not only is this a great way to meet like-minded people, but it can also help you stay motivated and on track.

If you’re really struggling with your vegan journey, you might want to consider reaching out to a vegan-friendly nutritionist or lifestyle coach. They can help you develop a personalized plan for managing cravings and staying motivated, and they can offer guidance and support every step of the way.