Vegan Pros and Cons: 8 Truths You Should Know

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Going vegan can be hard and there are some vegan pros and cons you need to consider before you make the transition.

I was vegan for 6+ years.  Then I moved to Serbia, which is really the land of meat and cheese with an occasional tomato or pepper thrown into the mix.  Last year, I was considering going vegan again but presented the problem of how much more it would cost me.  Soy milk here is as much as 5 times more expensive than cow milk.  To get it, I’d have to ride a bus 30 minutes (one direction) and then walk another 15 minutes to get to the health food store.  And I’d have to do that with a 2-year old child in tow.

How did vegan advocates respond to my dilemma? One obnoxious girl in a vegan forum bombarded me with hateful emails about how veganism isn’t expensive because “beans are cheap and available everywhere”.  I got told I was a slave owner because I bought eggs from the backyard chickens of my neighbor.  Needless to say, I did NOT feel encouragement or support to go vegan.

A year later, I finally did decide to go vegan again.  What got me to take the transition?  Was it all of the guilt trips?  Did I decide to opt for the cheap bean-intensive diet that the girl recommended?  No.  The reason I got the courage to go vegan again was because someone finally admitted that going vegan can be hard. Before I share with you the Vegan Pros and Cons, here are the 8 truths before starting this lifestyle:

1. Telling People that Going Vegan is Easy is NOT Going to Help

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You will make a bigger ripple if you are honest about the challenges of going vegan

The internet is full of all sorts of information saying how easy it is to go vegan these days.  They cite facts like “there are lots of meat and cheese alternatives available in stores”, “more restaurants are offering vegan options” and “grains and legumes are cheaper than meat.”   This might be true (even in places like Serbia), but it doesn’t mean that going vegan is easy for everyone.

The people who really helped me transition to veganism were the ones who freely discussed all of the challenges they face on a daily basis as vegans.  They talked about how much more they spend on food (followed by some tips on how to keep those costs down).  They laughed about how their relatives still think they are in a cult (with a hint of sadness beneath the laughter).  They talked about how hard it is to go to a birthday party and be the only one not eating the cake.

Yes, veganism DOES get easier. But saying that it is “easy” is just going to make it harder for people transitioning. 

So, please, the next time someone says they want to go vegan but are worried, don’t offer up statistics about all the benefits of veganism or some facts about animal cruelty.  Instead, tell them the truth:

2. Going vegan probably WILL cost you more

But it doesn’t have to.  Once you get the hang of soaking beans and legumes, cooking in bulk, and how to incorporate cheaper substitutions into your recipes, you might even find that going veganism is cheaper.  The reality unfortunately is that meat is heavily subsidized (so you are paying for it with your taxes) so you probably will spend a lot more on groceries.

3. You WILL feel lonely and outcast sometimes

But you will also be amazed at the support you get from unlikely places.  You will also realize who you true friends are.  After all, do you really want to be friends with someone who mocks your decision not to eat animals?

4. You probably WILL miss cheese

But you will probably find some other favorite foods too. And since cheese is so expensive, you’ll save some money towards vegan treats but eliminating this from your budget.

5. You MIGHT have health problems like nutrient deficiencies or feeling lethargic

But, with proper planning, veganism can also be very good for your health.  If done right (meaning you take a B12 supplement, watch your calcium and iron intake, and avoid junk foods in favor of fresh foods), you can look forward to health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, lower rates of erectile dysfunction for men, and even improved mental health.

6. You probably WILL have to spend a lot more time cooking

But you will probably learn to love it, or at least get some health benefits from eating fresh foods instead of fast food and frozen dinners.

7. Going out to eat WILL probably stop being fun when your only choices are potatoes, grilled vegetables or a wrap

But you will probably start attending some great vegan potlucks instead.  And you will probably try all sorts of new ethnic foods which just so happen to be vegan, like that great Ethiopian restaurant and the fantastic vegan dahl at that Indian place.

8. Going vegan WILL feel inconvenient at times

But you will be rewarded for this with the feeling of doing the right thing.

Two Ways of Going Vegan

There are two ways that people generally go vegan and its Vegan Pros and Cons: gradually or starting small.  Both methods can work well, but there are some vegan pros and cons of each to consider before you make the transition.

Vegan Pros and Cons: Gradual Way

Pros:

  • Less pressure: You don’t have to make a big announcement saying that you are veg, so there is less pressure.  This might also be a downside too depending on your personality.
  • One change at a time is doable: If you aren’t the type who does well with change, taking baby steps towards veganism (like first cutting out beef, then chicken, then milk, etc) means you are less likely to suddenly hyperventilate when you go to supermarket and are overwhelmed by all the things you can’t eat.
  • Gives you time to learn new recipes: I usually recommend that new vegans try at least one new recipe per week.  Over time, they gather up all sorts of new recipes to replace their old meat dishes. Check out these best vegan cookbooks.
  • You are less likely to miss the foods you “gave up”: Actually, you might not even feel like you gave up anything because you are slowly filling in the gaps with new, exciting foods.
  • You are less likely to have health problems: vegan nutrition isn’t rocket science, but it can be difficult to be a healthy vegan if you aren’t used to doing things like putting greens in your tortillas.  By starting small approach, you will give yourself more time to figure out the nutrition aspect so you don’t suffer from deficiencies in iron, calcium, or B12.  Because, if you feel like crap on the vegan diet, you probably won’t stick with it.

Cons:

  • You won’t realize how much good it is doing your body: If you are eating a lot of meat and dairy, you probably feel sluggish all of the time.   By switching to a healthy vegan diet which is rich in fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and plant proteins, you can do wonders for your body.  You might not realize how much good the vegan diet is doing you if the change comes gradually.
  • You can become complacent: You might get lazy and put off the big changes you need to make because you already feel like you made some progress.
  • It can be a very long road! You’ll be battling with a long, drawn-out process of giving up foods and coping with new social situations instead of getting it over all at once.

Vegan Pros and Cons: Cold Turkey

Pros:

  • You are full of adrenaline: Making changes is scary, but it is exciting too!  Take advantage of the surge of adrenaline that comes from the decision to go vegan.  You will feel happy and in control.  By the time the adrenaline rush wears off, you will be 100% vegan.
  • It is faster: After the initial shock of the switching to vegan wore off, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore.  This is a lot less willpower than having to carefully remove one item of animal food from your diet weekly, monthly, or whatever.
  • There’s no wiggle room, so you are more likely to stick to it: I am an all-or-nothing type of girl.  By putting all animal products off limits, I was more likely to stick to it.  For example, let’s say I decided to take the gradual approach and cut eggs but not cheese from my diet. If a friend invited me to dinner and served eggs, I’d probably eat them “just this once” because “I’m still eating cheese anyway.” Well, just this once usually turns into twice, trice…
  • It’s less confusing for friends: When you try to go vegan gradually, it is pretty confusing for the people around you.  One day you are eating chicken but not beef.  Then the next time you come over for dinner you aren’t eating chicken anymore but say fish is okay.  On the next visit, fish is off limits but you say you will eat eggs.  Good luck getting support from family when they can’t understand what your latest diet rules are!
  • You are accountable: Once you tell your friends and family that you are now vegan, you are being held accountable.  I don’t know about you, but this alone is a big motivation to stick to something!

Cons:

  • It is a big shock: When that adrenaline wears off, you might find that you haven’t completely adjusted.
  • You must give up your favorite foods all at once: You suddenly realize that you can never eat cheese again, and those cashew cheese recipes seem really confusing.
  • In a moment of weakness, you give in to your cravings: Feeling defeated due to your all-or-nothing mentality, you throw in the towel completely instead of giving it another go.
  • Grocery-shopping and cooking chaos: Your stockpile of vegan groceries runs out and you realize you have no clue what you want to eat this week and how to shop for it.

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Water and balsamic vinegar by Jo Christian Oterhals
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Diane Vukovic

Diane Vukovic is a vegan mom, health nut, and kitchen diva. When she's not deducing veggie nutritional facts, she's probably dancing crazily with her daughter or traveling somewhere in Europe.