Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

There is a long list of reasons why people fail on a vegan diet and return to the world of cheese sandwiches and fish fillets. They might have developed overt deficiencies or vague symptoms of poor health. Some ex-vegans say that they experienced depression or foggy thinking or fatigue without animal foods. Others struggled with challenging social situations or with cravings for animal foods.

The following ideas for staying happy and healthy on a vegan diet are all things I’ve written about before, but I wanted to condense them into a sort of checklist for those who are struggling to stay vegan. It may not cover everything (let me know if there are things you think I should add) but I think it addresses the most common barriers related to nutrition, practical issues, and social support. So, if you find yourself wavering in your commitment to veganism, or feeling generally unwell, maybe one or more of the following will help.

1. Take depression-fighting supplements. A diet that is too low in vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, and DHA, (the long-chain omega-3 fat) could make existing depression worse, or possibly cause you to feel depressed even if you weren’t before. Suboptimal levels of some of these nutrients may affect concentration and produce vague aches, pains, and fatigue, too. Supplements/fortified foods are the only way to get vitamin B12 and DHA. If you don’t get adequate sun exposure to make vitamin D and are not using iodized salt, consider supplements of these nutrients, too.

2. Eat legumes. It’s true that vegans aren’t walking around with kwashiorkor, but it’s still possible to have a protein intake that is suboptimal—not enough to produce overt deficiency symptoms but enough to feel less than great. Although it’s extremely easy to meet protein needs on a vegan diet with minimal effort, some vegans who de-emphasize protein-rich foods could fall short, especially if they are restricting calorie intake. The key to meeting protein needs is to consume at least 3 servings of legumes (beans, peanuts, soyfoods) per day. Some people, especially those who are older, may feel better with more than this amount, though.

3. Get enough fat. Requirements for the essential omega-3 fat can fall short on very low-fat diets that eliminate all nuts and seeds, and eating too little fat may also compromise nutrient absorption. This is especially true if you tend to favor raw vegetables over cooked. Going from a fat-rich omnivore diet to a very low-fat vegan diet could leave new vegans feeling generally unsatisfied, too. You might feel tempted to add meat back to your diet when all you really need to do is add some healthy fats to meals.

4. Enhance iron absorption. Iron deficiency anemia is common among people eating all different types of diets. But when vegans develop it, it can be tempting to blame veganism and return to eating red meat. The best way to prevent it is to eat plenty of whole grains and legumes, along with good sources of vitamin C at meals (citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower, cabbage). Vitamin C dramatically improves iron absorption. And, the best way to cure a deficiency is with supplements, not meat.

5. Opt for slow carbs. All whole plant foods are good for you, but choosing foods with a low glycemic index most often can help prevent fluctuations in blood sugar if you’re susceptible to them. Choose sweet potatoes over white; breads made from grains that haven’t been ground into flour; oats, barley and quinoa instead of rice; and beans cooked from scratch rather than canned beans.

6. Add what’s missing. I wrote recently about umami as a tool of vegan activism. A preference for this flavor, which is abundant in certain animal foods, could be innate or due to very early conditioning. Add it to foods by cooking with marmite, nutritional yeast, sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, miso, wine, tamari, ripe tomatoes, ketchup, dried sea vegetables, balsamic vinegar, and sauerkraut. Roasting, grilling, and caramelizing all bring out the umami in foods, too.

7. Opt for convenience when/if you need to.  Convenience products like veggie meats, cheeses, and ice cream can help when time and cooking skills are issues—as they are for many Americans. Everyone’s circumstances are different and these foods may help some people stay vegan. The texture and familiar nature of veggie meats and cheeses can also add a sense of comfort to vegan meals.

8. Stay connected. I wrote last month about the value of mentors, but there are so many ways to stay connected with other vegans for support and resolve, especially through the internet. It’s important to find places that are welcoming and non-judgmental, especially if you’re struggling with veganism. One of the best is the forum at Post Punk Kitchen, where the discussion always seems respectful and informed. The Veggie Boards is another good place.

9. Stay up to date with good information. I’m extra picky about sources of vegan nutrition information because bad and inadequate information creates a risk that vegans will fail. This is my list of reliable resources on vegan nutrition.

10. Modulate your expectations. Eating more whole plant foods and fewer animal products is very likely to produce health benefits, especially for those who were eating more typical American fare beforehand. But, a vegan diet isn’t a promise that you’ll never experience any health problems or that you’ll get the body you’ve always wanted. If you expect it to do those things, you may end up being disappointed and might feel like a vegan diet “doesn’t work.” In fact, veganism always works. It will shrink your carbon footprint, and remove your contribution to some of the worst animal cruelty on earth. If those are your expectations, you’ll never be disappointed. Any health improvements you experience are nice fringe benefits.




  1. Natalie September 12, 2012 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I think you should do a post on vegan health/happiness for those with a bunch of allergies that might make it difficult (gluten, soy, nuts, etc.). I imagine that’s another cause of unhappy vegans. Definitely eliminates most (if not all) of those convenience foods.

    • Ginny Messina September 17, 2012 at 8:59 am - Reply

      Yes, I’ll try to address that. I know it adds another layer of restrictions that can make a vegan diet more challenging.

    • Sheri September 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      Hey, Im a soy and gluten free vegan and lots of things can be made without nuts. Heres my blog

      http://littlesistervegantastebuds.blogspot.ca its just an amateur student blog I made for fun and to help others get food making ideas.

      • Sheri September 19, 2012 at 8:33 am - Reply

        ps. I do not limit myself and I certainly don’t feel deprived, its just about proper research, creativity, and a different mind set that is outside of the box that the ‘animals as products industries’ lay out for us.

      • Patricia M. Gray March 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm - Reply

        Well, Monday I start an intolerance test. I go gluten-free; no soy, no peanuts, no dairy, no sugar or sugar substitutes,no corn, and no eggs. Some of these restrictions will be easy since I’m Vegan. But, the combination of these restrictions can pose a challenge since a lot of gluten-free foods have eggs, dairy,and/or soy. I noticed when shopping today that some bread items listed tapioca as an ingredient. I avoided these items because I was under the impression that tapioca was made with milk (a derivative of milk). Now, I see this ingredient listed on this site with a few foods. Could someone explain this to me. What or why is tapioca acceptable?

        • Melissa January 3, 2014 at 9:14 am - Reply

          Patricia, tapioca isn’t derived from milk. It’s the starch from cassava root, a completely vegetarian/vegan and gluten free food.

  2. Theveganscientist September 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    I buy tomato powder in 5lb cans for my umami fix. The powder creates flavor without adding water, so acts as a thickening agent in recipes.

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  4. Kristine September 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    This post comes at a great time for me – although I’m not at all feeling burnt out on being vegan, I’ve had a particularly rough day and have been super emotional/feeling down… and this just reminds me that there are a few things I could be doing to better take care of myself, including taking my supplements (I’ve slacked off on this) and also looking into a DHA supplement because so far I haven’t taken one. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Sarah (The Simple Dietitian) September 13, 2012 at 3:56 am - Reply

    Great list! I know that #7 has helped me tremendously. Although I’m not an “official” vegan (what does that even mean?) as of now, I do not eat any meat products and have cut back dramatically on dairy/eggs. Having “burgers” to bring over the family cookout and eating what everyone else is eating (in style, anyways), for example, really does help.

  6. Abby September 13, 2012 at 4:54 am - Reply

    It’s much easier to make excuses and justifications than it is to make changes and step outside a comfort zone. Whenever I come across a small stumbling block or feel tempted to make an excuse, I keep the fact that no animal should have to suffer because I’m feeling a little discomfort. I realize that ethics aren’t necessarily a part of everyone’s decision to follow a vegan diet and/or lifestyle, but knowing that my choices affect a much larger cause help me remember it’s not all about me.

    • Jan September 16, 2012 at 10:23 am - Reply

      I agree and would add that as an #11 to this kind of list: revisit the animal rights roots of your vegan conviction now and again. Visit an animal sanctuary, watch the undercover work that mercy for animals and others do or simply watch and read about the lives of individual animals.

      • Ginny Messina September 17, 2012 at 9:00 am - Reply

        I know, I had thought about that. Sometimes it really is helpful to remind ourselves why veganism matters. It can be hard to do, but it’s great for motivation.

  7. […] Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet | The … This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged and-social, are-struggling, condense-them, following-ideas, know-if-there, most-common, should-add, there-are, think-it-addresses, vegan-diet, your-commitment by admin. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  8. Tracy H. September 13, 2012 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Thank you for this, Ginny! It’s great that the vegan community has you looking out for us!

  9. MollyG September 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Love this. Particularly #10. I always feel bad telling people that veganism is healthy, but didn’t magically cure every health problem I’ve ever had. In fact, most of my health problems were greatly diminished over 5 years into my veganism when I started eating healthier with more whole foods and running/exercising 5 days a week. Now I’m a vegan superhero. But I always tell people, I went vegan for the health of the animals, my good health is just an added bonus.

  10. Matt September 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much, Ginny. The animals are so lucky to have you on their side — worried about making sure vegetarians and vegans are happy and healthy, rather than spending time trying to glorify a specific view of veganism.

    #7 and #10 are just so important — it is great that you remember it isn’t just about someone’s idea of “optimal” nutrition, but being a human in a broader society.

  11. michael September 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    1) Just took a look at the list for reliable vegan resources – I’m surprised not to see The China Study and Eat to Live

    2) On your point about protein and legumes – people can also meet their needs through whole grains – I think recommending 2 servings of legumes a day is a little aggressive for most people.

  12. Rob September 15, 2012 at 3:13 am - Reply

    I can’t really agree about using the forum on theppk site as a means of staying connected. The people there are better informed and have more intelligent conversations than many other vegan webboards I have seen. However, theppk forum is a vegan women’s coffee klatch. Men who aren’t gay or married to one of the regulars aren’t really welcome to express opinions without receiving hostility back, unless their opinion matches the prevailing consensus there.

  13. Christy September 15, 2012 at 4:56 am - Reply

    Such a good post. I wish I would have had your site when I first went vegan. I was vegan for 1.5 years and my health started falling apart. I had been gluten free, dairy free and egg free before becoming vegan (because of food allergies) and felt great. I had been working with a holistic MD so had tons of lab work done before becoming vegan and while vegan. 1.5 years into being vegan, I became hypothyroid, was experiencing adrenal fatigue, had the beginnings of insulin resistance. Labs indicated very low levels of iodine and iron storage, and I felt just miserable with no energy. With the exception of the iodine problem (bc I never had it tested before being vegan, the other labs were normal before I was vegan). I felt like I was eating a healthy vegan diet with very few convenience foods, lots of good fats through nuts, seeds, avocados, etc and had been taking a lot of supplements like b12, D, flax oil, etc. In retrospect, I was getting too many carbs through grains and probably not enough protein and not enough sea veggies.

    • Ginny Messina September 17, 2012 at 9:02 am - Reply

      It sounds like you’re doing better now. I’m glad you stuck with it and figured out what the problem was and what you needed to do.

  14. another_vegan_scientist September 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    “Supplements/fortified foods are the only way to get … DHA.”

    Since a significant fraction of the human population lacks a dietary source of DHA it is unlikely that DHA is an essential nutrient. Finally, I know of no evidence that vegans have increased risk of neurological or cognitive disorders due to DHA deficiency.

    In fact, a review of the literature by Barcelo-Coblijn and Murphy (2009) concluded that conversion of ALA is sufficient for maintenance of DHA levels. Moreover, Welch et al (2010) used data from the EPIC study to suggest that vegans may convert ALA to DHA more efficiently than non-vegans.

    • Ginny Messina September 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      I didn’t say that DHA is an essential nutrient. But for those who are struggling with veganism, or with depression, a DHA/EPA supplement is a good thing to try.

      Conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA is actually pretty inefficient. And the 2010 study had a number of weaknesses. The term “vegan” was poorly defined. And, there were only 5 vegan women in the study out of nearly 5,000 subjects. Most importantly, there was a huge standard deviation among those 5 subjects. That study actually doesn’t show anything about vegan DHA status.

      • Chrissy September 17, 2012 at 7:00 am - Reply

        This was a very interesting post. We may not yet know all the benefits/consequences of optimal nutrition or lack thereof. Many psychological researchers are starting to explore nutritional interventions as alternatives or supplements to traditional treatments for mood disorders. At the American Psychological Association convention in Orlando this past August, Mary Fristad, Ph.D. at Ohio State University Medical Center, a leading expert in child mood disorders, presented her preliminary information about her grant funded study exploring the effects of supplementing Omega 3 in children with mood disorders. There seemed to be some intricacies related to the ratio of EPA to DHA. Although she advises that there isn’t enough science to recommend a specific dose, she has stated something along the lines of a 2:1 ratio to help with mood issues.

        • Ginny Messina September 17, 2012 at 9:03 am - Reply

          Interesting! Thanks for that link.

      • another_vegan_scientist September 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm - Reply

        “Conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA is actually pretty inefficient.”

        Compared to what?

        Its quite conceivable that ALA intake found in a balanced diet is sufficient for both vegans and non-vegans. Without evidence that DHA/EPA deficiencies are a problem for vegans it seems to me that suggesting supplementation is premature. A focus on speculative deficiencies also provides ammunition to those who seek to undermine vegan diets (e.g. Ms Planck).

        • Ginny Messina September 27, 2012 at 1:38 pm - Reply

          It’s inefficient compared to direct dietary sources. And keep in mind that this list is aimed at people who are struggling with staying vegan. We shouldn’t ignore anything that might potentially help.

  15. Cheryl September 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    I have tried to be both vegetarian and a vegan, with both resulting in the same consequence – a constant and debilitating headache. I have tried taking amino acid supplements, DHA, multivitamins, extra calcium with D, as well as vitamin B complex and iron every other day. I also get fats from oils such as olive and walnut. Unless I eat meat at least every 2 days, as well as eat eggs and minimal dairy, the headache comes back. I have yet to understand what may be the problem. I hate eating animal products and wish my body would co-operate.

    • george eisman January 14, 2016 at 8:46 am - Reply

      Sounds like withdrawal symptoms than some sort of true deficiency. People who try to give up caffeine often experience that type of reaction. Have you tried fasting for a couple of days before switching to vegan?

  16. Bix September 17, 2012 at 4:05 am - Reply

    Hi Ginny, Great list!

    I’m curious about your point that beans cooked from scratch have a lower glycemic index than canned beans and so are preferable. Not challenging you or anything, just wondering what your thoughts were behind that.

    • Ginny Messina September 17, 2012 at 9:05 am - Reply

      It’s mostly because they’re cooked more which raised their GI. I guess technically, you can overcook the beans yourself, but they usually tend to be cooked less than canned beans. So this is sort of a general rule that isn’t necessarily *always* true.

      • Bix September 17, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

        That’s a good point. I see what you mean about cooking. Appreciate the reply!

      • George Jacobs September 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm - Reply

        Can we eat anything with the cooked beans that would balance the GI? Thx

        • Ginny Messina September 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

          Try cooking them with something acidic–vinegar, lemon juice, tomatoes. That helps to lower the GI.

      • Margaret May 27, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

        I’ve always soaked beans overnight and then cook them with something containing vitamin c (kombu) to release the iron in the beans. Anyone else heard of this method?

  17. Laurie Lears September 17, 2012 at 11:00 am - Reply

    This is a fantastic, informative site! Thanks for all your hard work, Ginny. Even though my husband and I are long-time vegans, the book you recently co-authored with Jack Norris (Vegan for Life) has been extremely helpful to us. I love the way you keep the focus on the ethics of being vegan.

  18. Jennea September 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    I really love vegetarian and vegan food, but what I found for me is that is really messed up my cycle and made my face feel funny (odd tired sensation). I dont know if I changed over to fast or was lacking some nutrient or vitamin. Anyone else have this happen?

    • Sarah September 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      Do you think you’re getting enough calories in overall, Jennea? When I first decided to go vegetarian (this was years back,) I just wasn’t fitting in the calories that my body needed. I didn’t have any dramatic weight loss at the time, just a couple of pounds, but it was enough to mess up my cycle and (yes!) made me lethargic as well.

      I just went fully vegan over this past month but have been on/off vegetarian for the past year or so. I find that I feel much healthier/energetic now that my body is getting the nutrients that it needs through healthy fats, protein, etc, along with enough calories to meet my needs.

      Oh, and are you super active? That may have something to do with it too.

  19. Jan September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this! I value your work and kindness very much!

  20. […] You Vegan? Read This: The Vegan RD, 10 Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet. As a vegan, I hear many stories about former vegans who say that they weren’t healthy on a […]

  21. Joseph Espinosa September 19, 2012 at 5:37 am - Reply

    If health issues block your attempts to be vegetarian or vegan, you can still drastically reduce the amount of suffering and death caused for you diet by avoiding the flesh of smaller animals (birds, fishes) and eggs. At 200 chickens to make up the same amount of edible flesh as just 1 typical cow, this is a most potent harm reduction method.

    • Tina November 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      It is good to see that I am not the only vegetarian who would rather see people use big animals than little ones for their consumption patterns. It has always struck me as odd that the meat-eaters who call themselves vegetarian typically consume only the smallest animals!

  22. George September 20, 2012 at 4:01 am - Reply

    As a veg activist, I appreciate your list of how to address the possible deficiencies of a vegan diet. I recently published a letter in a local news paper in response to the paper reprinting something from the Washington Post about problems baby boomers might face on a vegan diet. One fellow veg activist commented, “Why are we always talking about how vegans need to be careful with their diets? Why don’t we also talk about the missing nutrients on a meat eater or lacto-ovo diet and what they need to do to make sure they get enough nutrients? That way, it doesn’t seem like we’re the only ones who have to be careful.” It’s weird to ask you for such a list, but want to give it a go? 🙂

    • Ginny Messina September 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      I’ve got this topic on my list!

  23. This and Thats {& Vegan MoFo is back!} September 30, 2012 at 8:09 am - Reply

    […] The Vegan RD provides ten tips for staying happy and healthy on a vegan diet. […]

  24. Cheryl September 30, 2012 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Joseph, I truly thank you for responding to my post. It pains me greatly to have to eat the flesh of any animal. However, you did put things in perspective for me. Unfortunately, it does not seem to matter how much willpower I have – my body will not even tolerate a
    vegetarian diet for too long. I do wish things were different. I love animals with all my heart. Other animals eat other animals – maybe like them, some human animals cannot go without meat?

    • RikkiTikkiTavi November 20, 2012 at 6:13 am - Reply

      Cheryl, I have a very similar problem. I became so ill on a vegan diet that was, on paper, excellent, and following nearly two years as ovolactoveg, that my weight dropped to 88lb, my thyroid burnt out, my heart behaved so oddly that my doctor said it was irreversibly damaged, went into chronic migraine, clinical depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and I had so many deficiencies that my 40 page lab report was covered with red rings! It took two years of intensive medical intervention to get me functioning again. Since then, 23 years ago, I’ve been doing research, trying to understand why it went so horribly wrong. I found out a lot about my body: I’m hypoglycaemic, gluten-sensitive, can’t eat nuts and legumes (except for small quantities of almonds and peanuts) because they trigger smashing migraines. I have exceptionally high needs for vitamin B12 and D3. I don’t convert betacarotenes well to Vitamin A, which explains the yellowish tint my skin developed – I looked jaundiced. Carnitine and taurine may also be issues.

      This is not a bid for sympathy, but an account of my personal research work.

      I am at peace with my position in the web of life and death, which is how Earth functions. As an Anthropology major student, I’m aware that humans did not evolve as vegans, and that some of us simply may not have the biological capability to support a vegan diet. As a species, we’re generalist and omnivorous, and I think our digestive capacities lie on a continuum, with more grey than black or white.

      Regarding lessening of cruelty and environmental impact: I search out grassfed to finish, humanely reared, meats, and eggs and dairy from humane-certified, pasture-based operations. They are more expensive than conventionally produced foods, but they are so nutritionally dense that one can eat considerably less and still be fully nourished. I also search out sustainably and humanely produced plant foods, which can have an enormous death toll of collateral animal deaths under agribusiness production systems, and because I don’t want my plant foods destroying my planet.

  25. […] These 5 items are just a snippet of all the wisdom Ginny has to offer on the subject.  If you’re so inclined, I would encourage you to read more here:  Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet. […]

  26. Lynn Barry October 4, 2012 at 4:52 am - Reply

    I am new to the vegan lifestyle. This change came about my accident after ending up in the ER due to abdominal pain. I have Hashimoto’s disease and take thyroid replacement meds daily. I have eliminated gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy and watch my intake of certain fruits and vegetables but after a few days with no meat, fish, or poultry i realised i felt better so ever since I have been plant based…and vegan! this change was accidental, but will be lifelong.
    I drink coconut milk for the B12 added benefit and because I like it better than other alternative milk substitutes. I take vitamin D daily.
    So far so good…thanks for the support here.

  27. […] the original article here: Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet | The … Share […]

  28. Barbara Haines October 24, 2012 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Thank you for this fabulous site and your sensible advice! I am sixty and after years of vegetarianism and high cholesterol, have just recently begun eating vegan—it’s been six months this week! As months passed, I was having a lot of trouble with my energy level, dragging myself around and taking daily long naps. Your recommendations about adding B-12 (I’m taking 1000mcg/day right now) have made a night-and-day difference to me. I have so much more energy. I’m working through some of your other recommendations too. Thanks again!

  29. annie November 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Do you have any recommendations for a near-vegan who keeps showing up too low in vitamins B and D? I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years, but I don’t eat dairy, so most of my diet is vegan. I eat lots of leafy greens and fresh vegetables, brown rice and beans, very little soy, no processed foods. I take supplements (b, d, dha) and have a Vega shake with almond milk almost every day.

    Unfortunately, my energy levels are awful. I am always so fatigued, and earlier this year my blood work showed low levels of vitamins B and D. The supplements aren’t working.

    I love animals and have always been a proud vegetarian, but out of curiosity I had a small amount of chicken a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t crazy about the texture or taste, but… I had SO much more energy that day. A revelation, sad to admit.

    So what do I do? I would prefer not to eat meat, but I am also tired of being so TIRED.

    • RikkiTikkiTavi November 26, 2012 at 6:02 am - Reply

      Annie, there could be a lot of reasons for your fatigue – anaemia, B12 deficiency, low sulphur-containing protein intake, low ability to convert them to carnitine, zinc or magnesium deficiency…

      If your D supplement isn’t working, check to see if it’s D2 or D3. Some people just can’t make the D2 – D3 conversion, and D3 is the active form in the body. You might also need a higher dose. Vitamin D needs sufficient Vitamin A for absorption, and some people are not so hot at converting the betacarotenes into retinol – retinol is the active form.

      As you mentioned having more energy when you ate chicken, it could be a carnitine issue. Carnitine is hard to come by on a vegan diet as it is present in very low amounts in plant foods.

      This long email from Michael Klaper may be of use to you:

      Best wishes for resolution of your fatigue – it’s horrible to be tired all the time!

  30. […] of foods. Ginny Messina, the Vegan R.D., writes about meeting protein requirements, and recommends two servings of legumes (beans, peanuts, soy foods) a […]

  31. Joe April 11, 2013 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Dear Ginny,

    Regarding #5 of this post, I have a couple of questions/suggestions for future posts:

    First, can you please explain whether there are any kinds of flour that are relatively low on the GI? What about sweet potato flour or quinoa flour?

    Second, can you give some examples of breads made from grains that haven’t been ground into flour? Not that I’m all that knowledgeable about the bread-making process, but I had thought bread is generally made from some kind of flour.



  32. Lindy July 15, 2013 at 9:07 am - Reply

    There are a number of new books just out ( ie ‘My Beef with Meat’, ‘The China Study’ etc) that support a plant-based diet. It appears the authors all have extemely high amounts of energy ( the then 70 year old nutritional biochemist author of ‘The China Study’ runs 6 miles each morning). I have found on this diet ( lifestyle is a better name) I have lost a lot of weight and am never hungry, but when I do eat, I am always thinking of what each morsel is doing for my body and health…as well as what it’s NOT doing to erode my health. I am concerned that so many have experienced fatigue and have resorted to nixing the plant-based way and returning to meat/poultry. My decision was based on ethics, health being an added benefit.

  33. […] with a more vegan-friendly world, plus years of experience in finding vegan food and fashion. ~ This article sums up my recommendations for helping anyone stay successful with a vegan diet. ~ As long as we […]

  34. Elena January 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    I would only add a tiny little thing for umami rich products : fresh celery stalks, best if organicly ( even better if +locally) grown. Pure umami!!! 😉

  35. jess March 21, 2014 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Hello! I just wanted to write to give a heartfelt thanks for your advice. I have been vegan for three years, and battling through intense fatigue and depression this winter. I haven’t felt this sluggish and foggy-brained in years, since before I went vegan. I’ve taken supplements half-heartedly, but your post highlighted the importance of getting back on that train. I eat plenty of nuts and seeds and fresh veggies but I can feel that my body is missing critical nutrients.

    Thank you for the kick in the pants! I will knock this fatigue away and get back on the path to healthy happy vegan living!

  36. TMW September 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    My husband and I have eaten 90% plants for most of our 15 year relationship, including very little processed food. We ate small amounts of poultry, salmon & eggs. Almost no red meat.

    Then about one year ago we switched to entirely vegan. I’ve read just about all mainstream books and articles and was fully convinced. Eating meat now actually scares me.

    Still, I cannot deny that I feel tired and depressed, despite taking B12 supplements and 1 TBSP of flax every morning. I don’t think those are working.

    Our vegan diet has very limited processed foods. We eat mostly vegetables, beans, greens, and whole grains.

    I have read your comments about what supplements might help. But I have never had to monitor supplementation in various forms, and don’t plan to start now. That is not a practical solution. Those who teach this diet say that we get everything from vegetables without trying. I have not found that to be true. I need to stay healthy using items that I can find at my local grocery store. Not crazy supplements and sea weed that I have to purchase from who knows where, not to mention who wants to eat those crazy foods? Not me.

    I am also wondering about zinc deficiency. And my husband has had 3 terrible skin rashes this year, two of which required him to take steroids to stop months of itching.

    I’ve also started having acne and belly bloating that I never had before.

    We are both active and fit, but I have to exercise more to keep my weight steady. On the flipside, my husband lost probably 20 pounds of nearly pure muscle. He looks emaciated, but was strong and strapping before (with very little body fat now or then).

    I don’t even want to eat meat now. But I don’t think we have a choice. I am terrified of eating just about any diet at this point.

    We will still greatly limit our meat consumption. But having no meat doesn’t seem to be working.

    And you find scores of advice saying that vitamins from supplements don’t work nearly as well as the whole foods themselves. So taking a vitamin is not a solution in my opinion.

    I wish there were a simple answer. I just don’t think there is.

    Finally, those who love animals might get further by promoting a reduction in meat eating, rather than total veganism. We have been real believers in this diet. But I can’t ignore the growing signs that it is not working for us.

  37. Eden September 23, 2015 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Hi there,
    I’ve just changed to a vegan diet, 3 days ago and today I woke up feeling very drained. I’m a new mum aswell. My baby just turned 7 months and we are still breastfeeding. I was just wondering if you have any tips for me. I’m scared that my baby isn’t going to get enough iron and all the nutrition that he needs and am freaking myself out that I’m not eating tge right foods. I’ve bough alot of kale, eating oats. Just some suggestions would be great. He also eats solids too. Maybe twice, sometimes 3 times a day, wgat foods would you recommend? I’ve done alot of reading but I’m still unsure. Thanks.

  38. How Do You Feel? | VeganFaced October 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    […] http://www.theveganrd.com/2012/09/ten-tips-for-staying-happy-and-healthy-on-a-vegan-diet.html (btw this last one is more of a step-by-step by dietician Ginny Messina and not as long winded as the others, in case you don’t have time for a longer post.) […]

  39. Laura K January 18, 2016 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Ginny, thank you for this great list of tips for staying vegan. I’ve been vegan for 25 years and all of these strategies ring true for me. My top tips are:
    #1 – Take your supplements! Fortified foods don’t normally cut it. I take B12, D, omega-3 DHA / EPA, calcium, and a multi-vitamin.
    #2 – Try to get a balance of fat, protein, and carbs at every meal or snack. Leaving out any of the three major macronutrients makes for an unsatisfying meal and wonky blood sugar. If you feel like your meal is “missing something”, check to see that you have sufficient fat, protein, and carbs.
    #3 – Shop and eat variety. We all get in food ruts, and eating the same five or ten things over and over practically guarantees you’ll get deficient in something. Keep changing it up. Build a folio of recipes you like that use different ingredients. Buy ingredients that are new to you and find ways to use them. This is great not only from a nutritional standpoint but also gives a sense of discovery and accomplishment to mealtimes.
    #4 – See your food as a source of pleasure and joy. Look for deliciousness. Don’t deprive yourself of things you love even if they are not the healthiest options. You won’t stay vegan if you don’t enjoy what you eat.

    • Arlynn Bottomley May 17, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Great advice. I am a 64 year old female, vegan 14 years, struggling with issues. I think making sure all your bases are covered nutritionally is vital. I think veganism is the right path…but it has been a rocky one for me. Ran 4 marathons in my 50’s, then developed knee problems (torn meniscii) and eventually, last year, a stress fracture of my femur from just walking and hiking. 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis with a goiter, so I have to take synthetic thyroid hormone. Right now I may have a compression fracture in my spine. I don’t feel that being vegan caused my issues, as I know many carnivores struggling with similar ones. But I do believe there is still a lot we don’t know nutritionally speaking.

  40. […] produceren niet? Mocht je vragen hebben bij het al dan niet gezond zijn van veganisme, kan je hier terecht voor tips om het wél gezond te houden. Dit filmpje is ook kort en informatief! Op […]

  41. […] help boost your mental health naturally is to ensure you’re eating the right kinds of food. The Vegan RD notes that a happy, healthy vegan diet includes supplements, optimal levels of protein, fats, […]

  42. […] to help boost your mental health naturally is to ensure you’re eating the right kinds of food. The Vegan RD notes that a happy, healthy vegan diet includes supplements, optimal levels of protein, fats, […]

  43. […] to help boost your mental health naturally is to ensure you’re eating the right kinds of food. The Vegan RD notes that a happy, healthy vegan diet includes supplements, optimal levels of protein, fats, […]

  44. […] Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet … – There is a long list of reasons why people fail on a vegan diet and return to the world of cheese sandwiches and fish fillets. They might have developed overt … […]

  45. […] Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet … – 68 Responses to Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet […]

  46. […] zijn de 10 tips van The Vegan RD een goede leidraad om gezond vegan te […]

  47. […] zijn de 10 tips van The Vegan RD een goede leidraad om gezond vegan te […]

  48. […] Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet … – 71 Responses to Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet […]

  49. Marcy Marcy July 11, 2016 at 7:54 am - Reply

    I thought I did enough research when I went vegan, but this is the first article I have come across that specifically mentions iodine. Anyway, a couple of weeks after going vegan I developed a lump in my throat. It is very annoying, not usually there first thing in the morning, but is there everyday and gets more prevalent as the day goes on. After a ton of looking for the answer, I have come to an iodine issue, but I hope it’s not too late. I bought some iodized salt, but seeing as how I have been three months without addressing iodine deficiency I want to know how long before my thyroid shrinks back to normal size?

  50. Gregory Lewis November 1, 2017 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I’m just starting wish me luck i think keeping a journal will help stay on track

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