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How to Be a Vegan TeenagerUnlike being a vegetarian, veganism is not a diet. It's a lifestyle. But for those of us teens who are at the place where they feel these changes are necessary in your life, this article is for you!
One: Be clear on what a vegan actually is, in case you are questioned by your family members or friends (look in the Tips section for more help on dealing with the people you live with). A vegan is someone who abstains from harming all living creatures in their life. To get really technical, here are the things that, as a vegan, you need to avoid: meat (yes, this does include fish), dairy products (including butter), eggs, honey, leather, suede, pearls, and so on and so forth. Basically, if it was alive and breathing at one point or another, abstain.
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Two: Take it slowly! This is the most important thing to remember. Very few people can make the change from omnivore (or even vegetarian) to vegan overnight. Start with your diet. Eliminate the foods that you are not attached to, or the ones that you do not particularly like. Try eating vegan for one meal out of the day, and then two, and finally three. Seek out healthful vegan snacks.
Three: Now that we have stripped away the bad, let's add in the good! Take a field trip to your local healthfood store or even a super market. Protein is INCREDIBLY important. Vegans eat a lot of soy products! If you're in school, look for "lunch meat," which is great for sandwiches. Branch out and try some tofu, or miso. Be open to trying new things! If you're constantly on the go, try a protein bar. Just read through the ingredients to be sure that you are staying with your vegan diet. If you're at a veg-friendly place, the product may be marked vegan. If not, just read through the ingredients. Organics are always a plus! Remember, just because it's "technically" vegan, doesn't mean you should necessarily eat it. Tons of vegetables are necessary; they have gazillions of wonderful vitamins.
Four: After you are accustomed to your vegan diet, now you can work on the other things that make a vegan, a vegan! Go through your closet and (if you are a girl) jewelry box. Take out all the items that are animal-based, such as leather, suede, shells, bone, silk, pearls, and anything else. This is where things begin to get a bit tricky. Some, when converting to veganism, decide to throw or give away all of their "icky" clothing. However, since waste is a big no-no for vegans, some decide to keep their clothing. This is the point where you need to decide for yourself. For example, if you had an heirloom necklace that has been passed down from generation to generation, you would probably want to keep it. However, if it's that leather belt that you bought a couple years ago and just dug out from the bottom of your closet, or maybe those leather boots that are a bit too small, get rid of it! Whenever you go shopping for new things look for vegan stuff.
Five: Go through your personal hygiene products. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, hair brushes, and cosmetics can include some really gross things or can be tested on animals. There are many great cosmetic brands out there that don't test on animals such as Revlon, Nivea, Barry M, Urban Decay, The Body Shop.. the list goes on!
People can become VERY offensive when you tell them that you are a vegan, or are in the process of becoming one. The trick is to stay calm, and be compassionate. Some people are just not at the level you are. Explain your reasons for your choices in a soothing tone, and if they still make fun of you, just walk away. Get some books from the library, and search around on the Internet. Connect with other vegans at a local co-op, or just talk to new people! We're everywhere.... you just have to look!
This article is shared under a Creative Commons License.