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New Vegan: Are Cravings Normal? What About Soy?

I just started my new vegan lifestyle. I want to know if my cravings for meat and dairy are normal, and how much soy is too much?

Meat Cravings

I just started my new vegan lifestyle about a week ago. I was searching the internet to see if my cravings for meat and dairy were normal and came across your website [1].

I saw an advice letter [2] of another vegetarian asking the same question. I found your responses enlightening and helpful.

I found another letter about too much soy contributing to weight gain. I found this perplexing since so much of the vegetarian products on the market are soy based.

My question is, how much soy is too much? I primarily use soy protein products for dinner like a veggie burger or veggie chicken patty/nuggets, etc. I don’t drink soy milk and the only other primary source of soy is in a butter alternative.

I have given up all forms of animal products: eggs, dairy and meat. I never much liked meat anyway so I figured it wouldn’t be hard to live a completely vegan lifestyle. Boy was I wrong. I miss cheese! And I really miss CHEESEBURGERS.
Savvy Vegetarian Facebook Page [3]

I’m going vegetarian for improved cardiovascular health and weight loss. I wanted to eliminate a lot of fat from my diet. Now I think I’ve eliminated too much since my cravings for cheeseburgers, tacos and pizza are at an all time high. Any advice? Thanks! CMW

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

I tell new vegetarians to go veg gradually because they run into problems like malnutrition, and food cravings when they try to go too far too fast. When you crave a food, it’s your body sending you a message that it’s not getting what it needs. Like the nutrients in meat. You can get the same nutrients from plant based foods, except for Vitamin B12 [4] – and you can supplement for that.

The trick is you have to know what foods to eat, how to get them, and what to do with them. It takes time to learn all about vegetarian nutrition, foods and cooking. Going vegetarian, especially going vegan from day one, is a complete 180 degree lifestyle change.
Quinoa Recipe Ebook [5]

My advice is to back up a bit, and take it slow while you learn how to be a vegetarian. If that means – for you – eating some cheese or meat, that’s ok. Just keep working toward your goal, and don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect the first day. Be kind to yourself while you learn this new way of living and eating

Read the free Savvy Veg report, 10 Tips For Beginning Vegetarians [6], to get the basics. Move on to the Savvy Veg nutrition report [7], and then buy a copy of the vegan nutrition bible, ‘Becoming Vegan’, by Vesanto Melina. Another good book is from vegan dietitian Virginia Messina, ‘The Vegetarian Way, Total Health For You and Your Family’.

It’s fine to have some soy in your diet, but it is high in fat, so take it easy. Problems with soy and weight gain can arise when people are overweight, if they have hormone related conditions like low thyroid, or sometimes allergies. Soy can act as a hormone disrupter and it’s one of eight major allergens. So proceed with caution.

Processed soy is like other processed foods – most of the nutrition processed out, and lots of ingredients that nobody should eat – e.g. msg, preservatives, coloring, etc. Avoid GMO soy, buy organic, and try to eat unprocessed forms of soy, like tofu, tempeh or soy milk. They do take some getting used to. And don’t just rely on soy for protein. Just because there are so many soy based foods on the market doesn’t mean we have to eat them.

Find ways to get enough protein in your diet through eating a wide variety of whole foods. The Savvy Vegetarian protein articles have lots of helpful info. Start with this one: How To Get Enough Protein In Your Vegetarian or Vegan Diet. [8]

Don’t try to avoid fat altogether. That could be one clue to your cravings. Your body needs small amounts of good fats – found in whole foods like grains, nuts, flax, avocado, olive oil and much more. Read this article for more info: Healthy Fats For Vegetarians and Vegans [9].

If you need help establishing a healthy vegan diet for weight loss, consult a dietitian, or join a weight loss program such as Anne Collins [10].

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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