If you are new to veganism or have been struggling with the lifestyle, this post is for you. You will need a support system and some fresh ideas to help make your transition as easy as possible.
There are many considerations to take into account. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that requires some preparation and research beforehand, but it’s worth the effort. I was a vegetarian for 16 years before going vegan 4 years ago, and although there were challenges at times I am so glad I made the choice!
The health benefits of this diet are well-documented: vegans tend to have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure than those on other diets; they also have a reduced risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2 (the most common form of diabetes), cancer and obesity.
By taking it step by step, you’ll find that you’re more comfortable with your new diet and won’t feel too tempted to reach for animal-based products.
Here, we’ll take you through 9 steps that we believe will be helpful to you as you change to a vegan diet.
#1 Educate Yourself on Veganism
In order to be able to learn about your options properly, you need to know what it’s all about. It’s better that you spend a lot of time educating yourself instead of getting into it blindly only to fail after a short while.
During your research, get to know what the vegan diet is and what foods are suitable for it. Moreover, find out why going vegan can be a good idea for you.
Read Extensively on the Vegan Diet and Lifestyle
There’s a lot of material available, from books to articles, to blogs. Read as much as you can about the diet and get information from vegan diet bloggers or friends on social media who are vegan.
This is a major lifestyle change, so you need to be armed with adequate information about it. This’ll prepare you for all the challenges that you might face ahead.
Discover Hidden Non-Vegan Ingredients
As you discover more about the vegan diet, you’ll realize a lot of hidden information about common ingredients in everyday food products. By learning more about the diet, you’ll be able to identify meat or dairy by-products in nutritional labels.
These are ingredients such as honey, whey, casein, and gelatin. Names such as whey are used instead of milk, which many people who are not interested in the vegan diet might not know.
By mastering each of these ‘hidden’ animal product ingredients, it’ll be much easier to maintain your new lifestyle.
Familiarize yourself with the Perks of a Vegan Diet
It’s also important that you learn about the perks of changing to a vegan diet. This diet is great for not only your health but also for the environment.
You’ll find out about:
Deforestation – Adopting a vegan diet allows you to play a role in environmental conservation. Housing, feeding, and housing animals for dairy and meat requires a lot of natural resources.
This contributes to a rapid increase in deforestation. Therefore, the environment is relieved when more people switch to vegan since the demand for animal products will decrease.
This will, in turn, reduce the need for the earth’s resources used to raise the animals.
Compassion for Animals – If you have compassion for other living things, going vegan allows you to exercise this concern. What an easy way to care more deeply for ourselves while still caring about our animal friends; what better gift could one give themselves?
Health Benefits – Veganism comes with a lot of benefits to your health. You’ll learn how it can help lower your cholesterol, lose weight, and protect you from heart disease. If you have diabetes, you’ll also discover how this diet can help you manage your condition.
Gather Information for Vegan Meals
When many people think about going vegan, they imagine that all they have to do is eat vegetables and fruits all day. However, in order to make sure that you’re doing it right, you’ll need to learn how to plan your meals.
With a proper meal plan in place though, you’ll be able to get enough nutrients, calories, and protein from what you eat. Educating yourself further will allow you to identify the minerals and vitamins you need daily and how to incorporate them into your weekly meal planning.
If there are any nutrients that your body needs but which a vegan diet does not supply adequately, you’ll have to learn more about your supplementation options.
#2 Plan Your Vegan Diet
Once you’ve learned everything you need to know about beginning and following a vegan diet, you should look into diet planning next.
This is where you create a list of foods to purchase and get proficient at reading ingredient lists and labels. Since you’ve already learned about meal planning in the first step, this is now where you begin making these plans and grocery lists.
Set a Budget
Since you’re changing your daily diet to something completely new, you should get familiar with how much this change will cost you. This is not to say that a vegan diet will be expensive.
It’s easy to go vegan on a budget, as long as you conduct your research. To do this, create a sample meal idea and check the costs of the ingredients.
This will give you a rough idea of what you’ll be spending from there onwards. If you want to cut costs as much as possible, here are a few ways to do so:
- Plan your meals beforehand so that nothing goes to waste.
- Buy your produce and ingredients from a local CSA or a farmers market.
- Buy some ingredients in bulk.
- Buy produce that’s in season.
Your Grocery Shopping Process Will Change
To get all the foodstuffs and ingredients that you need, you might need to change the stores where you normally do your grocery shopping. You’ll also need to check different sections.
Prepare a shopping list beforehand so that you can have a good idea of what you need and where you can get it.
Work on a Starter Meal Plan
This is where you put together ideas of what you’ll be eating each day and week. Write down any meal and snacks that you have in mind, and which are vegan. To begin, consider the foods that you already love, which are vegan.
How About Your Family?
While you might be committed to starting a vegan lifestyle, your family might not be of the same mind as you. Therefore, you need to start encouraging them to embrace a plant-based diet.
Ease them into it with delicious side dishes and see which ones they like. Then gradually introduce meals to them. There are many dishes to try, and you’ll eventually find a bunch that they’re all happy with.
#3 Are There Vegan Foods That You Already Enjoy?
Your next step is to identify the vegan foods that you already enjoy. This will make it a lot easier to transition into your new diet because not everything is going to be completely new to you!
- Whole Grains – What grains do you have in your current diet? What types of rice do you like, and do you eat oatmeal, quinoa, or millet? Write down all of your favorite grains and include them in your meal plan.
- Fruits and Veggies – Identify the veggies and fruits that you consume regularly. Greens, carrots, bananas, and broccoli are good examples. Put together your favorites and include them in your new diet plan.
- Beans and Legumes – Do you like peas, black beans, or lima beans? Whichever is your favorite, write them down and add them to your vegan meal plan.
- Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds are rich in nutrients such as iron and zinc, which are present in dairy and meat. You’ll therefore need to eat a lot of them in order to make up for the nutrients you’ll be missing after abandoning all animal products.
Examples are flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds.
- Other Vegan Foods – Herbs, plant-based oils, and spices are some of the other ingredients that you can use in vegan meals.
#4 The Crowding Out Approach
This is whereby you identify the foods that you’ll stop eating once you get into a vegan diet. The crowding approach is when you start removing such foods as fish and eggs from your diet while including more whole-grains, fruits, and vegetables.
How to Add More Vegan-Friendly Foods
You should not suddenly replace all animal products in your diet with vegan options. Instead, you should start introducing more vegan ingredients gradually. Here’s how to do it:
- Include a side salad with your pasta.
- Take green smoothies for breakfast.
- Use more oil-based salad dressings.
- Prepare more vegetable-based dishes.
Crowding Out Animal Products Slowly
After you’ve begun regularly adding vegan foods to your menu, it’s now time to do away with animal products. Begin by replacing some of them with a vegan alternative. For instance:
- Coconut yogurt is a great replacement for regular yogurt.
- Replace cow’s milk with almond milk.
- Try veggie burgers instead of your meat burgers.
There’s no haste in making these replacements. Take one ingredient at a time, eventually building up into a natural and easy transition.
#5 When Starting, Keep it Simple
When you’re crowding out animal products and introducing more veggies to your meals, you’ll need to keep it simple from the beginning. Keep from trying complex menus each day at the start of your transition, because this is one way to get overwhelmed and give up easily.
Keep it simple with a few easy-to-make recipes, preferably using ingredients that are already in your kitchen.
Keeping it Simple
Do you have some vegan recipes that you’ve been using all along? If so, it’s a great idea to get started with them.
Also, if you have some that are also vegan, but with a few animal products, you can find their plant-based alternatives and create a new recipe. For instance, you can replace chicken with chickpeas.
Use Ingredients That You Like
In the third step, you identified the vegan ingredients that you enjoy regularly. With that list, you can choose a few ingredients to make some meals that you’ll prepare as you transition into veganism.
Avoid using veggies that you’ve never tried before at this stage. You might come across some that you don’t like, which will make it harder to get into a vegan diet.
Take it Slow
You’re excited to get going with your new lifestyle change, so we understand that it can be tempting to try everything at once. However, doing this can overwhelm you and make it hard to get committed to a vegan diet.
When you’re just beginning to include vegan ingredients to replace animal products including dairy and eggs, use a few new ingredients only. Meaning, don’t add a bunch of them to your menus all of a sudden, as this will not make your transition natural.
Identify a Few Staples
What are some of the vegan meals that you can make your staples? By identifying these, you can make sure that you always have a vegan meal to turn to that’s balanced and healthy.
#6 Focus on Whole Foods
Focusing on whole foods is an important part of maintaining a healthy vegan lifestyle. Instead of frozen or canned foods, go for whole plant-based foods that are not processed in any way.
How to Reduce Packaged and Processed Foods
A lot of foods in the modern American diet are packaged. If you’ve had these foods for most of your meals, then you’ve been having more processed foods than is good for your health.
As part of transitioning into a vegan diet, it’s a wise idea to start getting rid of as many processed foods as possible. Whole foods are more friendly to your health in the long run, and here are some tips on how to reduce the processed foods and focus on whole options:
Cook at Home
The easiest way to make sure that you eat more whole foods is by cooking at home. If you’ve been eating a lot of packaged foods, try to replace some of them with home-cooked meals.
Take it slow at first; you don’t have to make multiple courses at home. Gradually, you’ll find it easier to make most of your meals and be able to do away with most of the frozen foods that you eat on a regular basis.
Use Fresh Produce
Fresh or frozen produce are great alternatives for canned veggies or fruits. They’re healthier since they have no sugar or salt added.
Make Your Rice and Beans
Rice and beans are quite easy to make at home. You’ll just need to rinse and soak them before cooking.
When transitioning into veganism, it’s best that you do this instead of buying pre-soaked and rinsed canned options. You’ll find that preparing them yourself is different from when you just have to put them in the microwave or keep them in the freezer.
An additional perk is that when you buy them whole, you can do bulk shopping and save money. They’ll also be much cheaper than their processed alternatives.
Opt for Simple Snacks
There are many vegan snacks that you can enjoy, from crackers to cookies and chips. However, these may not be the healthiest options.
Some simple and healthy snacks that you can try on your vegan diet include fruits dipped in nut butter or green smoothies. They’re easy to make and completely nutritional.
#7 Try New Recipes
By the time you get to this step, you’ll be feeling more comfortable with the vegan diet. This is the ideal time to begin trying new recipes for your vegan meals.
If you’re wondering where to find new vegan recipes, here are a few ideas:
Pick up a few vegan cookbooks to discover new recipes. With lots of people turning to the vegan lifestyle, there are lots of good vegan cookbooks that you can use.
Instagram and Facebook
There are many vegan communities on Facebook and Instagram, where you can discover several vegan recipes. You’ll also find vegan users who share their favorite vegan meals. From these, you can get ideas for new recipes.
Pinterest is another online platform where you can find countless vegan recipes. To make your search easier, look for vegan meal idea boards. There’ll always be fresh ideas here, so keep checking whenever you want to try something new.
You can find vegan restaurants around, where you can get more ideas for vegan recipes. Order some meals at vegan bakeries or cafes and note down some of the ingredients they use and how they put their meals together.
#8 Focus on What You Can Eat
The idea of what they’ll be missing is what keeps most people from fully committing to a vegan diet. It’s best if you focus on what you can eat instead.
When you’re busy exploring all the new foods that you can eat, you’ll have little time to feel miserable about your favorite dairy or meat products that you’ll no longer be eating.
Also, keep in mind that there are lots of scrumptious vegan dishes out there, so it’s not like you’ll be restricting yourself to tasteless foods. To get over your non-vegan favorites easily, look up their plant-based alternatives.
For instance, you can replace cheese with its nut-based option. Be ready and eager to try new foods that you’ve never had before, like plant milk, tempeh, and nut butter.
If you focus on what you can eat on a vegan diet, you’ll find that you’re not really missing out. There are lots of delicious foods to try, and you’ll also love the fact that they’re healthier than most of the foods you’ve been eating.
To help with your resolve, you can join vegan groups where you’ll find other people who are just transitioning into the vegan diet or those who’ve already mastered the vegan lifestyle.
In such a company, you’ll be able to overcome challenges and find it easier to stick to your new lifestyle. You’ll also get lots of ideas for new vegan foods to try.
#9 Plan for Eating Out and Social Occasions
Maintaining your vegan diet when you’re out can be tricky because you’re not as in control as you are in your home. So, whether you’re attending an event or eating at a restaurant, here are a few recommendations on how to plan for what to eat:
Check Menus Online
If you and your friends are going to celebrate at a restaurant, check in advance to know whether the establishment offers vegan options. Nowadays, many restaurants provide their menus online, so it’ll be easy to check.
You can also call ahead to ask if they have a vegan menu. This way, you’ll know your options beforehand and be able to enjoy the event alongside your friends.
Choose the Restaurant
If you’re allowed to decide on which restaurant to host the party, then go for a vegan one, or one that has a vegan menu. Since more people are turning to veganism, many restaurants are including vegan alternatives to meet the demand.
Try Other Fun Activities
If you find yourself constantly worried about what foods to prepare or buy when with your loved ones, you should try other activities that are not centered on food.
For instance, you can decide to go to the movies for your night out instead of eating out. This way, you’ll not have to worry about what vegan foods to have, as there are many vegan snacks you can have at the movies.
Since more people are embracing a plant-based lifestyle, it’s much easier for you to get started on it too. This is because, with the increasing demand, there are more Vegan options in stores and restaurants to help you along as you transition.
Is there anything that’s making it challenging for you to transition smoothly to a vegan diet? Let us know in the comments; maybe we can be of help!