Are you ready to transition to a vegan diet?
When properly followed, a vegan diet is an incredibly healthy, cruelty-free way to eat that does incredible things for your body.
However, the truth is that not all vegans know how to eat best for the health, and they suffer from complications from their diet because of it.
Cutting out all animal products can be hard, and not many vegans succeed on their first attempt at the lifestyle.
However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you make the transition for life.
In truth, the spirit of veganism isn’t about cutting food from your diet, it’s about bringing in a whole new level of tastes, textures and recipes that rely on healthy whole foods that are entirely plant-based.
Veganism isn’t about depriving yourself, it’s about opening up to a new, better way of living. Best of all, veganism doesn’t need to be expensive.
So long as you know what to look for and invest in healthy, wholesome ingredients, eating vegan is cheaper than most meat-based diets.
If you’re ready to start the process of switching over, this guide is designed to help you out. We’ll go through the biggest struggles that “young” vegans deal with and offer advice on how you can adopt this cruelty-free lifestyle for the long run.
HOW TO BECOME VEGAN
In the words of animal rights activist Gary Francione:
Though veganism is about so much more than food, most people begin the transition process by changing their diet. Cutting out animal-based products is the logical place to start, but for many people this is far easier said than done.
If you want to successfully transition to veganism without feeling hungry, deprived or ready to binge on chips and cookies, you need to be smart about how you transition.
Keep in mind that going vegan is a learning curve. You might slip up in the first few months, and that’s completely okay.
Retraining your body to crave different foods takes time, and it’s okay if you can’t make the transition all at once. Allow yourself to make progress at the speed that’s right for you, and keep in mind that any progress towards a vegan diet is a success, no matter how far you still need to go.
Below are some tips for beginning vegans to avoid pitfalls that can derail them from their new lifestyle. By following this advice, you’ll be setting yourself up for success and ensuring that you can keep the diet up for the long run.
GETTING SUFFICIENT PROTEIN
For anyone about to transition to veganism, nutrients are a central concern.
Our meat-loving society has worked to convince us that animal-based protein is essential for health, and it’s natural to be concerned about getting in your daily amount. However, the hysteria around protein is largely overblown.
In truth, there are plenty of plant-based sources of this essential macronutrient, and a well-rounded vegan diet will naturally provide you with all the protein you will possibly need.
Beans, soy products like tofu and seitan, nuts, seeds and quinoa all have high quality protein, as do veggies like broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower.
If you feel like your protein levels are low, vegan protein powders are abound on the market, ensuring that topping off your supply is a painless process.
The main reason to be concerned about your protein intake on a vegan diet is if you’re subsisting on a daily diet that has more starch and sugars than fruits and vegetables.
It’s easy for beginning vegans to fill the gap made from plant-based products with pasta, fries and bread, so be mindful about what you eat to ensure your nutritional levels are up.
CROWD NEW FOODS INTO YOUR DIET
Let’s be clear; veganism isn’t about deprivation, it’s about being open to innovative ways of eating. For this reason, strive to cultivate a habit of trying new foods whenever you get the chance.
Mixed feelings about tofu or fried green tomatoes? Give them a try and you might be amazed with what your taste buds start responding to.
It usually takes a few weeks after going vegan for your senses to adjust to the subtler flavors in fruits and vegetables, but in no time, you’ll be opened up to a new world of tastes that make it less appealing to go back to goopy cheese and meat dishes.
ALWAYS READ INGREDIENT LISTS
While your protein levels don’t need to be a major concern on a vegan diet, there are some nutrients that are simply harder to source in plant-based products.
Calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 are three nutrients that vegans tend to be short on. So long as you eat a wide variety of fresh, wholesome foods, your levels should stay okay.
However, it’s also smart to look at labels of vegan foods to see if they are fortified with any essential nutrients.
Cereal grains are especially likely to be fortified with vitamin B12, so take time to read the labels to ensure that your health remains a high priority.
If you’re not eating foods that are fortified with B12, it’s best to take a regular supplement about twice a week to ensure you get enough to stay healthy.
In the same way, reading the labels of your “vegan” food choices can prevent you from making an unpleasant mistake in your eating practice.
Animal-based products like casein, whey and gelatin can slip into the most innocent looking foods, so educate yourself on nutritional lingo so that you know what to avoid.
For farther help, the Vegetarian Resource Group has created a list of common food ingredients to let you know what you need to avoid.
KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Inevitably, starting a vegan diet will reveal to you just how many foods are filled with animal products.
Shopping at the grocery store, ordering at a restaurant and going to a cookout with friends are all suddenly going to get much more complicated than before.
While it might be easy to lose motivation and give up on the diet, keeping a positive attitude can make all the difference.
When you find yourself tempted to eat an off-limits food, remind yourself of the reasons you decided to go vegan in the first place and think back to a time when you resisted temptation and were happier for it. This will help you regain the willpower to resist compromising.
If you do find yourself cheating, don’t get upset. Everyone has their weaknesses, and it’s perfectly okay to cave in occasionally.
Simply accept your shortcoming, resolve to try harder to resist next time, and move on with your day.
In the same way, don’t make other people uncomfortable about their own dietary choices. Going vegan needs to be a personal decision, and it doesn’t do any good to berate your friends to give up meat.
The best way to talk about your new lifestyle choice is to empathize the reasons why you are going vegan, without putting pressure on anyone else to follow.
This stops people from feeling like they need to defend their dietary choices, which is more effective for convincing them to switch over in the long run.
While it’s not necessarily difficult to follow a vegan diet, it does take more planning, especially for beginners.
Shopping at both the grocery store and farmers’ market is a smart choice to ensure you get a good variety of fresh, healthy produce.
Vegan diet staples like grains, beans and nuts should be bought in bulk to cut down on costs and prevent you from finding yourself without, and visit VeganCuts for access to daily deals and discounts on vegan foods.
When going vegan, it’s also smart to keep in mind that public places aren’t going to have a great selection of vegan friendly food.
Make sure to pack a healthy lunch before a road trip to prevent yourself from filling up on gas station junk, and consider eating a small meal before going out to eat or to a party to make sure that a potential lack of vegan food won’t leave you starving and miserable.
Because lots of vegan food needs to be made from scratch, cooking ahead of time is an incredible time saver.
Consider making a big meal of beans and rice at the beginning of the week, and eat it at lunch time while at work to prevent yourself from turning towards the “vegan” options in the closest vending machine.
For vegans, the easiest place to spend too much money is in the frozen food aisle. Frozen veggie meals tend to be twice as expensive as meat filled varieties, so you can dramatically cut down on costs by making everything yourself instead.
THINK OF VEGANISM AS A PROCESS
When you first go vegan, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rules and get furious at yourself if you forget that the gummy bears you’re munching on are filled with gelatin.
Don’t make your new diet a source of anxiety, instead remember that committing to veganism is a process that doesn’t have to be perfect right away.
Your eating habits will evolve as you get more comfortable with the lifestyle, so don’t feel like everything should be perfect immediately.
Learning how to live vegan is a skill like any other. For this reason, it’s silly to think you’ll be perfect at it the first time you try. Rather, going vegan tends to be a gradual process that gets easier the longer you practice it.
There’s no reason to go vegan all at once. In fact, going cold turkey on all animal products might make maintaining the lifestyle harder in the long run.
Instead, start experimenting with adding a few meat-free days to your week, and gradually transition to eating vegetarian.
Once you’re comfortable with that, you can take dairy, eggs and other animal products out of your diet as well.
In this way, your body has time to adjust to the new way of eating and your cravings won’t be as severe, making it easier to stick with the change.
It’s even possible to switch out certain foods for vegan alternatives, like soy milk for regular milk and coconut oil for butter. Over time, these changes will add up and you’ll slowly start to follow a truly vegan diet.
Veganism isn’t one size fits all, so it’s okay to experiment with different methods until you find one that fits you best. Maybe you thrive on bulk cooking, or maybe you really need a few frozen meals a week.
There’s no right or wrong way to go vegan, so don’t be afraid to try a few strategies.
ASK FOR HELP WHEN NECESSARY
It’s no secret that everything is easier when done in community. Thanks to the internet, there’s no reason to go through a vegan lifestyle by yourself.
There are hundreds of vegan websites and communities across the web that can keep you accountable and answer any questions that you have.
Whether you’re wondering how best to bake without using eggs or looking for motivation to make it through summer without turning to ice cream, finding people to talk through your concerns with can make all the difference.
You can look for vegan-friendly groups on Facebook and Twitter, as well as through the Vegan Society. Meetup is also a great resource for finding like-minded people right in your community, so take the time to search “vegan” on the site to find people that have the same eating preferences as you.
For those looking for a little vegan romance in their lives, Veggiedate is a dating website exclusively for vegans and vegetarians.
HOW TO TRANSITION TO VEGANISM FROM A CARNIVORE DIET
It might be intimidating to make the change from eating meat to forgoing animal products entirely, but it’s possible, so long as you plan ahead.
Many people find their resolve for going vegan so strong that they cut out all animal products at once and never go back.
The key to success is simply changing your preconceived ideas about food and how you eat it.
The first step towards switching from meat to veggies is NOT relying only on meat-like substitutes for your regular diet.
Stay away from veggie burgers, tofurkey, and soy-based cheeses.
While these can be added into your diet over time, they aren’t healthy, affordable or practical for long term veganism, so you’re better off without them for as long as possible.
Instead, research vegan recipes that let you get comfortable using raw ingredients like tofu, tempeh and beans and rice, and practice cooking from scratch.
Instead of trying to make flavors mimic the taste of meat, indulge in new flavors instead.
This will cut down on cravings and prevent you from seeking real meat instead.
In the same way, it’s not a smart idea to rely too heavily on soy.
While nutritionists have mixed feelings about its overall benefits, you’re best off keeping your consumption to moderate amounts and relying on plenty of other protein sources as well.
TRANSITIONING FROM VEGETARIANISM TO VEGANISM
If you’re already a practicing vegetarian, congratulations!
You’re halfway to cutting out animal products from your life for good.
Making the switch from being vegetarian to full on vegan is fairly simple, though some people find it difficult to truly say goodbye to staple foods like cheese and yogurt.
Even so, vegetarians have a major head start on the path to veganism, and making the switch official usually takes just a matter of weeks.
To ease the transition, you can try slowly introducing dairy alternatives into your diet like almond milk and soy-based cheeses. By making one or two substitutions a week, it’s simple to slowly wean your body off animal products for good.
EASY REPLACEMENTS FOR EGGS AND DAIRY
If you’re looking to go vegan, knowing how to follow your favorite recipes can be hard. The following substitutions will allow you to enjoy all your old favorites without the inconvenience of animal products.
Tasty Vegan Food Replacements
- Butter: Turn to margarine or olive instead, even for baking.
- Buttermilk: Simply mix 1 cup soymilk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar for a zesty substitute.
- Condensed Milk: Canned coconut milk is a good substitute.
- Eggs: Your best substitute will depend on the recipe your making. Agar powder mixed with water works for egg whites, while a ripe banana works great for chewy baked goods.
- Heavy Cream: Keep a can of coconut oil in the fridge for at least 48 hours, and use the solidified top layer as a cream substitute.
- Honey: maple syrup or agave work great.
- Milk: For recipes, soymilk works best because of its thicker consistency.
Once eggs and dairy are officially off the menu, vegetarians can concentrate on cutting out other animal-based products like gelatin, honey and lanolin.
Next, lifestyle changes can take place like forgoing leather, silk, wool and cosmetics that relied on animal testing.
While veganism is so much more than a way of eating, the easiest way to start the lifestyle is to transform your diet.
Don’t be afraid to give a vegan diet a try, and try not to let cravings ruin your resolve. It’s completely normal to miss eating animal-based products, so give yourself the grace to keep trying if you give into cravings.
In no time at all, following a vegan diet will be second nature to you, and you’ll live with the confidence that you’re following a lifestyle that is fair to you and all other creatures.
Take the time to give this compassion-filled eating trend a try, and you might not ever go back to your old ways of eating.