New Year, New You! Change is in the air. Or have you had a health scare lately, maybe seen some disturbing footage on the internet, global warming has caused the climate in your area to become worse than ever? No matter how you’ve found your way to transitioning to a vegan diet, we’re glad that you’re here. Although this topic can seem overwhelming and come with many prejudices, we think that this article will provide you with everything you need to know for now.
As you might have heard, there are many good and urgent reasons to start transitioning to a vegan diet today – here are just a few of them:
- Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions
- Plant-based diets decrease your risk of major diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer
- Rainforests vanish in favor of cattle ranches and soy plantations for livestock
- Drinking water is being contaminated by sewage and waste from farms
- Antibiotic resistance that’s life-threatening to humans often comes from farmed animals
- Close to 40% of the world’s grain (and 70% of US grain) is being fed to livestock, much of which is produced in countries where 17,000 children die of starvation each day
- Millions of sentient beings suffer unimaginably for their short lives before being killed needlessly
- Many slaughterhouse workers suffer physical injuries or develop post-traumatic stress disorder
Our article could have easily been 10 times as long because this is a never ending topic when you consider all the different stages and situations people might be in. Veganism (and changing your habits) is a huge topic in and of itself, so we wanted to keep this post actionable and not too overwhelming.
For specific questions and hardships, we will link you further reading sources if that’s something you are personally struggling with. We also wanted to offer you exact blueprints on how you can get from your current diet to a healthy and delicious vegan diet in just a few steps! You can find the free downloads below but we invite you to read the full article to get a better understanding and extra tips.
Exclusive Bonus: CLICK HERE to download your FREE Vegan Transition Cheat Sheets.
Make up your mind
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t: you’re right. Our minds are incredibly powerful and your perspective on things give them all their meaning. Be honest with yourself and check to see if you believe that you couldn’t live without bacon or cheese or chocolate cake. It can be scary to make big changes and having to let go of all these familiarities.
But this is going to be a new chapter for you. Yes, human beings crave what they have known for a long time but this can be a wonderful adventure where you can discover many more awesome foods without having to let go of your old favorites immediately! Besides, there is a vegan version for literally any dish or food item you can imagine.
We like to think in terms of “replace, don’t restrict” so your mind won’t go all crazy, thinking that the next famine might have started. Eating a vegan diet doesn’t have anything to do with willpower when you remember why it’s important to you and what you will be gaining from all of this – just until you have internalized your new way of eating, which will then become second nature to you and as easy as your current diet.
Diet or lifestyle?
Veganism is an ethical standpoint and more than just a diet, as it includes things like not wearing leather or going to the zoo. But all of this can seem a little daunting and like a bottomless pit when you start dipping your toe into this topic.
This is why we and many other experts suggest that you start by changing your diet – this has the biggest impact on animals and the environment (as well as your health!) because most of the exploitation happens in this industry. It is also the quickest way you can make a positive impact… by changing what you purchase at the store and what you let your dollar vote for.
The 3 ways of transitioning to a vegan diet
1. Crowding food out
This means that you don’t focus on what you should stop eating and instead try to add in new plant-based foods and increase the amount of them in your diet. However, there should come a point at which you’ll recognize how you don’t need food x anymore and can just leave it out for good now. If you’re feeling a bit anxious or unsure, this could be a great option for you. But be aware that you probably won’t notice drastic health changes that way since it’s not a drastic dietary change either.
2. The 3 week commitment
This approach has been popularized by Dr. Neal Barnard of PCRM and works like this: you just start by collecting a couple of plant-based recipes first and trying them out over the course of 1-2 weeks. Then, you make a commitment and eat 100% plant based for 3 weeks to test the waters and to experience how much better or different you feel when eating this way. The upside is that you have some time to get used to the new meals first and you’ll be able to experience the benefits better because you’re keeping out all of animal products at once.
3. Going cold tofurky
Let’s face it, once you’ve seen the truth and horrors of animal agriculture and all its consequences on the planet and humans, you probably feel sick to your stomach. If you’re one of these all-or-nothing people, it’s possible that the way you view animal products now will have changed and you feel the need to throw all non vegan food out of the kitchen. Making this clear cut is the perfect decision for some as it also doesn’t leave any tempting food items in your reach. Because if one day, you’re in a hurry and haven’t eaten enough or are stressed, these convenient animal products might still find their way onto a dedicated but new vegan’s plate. For other people, this approach is way too scary and they can just choose one of the options above – or make up their own personal one.
Alright, now that we’ve established the different way of going about your personal transition, we’d like to share with you our top ten tips that will make it a lot more likely that you’ll be able to succeed at going and staying vegan!
Our Top 10 Transition Tips
1. Education is key
This probably sounds more boring than it actually is. But without the information on why it’s a good idea to drop the animal products (and other forms of animal exploitation), how will you get the motivation to start making changes? You can read about the most important points in our article “14 Reasons to Go Vegan” as well the article “Why Be Vegan: 10 Experts Explain”.
And here’s a list of 40 helpful books covering all aspects of veganism. If videos are your preferred form of information gathering, you can check out these 22 great vegan documentaries as well as these over 50 inspiring vegan YouTubers.
2. Go at your own time
It’s somewhat counterintuitive for a wholehearted vegan to tell this to those who would like to transition, but it’s true: the only way you can make this new diet sustainable is for you to do this at your own pace. Although we would love to see all the animal suffering ending today, we understand that habits and social constructs run deep in our personal lives and society overall.
We’re not going to lie, living an “alternative lifestyle” can put you in uncomfortable situations where you’ll have to stand up for your beliefs and decisions because you’re going against the status quo. Not to sound too serious here, but people will have lots of questions and might tease you or tell you to just “suck it up” or “pick the cheese off the food”. That’s why we recommend you start your change at home, in a safe environment, and not tell everyone and their mom about this right from the start.
They will have questions and you better have read some good books or articles to be prepared for this! Don’t worry, it doesn’t require a degree to learn some important facts that you can use in these situations, but it still is a bit of work. Here are some good points to start with. One caveat, though: please be honest with yourself and leave your comfort zone from time to time. Otherwise, there’ll be no real progress.
3. Start with easy foods
We like the idea of “crowding out” your favorite animal-based foods, but there will still come a point when you’ll have to say goodbye to them for good in order to adopt a fully vegan diet. And we suggest that you don’t start with your all-time favorite grandma’s cheesecake (or whatever this is for you).
Think of something you didn’t really enjoy that much to begin with: maybe it’s boiled eggs or sausages or fish fingers. You could make a conscious decision not to have them anymore and replace them on your table with a tasty plant-based alternative. Doesn’t have to be tofu sausages or another replicate like this, either! How about a handful of nuts as a snack instead, or just more of your potatoes and veggies?
Leave your favorite hard-to-part-withs for the more advanced stages of your transition, when you’ll have learned that it can be easy to let go.
Tip: Why not start by swapping out cow’s milk for soy milk or oat milk? Most people find that step one of the easiest. Every bit counts!
4. Keep things fun
Do you know how many different types of grains or legumes there are? How about the strange looking fruit or veg at your grocery store? There’s a world of food items you don’t even know yet, and they’re out there for you to discover. We encourage you to pick a different one every week or so and look up what delicious meals you can create with it.
You can go over to findingvegan.com and just enter the name of the food to get a whole bunch of recipes. Or maybe, it would be more fun for you to try out all the different plant-based milks at the store? Make a blind taste test with your family or friends so everyone can find their favorites. There are also a whole bunch of vegan ice creams, cookies, cheeses, burgers, and more to discover – so treat yourself and stay open.
5. Veganize your favorite meals
Think you cannot live without Mac and Cheese, bacon, or ice cream? Great news, you don’t have to. Nowadays, you can find vegan versions for all of these at the store. And if you’re not into processed foods all too much, there are also plenty of recipes to recreate these foods at home.
Just like coconut bacon, banana ice cream, or a quick and healthy cheeze sauce. You can browse Pinterest or findingvegan.com for a huge variety of vegan comfort foods or similar meals with a delicious twist that might just become your new favorites!
Recipe: The Best Vegan Mac'n'Cheese
6. One day at a time
When the thought of changing for good or letting some food go forever seems too overwhelming, just try to stick as much to a plant-based diet as you can for today. One day seems doable, right? You’ll always be free to make your own decisions, to go back and forth – tell this to your anxious mind to see things more relaxed. You can do this. It’s not about perfection but taking the little steps until they’ve become second nature and require no effort at all anymore.
7. Prepare & stock your kitchen
One part of this largely depends on the type of transition you want to do: fast or slow. Either way, gain knowledge regarding which foods in your kitchen have animal products in them, which ones you don’t want to buy again and which ones you might even get rid of right now. Some people do well with just giving away all non-vegan foods at once and stocking up on vegan items instead.
Others just want to part with a few foods, maybe because of some footage they’ve seen regarding a specific animal they don’t want to consume anymore. No matter what you choose, you should learn which foods make up a well-sorted vegan kitchen and what can be on your vegan grocery list in the future.
8. Get into meal planning
If you’re into having all your meals laid out for you, then sticking to a vegan diet might be easier. All it takes is prepping some vegan staples which you can eat over the next couple of days – find some easy yet intriguing recipes and you’re almost set. And if you’re new to meal planning and want to help ensure your success, this can be a very helpful tool.
Just having a few staples, like rice, beans, dips, fresh fruit, and chopped veggies, at home will make creating plant-based meals so much easier! It can also save you a lot of time and money. Find out how to eat vegan on a budget here. For a more thorough guide on meal planning for beginners, check this article.
9. Don’t overcomplicate
Eating vegan is easy, honestly. You probably have so many plant-based foods at home already or are familiar with them. Think of oatmeal, avocado toast, pasta with tomato sauce, veggie soups, and more. Snacks can be fruit or a handful of nuts. We recommend not sticking to a particular plant-based diet in the beginning as this will take away even more food choices from you! It would be easiest to stick to your familiar meals and way of eating but simply veganizing everything.
If you want to take things up a notch and get healthier at the same time, simply put an emphasis on whole foods. Remember that any diet can be unhealthy and if you switch from meat and dairy to mock meat and coconut ice cream, don’t expect everything to suddenly get better. One of the reasons people turn their backs on veganism is that they don’t get lean and healthy bodies right away.
It’s understandable that you might get excited about all the tasty vegan convenience foods out there but please remember to eat normal, whole foods too. Put rice, beans, pasta, and potatoes on your plate for your main meals and add your favorite goodies like Gardein products to these whole foods. It is easy to get all of your essential nutrients as a vegan when you make sure to include whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, and nuts or seeds into your daily diet. The only nutrient that you’ll definitely have to supplement is vitamin B12.
10. Get some support
Finally, everything’s easier with people on your side that are on a similar path. Since we all live in a meat-eating world and are confronted with how “normal” it is to consume animals on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to get regular reminders that it could be different.
Back when we transitioned to a vegan diet, we went through all the social media platforms we were using and filled them with inspiring pages that shared lots of information on plant-based eating and vegan living. Funny memes, delicious food pictures, posts about how to deal with non-vegans and conversations with people who’ve been in your position are all tremendously helpful.
You’ll find new friends in these communities, maybe even someone who lives in your area (search on Facebook for “vegan + your city”) you could meet in person. And if you’re really lucky, you might even have an old friend or good colleague who would be interested in transitioning to a vegan diet with you!
This would give you the chance to swap recipes, prepare lunch for both of you, discover delicious options at restaurants, watch documentaries, and have insightful conversations. Although this case is rare, they do exist!
Have you been trying to shift towards a vegan diet? What have been your struggles and findings? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.