So you’ve decided to embark on a journey and become a vegan, but where do you start? The vegan lifestyle has become easier to follow nowadays with access to plant-based meat substitutes and cheaper produce. That said, it is a commitment to yourself, your body and your mind. Becoming a vegan is not necessarily difficult, but it does require knowledge and persistence. In this article, I will share a few tips and share some of my experiences to help you transition to a vegan lifestyle.
#1 Find your motivation
We all have our reasons for trying something new, but why do YOU want to transition to a vegan lifestyle?
- Discover your desire to become a vegan and use that as a rationale to motivate yourself and stay on your plan. Don’t stray away!
- There’s a ton of reasons why people become vegans. They range from protecting animal life, to making strides that can change our global impact on the environment, or to arming bodies with the proper nutrition and immune boosting plant sources that will keep us safe from diseases. Whatever your reason is, keep your motivations in mind as this will propel you to completely change your lifestyle for the reasons that YOU believe in.
#2 Learn as much as you can
Learning and understanding as much as you can to familiarize yourself with all aspects of Veganism is important when you are ready to transition to a vegan lifestyle. Here are some things to think about:
- Seek scientific information on the benefits of Veganism and the impact it has on your health. I recommend watching the Netflix documentary ‘Forks Over Knives.” Also, with a plethora of information online, ebooks, magazines, nutritional programs etc, read up on expert knowledge to familiarize yourself with all things vegan.
- Learn what works best for you – find out what you need in order to properly nourish your body and what supplements you should take to ensure adequate vitamin and nutrition intake.
- Familiarize yourself with ingredient lists. It is crucial that you understand what products are vegan and which ingredients are not (i.e. Chemical based products, preservatives and animal derived products.)
#3 Transition at your own pace
- Slowly ween yourself off animal products, but do not go cold turkey (no pun intended.)
- Start by cutting out one animal product/meal per day. For example, if you eat meat three times per day, start by cutting out eggs for breakfast, or cut out a deli sandwich you would normally have for lunch.
- Swap out products that are easy to replace such as milk for almond milk.
- Take your time. Your body needs to acclimate itself to a new way of eating, especially if you introduce new foods. Slow and steady wins the race!
#4 Add more plant-based foods to your diet
As you begin to step away from animal products like meat, chicken and fish, substitute it with fibrous beans, grains and vegetables. I recommend this step because fibrous foods keep you full and in turn, your cravings for meat, poultry and fish will lessen.
- Increase your consumption of grains like brown rice, potatoes and steel-cut oats.
- Eat a lot of beans! They are not only cheap, but they fill you up and can be used to make burgers, salads, chilis, meat sauces, etc. Plus, they are a great source of protein.
- Incorporate tempeh, tofu, seeds & nuts into your diet. Soy based products and nuts are another great way to fill you up and provide nourishment.
#5 It’s OK to rely on prepared products as you transition to a vegan lifestyle
With the amount of plant-based burgers, pizzas, hotdogs, ice creams, cheeses, etc, it is extremely easy to find a vegan alternative to your favorite comfort food. It is OK to rely on prepared vegan / plant-based dishes as you embark on your transition to a vegan lifestyle. This will help you satisfy any urges while simultaneously keeping you on your journey to a vegan lifestyle. However, don’t get carried away! Remember a lot of prepared foods are rich in preservatives and are highly processed. Once you feel comfortable, lessen the amount of prepared vegan foods you eat for fresh, homemade alternatives.
#6 Find vegan recipes online!
Not for nothing, but that’s why I am here. In fact, there is a whole community of vegan food bloggers on the internet. You’d be surprised as to how many dishes you can make that are vegan. People have come up with clever ways of substituting vegan items or making a non-vegan product taste like an animal product.
Once I did my research, I realized I can still enjoy all the foods that I love without having to deprive myself. Check out some of my recipes here – you’d never know that they are vegan dishes!
#7 Overcome cravings for non-vegan foods
Most vegans choose to follow this lifestyle for ethical reasons or health-related reasons, but it is not uncommon for many to be tempted by non-vegan foods. For example, cheese. This was one of my biggest barrier foods to overcome. Eventually, I got over my cheese cravings and found a new love for cheese alternatives (check out my 3 ingredient cheesy queso dip recipe)
Here are some tips/tricks to move on from some of your favorite non-vegan foods:
- Cravings Go Away – Once you transition to a 100% vegan way of life, your cravings for certain foods will eventually subside. The keyword here is: eventually. The truth is, in the beginning it will be tough and you will have cravings. But, after several weeks, your cravings for non-vegan foods will subside. You will begin to not even think about your cravings, but you need to persevere and continue to stay on track. Cheat meals only derail your progress.
- Use Alternatives – to reiterate my earlier point, it is ok to use alternatives or substitutions in moderation. For example, buying vegan cheese slices is fine as long as you are OK with the ingredient list and nutritional information. Using alternatives will help satiate your cravings.
- Save the Hardest for Last – When you first start your transition, keep your favorite non-vegan foods on your meal plan until you are ready to take the jump and become a full-time vegan. This will make the transition process easier for you. For example, if ice cream is a treat you struggle to eliminate from eating, then keep eating it until you are finally 100% vegan.
- Anything is Better than Nothing! Listen, I get that life can be challenging and some things are hard to do, but if you can’t commit to living a 100% vegan lifestyle, nobody is going to judge you. If you choose to eliminate most non-vegan products, in my opinion, that is better than not even trying. Your body will thank you, and when the time is right, you will continue to change your diet as needed.
Final thoughts – How to transition to a vegan lifestyle
While there are many opinions on how to become a vegan, my best advice to you is that you need to determine what feels comfortable and natural for you. If you are struggling to make the transition, then take a slow journey. If you feel that changes to your lifestyle are coming naturally, then continue at the pace that works for you.
Remember, this is your choice and you are doing this for the reasons that motivate YOU! There is no time stamp on this process. There is a lot to learn and a lot of adjusting, and it can be overwhelming. Remember that this is your journey and transitioning to a vegan lifestyle isn’t necessarily difficult; it just takes patience, creativity and persistence, but I have no doubt that you will succeed!
All the best,