Last night, I got a message from a friend asking me, “How did you go vegan?” When I asked for further clarification, she explained to me that she wanted to know how I did it: how did I switch from a standard diet to vegan diet? Because I have several vegan friends, I was already fairly well-informed on how to “go vegan”; however, my friend’s question brought to my attention that not everyone is so lucky. Some of us have to learn to adapt to a vegan lifestyle entirely on our own. So, with this in mind, here are a few suggestions for how to seamlessly transition into a vegan lifestyle.
Tip #1) Cut out one thing at a time. In order to make long-term lifestyle changes, it is best to take baby steps. For instance, crash diets never work. Why? They’re too abrupt, which makes it easy to fall back into old habits. Likewise, while some people are able to transition to a vegan diet by quitting meat and dairy cold turkey (No pun intended :), most people are not, especially if animal products play a substantial role in their diet. Taking this into consideration, I recommend eliminating non-vegan item at a time: For instance, maybe this week you cut out red meat. Perhaps the following week, you cut out chicken, and so on and so forth. Taking your time will allow your body to adjust, as well as give you time to inform yourself of what foods you should be consuming instead.
Tip #2) Purchase vegan replacements for meat and dairy items. One easy way to eliminate certain foods is by replacing the real-deal with a vegan version. For me personally, the greatest barrier to becoming a vegan was cheese. However, when I was introduced to Daiya products, I realized that I could continue to eat cheese, at least occasionally, which made me feel a lot more comfortable abandoning standard cheese. While Daiya cheese was a much stronger crutch for me during the transitional process, I now only consume it on occasion, most often in my homemade burritos (What’s a burrito without cheese, am I right?!). While cheese posed a problem for me, meat did not; however, I highly suggest checking out your local Whole Food’s or Trader Joe’s for some great vegan meat replacements.
Tip #3) Acquaint yourself with restaurants that have vegan options. I think that one of the most intimidating things about transitioning to a vegan diet is feeling as though you won’t be able to eat out anymore. I personally always felt concerned that I would no longer be able to enjoy going out to dinner with my friends, or eating a tub of popcorn at the movies, but that was not the case. In fact, I’ve found that society is becoming more and more vegan friendly. Several of my favorite restaurants, which include Olive Garden, Red Robin, and Mod Pizza, offer some phenomenal vegan options. I have also found some great local restaurants, like Burrowing Owl and Moxie, that offer entirely vegan menus. PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) is also a great resource for identifying what foods are vegan at both restaurants and grocery stores.
Tip #4) Educate yourself. Last, but most definitely not least, is to take the time to understand what switching to a vegan diet is all about. Beyond eating in a way that is more ethical and sustainable, the focus of every vegan diet should be to become plant-based. While there are many junk foods that are vegan, such as potato chips or french fries, these items should not be at the center of our diets. Occasionally indulging in such items is no problem, as long as we are predominantly focusing on the four food groups of veganism: 1) whole grains, 2) legumes, 3) vegetables, and 4) fruits. Many people will recommend eating a “colorful diet,” and by eating from all four of these food groups each day, this can easily be accomplished. Likewise, you will easily be able to get the wide array of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
I hope these tips were helpful if you are beginning your vegan journey. If there are any other questions you may have, please share them in the comments. On the other hand, if you’re already vegan, I’d love to hear what other recommendations you would give to a person looking to make this lifestyle change. Thanks for reading!
The featured photo was taken by Jannis Brandt. Find more of his work at unsplash.com.