Have you been thinking about going vegan? It is never too late to start a healthy lifestyle! If you’re an omnivore or a vegetarian wanting to go full vegan, transitioning can be such a challenge.
Without the right guide, you might find yourself just losing motivation every day, and I would hate for that to happen! I know it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run!
In this guide I will tell you how to start transitioning to a vegan diet and how to maintain it. I hope you’re as excited as I am!
The Benefits Of A Vegan Diet
Let me begin by telling you what you can get from adopting a vegan lifestyle. Yes, it’s not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle as well! According to Healthline, vegan diets are not just for those who want to lose weight. They will help:
- Strengthen your heart
- Protect against Type II Diabetes and certain cancers (colon cancer, breast cancer, and others)
- Increase nutrient intake
- Better kidney function
- Maintain blood sugar levels
- Boost energy levels
- Lower LDL (the bad cholesterol)
- Reduce your risk of developing hypertension
Really, going vegan will literally make you become stronger and healthier. However, that doesn’t come as easy as just eating your veggies and avoiding meat.
A proper vegan diet requires careful planning, or else you will lose out on other important nutrients. More on that below.
Vegetarian Diet Versus Vegan Diet
If you are totally new to the vegan diet, you must know this: vegetarians and vegans are NOT the same. While both thrive on a plant-based diet, vegans are so much more stricter. Vegetarians may eat dairy products, which brings us to 3 types:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians – dairy and eggs are part of their diet
- Lacto vegetarians – they eat dairy but avoid eggs
- Ovo vegetarians – exclude all animal products from their diet except for eggs
As the strictest form of plant-based diets, vegans completely avoid all meat and animal products. Even those with just traces of it or have come in contact with animal products.
This includes cosmetics and clothing items as well. Sounds extreme? Well it’s all for a purpose.
The Principles Behind Veganism
Aside from the priceless health reasons, veganism is also against animal cruelty. I guess you can say it is an encompassing term, because that’s what it really is.
You will find that there are things that may sound okay for a vegan diet but it is not because of the way it is processed or handled.
For example, products may have no contact with animal products but still vegans avoid, like palm oil. Palm oil itself is okay, but since most of its production requires the massive destruction of natural animal habitats and ecosystems, vegans will not support it.
The gist of vegan lifestyle follows these principles:
- Preservation and protection of the natural environment
- Avoidance of bringing harm to any sentient being
- Maintenance of optimum human health
If you find the vegan lifestyle a little confusing in the beginning, just remember these main principles. The rest will follow.
Furthermore, vegans do not support animal testing, either!
Types of Transitioning
The process of transitioning to a vegan diet doesn’t necessarily follow a strict rule. You can do any of these two:
- Vegetarian to Vegan – For vegetarians who want to go full vegan
- Omnivore to Vegan – For omnivores/meat-eaters who want to become a vegan slowly but surely (or abruptly, but I wouldn’t recommend that)
You can also choose to go vegetarian first before going full vegan. Ideally, transitioning takes time. Who are we kidding anyway? It is hard to just change something you have been doing (or eating) all your life in just a short period of time.
Giving up the foods you enjoyed before can be harder than you could ever imagine. So I will say it now, take all the time you need and do not rush.
As long as you keep your goal in mind, and have the determination, you will get there no matter how long it takes. Better late than never!
Ask Yourself First
Everyone has a reason why they want to go vegan, but what drives you to do it? Having a solid reason and driving force will push you further towards your goal.
Perhaps you want to lose weight or are against animal cruelty. I, personally, strive to be as healthy as possible. Now, find your driving force and never forget it.
Are you ready now?
The Best Way To Start: Learn (and Keep Learning!)
You don’t need to know everything all at once. Even the best ones had to start at zero in the beginning. What matters is your thirst for learning.
The good thing is access to information is so much easier these days, thanks to the world wide web. However, you need to be careful too because not everything you’ll see on the internet is true.
Make sure to get all the facts from reliable resources only. To help you start your journey to veganism, here are a few things you can do to educate yourself:
1. Keep Reading
Use the internet to your advantage. It’s a virtually infinite source of information right at your fingertips. Search and follow vegan blogs and social media pages. Bookmark your favorite sites and take points from them.
2. Watch Videos Or Documentaries
You can search for informative documentaries that inspire and motivate you towards your goal of being a vegan. Here are some of the best ones according to Live Kindly:
- What The Health
- Forks Over Knives
- Live And Let Live
- Maximum Tolerated Dose
- The Ghosts In Our Machine
- Called To Rescue
- The Game Changers
- Eating Animals
- The Cove
- Vegan: Everyday Stories
3. Join Communities And Forumsn on the label?
Have people you can regularly talk to either just to discuss ideas or share experiences with. People with the same interests can help keep you on track towards your goal.
This is helpful especially when there are no vegans among your family or friends.
Make new friends, vegan friends! Vegan communities and forums will also help you find more valuable resources and guides. They can be your support group, too!
4. Consult Long-time Vegans
If you have questions and can’t seem to find satisfying answers, you will need this!
Long-term vegans will likely have been there already where you are now in your journey, and have either found the answer themselves or have overcome it. Just like you, they went through a transition phase, too.
5. Buy Books And Magazines For Vegans
There are more books now about the vegan lifestyle than you can count with your fingers and toes!
These books may tell stories and share tips with you from actual experiences. They provide lots of useful information, and teach you how to put what you learned into practice.
Most of the time, these books also include vegan recipes. Some of which I would recommend to you to get started are:
- The China Study by Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell II – this book is great for beginners as it makes convincing points on how a vegan diet can improve your health.
- VegNews – if you love magazines then this is the one you should look for. It has everything a vegan will need. Whether you’re just starting, or are in the middle of transitioning and needing motivation, or full vegan already and just want new vegan stuff — this is for vegans of all kinds!
- The Forks Over Knives Plan by Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman – this NY Times bestseller includes a complete 4-week makeover plan for your meals. From recipes and daily meal plans to tips for food shopping and beating your cravings — just perfect for beginners!
- Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis – the vegan’s encyclopedia! This is the best reference book to help you choose the right plant-foods to eat for the right nutritional balance. Even long-time vegans like me still use it!
- The Plant-Based Journey by Lani Muelrath – if there’s a transition-specific book, this is it. This book can’t be more specific with its “step-by-step” guides for vegan newbies. As a bonus, the author also talks about “mastering strength of mind” in an entire chapter! You may not know it yet, but in the middle of transitioning, you will find many temptations and obstacles. This important chapter will keep you on the right track when that time comes.
6. Learn And Practice Techniques
As you go through learning new practices, adopt helpful techniques that you find along the way. These can be simple but helpful things like how to identify vegan items in the grocery or how to order your food at a restaurant, etc. Practice these techniques every day until they become a habit.
7. How To Slowly Change Your Diet
Now that you know how to equip yourself with the right knowledge to begin your journey, let’s talk about food! Being vegan is a lifestyle but your diet is of course what makes the biggest part of it.
No one becomes a vegan overnight. It takes hard work, a lot of discipline, and motivation. It’s a long journey as you start to slowly introduce yourself to a whole new lifestyle.
- Plan your meals and snacks every day. Meal plans will be your best friend as you start. Avoid deciding what to have right before you eat as this may only lead to poor choices.
Carefully plan your daily meals for one week, every week. Doing this will help you prepare better meals that you can also enjoy. You may need to do this for a few months or so until you’re confident enough about your food choices.
- Addition Before Subtraction. Remember this all the time. You don’t have to take away everything all at once. For example, before you stop eating meat completely, consume more vegetables.
Then slowly adjust the proportions: decrease your meat intake while you increase your veggies, grains, and legumes. Continue this slowly until your meals are finally meat-free.
Add more variety to the vegetables and fruits in your meal plans so you have more options.
- Switch food items slowly. If you love milk (from cows), find substitutes that you will like. Look for soy milk, almond milk,, etc. There are many non-dairy options now when it comes to milk, you might even be surprised as to how good they taste!
If you are still weaning yourself off from meat, try tofu or tempeh instead. Here are other great ideas for food substitutes:
- Collect vegan recipes of your favorite foods. Many of the substitutes above can be made at home with the right recipe. Contrary to what many people think, vegan food is not boring.
It is a challenge in the beginning because of the changes you need to adjust to. Eventually, once you find the right substitutes for your taste, you will start to find it exciting to discover more!
- Find vegan restaurants and grocery stores near you. As the vegan lifestyle becomes more popular than ever, more groceries and restaurants are adapting and adjusting to it.
Find the ones near your place so you know where to go to for shopping and dining out. There are also vegan shopping sites that you may find more convenient.
- Learn how to read labels. Vegans read labels A LOT! Know what to look for and what to avoid. Learn how to interpret label symbols and cryptic words in the ingredients list and nutrition facts.
Don’t get too caught up in it though or you’ll find it exasperating. If you’re not sure about something and don’t have time to look it up, just drop it. Your transition experience should be enjoyable and not feel like a chore.
- Practice proper preparation and storage. If you have meat eaters at home, you will need to learn how to store, prepare and cook your food.
Essentially, this is to avoid cross-contamination with meat and animal products. For example, assign utensils that are for meat, and ones for vegetables and fruits only. The same goes with using storage containers.
- Start a diary to keep track of your progressive changes. Write down the food items that you need to eliminate from your diet. Cross out each successful elimination until none are left.
You can also write down your weekly goals and make sure to keep to it. It’s simply like keeping a record of your progress so you know if you’re on the right track.
Common Challenges During Transition
The beginning can be such an exciting phase for you! However, as the weeks and months go, you will inevitably face obstacles.
- Cravings – this is just normal of course, but that doesn’t mean you can give in to it! If you find yourself craving for non-vegan food, find the best substitute for it. Better yet, try to ignore it, because it will eventually go away. Trust me.
- Food emergencies – to make sure you don’t run out of staple vegan items, start replenishing them before they are gone. Going to places where you’re not sure if you’ll find vegan restaurants can be a problem, too.
This is even more difficult when you’re just starting so make it a point to take some small vegan snacks with you. If this is not possible, look for fruits instead.
- Finding substitutes – this was one of the biggest challenges before when vegan food substitutes were not as plenty as they are now. However, this can remain a problem if you’re in a more remote location.
Depending on your location, anticipate these issues and prepare for it ahead of time. There are online shops that may be able to deliver to your location. You can also build your own little garden at home if you have the space for it.
- Socializing (or eating) with non-vegan friends or family members – you don’t have to stop yourself from going out with non-vegan people. You can always ask them to consider choosing a restaurant that serves both vegan and non-vegan food.
If you have a favorite vegan restaurant in the area, ask your friends to try it. You’ll never know, they might love it! Vegan food can taste just the same or even better than its non-vegan counterpart!
- Ordering food at a non-vegan restaurant – you might be tempted to buy food at a regular restaurant if you are starving and there are no vegan restaurants in your area. No Bueno!
If possible, contact restaurant ahead of time to see if they have something vegan-friendly. If there’s no time for this, simply ask the manager or cook and they might be able to accommodate your request.
- Higher food costs – Depending where you shop and what you shop for, healthier food can be more expensive. Prepare for this by planning your budget well. You can also save a lot if you just cook at home.
Store leftovers properly so you can have them at a later time.
Once again, I would recommend planting your own food. You don’t need to have an outdoor garden. Many plants can grow from small pots in the kitchen or by the window. Just make sure you look after them every day.
But honestly, a vegan diet doesn’t have to be expensive. On the contrary, you will avoid paying the high prices of meat and seafood.
Last time I checked, veggies, fruits, grains, and legumes were the cheapest food products at the grocery store!
BONUS: To learn more about transitioning into a vegan lifestyle, check out the video below!
Physiological Changes You Can Expect
As your body adjusts to the disappearance of meat in your diet, changes will happen. You can minimize these effects by planning you diet properly until your body adjusts completely.
If you start to feel any of these, you need to make adjustments in your diet and activities:
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Low energy
- Increased hunger
- Digestive issues
- Hormonal changes
Do Not Become An Unhealthy Vegan
You will see a lot of people, and even online articles, claiming that being vegan can be unhealthy. Some will even say it can cause illnesses. The truth is that this only happens if you make poor food choices.
Remember: eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you are healthy straight away. There has to be a balance. This is where your choices will matter. Make sure to:
- Choose varieties of food that will deliver a multitude of nutrients that you need.
- Find food items that will give you the right proportion of protein and carbs.
- Avoid consuming too much sugar and sodium.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid unsaturated oils.
If you don’t plan your meals based on nutritive values, you might miss out on protein, calcium, iron, and some B vitamins. So make sure to include ample food sources for these.
Beyond The Diet
Veganism is not just about the food you eat. Vegans are completely against any form of cruelty and abuse to both animals and the environment.
Beyond the food on your table, these are some of the things that vegans avoid too:
- Medicines with gelatin or lactose. If you have to take non-vegan medicines, ask your doctor first about alternatives. However, this is not a strict rule especially in cases of life-threatening emergencies. Your life is far more important, always!
- Cosmetics and clothing with animal products. Vegans do not wear fur, leather, and similar items. We also do not use cosmetics and other beauty products (perfume, shampoos, soaps, etc.) that have some sort of animal by products in it like gelatin, squalene, lanolin, and some dyes.
- Brands and products that do animal testing.
These are all part of the full vegan lifestyle. However, I would suggest that you concentrate on your diet transition first. You can learn more about these practices once your transition is successful. One step at a time!
Transitioning to a vegan diet comes with a lot of challenges. It will test both your patience and motivation. In summary, I will leave you with these quick personal tips:
- Keep learning
- Always plan ahead
- Go slow
- Add before subtracting
- Avoid poor food choices
- Always remember your driving force
- Enjoy the journey and the new discoveries along the way!
Are you currently in transition and have questions? Do you want to share your transition experience?
Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform!