Is veganism something dwelling on your mind? Is it something you have been dwelling on with no idea where to start because you have little to no direction? Or is veganism something you are simply interested in because you are making the attempt to become more health conscious? One way or another, you ended up here. Believe me when I say this, as someone who has been engulfed in a vegan lifestyle for nearly 3 years, I was doing exactly what you are right now. Reading, gathering, and becoming as knowledgeable as I possibly can about veganism.
Learn as much as you can.
The more you become knowledgeable the easier it is to dive into the world of veganism. When the thought of becoming vegan came to mind several years ago I started by a quick google search that led me to several videos on YouTube. Not only did I watch several educational videos that would explain the health benefits of veganism, I began searching for recipe videos. A year down the line I started gathering books but that isn't necessary when you are first starting out. You have a world full of information at your fingertips. The internet is your Mecca and you want to take full advantage of it.
Add more to your diet before changing your diet.
The biggest lesson I learned when it came to transitioning to a vegan diet was to add more foods I did not eat as an omnivore and incorporate them to my daily meals. I added more whole grains, seeds, nuts, and tofu. This sets you up when you first start your transition. Find recipes where you can incorporate these new foods. You’d be surprised what you can make out of them. Tofu ricotta, cashew chili “cheese” dip, pine nut basil pesto? These recipes have my omnivore family and friends questioning whether or not what they’re eating is vegan!
Seek help if you are struggling.
If the world of veganism is showing to be a little difficult take to the internet for help. There are several blogs, YouTube videos and communities out there that are willing to lend a helping hand. When I first began to struggle with veganism I found a group on Facebook called “Arch Vegans.” Keep in mind this group is for those in the St. Louis area, but there are several other groups out there just like this one. In this group vegans and those considering veganism join together and create events, share recipes, restaurants in the area that make eating out a walk in the park, and the group itself is willing to speak about their struggles while giving advice. When you put yourself out there you will find the tools to keep you afloat and make your journey that much easier.
Keep a positive attitude and remember why you are making this change.
Whether it’s ethical reasons, environmental reasons, health reasons, or everything in between remember you are making this change for a reason. Transitioning to veganism is as hard as you make it to be. If you change your perspective and instead of thinking, “I’m giving up all of this food” think of all the delicious food there is for you to try. Your favorite foods you eat on a weekly basis could most likely be made vegan. I always think about Thanksgiving. While there are fake meat substitutes I think about sides during the holidays. Stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the list could go on and on. All of those foods you find on my table during the holidays. Your favorite comfort go to soup during the winter? I can guarantee there’s a recipe for that too!
Instead of incorporating animal products you’ll be using whole plant-based foods that your body will thank you for later. Veganism is a learning curve but with it on the rise and countless people making the switch to a more plant-based diet, it’s becoming more and more achievable. Positivity is the key with everything you do in life and this is one those things.
Plan your transition.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to plan. We’ve already gone over how important it is to learn as much as you can but this also comes with planning. Gather as much as you can about veganism and utilize that out in the world. You’ll want to become familiar with reading ingredients and what to look out for such as; casein, gelatin, whey, isinglass, etc. A lot of companies will sneakily add these ingredients into your food. Did you know McDonald's fries contain beef flavoring? Steer clear of those, but several other fast food chains cater to veganism!
Slowly cut out certain dairy and meat products. I personally started to cut out red meat and milk first. Everything after that followed. I cut out all dairy and began replacing it with cashew milk and soy based products. Then I decided I no longer was interested in chicken anymore and found alternatives such as Gardeins Seven Grain Crispy Tenders. They replicate meat but don’t cause any harm to animals. If meat replacements are not for you there are several whole plant-based meals you will find and love.
Your first grocery trip when planning veganism can be scary. You are walking into a place that your entire life you've always known dairy and meat so walking into the grocery store for the first time with a vegan mindset can be overwhelming. Fruits and vegetables are always good options but you can find several other things throughout your local grocery store. The organic or “healthy” sections of your store are good starters. Though you can find several other items that are vegan those are the sections I stayed in before I decided to adventure out. In these areas you can find the famous little “v” or vegan listed on several items that make your search a little easier.
You’ll find with a vegan diet that you feel so much better on a daily basis. Emotionally and physically you will notice changes over time. Veganism can be an overnight change but in most cases it comes with time. Be patient with yourself and if you notice you’re falling off track pick yourself back up again and under no circumstance beat yourself up about it. You have come from a world where you have only known to eat one way your entire life so it’s not always going to be easy. Once you have fully gotten a hang of it you will find that it is a piece of cake. (Yes, you can still indulge in yummy desserts as well!) Transitioning to veganism will challenge yourself to think differently and in return you will be amazed at the outcome.