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Beginner's Guide to Going Vegan
Are you thinking of going vegan? Then you've already taken a huge step! Whatever your reason(s), you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed with this life change. I get it, going vegan was not an overnight success for me.
Through running this vegan food blog and a support group on Facebook, I've had the pleasure of helping many others and have some great vegan tips listed below. Take this beginner's guide and refer to it whenever you are struggling or need encouragement.
12 Tips for Going Vegan
1. Taking Baby Steps is Okay
My favorite mantra is a simple one: "Progress, not perfection." Going vegan does not have to mean all or nothing right away, which is why I like to refer to it as a journey.
I hear a lot of people say that they went vegan overnight after watching a documentary or reading a chilling article. And I'm sure that is 100% true for some, but digging deeper into that statement usually reveals that they were aware of animal cruelty or the benefits of going vegan long before they had that spark moment.
Some of us don't really have a single spark moment. My vegan journey started when I realized how terribly cruel animal testing was. I didn't go fully vegan with my diet until a few years later. I had several of those spark moments throughout that time period and slowly cut back on animal products. Either way, your journey is valid.
2. Write down foods you already love that are vegan
Completely changing your diet can seem overwhelming. But the truth is, you already eat a ton of vegan food! Roasted veggies, pasta, marinara sauce, peanut butter and jelly, berries, apples, many types of chips and crackers, hummus, beans, potatoes, etc. Make a list of your favorites and save it on your phone or put it up on your fridge. When you're feeling like you have to give up so much or are struggling to find something to eat, refer to the list!
3. Try New Things
Don't be afraid to be adventurous! Try a new cuisine, a new ingredient, a new method for cooking veggies, or a local restaurant you've never been to that has vegan options. One thing I never tried before going vegan was curry. Now? I eat it all the time! It might be harder said than done, but keep an open mind! There is so much goodness out there you have yet to experience.
4. Keep a Running List of Meals You Try & Love
That list you made earlier of foods you already love? Add to it. As you try new foods, add them to the list. Create more lists for your favorite vegan breakfasts, easy vegan lunch ideas, and dinners the whole family enjoys. Eventually, you will have so many options to choose from. When you are making your grocery list, refer to this list to plan for the week.
5. Find a Support System
Veganism is more popular than ever, but you may still find yourself being the only one in your family that doesn't want to eat meat. If you are feeling alone in your vegan journey, try to find a support system. This might involve doing some research. Search the internet to see if your local area has a vegan community, or hop on Facebook and find a supportive vegan group. These support groups can offer you advice on finding the best melty vegan cheese, or how to deal with your judgemental Uncle Stan.
I also have a (totally free) 5-Day Vegan Beginner's Guide to offer you support, advice, and tools. Sign up using the form below.
6. Consider Taking a Vitamin
Some assert that a vegan diet will give you all the nutrients you need. Others state you will absolutely be deficient in certain vitamins. My personal recommendation is to do your own research and see your doctor. I personally take a multivitamin and a B12 supplement. This is an excellent article on B12 and a vegan diet.
7. To Save Money, Eat Simply
Did you check out the vegan section of the grocery store and notice the higher price tag on vegan cheese and meats? Don't let this deter you from trying these things if you can afford to, but remember that you do not need to eat them daily. Instead of replacing the beef in your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce with vegan beef, consider making it with lentils instead.
A simple dish of rice, veggies, and beans is cheap as heck! In general, the prices on whole foods are going to be much cheaper than processed foods. Hit up the aisle where the dried beans and lentils are. Find a grocery store with a good bulk section. You may even want to check out different stores and compare prices on the essentials.
8. Make Simple Swaps
Remember, this is a journey! Perhaps you don't want to start right away with getting rid of your favorite dishes. This goes back to tip #1 - baby steps! Replace the butter you smear on your toast every morning with a great vegan option (my favorite is Earth Balance!) Check out the non-dairy milk section - there are SO MANY to choose from! Try them out and see which one you prefer with your cereal. There is even a vast variety of vegan coffee creamers now. Keep making these simple swaps over time and soon enough you'll be totally vegan.
9. Look Up Vegan Menus at Your Favorite Restaurants
Oof. Eating out when vegan can seem impossible. In actuality, there are tons of restaurants and fast food joints with great vegan options and more are jumping on board! Red Robin and Burger King have the Impossible Burger and Dunkin' Donuts now has the Beyond Sausage here in the U.S. Taco Bell always has tons of great options.
My favorite place to eat out? Olive Garden! You can get the breadsticks, minestrone soup, and pasta topped with marinara sauce and garden veggies. ALL vegan! Most restaurants have a list of their vegan offerings right on their website. You might be surprised to see what you can order!
10. Always Keep Learning
If you're reading this, I'm guessing you already know why you want to go vegan. You might know the sad truth about animal agriculture or the benefits a vegan diet has on the environment. However, I encourage you to continue watching those documentaries and reading the latest articles. If not to remain educated, simply to remind yourself why you want to be vegan.
Some great vegan-related documentaries are:
- What the Health
- Game Changers
- Eating Animals
My favorite books on this subject are:
- The China Study by T Colin. Campbell, PhD
- Proteinaholic by Garth Davis, MD
- The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams
- The Cheese Trap by Neal D. Barnard, MD
11. Be Easy On Yourself
Remember: A slip up isn't a failure, it is part of the journey. Beating yourself up over eating that slice of cheese only leads to more negative thoughts like "I can't do this, it's too hard". That mindset will only discourage you. Keep reminding yourself of the progress you have made and the steps you will continue to take. Think back to a month ago when you were eating meat for every meal and look at where you are now. Progress, not perfection.
12. Be Easy On Others
It's no secret that vegans get a bad reputation for being pushy. Attacking or shaming others for their food choices is not the way to get them on board. If you want your family and friends to be open to a vegan diet, lead with kindness. Introduce them to the delicious food you are eating! And if they are curious, suggest documentaries or books that helped you along your journey.
When I went vegan, my husband supported me but he was not on board. We watched the same documentaries and I told him all about the research I was doing about animal welfare. And yet, his mind was still closed off. How could this information open my eyes but not his? I thought to myself. It only caused frustration for both of us. So, I backed off. Over time, he naturally ate fewer animal products. Three years after I went vegan, he decided to stop eating meat completely.
Everyone's journey is going to be different - be kind to animals and our fellow humans.
Are you feeling more confident and ready to go vegan? I hope these tips helped. I'd love to hear about your vegan journey in the comments!
Next, check out this Vegan Grocery List for Beginners!