13 easy steps to transition to a vegan, plant-based life

Whether you are intending on going fully vegan or simply cutting out as much meat and dairy as possible while focusing your diet on fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, the positive effect you will have on the planet's health and the environment is monumental.

However, living a life based on plant consumption can seem remarkably daunting to a cheese-lover, a meat-eater, or simply anybody who has no previous experience of planning and preparing vegan meals. Making a change like this can be really intimidating, especially when you realize that vegan is a lifestyle and not just a diet.

But despair not! Whatever the reason why you want to try shifting over to a vegan diet, we have prepared 13 easy steps that will easy you along the path.

First: why go plant-based, any way?

There are endless books, podcasts, documentaries, and even films that explain the plethora of reasons why more of the world's population should try and become plant-based or vegan.

One such argument is that it has far less of a strain on the world's space and environment, with plant-based diets taking up far less agricultural landmass than animal-based ones in terms of how much area is needed to provide food and energy for one single person. This, in theory, means vast swathes of the planet's farming land could be converted back into forests, aiding carbon dioxide reduction.

From a personal point of view, vegan and plant-based diets are also incredibly healthy, so long as you carry them out carefully and properly and ensure you replace the vitamins and nutrients that you are losing from meat and dairy products.

As per Go Vegan, the carbon footprint of a vegan diet can be 60% smaller than a meat-based diet. With that in mind, and the fact vegan and plant-based diets can improve heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, it's time to take the plunge.

#1. Check your fridge

Start by going through your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards. Check all the labels. Be sure to keep an eye out for the sneaky stuff. (For example, Asian sauces with fish oil, casein (sodium caseinate), L-cysteine (feathers and/or hair... sometimes even human hair – blech!) Donate unopened food items that you can't eat and give away as much else as you can.

Remember that being vegan is about minimizing waste of resources, environment, or animal lives, so throwing away everything you can't eat wouldn't help the problem. For the same reason, keep in mind that some animal products are perfectly kosher to eat while vegan.

#2. And then the rest of your house

A surprising number of beauty and health supplies aren't vegan. Consider the bathroom. Look out again for the sneaky stuff such as A & D ointment with cod liver oil, shellac, or lanolin in lotions. Same caveat as with your food: donate or give away items you can't use.

Also, chances are you own leather or wool shoes, jackets, clothing, maybe even furniture! Decide if you'd rather donate these items or keep them and use them until they are unusable, then replace them with vegan alternatives. Many vegans (myself included) keep leather shoes or jackets and such that they bought before they were vegan because they don't want those animals' lives to have gone to waste, since it is not possible to go back and change it. You can, of course, sell these items, but I found myself feeling a little uncomfortable with the idea of profiting monetarily off these animals' deaths and opted to either keep or donate them instead.

#3. Start slow -- cut out meat day by day

Many converts will likely find it difficult to cut out meat instantaneously if they were previously living a meat-based lifestyle. This is also true of vegetarians turning vegan if they were to attempt to lose cheese, eggs, and milk overnight.

Therefore, taking baby steps could be the best course of action. If you are currently eating meat every single day of the week, cut it out day by day. In your first week, don't eat meat on Monday; in your second week, cut it out for Monday and Tuesday, and so on. That way, your body becomes more gradually used to losing the food group, and you become more used to cooking vegetarian or vegan meals in a relaxed manner.

Once meat has been removed from your diet, make a start on cutting down on animal products. If you were to go from a meat-based, dairy-based diet to a vegan one straight away, it would be easy to get lost and lose motivation. The day by day approach removes this instant jeopardy.

#4. Buy vegan superfoods and specially crafted vegan treats

Once you have started living more days or weeks of your life as a vegan or a plant-based individual, look into what superfoods or snacks you can treat yourself with. Blueberries, kale, miso, and pistachio nuts are all renowned as super-healthy vegan foods, while avocados are an undying trend.

In order to get you through the first few weeks, it's also important to find those naughty guilty pleasures that you might not have realized are vegan, such as Pringles, Bourbon biscuits, and some dark chocolates.

Related: Want to make some cauliflower wings, any good recipes? Any other good vegan finger food?

#5. Go grocery shopping

The produce section is a whole new world! Bring a list of non-vegan ingredients to avoid or an experienced vegan friend who can guide you, otherwise you might find yourself very confused. Buy yourself some new things to try: maybe eggplant, tofu, quinoa, soy milk, nutritional yeast, ground flaxseed, and other vegan staples.

I also recommend checking out some of the "fun" vegan options at this stage such as coconut ice cream, vegan chips and cookies, vegan cheese and butter, and maybe some vegan hot dogs or bacon. These things aren't necessarily as good for your health and eventually you'll want to minimize them, but they very much ease the transition and reassure you that you can still eat delicious foods and even junk food as a vegan if you want to.

#6. Now find your favorite dairy alternative

When going vegan or plant-based from scratch, ditching the meat is one matter, but removing dairy is quite another. Unless you are lactose intolerant, it is likely that during the vegetarian phase of your gradual shift towards veganism, you leaned quite heavily on dairy products such as milk and cheese.

In order to remove these, the next step is to find your favorite alternative. For milk, there are a number of different options to choose from, each with their own set of considerations:

Soy milk is low in fat, but deforestation in order to plant soy is a contentious issue
Almond milk takes lots of water to produce, but is still more environmentally friendly than dairy milk and has half as many calories
Coconut milk is excellent for cooking but is quite strong in flavor if you were looking to use it in the same ways as cow's milk
Oat milk can be made at home or bought and is high in vitamin D

Related: the Culinaly community ranks milk alternatives

#7. Expand your possibilities with vegan cookbooks

Finally, once your nutritional count is in order, you have requested advice from friends, you have planned out how you are going to cut out meat and dairy, and you have delved into the world of vegan treats, it's time to start your vegan cookbook collection.

If you're doing a vegan diet for health reasons (even if it's only one of your reasons), I highly recommend the Forks Over Knives cookbook. If you're not all that into health and just want simple, delicious vegan meals, check out the Veganomicon. And for delicious vegan desserts, check out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

#8. Experiment with recipes

Find staple dishes that you like (and that your family likes, if you're cooking for them too!) and write down the successful recipes. Life gets much easier after you've developed something of a recipe reservoir!

Related: Traditional Mediterranean vegan recipes?

Related: Give me some good vegan recipes

Related: Vegan cakes

#9. Find vegan restaurants

Everyone likes to eat out once in a while, so it's important to know where you can go in your area. Often Thai and Indian food places are a good bet if you (like me) live in a not-so-vegan-friendly area, but be sure to call first and make sure they don't use eggs, fish sauce, or fish oil in their otherwise animal-free meals.

#10. Find a community

Depending on where you live, your best bet might be online. Don't worry; there are plenty of online vegan friendships to be had! Whatever you do, find a community of some kind, because this is the kind of thing that's easiest when done with the support of other people. When possible, wean off of your non-vegan friends and rely on vegans in their place.

#11. Know your answers

You WILL get asked how you will get enough protein and iron, and you might even get asked how you will get enough calcium and vitamin B12. You will be told by paleo diet supporters that primitive humans ate meat and therefore so should we. You will be told that veganism is fanatical and stupid and that you're not a real man. You will be told that it's not healthy to eat so much gluten. You will be told that God said all things are good to eat, and people might even throw the "people of weak faith eat only vegetables" verse at you.

One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

If you're an atheist like I am, this won't land, but if you're religious at all look out for that one. You will be told anything that makes people feel better. You'll find that you being a vegan makes other people feel guilty about what they eat.

The greatest myth about vegans is that we're always going around judging other eaters. I haven't noticed that at all. Vegans, in my experience, are no preachier than any other group. People just think vegans are preachy because they make them feel uncomfortable about their own practices. So read up. At the very least, your mom will be worried about your health and you'll have to explain to her how healthful your diet is and how you're getting all your nutrients (see last tip!). At the worst, you'll get actually attacked and have to stand up for yourself. It's best to be prepared for any of it.

#12. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

The first step when making any lifestyle change is to ask for help. Living a plant-based life from scratch, and without any support from friends or experts, is an entirely different prospect to doing so with help from people you trust.

If you have friends who are already vegan, they will be absolutely delighted that you are about to make the change and will be more than willing to help, give you recipes, and offer advice. It could also be worth consulting your doctor to better understand how the change of diet might affect your body in the initial stages.

#13. Remember vegan vitamins and supplements!

Some vitamins and supplements are essential to pay attention to while adhering to a plant-based diet to ensure you meet all your nutritional needs and stay optimally healthy. These typically include:

  1. Vitamin B12: Necessary for nerve function and DNA synthesis, often found in fortified foods or taken as a supplement.
  2. Vitamin D: Important for bone health and immune function; can be sourced from sunlight exposure or supplements.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids: Vital for heart and brain health, usually derived from algae-based supplements.
  4. Iron: Required for oxygen transport in the blood; plant-based sources include fortified foods and supplements.
  5. Calcium: Essential for bone health and muscle function; can be obtained from fortified plant milk or supplements.
  6. Zinc: Important for immune function and wound healing; found in legumes, nuts, seeds, and supplements.
  7. Iodine: Crucial for thyroid function; often added to iodized salt or taken as a supplement.
  8. Protein: While many plant foods contain protein, some individuals may opt for protein supplements, such as pea or soy protein powder, to ensure adequate intake.
  9. Vitamin K2: Supports bone and heart health; sourced from fermented foods or supplements.
  10. Vitamin A: Essential for vision, immune function, and skin health; plant-based sources include beta-carotene-rich foods or supplements.

Using vegan vitamins and supplements can be an effective way to get the individual vitamins you require into your system or to simply boost your nutritional value through multivitamin tablets and gummies.

And there you have it. Do you still think veganism is daunting?

Are you thinking about going vegan? Do you have any questions or comments? Share them in the comment section!

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  1. 2 years ago

    Wonderful 🙂 Welcome new ones 🙂

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