Making the transition to being vegan can be a really rewarding experience. There are many benefits to a vegan lifestyle. But learning how to be vegan has its challenges.
So, whether you’re making the decision to go vegan for your health, for compassion or for the health of the planet, this guide will help make your journey smooth, pleasant and so much easier.
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Decide on a game plan
Some people can just wake up one morning, decide to be vegan and never look back. But if that’s not you, you might want to come up with a plan.
There aren’t any hard rules to going vegan. You can dip your toes in by making vegan meals once in a while to get used to them. Or you can do a challenge where you go vegan for a month.
The trick is just to go at your own pace.
I started my own transition four years ago when I cut out red meat. Then I incorporated meatless days. I went vegan for a while in November 2019 and decided to stay vegetarian for now, with the vegan transition in mind.
Your plan doesn’t have to be precise. It can ebb and flow just as your life does. You’ll know how you want to go about it according to your lifestyle and what’s available to you.
When you’ve decided how you want to embark on this journey, you’ll need to do some preparations. Because there are many surprises along the way and you can save yourself a lot of frustration.
Firstly, you need to know what to eat and how it will impact your body. If you’re used to mostly processed foods switching over to a plant-based diet might upset your digestive system with the overload on fiber.
Start slow when introducing more fiber and eat fermented foods to help with processing that fiber.
I recommend you check out Nutriciously’s free nutrition course where you’ll learn exactly what you need to eat, how to stock up your kitchen and the science behind it.
Then you’ll need to make sure you have access to the nutrition you’re going to need.
Make sure you always have a protein-packed snack with you so you don’t get hungry when you’re out and about and have to resort to something super expensive or have no vegan options.
Make the transition easier for yourself
If you’re not used to the textures and flavours of vegan dishes it can be quite overwhelming, especially when paired with meat withdrawal symptoms.
Keep your meals very simple and basic at the beginning. Make sure it includes starch, a protein, fat and some fruits or veggies (fibre). This can be something like olive oil roasted veggies with a side of rice and some roasted chickpeas.
Even baked beans can work if you don’t know what chickpeas are (there are people that don’t). Just make sure that you eat a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need.
If you really don’t like veggies, you can make them taste so much better with spices. A lot of meat spices are vegan (just check the ingredients) so you can still have your favourite spices and flavours on your veggies.
When you’re ready to broaden your food experience, explore cuisines that are naturally plant-based. This way you don’t have to figure out how to substitute ingredients.
Ethiopian, Mexican, South Indian and Mediterranean cuisines are really vegan-friendly. They have some of the most amazing dishes out there.
You can also adapt any meal to be vegan. There are substitutes for everything. So if you’re really missing your favourite meal, substitute the non-vegan ingredients.
A hack I always use is when people say chicken, I hear chickpeas. Meat is the easiest thing to substitute with beans, legumes, tofu or tempeh. Find the ones that work for you and learn how to make them well.
Find substitute hacks
Lucky for you vegan alternatives are trending, making them more widely available than they used to be. But it’s also making them more expensive.
A lot of them can be highly processed. So it’s better to only use them once in a while instead of making them a part of your daily meals.
And honestly, those fake meats really weird me out. They taste suspicious.
I’ve been experimenting with making my own substitutes, which are healthier and way cheaper than store-bought alternatives.
I’ve even learned to save the chickpea water from my canned chickpeas to use instead of eggs in my baking. Its fancy name is Aquafaba, if you’ve been wondering.
You can also make your own vegan cheese, which just makes this whole journey so much easier.
But if you’re not the DIY type, you can use A Billion Vegans app to find good vegan products reviewed by other vegans. That way you’ll know which products are worth it.
A bonus of using the app is that they donate $1 to conservation, education and diet change organisations every time you submit a review.
How to know if it’s vegan
You might find yourself reading a lot of food labels at the beginning. Animal ingredients can hide in the weirdest of names.
PETA and Vegan.com have extensive lists of all the ingredients derived from animals but the ones you’ll find most are gelatin and whey.
To make it easier for yourself, you can follow Accidently Vegan on Instagram. They share a lot of products found at the super market that are vegan so you don’t have to read the labels.
A lot of those products are actually familiar, like Oreos, making it really easy for you to recognize when you’re shopping.
And if all else fails, just look out for anything on the packaging that says suitable for vegans or find the certified vegan symbol.
Vegan on a budget
Up until recently, a plant-based diet was seen as the more frugal option.
It’s only now that anything labelled vegan has an inflated price. But you can still live a completely vegan life without spending more than your budget allows.
You might even end up with some room to spare.
You can buy a lot of pantry staples in bulk, which really cut down the price. Things that last long like rice, pasta, dried beans, nuts and seeds are all available in bulk and always handy in last-minute dishes.
Opt for whole grains instead of processed. They’re more or less the same price and you’ll get way more nutrients and fibre that way.
Look out for fortified foods containing B12 and iron. It will cut down the cost of taking supplements.
A lot of vegan recipes call for quinoa, which is really expensive. So if you’re on a budget you can substitute it with brown rice. It’s more accessible too.
To make sure your leftovers don’t go to waste, freeze them for later. You can also freeze your alternative milk if you don’t use that much of it. And your fruit too.
Keep your meals simple and stay away from processed foods and vegan products that are way too expensive. You can make your own substitutes with much more variety.
But overall just eat lots of plants. You can even start your own herb and veggie garden for variety that will cost you nothing.
Another way to save on your produce is to go to the farmer’s market. They’re fruits and veggies are cheaper and you’ll be supporting local labour.
Dealing with the restaurant situation
I almost cried in a restaurant once because they refused to make me a margarita pizza with no cheese and extra pineapples and avocadoes. True story.
So to ensure you don’t end up with a plate of pitiful, flavourless fries like me, you’ll need to learn a few tricks when ordering at a restaurant.
Firstly, before you agree to go anywhere, check the place’s menu out online and make sure they at least have vegetarian options. You can always ask them to modify it for you.
Get yourself familiar with restaurants that are vegan-friendly and always suggest them before you go out. You might not always get an agreement but it’s worth a shot.
If you do end up somewhere with no vegan, or even vegetarian, options then first see if you can get the meat and cheese taken off a pizza or out of a pasta.
Then take a look at the sides. You can get yourself a pretty good plate of veggies and rice, just ask them not to prepare it with butter. Even potato wedges if you’re lucky.
And if you really want to get dark, go to the salads.
How to stay on top of your game
Somewhere along your journey, be it in the first week or over a few months, your body will change.
You might notice your digestive system being more sensitive to certain foods, or you build up an intolerance tot non-vegan food. Your body might even become more toned.
Let this change happen and embrace it. Support your body with nutritious food and make changes where necessary.
If you’re struggling with processing fiber, try drinking a lot more water and taking probiotics. You can get these from kombucha, fermented foods and buying them in liquid form.
Be compassionate with yourself. There are times when it will get frustrating, especially when you have to compromise or those days where you just don’t feel like cooking and you have nothing in the house.
On those days you just have to accept it, do the best you can, and know that the next day will be better.
And when it comes to nutrition, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you’re getting what you need to stay healthy.
If you’re worried about getting enough protein, make sure you include a protein source with every meal.
You can track the nutrients in your food using an app like MyFitnessPal where you key in everything you’re eating and it calculates your calories, macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients for you.
That way you never have to wonder and you can make changes easily when you need to. Whether that’s with your food choices, supplements or fortified foods.
To stay inspired and always have delicious food to eat, follow vegan accounts on Instagram, subscribe to vegan blogs and get yourself a vegan cookbook or two.
The VeGuide app is also great to get new recipes, tips and advice, and to keep you motivated.
Make it convenient
Being vegan doesn’t have to mean slaving away in the kitchen night and day and scouring health shops for weird and wonderful ingredients in between.
If you don’t like cooking all that much and searching the internet for recipes sounds tiring to you, there’s a service for that.
Veestro is a meal-delivery service that’s completely plant-based, healthy and flexible to your needs.
You can choose exactly what you want from their extensive menu. Or you can go with their weight loss plan that gives you three meals a day adding up to 1200 calories.
It gets delivered to your door frozen and all you have to do is heat it up in the microwave or the oven. No hassle whatsoever.
And as a bonus, you can get $30 off your first four boxes if you purchase through my link. Just use the code WELLNESS at checkout.
If you do enjoy cooking, you can use hacks and appliances to cut down your time in the kitchen.
When you’re cooking a meal, make more than just one portion and freeze it. This way you’re making your own ready-made frozen meals for those days when cooking isn’t on your agenda.
You can also make fruit salad for a quick snack if you’re short on time.
To reduce your cooking time, invest in an air fryer and a pressure cooker.
The air fryer significantly reduces cooking time because you don’t have to wait for it to heat up like the oven.
It also helps you reduce your need for oil and you can literally put anything in there. From roasted chickpeas, roasted bell peppers to vegan cupcakes. And it takes 15 min or less.
If you have a lot of dry beans or you like making soups, a pressure cooker is something you won’t want to live without.
Another investment I suggest you make is a stick blender. Especially for making your own substitutes. I only use a stick blender for my substitutes because those big blenders just don’t work.
Dealing with other people
The most challenging part about being vegan isn’t really the diet itself, it’s other people.
Because when you’re eating with other people it becomes social. And eating the same foods kind of becomes the unspoken rule. Then being vegan becomes complicated.
A way to get around this is to offer to help with the cooking. That way you can control what goes into your own food while still keeping your meal similar to everyone else’s.
What I like to do is still eat the same side dishes as everyone else but to make a different protein source. So roasted chickpeas instead of roast chicken, for example.
If you’re going to a dinner party, always ask the host if you can bring anything and ask them what they’re making. It’s less rude to ask than to show up and not be able to eat anything.
Make it a habit to bring your own food when you go to friends and family. It will take the pressure off them and ensure you have enough to eat.
And if you do bring something, make enough for everyone else so you can share a bit of your life with your loved ones and gently educate them on what exactly it is that you eat.
It might clear up some of the questions they have and make them feel included.
You can also make familiar food for your loved ones and veganise it. That way it will feel less strange to them and they may make more vegan choices too.
It’s also really helpful to have other people in your life that are vegan.
Whether physically or virtually, it’s good to share and receive tips and experiences from other people. Having a support system is really important.
You might naturally gravitate toward them or have to go out looking, but an easy way to make friends is to join a vegan forum or group.
Being the only vegan in the house
A lot of vegans are the only ones in their household. Which makes it a little harder because you often have to fend for yourself.
The easiest way to get around this is to keep it simple. Most households already have basic vegan ingredients like rice, pasta, veggies, fruits and maybe some canned beans.
If you’re the one buying the groceries make sure you always have these ingredients. If you’re not, come up with some essentials that you need and put it on the grocery list.
When you’re not the person doing most of the cooking you’re going to have to spend more time in the kitchen, or face the frustration of the chef.
You can either make completely different meals to the rest of your household, adapt the parts of the meals that aren’t vegan, or offer to make vegan dishes for everyone and just add a non-vegan protein source for them.
There are many different ways to get around the food situation in your house, it all just depends on your unique situation. Don’t be afraid to come up with creative solutions.
Beyond the diet
Vegan is a lifestyle, not just a diet.
So, you might find yourself having to search for vegan products beyond food. Which is easier to do these days as a lot of products are being made with vegan alternatives.
But a lot of those products are synthetic and harmful to your body. Which might lead you down the path of natural ingredients, especially in clothes and cosmetics.
If you find yourself interested in a more natural, kind and sustainable way of living, be sure to check out my guide on following a sustainable lifestyle that’s right for you.
Please feel free to comment below if you have any more questions, suggestions or tips and if you found this post helpful.
Cheers for now,
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