They say “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so don’t feel discouraged when you’re not Alexander the Great when it comes to adopting a vegan lifestyle. It’s all about taking baby steps. I, myself, took several of these steps to get to where I am now. It took a whopping seven years for me to transition from the girl who loved BBQ ribs to a full-fledged vegan. Some people can switch to a vegan lifestyle as fast as flipping a switch and I commend them for it. Most of us, however, aren’t so luckily. Now, I’ve made many mistakes. Who hasn’t? Have you ever heard of a “pastaterian” (aka someone who eats pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)? Well I was definitely one of those! But what is life but one huge learning experience?
Lucky for you, I’ve made all of these mistakes so you don’t have to. That is why I have compiled a list of ten easy ways to transition to a healthy vegan lifestyle.
1. Decide WHY you want to go vegan.
This is, without a doubt, the most important step so do some soul searching. Why do you want to commit to this lifestyle? Is it that you want to be healthier? Are you eager to aid in the battle against climate change? Perhaps you’re like me and you decided to go vegan for the health and welfare of animals. It can honestly be any combination of these or none of these all. Whatever your reasoning, it is imperative that you hold on to it and never let it go. Anytime you’re tempted to give into temptation I want you to think back on this moment. Trust me, it has saved me more times than I can count.
2. Start with Meatless Mondays.
It honestly doesn’t matter what day of the week you choose. Designate at least one day out of the week that you want to go cruelty-free. There are tons of recipes out there that can be found with the click of a button. Simply type “Meatless Monday” into your favorite search engine or signup for a free subscription to Meatless Mondays. Once you sign up you will be emailed a new recipe every Monday. I also post recipes frequently so be sure to check them out and give them a try.
3. Cut out a new animal byproduct every week and find a substitute.
Do you love burgers and don’t think that life is worth living without them? Check out this awesome black bean recipe by The Buddhist Chef! I use this recipe all the time. Love bacon? Check out his tofu BLT recipe. You don’t want to be like me and spend your first month as a pastaterian. There is a plethora of options out there so don’t feel discouraged. Focus less on what you’re losing and more about the knowledge you will be gaining by trying new foods. Soon you will become the new chef in your friend group so grab an apron and get started!
4. Educate yourself!
Watch a documentary or two. I highly recommend watching Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and What the Health. They’re all on Netflix and are very informative. These documentaries go in depth about why veganism is beneficial for our health and the environment.
5. Nutritional Yeast Flakes and multi-vitamins/ supplements are your best friend!
Nutritional yeast flakes are loaded with B12, which converts carbs into glucose and increases energy. It also fights against breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer so make sure you sprinkle some in every recipe!
If you’re like me, you grew up with a mom nagging you to take your vitamins. When it comes to sustaining a healthy vegan lifestyle your mom could not be more correct. As you continue on the vegan path you’ll discover more ways to acquire all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need through the foods that you eat. In the meantime, it is vital that you take supplements so you don’t suffer from a vitamin deficiency. Check out your local pharmacy for a list of supplements, but make sure the ones you buy are organic. Gel capsule vitamins contain gelatin (not vegan) and many others contain fillers like wheat and rice so you will definitely want to avoid those.
6. Begin only shopping in the produce and grain section.
As a new vegan, the grocery store can be a metaphorical field of temptation. I have always noticed that if I force myself to only shop in the produce section I am less tempted to buy products that are overly processed and unhealthy. Limiting yourself to the produce section of the store is the best way to avoid over shopping and filling up on products you don’t need, though there are a few exceptions. There will definitely come a time when you need beans, healthy oils, and grain. If you find the temptation too strong simply ask a family member to grab you some beans, healthy cooking oils, and your favorite grain the next time they go shopping.
7. Invest in a good cookbook.
There are so many wonderful vegan cookbooks out there. I highly recommend Doug McNish’s “Raw, Quick, and Delicious” and “Eat Raw, Eat Well”. If you’re not yet ready to take the step towards Raw Veganism try checking out McNish’s book “Vegan Everyday”. He’s an executive vegan chef and two of these cookbooks have won the title “Best Vegan Cookbook in the World”. I, myself, am in the process of creating my own cookbook so be sure to look out for it.
8. Download a vegan app!
Check out apps like Happy Cow to find vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants in your area. Be sure to keep an eye out for the new app Raddish! Its co founder, Matt Lock, will be test launching the app in July in my hometown. His goal is to give local chefs who can not afford to open their own restaurant an opportunity to create their own business by selling their signature dishes right from home! Check out more about this wonderful app here.
9. Ignore the naysayers and stay positive!
I cannot tell you the countless times I’ve heard “mmm bacon” just because I ordered a meat free meal. People are defensive about things they don’t understand so never let them bring you down. It is always best to lead by example. Your friends and family will notice when your skin clears up starts to glow. Use that moment as an opportunity to tell them about how veganism has changed your life. They WILL listen, trust me. My husband and best friend have followed in my footsteps and became vegan. I’ve had several friends and family members ask me about it; so many, in fact that I started a Facebook group for them called “Vegan Academy” that is dedicated to educating people just like you about the vegan lifestyle. I’ve lost over 130 pounds by changing my eating habits. Those closest to you will be inspired as long as you stay positive and surround them with love and support.
10. Join the local vegan community and if there isn’t one, start your own!
If it were not for the wonderful vegan community in my hometown I would not be a vegan today. The members of ARC are so compassionate and selfless. They welcomed me with open arms and surrounded me with love and support. This is the type of atmosphere I want you to immerse yourself in. You won’t regret it. Once you make connections with like minded people you will gain long lasting friendships and feel connected to the world of veganism. So what are you waiting for? Open another tab and start searching for your future vegan bestie today!