Whatever your motivation for going vegan may be (health, ethics, environment, etc) it can seem like a bit of an overwhelming task, especially if you’re used to the typical American diet full of meat, dairy, and eggs. So rather than quitting all these things cold turkey, it may be more beneficial to take a progressive approach to going vegan. If you try to take on too many changes to your diet all at once, you may become frustrated, feel deprived, and ultimately, revert back to your original meat eating ways. So if you want to go vegan, or even if you’re just interested in trying it out, take a look at this guide to help you go vegan progressively and optimize your chances for a successful lifestyle transformation.
The key to success is to not try to take on too much change all at once. You need to slowly eliminate things from your diet and start to add in some new foods as well. You never want to feel deprived or like you’re giving up all your favorite foods. Believe it or not, there are a lot of vegan substitutes for your favorite non-vegan meals, you just have to do a little research and educate yourself; you may be surprised what you find.
Keep in mind that everyone is going to start at a different place in this process. And some steps you may progress through more quickly than others depending on your current lifestyle. Take your time. This is going to take some adjusting in the way you think about food, the way you shop, cook, and eat.
- Cut out red meat. (Or reduce your intake if you are consuming it often and then eventually work your way to cutting it out completely.)
- If you eat meat every day, try having one meatless day a week (Meatless Mondays for example).
- Slowly begin reducing the how often you consume meat (6 days week, 5 days a week, 4 days a week, and so on until you have reduced yourself to only have meat once a week, and eventually, no meat at all.)
- Work through the same process as shown above with fish, reduce the number of days a week you consume it until you have reached zero.
Tip: This is an important time to discover vegan versions of your favorite meat dishes (vegan burgers, vegan tacos, vegan pulled “pork” sandwiches, etc – Pinterest is a magical place full of recipes). There are also many vegan “meat” substitutes out there. So if you’re having a hard time giving up the taste of meat, try out a vegan “meat” product. I love Gardein chicken; it really does taste like chicken.
- Start by replacing the eggs that you use in baking. There are tons of baking recipes that omit eggs altogether, but if you have a recipe that calls for eggs, try replacing them with flax eggs or chia eggs (one tbsp. ground flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsps. water, let sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes and viola, an egg.) There are also some egg substitute products out there you can try.
- Other than for baking, eggs are typically a breakfast food so naturally it would be a good idea to find some alternative breakfast items so you’re not eating eggs every day. Additionally, there are egg substitute products out there you can use to make scrambled eggs, and there are even vegan omelet recipes made with tofu (don’t knock it til you try it)
Tip: The key here is to discover other breakfast options like oatmeal, vegan pancakes and waffles, smoothies, etc, and learn about egg substitutes for baking as well as trying out some new things like vegan omelets.
Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc)
- Start with milk. There are so many alternatives to cow’s milk out there: cashew, almond, coconut, soy, and more. Try them out, see which one you like the best and start working it into your diet in place of cow’s milk.
- Next, cheese. There are a lot of vegan cheese’s out there. I personally love Daiya. Did you know you can make cheese sauce for mac and cheese by soaking cashews? And make vegan parmesan cheese with nothing more than cashews, nutritional yeast and some garlic powder? There are a ton of “cheesy” recipes out there that secretly don’t have any actual cheese in them.
- There are even vegan yogurts, butter, and ice creams, I personally think So Delicious ice cream tastes better than regular ice cream anyways.
Tip: As always, take it slow. Slowly eliminate milk, cheese, and yogurt. As you are eliminating these things, start to discover new vegan products to replace these previous dietary staples. Google “vegan mac and cheese” or “vegan cheesecake”, or “vegan anything that has dairy in it that you want to still eat when you go vegan”, you will be surprised what you find.
- This one can be a little tricky. When it comes to prepacked foods, we don’t always realize what all is in them. But if you take the time to look at the ingredients, you may find some foods are not vegan that you may not have previously thought about. If it’s made with a little honey, eggs, milk, etc, it’s not vegan.
- This can be a little hard but one thing I love is my Fooducate app, I can scan an item’s barcode and it tells me instantly if it’s vegan or not.
- Medicine and vitamins. Unfortunately, a lot of pills include animal products. From lactose to gelatin, animal products seem to find their ways into many medicines. When buying your own vitamins, you can check the ingredients to try to avoid these things. And if being 100% vegan is important to you, discuss it with your doctor regarding any medications you may be on.
Tip: This is a time for discovering new products. I know we all get stuck in our ways and are used to buying the same brands at the grocery store. But this is an important time to try new things, new brands, and figure out what you like the most. It can be a bit of trial and error, but once you get through that phase, you’ll have a new set of brands and products that are your vegan go-to’s.
- Vegans do not wear or use clothes, shoes or furnishings made with the skins, hair or feathers of other animals, including fur, leather, wool, feathers and silk.
- In my personal opinion, if you already own these types of clothing, I wouldn’t see it as necessary to throw them out and go purchase new things, which would be wasteful as I see it. But in the future when you go to make a purchase, you can be conscious of what types of clothing you buy to ensure they are vegan friendly.
- Remember not to use any make up or beauty products tested on animals either.
Tip: There are lots of stores and websites that cater to vegan friendly clothes, shoes, makeup, beauty products, and more. It’s about making mindful purchases. It may take some additional time to find all vegan products, but if you are serious about being vegan, it is worth the time.
I think the most important thing to remember on your vegan journey is to keep an open mind. Be open to trying to foods and products. And be patient. Soon you’ll be an expert on all things vegan, you’ll know all the best stores, brands, products, and recipes and it will just become second nature to you. All things take time. The important things are worth the time.