Making any change is fundamentally challenging — especially if it alters your life on a daily basis. And, what is more habitual than the way we eat? But with any tweak, large or small, come great rewards. Simply deciding to make the change alone can be uplifting. There’s a reason New Year’s resolutions are such a thing, even if they’re long forgotten by February.
But it is possible to stick with a goal, especially if it is as something as enriching as going vegan. Whether compassion for animals, health or environmental concerns are driving you, the key is to focus on why you’ve decided to make this change, then slowly taking it one step at a time from there. Ahead, are some helpful tips to ease you into an animal product-free existence...
Plant-based eating has proven to be much more than a passing trend. In the last three years, the number of people in the UK who identify as vegan has increased by 350 percent, and 600 percent in the United States. As veganism becomes less fringe, the more information we have access to, so take advantage! Before transitioning, try to gain as much knowledge as you can. Googling Veganism may be the obvious place to start, but with 481 million results, it can feel a tad overwhelming. Ashayla Patterson, of the bakery Sweet Artique in Brooklyn, recommends starting with documentaries like Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. “Seeing real people and their stories is often more compelling than reading about the virtues of veganism,” she told Reader’s Digest. If books are more your thing, Becoming Vegan and Eating Animals are top notch choices.
Ease Into It
As a vegan, you’ll be consuming a lot of grains, beans, and nuts. If they aren’t already a staple, it’s a good idea to integrate them into your diet before you cut out animal products, so the change doesn’t feel too drastic. When it’s go time, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can try going vegetarian for a few weeks or just eliminate one item (eggs, then chicken, then cheese) at a time. Another option is to stick to a vegan diet when you’re at home where you can cook for yourself or do it just breakfast and lunch at first. This isn’t a cop out, if you tread lightly, you may be more likely to stick with it in the long run.
See a Professional
When making any big change regarding your health, it’s a good idea to consult with a professional. You’ll want to check if you’re deficient in anything and go over any health concerns. It’s recommended that vegans take B12 supplements, but you may be able to get it from fortified foods. Your doc or nutritionist can help come up with the best plan of action.
An exciting thing about becoming a vegan is not only will you be adopting a new lifestyle, you’ll be developing new skills. Invest in a good cookbook to help you channel your inner vegan chef.
You’ll get inspired just flipping through the pages, but recipe apps are also a great way to go. And yes to apps! There a handful specifically made to make your life as a vegan that much easier, from a 21-day transition tool to a vegan restaurant guide to a cruelty-free barcode scanner.
See a Professional
You’ll need some human support, too. You don’t have to announce you’re going vegan to the world, in fact, for your own sanity you may want to keep it to yourself for a bit, lest hearing everyone’s opinion on the matter (“But where will you get your protein!?!”). But it’s important to have people you can commiserate with who will understand your journey. Join the vegan Facebook groups in your area or get a vegan mentor through Vegan Month to help immerse yourself in the vegan lifestyle.
Eat Richly but Healthily
When it comes to actually eating, opting for veganized versions of your favorite dishes might be a good place to start, but subsitting on Gardein tenders won’t necessarily lead to a healthier lifestyle. Nor will a diet of starch alone, despite how tempting it may be to just boil up a pot of penne. Instead, try eating as many whole foods as possible, and rich ones at that. Replace the salt and fat you had in your previous diet with complex flavors like olives, avocados, walnuts and pesto. Like vegan nachos, they won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out, but they’re more satiating and will give your body the vital nutrients it needs. Protein-rich veggies like asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli are great too!
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
You’re here, you deserve a pat on the back. If you slip up, it’s okay, just start again. You’ll learn what works for you as you go, and feeling guilty about every digression is a waste of energy, Like the Vegenista blogger Melissa Bechter told Reader’s Digest: “Don't view a vegan lifestyle as the finish line, but as an evolving process of conscious eating.”