There's no better time than now to get started on a healthy and compassionate vegan life. Do it for yourself. Your family. The animals. And for the planet.
What is a vegan? A vegan is a person who doesn't consume any animals (including seafood) or animal byproducts (including eggs & milk). Veganism extends to everything else in your life; including the cosmetics you use (no animal ingredients or testing) and clothing you wear (no real leather or fur), but in this post you're strictly talking about food.
An easy way to remember this -- If it has a face and/or parent, we don't eat or buy it.
11 Tips to Go Vegan This Year
1. Determine your why
Why do you want to become a vegan? Take a moment and think about it. Do you want to do it for your health? The health of your family? To protest factory farming? Do you want to protect our planet's precious resources?
Visualize what your life will look like when you transition to a delicious and long-term vegan life with your family. Take a few minutes and write down these reasons. Keep this writing on hand, so that you can refer back to it when things get tough.
Check out this previous post: 5 Reasons You Should Go Vegan with Your Family
2. Make the decision to go vegan
There's soooo much power in making a decision. Often we say we want to do something but tend to flip flop back and forth. The beauty of making a decision to embrace a lifestyle change, is that it forces you to take the necessary steps to make it happen. You will start researching and experimenting in the kitchen once the decision has been made.
Check out the previous podcast: 2 Key Steps You Must Take If You Want to Be A Vegan
3. "Always be ready, so you don't have to get ready" - meal planning, eating out, etc.
My dad used to say this to me when it came to my schoolwork as a kid, but I feel this quote is also relevant to vegan life. One of the biggest obstacles you may face when transitioning to this lifestyle is getting adjusted to all of the planning that takes place.
Most of us are so used to just eating whatever we want, the extra step of reading ingredients labels (to ensure there's no eggs, meat, dairy) and asking your server questions while dining out, can feel so overwhelming. I promise with consistence this will get better.
Just be sure to add time in your schedule for meal planning, grocery shopping (to get more comfortable in the store & to read food labels) and check out restaurants menus online to see what vegan options they have available before you leave the house.
Feeling rushed will only discourage you, so "always be ready, so you don't have to get ready."
Check out this resources:
Happycow.net is a good resource for finding vegan restaurants near your home and while traveling.
Is it Vegan? is a great app to determine whether or not a product is vegan while grocery shopping.
Finding Vegan is a great resource to findvegan recipes around the interwebs.
4. Don't restrict yourself more than you have to
I often get emails and social media comments from people who want to start a vegan life and follow a:
No vegan junk food
Etc, etc, etc. lifestyle.
Here's the thing: If you're very new to this lifestyle, don't feel like you have to make all of those changes at once.
Make being vegan your top priority and if you want to add in other changes as you get comfortable, do just that.
Focus on replacing your eggs, meat, dairy and other animal products with plant-based alternatives.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with just keeping a simple vegan approach because as you grow and learn, you will find what works best for YOU.
You don't want to be in a situation in which you feel like you have to do everything at once and end up doing nothing at all. Embrace the process and don't get wrapped up too much in adding other dietary stipulations in the beginning.
~Download the Vegan Starter Kit~
5. Take time to get comfortable in the kitchen
Don't believe the hype -- You have to get comfortable in the kitchen if you want a delicious and long-term vegan life. With a few basic skills you can dominate in the kitchen and not spend a million hours in there prepping and cooking.
Check out this previous blog post: How to Boost Your Confidence in the Kitchen
6. Find a supportive community
With only about 2% of Americans identifying themselves as vegan, this lifestyle can get pretty lonely. Being a part of a vegan community can keep you accountable and give you someone to bounce ideas off of and vent to. Since it's very likely that people in your every day life aren't vegan, use social media to connect with like-minded peeps.
Fact: Nearly all of my vegan friends are people that I initially connected with online.
Don't be shy! Here are a few tips on how to connect with other vegans on & offline
See what's going on in your local area using meetup.com - search for vegan/vegetarian groups that connect at restaurants and do other activities together.
Follow folks you resonate with on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (all of my real life vegan friends came from these sites). Be sure to connect with these folks, too! Be active :-)
See if your city (or a neighboring one) offers vegan/vegetarian festivals - There are so many vegan festivals that happen during the summer/early fall that offer music, food, speakers and of course so many like-minded folks. Vegan.com has a list of festivals. Also, Google the nearest major city to you and "vegetarian festivals" and see what you get.
7. Explore your grocery store/farmer's market in a new way
Once you start a vegan journey, you will realize your grocery store has much more to offer than you've ever imagined. I didn't really explore the international/ethic aisle until I started this lifestyle. I know it can be a bit intimidating, but being open to new ingredients and unfamiliar spices, fruit and vegetables will make cooking and transitioning that much easier.
Challenge yourself to add something new to your cart each time you go to the grocery store and/or farmer's market.
8. Make a vegan version of your favorite dishes
The good news is you can easily make (or even buy) a delicious vegan version of all of your favorite foods.
Here's an example:
I love cornbread! Since the conventional recipe calls for eggs, milk and butter it isn't normally vegan.
Instead of feeling like I can never eat cornbread again, I use vegan margarine instead of butter, almond milk instead of dairy milk and replace the eggs with Ener-G egg replacer (you can use Follow Your Heart vegan egg, too).
The result is a delicious and familiar vegan version of the cornbread I ate before becoming a vegan.
Figure out how you can replace non-vegan ingredients with better plant-based options.
9. Realize it doesn't have to be all or nothing
A big misconception about starting a vegan journey is that you have to immediately throw all your animal products in the trash and eat only salad. My advice is to start where you are! Don't feel like you have to do everything at once if you don't want to.
Back in 2008, I started off as a vegetarian and even though I didn't think I would become a vegan (tried once and it didn't work), starting as a vegetarian likely led me to a vegan lifestyle.
Don't discount gradual changes.
Do the best you can every. single. day.
10. Focus on what you can eat and not what you can't
Right now you may be thinking: No eggs? No seafood? No cheese? What the hell is there left to eat?
I promise there's sooo much variety when you decide to embrace a vegan lifestyle.
Before starting myself, I didn't eat quinoa, kale, cauliflower, Field Roast vegan sausage or nearly as many chickpeas as I do now.
Think of this way, you're going to replace all the meat, dairy and eggs with even more fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains - all the good stuff!
PLUS, there's a vegan alternative for everything you can think of these days -- including milk, eggs, cheese and even fried chicken.
11. Progress over Perfection - Always
I think this is the side of vegan life that many don't talk about. Whether you're on the journey for a few months on a few years, you will soon realize that this journey isn't perfect.
Being vegan is a journey and not a destination. Most of the time you may stay on track, but overall it can be a roller coaster ride.
Keep moving forward and please please please don't beat yourself up if you get off track. Beating yourself for eating something non-vegan will only hold you back.
I hope these tips helped you at least consider starting a vegan journey. Even though this lifestyle change is an adjustment, realize that anything worth having is worth fighting for!