Going vegan isn’t as hard as you think. In our guide, Vegan 101 – A Crash Course On How To Become Vegan, we’ll make going vegan a lot easier for you.
Maybe you know someone who’s vegan or you’re considering going vegan yourself.
Either way, transitioning from eating meat your entire life to a diet free of animal products is a big commitment.
A commitment, you should without a doubt make.
But only if you care about your health (physical & mental), the animals, our planet, and future generations.
However, let me be clear… I am not here to convince you to become vegan or make you feel guilty for not being vegan.
That’s why I want to give you a *DISCLAIMER* before you read any further.
Veganism is a mindset and a lifestyle. In order to make this transition and commit to being vegan, you must be open, ready and willing to change.
Meaningful and lifelong change can only happen when you are ready. You must be motivated and want to change your eating and purchasing habits.
Going from eating meat, and other animal products, to a vegan lifestyle is a lifelong journey.
Along the way, you’ll take small steps that will add up over time as you learn and grow.
And since you’ve decided to make this shift, that means your learning and evolving as a vegan have just begun and are far from over.
If you’re reading this then you’ve probably gone through at least one purposeful life-changing event by now.
And if you analyze that change, I’m sure you’ll see it happened because of YOUR dedication. You changed because you wanted to change.
Not because you were peer pressured or someone told you to, or because you knew it was the right thing to do.
No, you went ahead and identified what you wanted to change and did everything in your power to see that change through. From the beginning until the end, you made a commitment to change.
There was no wavering, and no quitting once you made the decision.
So… now that we got that out the way, if you don’t have an open mindset, then you my friend, are are not ready for change. Nor the message you are about to read on how to become a vegan.
Your desire to live a vegan lifestyle must outshine the desires of your tastebuds.
And for those of you who do not know by now, a vegan is a person who does not eat, buy, or use animal products or by-products.
This means that vegans do not eat meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, or honey. Also, vegans do not wear or use leather, suede, or silk and the list goes on.
Simply put, vegans do not condone the exploitation of animals and use their choices to express this belief.
*Note, those who call themselves ‘plant-based’ are usually non-ethical vegans. Not to say they have no ethics, but they are eating a vegan diet for nutritional purposes only. Not for the protection of animals or the environment. If this sounds like you, then cool… read on!*
First things first, let’s get some of the MYTHS about veganism out of the way…
Myth #1: Vegans Are Nutrient Deficient, Especially When It Comes To Protein
Well-informed, healthy vegans are actually an abundant group. These folks get their protein from things like beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds, nuts, tofu, seitan, and vegetables (the list goes on).
When arguing against veganism, other nutrients of concern to many non-vegans are B12, omega-3s, iron, calcium, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc.
Here’s where Vegans get these nutrients:
– B12 Sources: fortified foods, such as cereals, vegan milks, and meat substitutes, nutritional yeast and supplementation
– Omega-3 Sources: chia seeds, brussel sprouts, hemp seed, walnuts, algal oil (oil derived from algae)
– Iron Sources: lentils, tofu, brown rice, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, and collard greens (cooking foods in a cast iron skillet works as well!)
– Calcium Sources: collards, mustard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy, fortified orange juice and soy milk
– Vitamin D Sources: sunlight, fortified foods, and supplementation
– Selenium Sources: brazil nuts, shiitake mushrooms, pinto beans, and cabbage
– Zinc Sources: beans, oats, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and nutritional yeast
So as you can see… vegan macronutrient, vitamin, and mineral sources are all readily available. Knowledge and planning are all it takes to ensure your diet is wholesome.
The silliest part of this sudden nutritional concern by non-vegans, when challenged to start a vegan diet, is that non-vegans are often found to have low numbers of these same nutrients. Protein included!
Allow me to generalize here for a moment…
Eating a diet of fast-food, fried chicken, burgers and steak isn’t the way to properly fuel your body with the right nutrients. Just like going vegan and eating only Oreos (accidentally vegan), bananas, celery, and rice isn’t the proper way to fuel your body.
Eating a well-balanced diet overall is the way to prevent dietary deficiencies, and this is more than doable on a vegan diet.
Myth #2: We Have Canine Teeth, We Are Built To Eat Meat
We cannot survive off a mainly or exclusively meat diet like our carnivore friends the lion, the bear and the shark.
But then why do we have these ‘sharp’ teeth?
Just look at the gorilla, or the hippo (and a number of other mammals). These animals are just about 100% herbivores (eat only plants) and both have insanely intimidating chompers.
So, teeth do not make the diet.
Omnivores and carnivores have a few physical qualities that set them apart from herbivores.
They have large sharp teeth of course, but they also have huge flexible mouths/jaws, highly acidic stomachs, large stomachs made for gorging, and short small intestines.
Herbivores have the opposite situation: smaller, less flexible jaws, less acidic stomachs, and long small intestines.
The physiological purposes of these differences is this:
With a large flexible jaw, chomping down and tearing through the flesh of their prey is made easy. While a smaller, less mobile jaw is designed to repeatedly chew on plants and seeds.
The higher acid stomachs of carnivores and omnivores are made to digest protein and kill bacteria that is often found in flesh. Herbivores don’t require such an acidic environment in their stomachs due to not eating flesh and the lower amount of harmful bacteria found in plants.
The intestinal tracts of carnivores and omnivores are shorter and less complex. A smaller path to travel before elimination means digestion happens faster since the food they eat could potentially rot within them.
The longer intestinal tracts of herbivores are purposefully designed to keep food around for longer periods of time so the nutrients have ample time to be extracted and absorbed before elimination.
Until recently, chimpanzees (one of our closest genetic relatives) were classified as omnivores. But research has shown that chimps eat a 95% or greater plant fueled diet, making them herbivores.
Just some food for thought.
Myth #3: Animals Were Made For Us To Eat
Well, this myth brings us into the murky waters of religion and tradition.
Some argue that their creator put animals here for consumption.
Now I am not a theologian, but here is a quote from the Bible itself:
“See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food” (Genesis 1:29, 30)
Now, to me, that sounds like… here’s the plants, this is yalls food luv, enjoy.
Sorry if that reference made no sense to you, let’s just move along…
If we’re not going the religion route, let’s speak on tradition.
Here are some things from the past that I’m personally happy have changed in the United States…
- Slavery was legal.
- Women were not allowed to own land or vote.
- Black and white people were not allowed to go to school together or get married to one another.
- LGBTQ people were ousted from society because they broke societal norms.
What does any of this have to do with veganism?
Well, the point here is that, just because something was a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean that it must remain that way forever. And just because something happened before, doesn’t make it right.
I threw a toy dinosaur at my sisters eye when I was 6, doesn’t mean I should do it again now that I’m 25. Not to say that was a tradition, but you get my drift.
As human beings, our ethics and values evolve over time. And I hope they continue to do so for the better.
This is a biased source, I admit, but on the PETA website they refute this myth with more facts than opinions:
“Numerous studies have shown that meat is not ideal for the human body and may actually be making us sick and killing us. The human body is intended to function on plant-based foods that are full of fiber, antioxidants, unsaturated fat, essential fatty acids, phytochemicals, and cholesterol-free protein.”
Myth #4: Humans Are Superior To Animals
Sure, we are… in certain ways. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sh*t talk humans here. (Although there are plenty of bad apples in the bunch)
But let me ask you this….do you have sonar like a dolphin?
Can you smell scents that are buried 40 feet underground like a dog?
Regrow a limb like a lizard? Leap 40 feet in the air like a puma?
Or do any of the mind-blowing and beautiful things that so many animals can?
Ya see, this superiority complex has got to go. Just because we’re humans and have different capabilities, does not make us better or more deserving of life.
Imagine being told that because you can’t speak Spanish or because you can’t fix a car, that you are less important than someone who can do those things.
A lack of or difference in capabilities should not be used as a justification for superiority.
We’ll get into more myths in another post…
Making The Transition
Going vegan is a drastic lifestyle change for most people. I recommend taking the transition slowly and thoughtfully.
There are so many approaches to making this transition a successful, and stress-free one.
I feel as though all the steps discussed below should be done or at the very least, recognized as valuable.
Slow and steady wins the race.
And as mentioned, change can only be done successfully if it is what YOU truly want. No half-assing here… whole-assing only.
Step #1: Start By Figuring Out WHY You Want To Be Vegan
Without a personal reason or motivation, you’ll quickly lose sight of why you’re making certain sacrifices and slip back into old habits.
Here’s a list of 10 reasons many people go vegan:
- Protect animals
- Health and nutritional benefits
- Protect the environment
- Prevent, treat or reverse health problems
- Taste, some people simply don’t enjoy animal products
- Preserve resources and personally impact world hunger
- Improve mood
- Enhance athletic and physical fitness ability
- Aids digestion
- Follow the fad (Do not recommend!)
There are so many more reasons why people become vegans, but you gotta figure out what your reasons are first.
Some of us only need one reason to keep us on track. And some of us resonate with a few or most of the reasons mentioned above.
Regardless, this reason is what’s going to carry you through the moments that feel difficult.
Step #2: Decide What Foods Will Be Most Difficult For You To Give Up
Do your research on these foods and understand the benefits of taking them out of your diet.
These foods are going to truly test whatever reason(s) you decided to be vegan.
These foods will have to stay on your radar so if, and when they are offered to you or served to you by mistake, you’re ready to say no thank you. (This will indeed happen)
For me, cheese was the biggest obstacle.
I was the type to buy a block of cheese and scarf the whole thing down without a care.
I never experienced any symptoms of lactose intolerance either so there was nothing holding me back from indulging.
It was like an addiction honestly. If cheese was available, I was eating the cheese. Extra cheese you ask? Yes please, gimme more!
We all have casomorphins, or the proteins created from casein digestion (casein and whey are the proteins in milk) to thank for this. It takes about 10 lbs of milk to make 1 lb of cheese so casein is ultra-concentrated in cheese. And casomorphins have an opioid effect on the brain.
So yes, cheese does something similar to the brain that heroin and oxycodone do in terms of habit and addiction formation. Crazy!
But, maybe you hate cheese and all that was worthless for you.
Either way, figure out what your hang-ups are going to be and learn why eliminating them from your diet is actually in your best interest.
Step #3: Make Sure You Hold Yourself Accountable
Now that you have your reasons and you’re aware of where possible slip-ups might happen, it’s time to focus on your accountability.
You can get some accountability in this endeavor by telling a friend or family member about your new journey. Even if they’re not vegan themselves they’ll probably feel some evil satisfaction checking in on you.
If you have a vegan friend, I 100% guarantee you that they’ll love helping you along your journey. So reach out!
Posting on social media about your new lifestyle change or joining a Facebook group for vegans can certainly help as well.
As people, we commonly work through our struggles better when they’re tackled together rather than individually.
But try not to force anyone you know to join you. Just make sure they know what you’ve learned.
We are less open to change when it is forced. We have to decide for ourselves.
Make yourself a small physical reminder of this big change. Whether it’s a screensaver on your phone or a notecard taped to your refrigerator… give yourself a visual reminder of what you’re doing.
So now you know your reason for going vegan and you know the foods you think you’ll miss.
Once you get an accountability buddy or two, you’ll be more prepared than ever!
Step #4: Go See Your Doctor/Healthcare Provider
**Before going vegan you should have a check-up.**
However, doctors often don’t understand veganism or think that it’s unhealthy. But don’t be discouraged if they tell you that you shouldn’t be vegan. Doctor’s are, more often than not, under-educated on nutrition. (Not trying to jab at doctor’s but it’s true.)
Whether they give you their stamp of approval or not, you have to make sure that you are already healthy as it is before you start drastically tinkering with your diet.
If you are unhealthy, maybe a well planned vegan diet is just the solution your body needs, depending on the health issue(s) you have.
Concerns with going vegan often arise when someone is already severely anemic.
But as mentioned before, getting the right amount of iron and B12 (both of which can cause anemia when you aren’t getting enough) in your diet can surely be done on a vegan diet.
If you’re worried about going vegan for health reasons, take some solace in this:
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
Step #5: Time To Do The Work
So you can either take the all in route, or you can move slowly into veganism.
If you want to dive right in, consider doing a 21-Day challenge where you remove ALL animal products from your diet. Try this as an experiment.
Be aware though, that without proper research and planning, you will most likely be underfed, fatigued, and cranky for these 3 weeks.
If you’re down to go the slow and steady route…
Decide what you’re going to phase out first.
You might have to do a little extra reading in the grocery store and ask a few more questions while you’re out to eat.
But this is all a mental game so it’s up to you to decide how you want to tackle this transition.
Would you rather give up the “easy” things first? Or would you rather hack away at the foods that you crave most?
Either way, formulate your plan and try to create yourself a rough timeline.
Eliminating something new each week or each month is a smart and methodical way to go about this.
Others may be more comfortable just limiting amounts instead of eliminating foods altogether.
This could start with meatless Mondays at first, and then slowly but surely make more and more of your meals with less and less animal products.
I personally stopped eating red meats first (while working in a steakhouse).
Then chicken, seafood, and eventually eggs, milk, and finally cheese.
You can Google “Vegan __________” where you’d insert the meal you’re in the mood to make in the blank and get a ton of recipe ideas.
Seriously, Google is your friend. 😀
It’ll make your vegan transition so much easier. Plus, it has you covered when you’re hungry and in need of a quick recipe.
But Oh No! What About…
Ok, seriously do not fret.
There are SO many vegan milks to choose from. If you’re a milk lover and could never imagine giving up milk, you really don’t have to.
There’s soy, almond, flaxseed, coconut, cashew, hemp, and rice milk.
Some may taste bad to you, while some may taste great.
You just gotta experiment a bit and see for yourself. Anything is better than hormone rich cows milk, which by the way is meant… for baby cows.
Vegan cheese is a transforming market. I’ve heard horror stories of the vegan cheeses from just a few years ago.
But technology and techniques are shifting, making vegan cheese taste closer and closer to the real thing.
This is my favorite that I’ve tried. However, vegan cheeses are still high in fat, so be careful not to overdo it.
There are plenty of butter replacements if you’re hankering for some corn on the cob or looking to ramp up your morning waffles.
Try “Earth Balance” buttery spreads, it’s what I use when I’d like some butter on something.
Eggs are a trickier item to mimic especially when it comes to baking. But chia seeds, ground flax meal, arrowroot powder, mashed bananas and applesauce are all viable options that bring that much needed binding agent into baked goods.
If scrambled eggs is what you’re craving, firm tofu is the way to go.
With the right amount of fats (usually avocado) and the right sauce and seasoning, a sandwich loaded with veggies can be extremely delicious without meat or cheese.
Just make sure the bread contains no egg or milk.
Also, mushrooms are a surprisingly tasty alternative to meat when sauteed and seasoned well.
Some countries in Europe already have vegan cheese and crust options at their Dominos locations.
But in the US, Blaze & Mod pizza are the only two major pizza chains I know of that have vegan crust and cheese available (they’ll even change their gloves for you if need be!).
Making your own vegan pizza is also super simple & fun.
I’m sure by this point you’ve already heard of the Impossible Burger that is 100% made of plants but looks as though it’s bleeding like a medium beef patty.
There are tons of brands out there making vegan burger patties. You just have to look.
Even the local Costco by me started selling plant-based patties, and they’re actually pretty good.
So my dears, there is absolutely no reason to be sad about being vegan. You don’t have to miss out on things.
In fact, your food world is about to open up and grow exponentially!
Helpful Tips For Your Journey
Whenever you decide to make a drastic shift in any part of your lifestyle, my recommendation is to move slowly.
If you’re quitting cigarettes, cutting down on your spending, or trying to start a productive morning ritual… start slow and be patient with yourself.
Habit formation takes time. And simply put, that’s all a lifestyle shift really is.
Don’t feel restricted by societal norms that dictate what you’d normally eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the exact same sense that you shouldn’t feel obligated to eat animal products just because that’s what everyone else around you is doing.
So, here’s some simple meal ideas to get you started:
Easy vegan meals: oatmeal with fruit, fruit smoothies, green juice, waffles or pancakes (check mixes for whey or eggs), eggless bagels with jam or nut butter, tofu scramble with veggies, celery with peanut or almond butter, stir-fried veggies with rice, pasta, salad (doesn’t have to be bland or boring), soup, chili, and beans and rice (think a chipotle bowl).
If you’re eating out: Indian, Thai, and Mexican restaurants almost always have vegan options. And while most places have vegan options these days but these are my three favorites.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with recipe upon recipe.
Plan your grocery trips so you don’t overspend. Because buying all the vegan pantry staples at once can get very pricey. So start by building up your kitchen over time.
Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle may not come easy for you. And if you find yourself lacking energy or feeling grumpy all the time, you’re probably eating too few calories or missing some important nutrients. If that’s the case, some experimenting will need to be done so you can find your balance.
It takes time, patience, proper planning and practice to get this new lifestyle to a place where you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Shift your mind away from thinking a vegan diet is too restrictive. If anything, going vegan will expose you to different food choices you never would’ve thought of having.
Maybe you’ve always hated avocados, but I’ll have you know, avocado ice cream is pretty darn good.
Always despised carrots? Here’s a delicious recipe for “pulled pork” sliders using shredded carrots.
Never had a mango, now’s the time to try one.
Shied away from brussel sprouts as a kid? Here’s one of my favorite vegan foodies to bring you to the light.
And if you’re wondering how you’ll go vegan on a budget or when broke, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Eating Vegan When Broke
Eating vegan does not have to be expensive.
You can make it work and be as cheap or expensive with your food choices on a vegan diet as you’d like.
Having simple staples in your cart or on your shopping list like: oats, fruit, pasta, rice, potatoes/sweet potatoes, nuts, quinoa, beans, cereals and a bunch of other foods makes going vegan on a budget affordable.
Plus, if you’re away from home and on the road there’s sure to be a restaurant or nearby place you can stop by to grab a quick bite.
And it always pays to be prepared.
If you know you’ll be out of the house all day, bring some snackage along with you, just in case.
There’s even an entire app built around providing you with vegan options on the go.
It’s called HappyCow and you can download it right to your phone.
It uses your current location to find you nearby vegan restaurants and options.
The app even allows users to submit reviews about the many different establishments.
Step #6: Remember To Be Nice To Yourself
If you move too quickly through this change, you might slip up which could make you feel guilty.
Take your time!
Just remember why you decided to make this change to begin with and keep building upon that.
A lot of experimentation will happen. But, you need to figure out what works best for you. Maybe you’ll eat soy products, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll drink vegan milks, maybe you won’t.
Regardless of your decisions, you should keep in mind food’s supposed to be fuel. It’s should to taste good and bring you joy.
It shouldn’t be something you despise or dread. The Vegan Society states that being vegan is:
‘A way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’
Know right now, you will NOT be a perfect vegan. And that’s OK.
You’re trying to make a positive change within yourself and maybe the world. Which is a really big move. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
Good luck making your transition and as always thanks for reading! – Abby
P.S. It’d mean a lot to me if you liked and followed the blog (@TheMentalVibe) on your social media accounts. With your help, we can reach more people and continue building our community. #VibeFam