How to Start Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

How to Start Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

  • Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions

  • Plant-based diets decrease your risk of major diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer

  • Rainforests vanish in favor of cattle ranches and soy plantations for livestock

  • Drinking water is being contaminated by sewage and waste from farms

  • Antibiotic resistance that’s life-threatening to humans often comes from farmed animals

  • Close to 40% of the world’s grain (and 70% of US grain) is being fed to livestock, much of which is produced in countries where 17,000 children die of starvation each day

  • Millions of sentient beings suffer unimaginably for their short lives before being killed needlessly 

  • Many slaughterhouse workers suffer physical injuries or develop post-traumatic stress disorder

1. Crowding food out

This means that you don’t focus on what you should stop eating and instead try to add in new plant-based foods and increase the amount of them in your diet. However, there should come a point at which you’ll recognize how you don’t need food x anymore and can just leave it out for good now. 

2. The 3 week commitment

You just start by collecting a couple of plant-based recipes first and trying them out over the course of 1-2 weeks. Then, you make a commitment and eat 100% plant based for 3 weeks to test the waters and to experience how much better or different you feel when eating this way. 

3. Going cold tofurky

Let’s face it, once you’ve seen the truth and horrors of animal agriculture and all its consequences on the planet and humans, you probably feel sick to your stomach. If you’re one of these all-or-nothing people, it’s possible that the way you view animal products now will have changed and you feel the need to throw all non vegan food out of the kitchen. 

Top 10 Transition Tips

1. Education is key

This probably sounds more boring than it actually is. But without the information on why it’s a good idea to drop the animal products (and other forms of animal exploitation), how will you get the motivation to start making changes? 

2. Go at your own time

It’s somewhat counterintuitive for a wholehearted vegan to tell this to those who would like to transition, but it’s true: the only way you can make this new diet sustainable is for you to do this at your own pace. Although I would love to see all the animal suffering ending today, I understand that habits and social constructs run deep in our personal lives and society overall.

3. Start with easy foods

I suggest that you don’t start with your all-time favorite grandma’s cheesecake (or whatever this is for you). Think of something you didn’t really enjoy that much to begin with: maybe it’s boiled eggs or sausages or fish fingers. You could make a conscious decision not to have them anymore and replace them on your table with a tasty plant-based alternative.

4. Keep things fun

There’s a world of food items you don’t even know yet, and they’re out there for you to discover. I encourage you to pick a different one every week or so and look up what delicious meals you can create with it.

5. Veganize your favorite meals

Think you cannot live without Mac and Cheese, bacon, or ice cream? Great news, you don’t have to. Nowadays, you can find vegan versions for all of these at the store. And if you’re not into processed foods all too much, there are also plenty of recipes to recreate these foods at home.

6. One day at a time

When the thought of changing for good or letting some food go forever seems too overwhelming, just try to stick as much to a plant-based diet as you can for today. One day seems doable, right? You’ll always be free to make your own decisions, to go back and forth – tell this to your anxious mind to see things more relaxed. You can do this. It’s not about perfection but taking the little steps until they’ve become second nature and require no effort at all anymore.

7. Prepare & stock your kitchen

One part of this largely depends on the type of transition you want to do: fast or slow. Either way, gain knowledge regarding which foods in your kitchen have animal products in them, which ones you don’t want to buy again and which ones you might even get rid of right now. Some people do well with just giving away all non-vegan foods at once and stocking up on vegan items instead. 

Others just want to part with a few foods, maybe because of some footage they’ve seen regarding a specific animal they don’t want to consume anymore. No matter what you choose, you should learn which foods make up a well-sorted vegan kitchen and what can be on your vegan grocery list in the future.

8. Get into meal planning

If you’re into having all your meals laid out for you, then sticking to a vegan diet might be easier. All it takes is prepping some vegan staples which you can eat over the next couple of days – find some easy yet intriguing recipes and you’re almost set. And if you’re new to meal planning and want to help ensure your success, this can be a very helpful tool. 

Just having a few staples, like rice, beans, dips, fresh fruit, and chopped veggies, at home will make creating plant-based meals so much easier! It can also save you a lot of time and money.

9. Don’t overcomplicate

Eating vegan is easy, honestly. You probably have so many plant-based foods at home already or are familiar with them. Think of oatmeal, avocado toast, pasta with tomato sauce, veggie soups, and more. Snacks can be fruit or a handful of nuts. I recommend not sticking to a particular plant-based diet in the beginning as this will take away even more food choices from you! It would be easiest to stick to your familiar meals and way of eating but simply veganizing everything.

Remember that any diet can be unhealthy and if you switch from meat and dairy to mock meat and coconut ice cream, don’t expect everything to suddenly get better. One of the reasons people turn their backs on veganism is that they don’t get lean and healthy bodies right away.

It’s understandable that you might get excited about all the tasty vegan convenience foods out there but please remember to eat normal, whole foods too. Put rice, beans, pasta, and potatoes on your plate for your main meals and add your favorite goodies like Gardein products to these whole foods. It is easy to get all of your essential nutrients as a vegan when you make sure to include whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, and nuts or seeds into your daily diet. 

10. Get some support

Finally, everything’s easier with people on your side that are on a similar path. Since we all live in a meat-eating world and are confronted with how “normal” it is to consume animals on a daily basis, it’s a good idea to get regular reminders that it could be different.

You’ll find new friends in these communities, maybe even someone who lives in your area (search on Facebook for “vegan + your city”) you could meet in person. And if you’re really lucky, you might even have an old friend or good colleague who would be interested in transitioning to a vegan diet with you! 

This would give you the chance to swap recipes, prepare lunch for both of you, discover delicious options at restaurants, watch documentaries, and have insightful conversations. Although this case is rare, they do exist!