Transitioning to a vegan diet is one of the most beneficial things you’ll ever do for yourself and the entire planet, but is it as easy as people make it sound? Yes! I understand it can be intimidating transitioning to a vegan diet after being an omnivore your entire life. I grew up in South Carolina, where regular meals included pork, chicken, eggs, dairy, or beef at every single meal (if not more than one of those options). Yes, I know. Sad to say, but true.
I can’t even remember a meal that didn’t include one of those animal foods during my childhood and teenage years. If you’re like me, I promise you there’s no need to abandon your roots in the name of going vegan. As I progressed into my early 20’s, the idea of plant-based eating just began to make sense to me and it slowly became a natural part of my life. I learned the most effective (and least effective) ways to transition to a vegan diet, and I found just how awesome it was on the other side where the grass really is greener in this case! Curious about how to do it yourself? Take it from the girl who grew up eating fried chicken for years and now never goes a day without a green smoothie – if I can do it, so can you!
1. Educate Yourself
Before you can approach a vegan diet with full confidence and the best chances for success, it’s a great idea to educate yourself on why you’re considering a vegan diet. Don’t do it in the name of a fad, but instead, learn the benefits behind the lifestyle and how others out there have done it too. Watch some of my favorite inspirational movies that show the benefits of a plant-based diet and the reality of what eating animals actually entails. My favorite films include Food Inc., Vegucated, Hungry for a Change, and Earthlings to start. These will open your eyes, motivate you to change, and get you excited about a vegan diet, which is key to success and a healthy diet.
2. Crowd Out, Don’t Cut Out
The next step is one of the most important to take when learning how to transition to a vegan diet. Focus on crowding out, not cutting out. If I were to tell you to go to the store and not buy meat, eggs, and dairy, you’d likely just feel defeated and deprived. But if I were to tell you what to buy instead such as quinoa, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, mushrooms, flax, coconut milk, almonds, and berries, you’d have a much better idea of what to shop for. When you approach a vegan diet, it’s best to crowd out animal products with tons of delicious, filling plant-based foods. Choose nondairy milk, fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes to start and try to avoid vegan replacement meats if you can.
3. Find Recipes for Inspiration
I grew up thinking that if there wasn’t meat at a meal, I’d be left eating salad and steamed broccoli. Little did I know just how incredibly tasty and creative vegan meals could be! I started looking up vegan recipes on the web and quickly found inspiration and ideas for ingredients. This was key to my success and one of the first things I tell others to do too.
Some of my favorite vegan recipes can be found on the Recipe Monster channel right here at One Green Planet. Pick a few recipes that look good to you, so you’ll have all the ingredients you need to approach your new lifestyle with zest and zeal!
4. Go Shopping
Now it’s time to go to the store and buy all the vegan food you can get your hands on! It’s best to stock up on as much produce as possible and purchase healthy grains like quinoa, wild rice, and oats. These make wonderful bases for breakfast dishes or for a filling lunch and dinner. Then consider buying some unsweetened almond milk in place of dairy milk along with some hemp, chia, walnuts, or flax seeds for healthy fats. Legumes like lentils, green peas, chickpeas, and any types of beans you want to try are also great staples to round out your meals as well. Just try to stay away from foods with too much added sugar for optimal blood sugar levels (and overall health).
Have fun at the store but remember to read ingredient labels and embrace simple foods as much as possible. Lastly, don’t forget the herbs, spices, and condiments like stevia, tamari, mustard, tahini, and balsamic, or apple cider vinegar. They’ll be key to making your meals taste flavorful, zesty, and decadent!
5. Focus on the Basics
Remember that eating a vegan diet doesn’t have to be hard. Just start with the basics when it comes to your first few batches of meals. As an example, for breakfast you could have oatmeal with some almond milk, cinnamon, and chopped fruit or coconut yogurt. For lunch, I suggest picking several meals you can make and keep in the fridge to grab and go like soups and salads. Great snack ideas include an ounce of raw almonds or walnuts, along with sliced fruits and vegetables. Dinner could be a pan of roasted root veggies with seasonings, alongside a batch of quinoa, mushrooms, garlic, and kale. Remember that sometimes the basic ingredients end up tasting the best so don’t get too fancy unless you just want to. When in doubt, you can always make a smoothie and keep things interesting. They’re a great way to fill in the gaps and keep things creative, not to mention delicious!
6. Take it One Day at a Time
When you’re learning to transition to a vegan diet, remember not to overwhelm yourself or feel like every meal has to be complicated or cooked gourmet style. Just take it day by day and even better, meal by meal. There’s no need to be stressed or intimidated by going vegan. In fact, the simpler your meals, the better they are for you.
7. Eat Whole Foods Most of the Time
It’s easy to go vegan and buy processed vegan foods, but that’s not the best way to approach a vegan diet. Instead of buying processed foods, choose whole foods as much as possible and keep your diet balanced by consuming a variety of vegan foods, not just a small handful. This will ensure you get the highest amount of nutrition and that you’re more satisfied at your meals. Don’t worry, you can have the coconut ice cream or dark chocolate bars for special indulgences and enjoy them without abandon – just not all the time.
You’ll experience more than just health benefits on a vegan diet, such as a greater appreciation for the earth and animals, a stronger connection to yourself and others, and even better hair, skin, nails, sleep, and digestion. Outside of your diet, you’ll also want to consider taking a Vitamin B12 supplement and a Vitamin D supplement for optimal energy and health and consider a vegan multivitamin and probiotic for further nutritional support. For further resources, feel free to brush up on plant-based nutrition and then all you have to do is start eating!
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