Transitioning to a plant-based diet has become easier than ever, but that’s not to say having a guide to help you make the switch doesn’t help. Everyone can use some support and encouragement when it comes to making conscious choices in our lives, right? Removing animal products from your daily life does good: it saves animal lives, is easier on the environment, and is better for your overall health.

All of that said, sometimes just starting out is the hardest part. There’s no perfect way to start out on a plant-based diet, or a one size fits all guide for everyone, but I hope that what follows does give you a place to begin. Please let us know in the comments section if there’s a particular hurdle we missed, or just a facet of plant-based living you are curious about. We’re here to help, so good luck out there, Green Monsters!

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1. Find your support.

Many people will ask you if making the switch to plant based foods is “difficult.” With the right support behind you, and the right reasons at heart, you’ll know the answer to that question. For those making the switch for ethical reasons, all we need to do is think about the animals being used for food and realize that their lives are infinitely more “difficult” than what we are doing by switching to plant-based foods. In any case, having a support group behind you, be it friends, family, a meetup group, or your pals here at One Green Planet, is helpful as they can provide you with tools and motivation for making this awesome change.

2. Accept that there will be some people who give you a hard time.

Get ready for the bacon comments, the “where will you get your protein” jabs, and the smaller things that people say and do when you’re making the change to plant foods. You can always be prepared for these comments with sharing your knowledge on the cleanest sources of protein and laughing off jokes while sticking to your guns. Plant-based guns of course. Check out this list of the top 12 excuses people give for not eating vegan for some quick responses to common remarks.

3. Start transitioning your favorite meals to plant-based versions.

Do you love mashed potatoes? Swap out butter for vegan butter,and milk for plant-based milk, and you can still enjoy that wonderful side dish. Perhaps your favorite is taco night; try a ground beef replacement or use beans: check out these ideas for more inspiration! The sheer abundance of plant-based foods that are readily available now will help you transition with ease. We’ve got guides and recipes galore to make this part super easy. Try out our egg replacement guide and kick those unsavory eggs to the curb!

4. Try meal plans.

Once you’ve converted the old classics and favorites to plant-based versions, try making a meal plan. Many great veg-cookbooks also contain an introductory section on “stocking the vegan pantry.” Check out Veganomicon for an example of this type of guide. Then you can try out One Green Planet’s recipes, or visit sites like Plant Based on a Budget or PETA’s Two Week Vegan Meal Plan for helpful tips on shopping and planning out meals for the week. This is also a great way to slowly integrate new recipes into your diet.

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5. Find veg-friendly restaurants in your area.

The Happy Cow and even general restaurant search websites like Urbanspoon make this process super easy and fun! On the Happy Cow, you can search for places with vegan or vegetarian options, entirely veg places, and even grocery stores. Urbanspoon offers a similar search along with ratings for individual restaurants. In addition to checking out some new places, see what your current favorites have to offer. Plant-based eating doesn’t have to be taboo, and most places are able to offer veg options these days. If you’re really friendly with a local restaurant, you could even ask them to consider hosting a Meatless Monday night! When you feel comfortable dining out, you can show others how easy the transition can be.

6. Expand your dining horizons.

If you’re a fan of “global food,” this will be an easy step. If you’re a lover of all things greasy American and fast food, it will be an even more exciting step to try something new! Try out Asian, Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, Mediterranean and more for easy plant-based options. Who doesn’t love hummus?! When dining out, always check with your server to make sure the meal does not contain any animal products.

7. Let go of the cheese.

It will be okay, my friends, you will survive! Cheese is arguably the number one reason we all hear for continuing to consume animals products. Want to know why? It’s addictive. Those little cubes of fatty cow secretions are made of milk meant for, oh yeah, baby cows. What’s so addictive about it? Cheese and milk contain casein, “0ften referred to as the “nicotine of fast food.”

Vegan author Victoria Moran explores this idea, as quoted in “Get The Facts, the Trouble with Casein.”

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“Casein, one of the proteins in milk, crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes something called casomorphins. Yes’m, that sounds a lot like morphine—because casomorphin is also an opioid. Nature designed it that way so young mammals would enjoy nursing, come back for more, and live to reproduce themselves.”

So, get yourself some yummy vegan cheese, or just cut out the stuff all together; you’ll feel better anyways.

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8. Your decision will probably affect others, so be prepared.

As much as plant-based eating has gained momentum and a place in the minds of media, it is still a lifestyle decision that gains the attention of many people in your life. This attention could be positive or negative in nature, but, regardless, it’s going to happen. Some people may relentlessly ask questions about your decision, while others may surprise you by mentioning how they have been eating more plant-based foods after hearing of your decision. Dining out with friends will inevitably bring up questions about your decision, so it’s helpful to have your answers prepared.

9. Plan for the holidays.

Your first year eating plant-based around the holidays will be different, and people will be anticipating this change at holiday gatherings. However, by this point you’ll be a pro. Keep in mind that people may bring out the jabs, or questions about your decision, so just be calm and answer them with grace. The best way to show how awesome your new lifestyle is, is always to wow them with food! Check out some of these great holiday recipes, and you can always practice your dishes ahead of time.

10. Keep it up!

Now that you’ve got the tools, support, and know-how, you’re on your way! Start wowing yourself and others with awesome plant-based recipes and continually expanding your food options.

Image Source: Pineapple Fried Quinoa

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