The idea of switching to a plant-based diet can seem overwhelming; believe me, I know. Whenever I thought about giving up meat, it seemed impossible to me, a big meat-lover. But once I watched a video that showed me how my meat got on my plate, I immediately swore off meat and never touched it again.
I didn’t even know at that time that consuming all the other animal products was just as bad. As I learned about dairy, eggs, honey and other animal products, I took step after step towards a completely plant-based diet. While there are some people who have no trouble going totally plant-based overnight, for others, like myself, it may be easier to take manageable steps in one’s own time.
There is no right or wrong way to get there and there is no deadline. The only thing that matters is doing it in a way that you can stick with and feel good about. Here are some tips on how to go plant-based in just 5 easy steps.
1. Make It Meatless
Giving up meat doesn’t mean you have to eat tofu and sprouts (although they are both delicious). It also doesn’t mean giving up your favorite dishes. You can make them all in a meat-free way and they will be satisfying and incredible. Learn all about the 10 Vegetables that Can Substitute for Meat and check out The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Meats and Meat Substitutes. No matter what your favorite beef, chicken or seafood dishes were, they can be made plant-based. If you find yourself craving meat, you can satisfy those cravings in a meat-free way. See How to Veganize Your Favorite Familiar Dishes, even “Chicken-Fried” Steak with Creamy Mashed Potatoes. Once you realize that it only takes a couple of ingredient swaps to make your favorite foods, being meatless will feel like second-nature.
Recipes you should definitely try include Seitan Pot Roast, Beef-Style Vegan Stew, Vegan Sloppy Joes, Tempeh “Tuna” Salad, Crispy Tofu Nuggets, Vegan Tofu Scallops, Hoisin Black Bean Burgers, and Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower Bites.
2. Ditch the Dairy
It wasn’t until after I gave up meat that I learned about the cruelty of the dairy-industry and realized that everything I thought I knew was wrong. There are no happy cows in green pastures happy to be milked. The truth about the lives of cows in the dairy industry was all I needed to know to ditch dairy. Learning that all the health claims are not true was just vegan icing on the cake. Giving up dairy can feel like a huge step because there are so many dairy products – milk, yogurt, butter, cream, ice cream, and sour cream, just to name a few. That’s why it helps to take it in steps as outlined in 5 Easy Ways to Wean Yourself Off Dairy. Get all the info you need in The 10 Most Helpful One Green Planet Articles for Dairy-Free Living.
Recipes that will help you be dairy-free include Hazelnut Fig Milk, Vanilla Nut Coffee Creamer, Creamy Chai Latte, Cinnamon Coconut Yogurt, Homemade Vegan Butter, Chocolate Chunk Espresso Ice Cream, and Homemade Coconut Sour Cream.
3. Cut the Cheese
Even though cheese falls under dairy, it gets its own step because it seems to be the hardest for many people to give up. That comes as no surprise. Cheese, like all dairy, contains opiate-like chemicals that make it addicting and make us crave more and more. There’s a reason restaurants and food companies put extra cheese on everything. It’s also why the cravings for cheese are so strong but they are not all-powerful. Get armed with 5 Ways to Battle Those Cheese Cravings After You Go Vegan and know that they will lessen and then disappear. Vegan cheese is better than ever and it’s easy to make your own like these 25 Vegan Cheeses That Will Make You Quit Dairy Forever.
You won’t feel like you’re missing much when you make this Macadamia Nut Spreadable Pepper-Herb Feta, Cashew Coconut Cream Cheese, Smoked Coconut Vegan Gouda, Vegan Pepper Jack Cashew Cheese, and Fat Free Vegan Cheese Sauce.
4. Erase the Eggs
My hardest battle wasn’t with cheese but with eggs. I didn’t appreciate just how much I used eggs in my cooking and it was in front of the egg cartons in the store that I stood and struggled with my conscience. The horrors of the egg industry were enough to make me just say no to eggs. No food seemed worth it once I learned the truth about what happens to spent egg-laying hens, the male chicks that are useless to the industry and that raising one’s own backyard hens doesn’t lead to “happy eggs.” It’s easier than you think to learn How to Cook and Bake Without Eggs and How to Replace Eggs in All Your Favorite Dishes. That includes dishes where eggs are usually the main ingredients. See Who Needs Eggs? Here’s How to Make Vegan Omelets, Frittatas, Quiches and Crepes to see just how easy it is to erase eggs, but not egg dishes, from your life.
Try these Tofu Scramble Stuffed Mushrooms, Roasted Tomato and Herb Quiche, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Egg Sandwich, Tofu Frittata with Smoky Eggplant Salsa, Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich, and Vegan Soufflé Omelet.
5. Finishing Touches
Once you’ve completed the previous steps and are eating a delicious, healthy plant-based diet free of meat, dairy, cheese and eggs, it’s all smooth sailing the rest of the way. There are many alternatives to honey that will help you help save the honeybees. See Natural Sweeteners that are Healthy Honey Substitutes for suggestions and learn how to make your own Vegan Pineapple Honey. Find out How to Make Jams and Jellies without Gelatin.
This is when you hone your skills as a master label reader. Check out all the Food Items Commonly Mistaken as Vegan and Icky Animal Parts That Are Hiding in Your Food and How to Choose Better. By now, you have learned even more than the 10 Food Substitutions Every Plant-Based Eater Should Know.
When you decide to go plant-based, there can be a lot of pressure to do it perfectly and quickly. Ignore it. You need to do what is right for you. Everyone has their own journey on the way to the destination of a plant-based life. Take it one step at a time and you may find it easier than you thought.
Lead Image Photo: Roasted Tomato and Herb Quiche