Thinking about going vegan and starting a plant-based diet? It seems like everyone is going vegan, thinking more about what they’re eating as well as the negative impact that meat-based diets have on the environment. But just what is a plant-based diet all about?
Going vegan means that you’ll be giving up all animal products such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, and honey. You’ll only be consuming ingredients that are derived from plants, such as vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans, and whole grains.
As with any change in diet, it will take time to make the transition from eating meat and other animal products to one where everything you eat is made from plants. To get you started, here are the main reasons for starting a plant-based diet.
Reasons to Go Vegan
There are many reasons for going vegan, everything from ethical reasons to improving your health to being eco-friendly:
- Environmental reasons – Many people choose veganism in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Research shows that 65% of nitrous oxide emissions are the result of animal agriculture. So going vegan generally means eating an eco-friendlier diet — just remember to try to eat local, seasonal and produce as little waste as you can for your diet to be truly sustainable.
- Ethical reasons – Being vegan for ethical reasons means that choosing a plant-based diet supports the belief that all animals are sentient beings and have the right to a life of freedom without cruelty or exploitation by humans.
- Health reasons – The numerous health reasons for removing dairy are growing in number as more studies are conducted each year on the benefits of a plant-based diet, not just for weight loss but for reducing risk of heart problems, cancer, and diabetes.
Whatever your reasons for trying out a plant-based diet or deciding to become a full-fledged vegan, here are 10 tips that will help you transition to veganism and achieve a healthy and successful plant-based life.
10 Tips for a Successful Vegan Diet
Making the change from eating meat, fish, dairy, and other animal products to consuming plants only isn’t an easy one – you’ll need to do your research and change not only the way you cook but the way you shop for food, prepare meals and dine out.
Follow these tips to make the change to a successful vegan diet:
1. State your intent
You’ve already come up with your own reasons for starting a plant-based diet – now state your intent. You can do this by writing your intention on a sticky note and putting it up somewhere or writing it on your bathroom mirror so it’s visible each day. The goal here is to be conscious at all times of why you’ve decided to become vegan. This will help when times get tough (and it does get tough, particularly where cravings for your old comfort foods are concerned).
2. Start slowly
Don’t rush into becoming vegan by instantly transitioning from a meat-based diet to consuming only plants, otherwise you may be setting yourself up for failure. Lasting lifestyle changes are thoughtfully considered and executed well. Some advice here: start by adding more vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains to your diet and then take it step-by-step and day-by-day as you find recipes and meals you like and can cook with confidence. You might start with removing meat from your diet once a week and having a meatless day (Meat-Free Mondays!) or you may try going a whole week first (Meat Free Week!). Over time, you should challenge yourself to increase these meatless days, letting your body become accustomed to a new way of eating.
3. Do your research
As you transition from a meat diet to veganism, do your research to find out what foods you can swap in as replacements for the foods you usually eat. If cheese is a big part of your diet, and one of your favorite foods, online research will show you that cashew-based vegan cheese make a great substitution. Or if bacon is your Sunday go-to for breakfast, you’ll quickly learn that “mushroom” bacon is just as tasty and satisfying. Remember your eco-friendly reasons for not having that meat burger and revel in eating the lentil burger that helps to reduce your carbon footprint – and save animal lives. Some great resources for preparing plant-based meals include Minimalist Baker, Deliciously Ella and Oh She Glows.
4. Find a vegan buddy or community
Find a friend who wants to start a plant-based diet just like you. It’s much easier for two of you to hold each other accountable and support each other through those early days when you’re craving meat. You can also encourage each other so you stick to your eating plan as you make the transition to a vegan lifestyle. You will find many vegan communities on Facebook such as Vegan for Her, What Broke Vegans Eat, Vegans in Australia if you’re looking for like-minded friends, advice and recommendations and a support network to help you transition.
5. Don’t let outside factors influence you
If your reason for going vegan is to lose weight and/or improve your health, don’t let outside factors influence how you’re feeling about the results. Everyone is different – you may be losing weight slower than someone else but remember that the journey will look different for everyone, and you’ll lose weight at your own pace. Keep track of your own progress in a journal so you can see the great strides you’re making.
6. Cooking at home
During the transition phase, as you become familiar and accustomed to being vegan, try to cook your meals at home. This gives you greater control over your diet – you’ll know exactly what’s going into each meal. Cooking at home also lets you make substitutions based on your own preferences. If you’ve learned that cashew cheese is great on homemade pizza, you’re the one who can make that happen.
7. Have a plan for eating out
It’s inevitable that you’ll want to eat out and when you do, it’s important that you have a plan in place for dining in restaurants. Know what to look for when you’re browsing through the menu – look for vegetable dishes as well as others to see if you can make them vegan. For instance, in a Greek restaurant, choose hummus and pita bread or vegetable dolmades. If possible, find a menu online before booking a table at a restaurant so that you’re confident there are meals you can eat when you get there. And when you are at a restaurant, it doesn’t hurt to ask wait staff for their advice on menu items that can be prepared vegan
8. Seek out vegan restaurants
Even smaller cites have caught on that vegans are here to stay. Look for vegan restaurants where you live or if you’re traveling. If a vegan option is unavailable, find one that’s vegetarian as they can usually make meals animal product free. Larger cities have a great selection of vegan places to eat, many with amazing menus as chefs specialize in meatless cooking. Download free apps such as HappyCow and PlantEaters as they will help you track your next vegan meal wherever you are in the world.
9. Be prepared to put in the work
Becoming vegan doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take time to make the move from a meat and dairy filled diet to one that’s loaded with plants and plant products. You need to learn what you can eat and what’s off limits. Even when you’ve successfully made the transition to being vegan, you’ll still need to put in the work by planning your meals, prepping and cooking, and learning all you can about a vegan lifestyle, from choosing vegan beauty products to buying vegan fashion. The ‘Vegan Style‘ book by Sascha Camilli is a handy guide book if you are looking to build a stylish, cruelty-free lifestyle.
10. Ignore negativity
Be prepared for people to make negative comments about you going vegan. There’s always that friend or family member who is ready to ridicule your choice to give up meat, dairy and animal byproducts. Stand firm, repeat your intention, and remember your goals and priorities for being vegan. This is also a good opportunity to educate others about the health and eco-friendly reasons for switching to a plant-based diet.
Ready to embrace a vegan lifestyle? Using these tips here, making the transition from consuming meat products to only consuming a plant-based diet is completely doable. Take your time modifying how you eat – one step at time. Making small changes will soon have you eating and thinking like a true vegan who is concerned about your health, animals and the environment.
For more tips check out this infographic by Hola below.
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Feature image via Pexels.