So, you want to go vegan (or at the least, you’re interested in eating less meat).
Where to start? How to begin? Should you go and empty your pantry and give all your food to charity?
There are a lot of unknowns and questions you may have about going vegan, and there’s no shortage of answers on the internet. When my interest in veganism started, I watched practically every YouTube video and read every article about going vegan, determined to do it the “right way,” whatever that was.
Now that I’ve been vegan for about 5 years, I’ve had time to reflect on what advice was actually useful and what was the complete opposite. It would have been so helpful to have all of this information in one place when I was starting to eat vegan, so I’ve compiled a list of the only tips you’ll ever need to transition to plant-based eating.
This guide will help you make the transition as seamlessly as possible. Let’s get into it!
**I’m not a doctor or medical professional. Nothing in this article should be taken as a substitute for medical or mental health advice, and you should always consult your doctor for individual guidance about your diet.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which will reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases.
BEFORE WE START: HERE’S WHAT NOT TO DO
In the 5 years I’ve been plant-based, I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my diet. The good news is, now you don’t have to! In addition to my own mistakes, I’ve learned a lot from watching people in the online vegan community, especially from those who publicly stopped being vegan.
I’ve also written an entire article about how to avoid these main pitfalls, so be sure to check that out.
1. DON’T blindly copy other people’s “What I Eat in a Day” videos.
When you’re just starting out, it’s really tempting to find a random vegan influencer who you like and just eat everything they eat.
There’s no quicker way to completely lose touch with your body’s signals. All of a sudden, being vegan turns into an ultra-restrictive diet. Not to mention, if that person ever decides to stop eating plant-based, where will that leave you?
Remember that deciding to be vegan is an extremely personal decision, and your journey is going to look different from everyone else’s. While vegan YouTubers and bloggers are great resources from which to draw inspiration (see my upcoming tip), you aren’t a carbon copy of them, and your diet shouldn’t be either.
When in doubt, listen to your body.
2. DON’T go vegan just to lose weight.
While I recognize that weight-loss is a big motivator for some people to transition to a plant-based diet, it’s more often a factor that ends up causing people to go back to eating animal products.
Eating a plant-based diet can certainly help you achieve a healthy weight, but having that be your primary reason for going vegan is a recipe for failure.
Eliminating animal products from your diet is inevitably going to result in changes to your body. If you want to be vegan for the long haul, it’s best to remove the pressure of needing to lose weight and instead focus on the deeper, more lasting benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
I encourage you to find a deeper reason to not eat animal products – one that will allow you to keep eating plant-based for years to come.
3. DON’T freak out if you accidentally (or purposefully) eat something non-vegan.
Hey, you’re a human being. Human beings aren’t perfect.
A lot of people come to the vegan diet hoping it will be the answer to their quest for the “perfect” way to eat. This results in an unnecessarily restrictive, anxious mindset around food, and it’s a sure way to set yourself up for failure.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as the perfect diet. The sooner you come to terms with that, the sooner you can embrace the abundance and freedom that comes with eating plant-based.
So, if some dairy sneaks into your burrito, try not to have a cow. 😉
4.DON’T be obnoxious.
It has to be said!
Vegans have gotten a bad rap because of some extreme vegan personalities on the internet. It’s so normal to be excited about becoming vegan, and it’s absolutely something to celebrate!
Just be careful not to impose your decision on others. I don’t know of a single person who was shamed into being vegan, but I know about lots who were inspired by the joy and freedom of witnessing vegans enjoy their abundant lives.
Ok, now that we’ve covered what NOT to do, let’s get into the good stuff.
CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN
Before you scroll on past this tip, pause for a minute!
This is more than just a disclaimer – it’s an important recommendation. Your doctor can help you make informed choices about your diet while taking your health history into account.
There are lots of helpful articles (like this one) about transitioning to a plant-based diet, but your doctor or nutritionist is the only one who can give you personalized health advice. They can also make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need and can monitor the effects of your dietary changes. Go make an appointment!
LEARN ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS
Wait a second – I thought vegans could get all of their nutritional needs met… so why do they need to supplement?
It’s true that you can meet all of your nutritional needs on a plant-based diet, but it must be carefully well-planned. In our 9-5 world, it’s easy for some nutritional gaps to appear.
When you talk to your doctor at the appointment you just made, you can ask about which supplements are right for you.
A common one that’s important for vegans and vegetarians is Vitamin B-12. The one I use is vegan-friendly and has high absorption.
Supplementing properly will make sure you continue to have good energy and overall health as you transition to a plant-based diet. This was something I learned the hard way before I consulted a nutritionist.
It’s so beneficial to get started on the right foot with your nutrition. It’ll give you peace of mind, and you won’t have to track everything you eat to make sure you’re getting sufficient vitamins and nutrients.
FIND SOME GOOD VEGAN MENTORS
There’s no shortage of vegans on the internet these days!
I started out following people with extremely restrictive vegan diets – I’m talking about the raw vegans, the “raw-till-4” vegans, the “high carb, low fat” vegans, and the fruitarians. At first, I felt great (probably because I was on a constant sugar high)! Then, reality set in, and I felt terrible.
It took me a while to realize that it’s possible to be vegan and to also have a balanced diet. But I didn’t realize this until I found some good examples of people who ate normal, balanced plant-based meals.
Here are a few vegan YouTubers and bloggers who I believe set great examples of healthy vegan lifestyles:
I’ve been subscribed to Liv B’s channel since very near to the beginning of my vegan journey. She has beautifully filmed videos that I find helpful, especially for meal prepping and comfort foods.
Mina Rome is my go-to channel for easy, realistic plant-based meals. I love her roundup videos like “A Week of Vegan Lunches.” I almost always check out her channel for inspiration before I go grocery shopping!
Pick Up Limes
Sadia over at Pick Up Limes is a great resource for healthful vegan meals. She’s a plant-based dietician, so she knows what she’s talking about on her YouTube channel and blog. I also love that she advocates for intuitive eating! The world needs more dieticians like Sadia.
Aside from being vegan, Tabitha Brown is such a breath of fresh air on my Instagram feed. She shares the meals she makes for her family, and more importantly, she spreads so much positivity with her frequent IGTVs. I can’t praise her highly enough!
I love watching Emily Ewing’s YouTube videos because she keeps it real! Her videos are by far the most realistic depiction of “normal” vegan eating. She’s also very entertaining to watch.
EAT ENOUGH CALORIES
If there’s one thing that causes people to abandon veganism, it’s not eating enough food.
This is why it’s so important to establish a healthy relationship with food and to not focus on weight loss when you’re starting to eat a plant-based diet.
For the most part, plant foods are far less calorie-dense than animal products. That means you have to eat a greater volume of plant-based foods to meet your body’s caloric needs.
If it helps you to use a calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal in the beginning, I’m all for it. For people with a history of disordered eating, however, tracking calories probably isn’t the best idea.
You can still practice intuitive eating, something I strongly advocate for, on a plant-based diet. By becoming attuned to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, you’ll be better able to know when you need to eat more. It may take a while to get used to the bigger portion sizes – be patient with yourself and try your best not to let cultural norms dictate the size of your plate!
DO YOUR BEST AT RESTAURANTS
Being vegan does NOT mean you have to sacrifice social situations like going out to eat. As the percentage of plant-based people grows, restaurants are becoming increasingly more accommodating.
Your options for dining out are obviously dependent on where you live, and I’m blessed that my home state of California is so vegan-friendly! But if you live somewhere that doesn’t have a ton of restaurants serving plant-based options, you can still be vegan.
When you’re going out to eat with friends, it’s helpful to suggest a few places you know will have at least one dish you can enjoy.
In those times when you’re along for the ride and you find yourself at a restaurant without a single vegan item on the menu, not even a baked potato, do your best. Like I said before, it’s not the end of the world if you eat something non-vegan.
In my opinion, it’s far more important for you to eat when you’re hungry than for you to be 100% perfectly vegan all the time. I didn’t always see it that way, but now I realize that being plant-based is a privilege. Deciding to be vegan means acknowledging you have the option to not eat animal products because of the abundant alternatives around you. Unfortunately, those alternatives don’t exist in every scenario, so we just do the best we can.
BE KIND TO NON-VEGANS
Maybe you’re thinking, “well duh.” But I feel it’s a necessary caution.
The passion that exists within the vegan community is great, and it’s inspiring more people to go vegan every day. But there’s also a pretty vocal minority of militant vegans who make it their business to call out everyone else for eating animal products or for not being “vegan enough.” This creates so much unnecessary toxicity and negativity.
We should applaud every effort, no matter how small, to eat less meat. And we shouldn’t expect everyone to eat exactly like we do.
It’s great to be excited about going vegan, and it’s possible to share that excitement with others in a way that’s nonjudgmental. As a plant-based eater and a Catholic Christian, I understand just as well as you do what it feels like to want more for people than what they’re choosing for themselves.
The best way, and perhaps the only way, to change people’s hearts is to be a living example. Of course, have the deep, difficult conversations when they’re warranted. But remember it’s possible to disagree with opinions without judging the people who hold them.
Enjoy your vegan lifestyle! I hope these tips have helped you to feel more equipped for making the leap into plant-based eating. Whether you go vegan cold-tofu or gradually over time, you can now do so without questioning yourself along the way.
Is there something I missed you were hoping to know? Leave me a comment below letting me know what it was.