Veganism is about opening your heart and mind to care more for animals, the environment and your own body. But how do you get there? How do you make the transition to a vegan lifestyle without feeling deprived? How do you stay vegan over the long term? And how do you make a vegan lifestyle one of abundance, compassion and amazing flavors?
My own transition to veganism was rocky, to say the least, because I didn’t seek out the right resources to help me. I thought I would just eliminate meat and dairy and eat all the same things I did before. But pasta for dinner day after day is hardly a diet that inspires anyone to stay vegan. These are ten tips I wish I had known when I began to make the transition to a vegan lifestyle:
1. Know your reasons. Are you devoted to being compassionate to animals? Are you concerned with the environmental impacts of factory farming? Are you doing it to improve your health? Be clear about why you are becoming vegan both for yourself and so that you can articulate it to others who ask. This will help you stay committed to the project of becoming vegan over the long run. And it will also help with your interactions with the people in your life who will be curious about this decision.
2. Get educated. Find some vegan lifestyle and recipe blogs and read them daily. Track down some vegan cookbooks (there are lots of ‘used’ vegan cookbooks out there these days). Read up on the questions everyone asks, like ‘Where do you get your protein?’ or ‘What about B12?’.
3. Find your community. Search out other vegans. You might already know some vegans—call them up and tell them you’re becoming vegan and would love to talk about it over some awesome vegan food. If you don’t know any vegans, never fear! Ask for help. I recently had someone contact me who is becoming vegan and has never even met another vegan. If you’re in this boat, check online to see if there is a vegan meet-up in your town. If not, consider starting one—there are bound to be others like you. Follow the online vegan blogging community; it is warm, welcoming and diverse and you can find your people that way.
4. Splurge. Even if you don’t have much money to spend on food, make sure you buy yourself at least one thing that’s special every time you go to the grocery store. Treat yourself to a box of those gorgeous berries. Or a totally decadent vegan chocolate bar. For me, I dove headlong into vegan baking and whenever I was feeling a little deprived, I would whip up some vegan cookies or cupcakes and the world would be right again.
5. Find new comfort foods. A) Find some recipes to cook at home that are your go-to comfort food meals. For me this is mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy or a vegetable pot pie. B) Find some menu items at your favorite restaurants that are vegan or find some new restaurants that have vegan items you love. For those nights when you can’t imagine cooking anything, you’ll need these options.
6. Try new things. Whether this is a vegetable you’ve never heard of or a restaurant you’ve never tried, try out new things. In some ways, you are retraining your taste buds and who knows what those little guys might like!
7. Be proactive. When negotiating eating functions with family and friends, let them know you’re becoming vegan and offer to bring something vegan to contribute to the meal. If you’re going out, call the restaurant ahead of time and ask them what vegan options they have or would be willing to make for you.
8. Visit an animal sanctuary. Find a local animal sanctuary and schedule a visit. Or better yet—volunteer! Sanctuaries always need good volunteers and there’s nothing like giving a pig a belly rub to strengthen your resolve to stay vegan.
9. Get colorful! Dark red beets. Green kale. Rainbow chard. Garnet yams. Blueberries. Eat a rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables and you can’t go wrong. Your plate will be beautiful and inspiring, as well as packed with a whole range of nutrients and vitamins.
10. Be compassionate. Above all, be kind to yourself. If you slip off the wagon, don’t sweat it and get right back on. This a drastic change you are making and it takes some time. Also, be kind to others who might not understand your transition. Try your best to be patient and open and try to stay positive as you navigate this process.