Intro by Paige Baxter, Tips by Vegan Action Staff
It’s a great time to be alive. With brands like Beyond and Impossible Foods existing and breaking into the mainstream food industry with their tasty plant-based and cruelty-free burgers, reducing consumption of animal products and by-products has never been easier. Other large brands have also quickly followed suit by introducing plant “meats” into the mainstream market.
But that’s not to say that choosing the compassionate lifestyle of rejecting meat, dairy and other animal by-products doesn’t still have its challenges. At Vegan Action, we are fully aware and understand that transitioning to a vegan lifestyle isn’t always easy. We’ve all been in your shoes or at least in a similar pair. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of tips to ease you into veganism.
1.‘Do your best’
“I’ve been vegan for almost 12 years. I’m still learning. Do your best.”
-Sara Jane, staff
“Be forgiving of yourself while you are learning. If you eat something and then realize it is not 100% vegan do not give up or be hard on yourself. Early on when I went vegan my mom made a pasta dish that she put “vegan” cheese on. Turns out it was lactose free but not vegan. Mistakes happen and it’s okay.
2. Veganize your favorite meat-centered dishes.
“Recreating meat-centered foods and veganizing them really helped me along the way. I learned to manipulate seasoning and use different veggies and mushrooms!”
“I try to tell people to choose one thing to get rid of at a time and then once you’re comfortable supplementing or not missing that one item then move on to another. If you make a mistake, move forward. At least, now you know.”
3. Go to the beat of your own drum. Take your time and go at a pace that works for you.
“Taking my time. Cheese was really hard to give up. So I gave myself time to find the vegan alternative that worked for me.”
4. Meal plan when you can. You’ll thank yourself later.
“If you are out and about running errands, fast food and non-vegan choices can be so easy. Fortunately, vegan [on-the-go] options are getting much easier to find but if you have a plan and know what you will be eating day-to-day, it can help, in my opinion.”-Katelyn
5. Remind yourself of your ‘why’ — why are you choosing to make this important and selfless change in your life?
“I went cold turkey (cold tofu?). I just told myself, “I don’t eat that” because I didn’t want to eat animals anymore for my health and for them. I decided to give [veganism] a shot for 30 days (I had done stints before but wasn’t “strict”). After the 30 days, I felt great and never looked back!”
-Liz Dooley, board member
“For me it was all about the animals. I would just reflect for a few seconds on what got me to that moment of first making the decision to be vegetarian and then vegan – because I wanted to make positive choices that didn’t cause harm and suffering. The knowledge of knowing my choices were making a difference was and has always been my driving force.”
-Krissi V. , executive director
6. Find a supportive vegan community to join.
“I think that finding community is really important when talking about making any big lifestyle change. When I went vegan in high school, I was the only vegan that I knew at the time and went back to being vegetarian within 6 months. I thought it was so hard because my parents used to cook all my food, and I had to go from that to making all my own food. Going out with friends was also difficult because we didn’t have many places with vegan options around. I remember crying while eating an iceberg salad at Waffle House at one point. I remember feeling very alone, and then I started doubting myself on whether I could really do this. I think this time around it’s been so much easier because I’ve found a community with similar interests. Having vegan friends, VCU’s Vegclub, and people that love to go out to vegan restaurants and trying vegan recipes with me has helped me feel less isolated this time around.”
“Having a community or buddy system is so helpful. If you can’t find a group, make a group on Meetup.com! “If you build it, they will come.”
“Join a local vegan Meetup or Facebook group.”
7. Buy or check out a good cookbook from your local library.
“That was a game changer for me. My faves are Isa Does It and The Vegan Table.”
“Get an exciting new cookbook or follow a vegan chef on social media. I love cooking but very often need new ideas to change it up when I get bored with my go-to recipes.”
8. When dining out, ask restaurants if they offer any vegan options. A lot are happy to accommodate. Plan ahead and call restaurants if you’ll be eating out with omnivores.
9. Visit a reputable animal sanctuary to see happy, rescued animals in their natural habitats.
“It’s a great way to connect with animals that are typically seen as food, and to discover how similar they are to animals that are considered pets. Spending time in nature and hanging out with animals is a fun, rewarding experience.”