Starting a new year always fills me with hope. I know you don’t magically become a new person overnight, and 90% of new years resolutions are abandoned within 6 weeks, but there’s still something about January 1st that makes me feel like I can do anything, or like I have the strength to change anything I want to.
I know a ton of people are planning on going plant-based for 2018, which is super exciting. Veganism has been skyrocketing this year (plant-based eating has increased 600% in just a few years!), and vegan products are becoming more available and more affordable. However, I know a lot of people don’t know where to start with transitioning their diet. The two things I always hear from people are “I could never give up (meat, cheese, etc.)” and “I’m afraid I’ll slip up”, which is totally understandable! I’ve been vegan for over four years and still slip up on occasion (never with meat, but with dairy). But being vegan is not nearly as hard as people make it out to be. Yes, it requires a bit of planning and a bit of adjusting, and yes there will be times where you feel like you’re missing out a little bit (just being honest). But after a month or so, your body will feel better, your mind will be clearer, and you’ll adjust, I promise.
To celebrate the new year, I’ve compiled a list of my personal tips for transitioning into a vegan lifestyle:
- It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet.
Whether you’re doing it for health reasons or because you love animals, any type of veganism is still a lifestyle change. Yes, you will feel healthier and yes, you will probably lose weight, but not always. It’s not a cure-all or a quick solution, it’s a lifestyle shift that will take some getting used to.
- Do what works best for you.
Some people find it easiest to quit overnight, some people find it easier to cut things out of their diet over a few months. Find what works best for you, because then you’ll be more willing to stick with it.
- Slipping up is ok as long as you’re still trying.
Don’t give up! I know it can be discouraging if you slip up, but it’s ok, just keep going. It can be really hard to change your diet when you’ve been eating a certain way your whole life.
- Some change is better than no change.
There are people who will argue with me on this one, but I firmly believe that some change is better than no change. It doesn’t matter if you are vegan, vegetarian, or just do Meatless Mondays; educating yourself and changing a little is better than no change at all.
- Set yourself up for success.
Take an hour to cut up a bunch of vegetables to cook throughout the week. Or if you have the time, try meal prepping. Stock your fridge with healthy ready-to-grab vegan snacks. Stock your freezer with frozen fruits and veggies. A lot of people fail due to hunger or laziness, and it’s easy to grab junk food out of habit. But set yourself up for success by preparing snacks and meals ahead of time, or at least halfway preparing them so they’re easy to throw together.
- There are vegan substitutes for everything.
If you find yourself missing a certain food or ingredient, chances are they already have a vegan substitute for it. This is a controversial topic, because a lot of vegans hate ‘meat substitutes’, and carnivores hate that vegans buy ‘meat substitutes’ (I’ve literally had people confront me while looking at vegan burger patties and be like “IF YOU’RE GOING TO BUY THAT YOU SHOULD JUST EAT A COW HAHA”… idiots). But to be honest, I’m all about vegan substitutes and they definitely make a plant-based diet a little easier. It means when my family is barbecuing, I can enjoy a cheeseburger with them, and that’s awesome. Obviously you shouldn’t depend on substitutes, because a lot of the time they’re not very healthy. But a little vegan sour cream on a baked potato, or some vegan parmesan on your pasta? It’s nice to enjoy something familiar without feeling like you’re sacrificing anything. And honestly, some substitutes are almost indistinguishable from the real thing; try Follow Your Heart cheese or Beyond Meat!
- Make sure you’re eating correctly.
With all the vegan substitutes available, it’s easy to sink into the habit of making a quesadilla or grilled cheese every night (trust me, I’ve been there). But you still need to make sure you’re eating correctly (and eating enough!). Fill up on leafy vegetables and snack on fruit. Plants contain more than enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle (even though we are led to believe differently, plants actually contain more protein than meat). When in doubt, have a smoothie or a juice. It’s an easy way to get your daily boost of vitamins and greens.
- Try, try, try.
Try new recipes (pssst, I’ve got a TON of great recipes over on the recipe index), or simply substitute plant-based ingredients in your current favorite recipes. Try new ingredients, even if they seem foreign (like jackfruit, a fruit that tastes like freakin’ pulled pork, NO JOKE). Try new restaurants, or try getting vegan dishes at your current favorite restaurant. Just try, try, try until you find things you like. Make veganism work for you.
- Remind yourself why you’re going vegan.
Watch a documentary, read articles, educate yourself on the meat and dairy industry and remind yourself why you’re going vegan. Educated minds are more likely to make a change, even if they don’t go full vegan. When you find yourself craving meat, remind yourself that you’ll be healthier and happier without it. It only gets easier!
If you guys ever want to read my personal vegan journey, need any guides or vegan resources, or have any other questions about a plant-based diet, please let me know! I’m always happy to help.
And be sure to follow me on Instagram to see what delicious vegan foods I’m making this week!