When you’ve been vegan for a while, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we all start somewhere! One of the questions I get asked often is ‘how do I actually get started?’ So I thought it was high time I got this written down for you! The aim of this post is to help you make the connection with a plant based diet and why it is a great choice, as well as how to start your plant based journey.
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How to start your plant based journey, and stick with it.
When you decide to go vegan, you likely think about diet. The foods you will now be eating; and so there may be a certain element of unease involved as you think about the amount of lettuce you will now have to consume! But fear not; a vegan diet is not only healthier for you, it’s also filled with delicious and varied foods too!
There are also other aspects to consider though; veganism isn’t just about the food. There are also environmental factors and animal welfare issues to consider too. You will be changing a lot in your life, from the clothes that you wear, to the make up and toiletries you use, as well as learning better ways to reduce, recycle and reuse!
The easiest way to start your journey, however, is always going to be the food you eat. It’s the one thing you have complete control over, and once you start to eat a whole food, plant based diet, you will feel so good, and so healthy, you will wonder what took you so long! You will have more energy, more focus and better sleep, so everything else will feel easier and doable. Those who suffer with anxiety and depression will often feel their mood improve too, so it’s an all round winner really.
In this post, I want to help you start your plant based journey the right way, so you can learn to enjoy veganism and not feel overwhelmed or deprived of anything. This means making sure you are getting the right nutrition, eating healthily, while knowing you are making a difference for yourself, for others and for our planet.
Get your free meal planner from the resource library below!
Before you start your plant based journey:
- Understand your ‘why?’ – Knowing why you want to start your plant based journey is a very important step. So important, I would recommend you take some time to figure this out, and write it down. At times, changing your lifestyle can be challenging, not to mention, the amount of people that will bombard you with questions, you may feel ill-equipped to answer. Knowing your ‘why?’ will help you stay focused on the goal and help you to answer those questions when they arise. The three most common reasons for starting a vegan lifestyle are:
- Health reasons: If you have health concerns, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, digestive problems, etc. this can be a strong factor in deciding to change your diet.
- Animal welfare: Many people turn to veganism when they learn how animals are treated in the animal agriculture industry. Or just because they don’t believe that animals should die to satisfy our taste buds. And there are also the cruelty free issues to consider; with make up and toiletries as well as household cleaners that are tested on animals or contain animal derived ingredients, more and more people are considering a more compassionate lifestyle.
- Environmental issues: It’s no secret that our planet is in trouble, and we are almost at the point of no return. It’s evident in the change in our weather, the confusion of animals and plants acting out of season, as well as the rising of the oceans as the polar ice melts.
So, what is your ‘why?’
- Educate yourself – Once you know the reason why you want to change your lifestyle, it’s time to start getting all the dirt on a plant based lifestyle! Knowing how your actions can make a great impact on your body, the animals and also on the planet is a great motivator. So is knowing why you no longer wish to participate in a non vegan life. I won’t lie, you will come across images, videos and text that will be hard to witness during your search. But that’s the reality behind why we make this choice. So arm yourself with information about nutrition, food alternatives, toiletry replacements and eco-friendly cleaning products, and you will be on the right track to get started.
- Get some new cookbooks – Cooking foods you’ve never heard of, let alone tasted can be daunting! Having some vegan cookbooks that teach you how to prepare and cook these items will take the stress out of meal times. Make a commitment to try at least one new item a week, so that you can learn what you do and don’t like. Also be aware that your taste buds will change, you may find things that you didn’t like before, you will start to love – and vice versa!
- Plan your meals – This is especially important in the beginning stages when you start your plant based journey. It’s so easy to fall back on food you are used to when you don’t know what to cook. But if you have it all worked out, you know exactly what to cook and when. You will also have the ingredients you need to make each meal, so you will be prepared. You will find a meal planner in the resource library that you can use.
- Stock up – This is the fun bit! Once you have your meal plan figured out, you can go shopping for all those new, healthy foods! Write yourself a shopping list, and off you go! There are a few basics that you will want to keep in at all times; download a copy of these vegan staples from the resource library below.
- Prepare your own food – Preparing your own food will be imperative when you start your plant based journey. Not least because, you will know exactly what is going into your meal. When you buy pre-made and processed foods from the supermarket, it works out more expensive, and some of those preservatives are just not healthy for you! So make sure you know exactly what is going into your recipes by preparing all your own food.
- No one is perfect – Every vegan will tell you about the time they ate something they later discovered wasn’t vegan! It happens. Don’t give up if you end up in this situation. When I first decided to transition to veganism, I thought cheese would be the thing I missed the most. But it was actually Cadbury’s milk chocolate that I craved! I decided to bite the bullet and have one bar so I could prove to myself it wasn’t as great as I thought it was – and I was right! Having not eaten milk chocolate for so long, my taste buds had changed, and it didn’t taste at all how I remembered, and made me feel quite sick! I don’t consider myself non-vegan for doing that, as it was a hiccup. I am, after all, human. And so are you 🙂
Transitioning to a plant based diet: step-by step
1. Take your time – When you switch to a vegan diet, your body will have to make adjustments. You may find that the increase in fibre will cause changes to your bowel habits (this will settle down!) your emotions may be affected too, and your sleep patterns may also be interrupted for a short while. So transitioning in stages will help to keep these upsets to a minimum to help you stay the course. Remember to educate yourself on all aspects of veganism along the way. There are some great books to help you:
2. Eliminate meat first – Taking a vegetarian approach to starting this lifestyle will make it much easier. Meat is an easy thing to eliminate as there are so many alternatives, from ‘fake meats’ to protein substitutes like chickpeas and tofu. Taking meat out of your diet, is also one of the healthiest choices you can make, as it reduces the amount of cholesterol you consume, and lowers your risk of heart disease. At the same time, you want to increase your plant intake. It’s important to replace the nutrients, minerals and vitamins you will no longer be getting from meat. I would recommend reading my post on vegan nutrition to learn how to ensure you are getting everything you need.
3. Replace dairy – Depending on your feelings towards dairy products, this can be a little more challenging than eliminating meat. Cheese can be a particularly difficult item to replace, as it’s hard to get the same consistency with vegan versions. I would recommend beginning with milk alternatives, as there is so much choice. Almond milk, rice milk, soya milk and also oat milk are just a few that you can try. Have a go at trying all the ones that sound like they might appeal to you, as well as for different meal options and drinks. For example, I like rice milk if I’m having cereal for breakfast, as it is naturally sweet, but I prefer oat milk in my cups of tea.
Cheese can be replaced, but again, it is about personal preference. A friend of mine loves Violife, but I only like it melted, otherwise it tastes like Edam. I do like Tesco free from cheese which is a coconut based cheese. So once again, try some different brands to see which ones appeal to you, but don’t expect them to taste like cheese, because they won’t (at least not exactly). Yogurt and cream are fairly easy to substitute, as Alpro have a whole range of dairy alternative products that are all vegan. There are also some vegan cheese recipe books and kits if you would like to have a go at making it yourself:
4. Replace eggs – replacing eggs is actually easier than people think. On a protein level, tofu provides as much as an average sized egg, and if you make a veggie packed tofu scramble for breakfast, you’re setting yourself up for a great day! If you are used to using eggs in baking, you won’t be short for alternatives there either. Popular choices include aquafaba (canned chickpea juice), bananas and applesauce to name but a few. So it really is easy to substitute eggs in your diet!
5. Eating out – You will undoubtedly find yourself in situations where your food prep is out of your control, such as going out for meals with friends, or eating at someone else’s house. In these circumstances, it’s important to let others know of your dietary choices, particularly if you are not booking the restaurant where you will be eating. Although you don’t want to be difficult, you have the right to be able to eat within your values. Check out my post on how to eat out with friends who aren’t vegan for some helpful hints and tips.
Get your free meal planner and vegan staple list in the resource library below!
Hopefully this post has helped you to understand how to start your plant based journey and also made you feel motivated to get started! I have been vegan for a few years now, so it’s not always easy to remember all the things I wanted to know when I was starting out! If you have any questions, or I haven’t covered something that you need to know, let me know! Contact me here, and I will get back to you.