Thinking about starting a vegan diet but not sure where to begin? A Vegan-based diet means that you don’t eat animal products – meat, dairy, fish and even eggs.
For many people however, the thought of cutting out all dairy and meat can definitely be overwhelming – especially if you like to eat out and you’re not a genius in the kitchen.
One option that works for many people is to start gradually. The following 8 tips will make the transition easier and smoother – so you’re more likely to stick with the change:
1. Start with Cutting out Red Meat
The first step needs to be fairly easy. And for many people that starts with cutting red meat (we’re not as attached to it as we are to our cheese it seems).
Start by cutting out all pork, beef, lamb, and other red meat from your diet. Still allow yourself white meat like fish, chicken, and seafood.
You can also start trying meat-free versions of bacon and other meats that you can find in your local grocery or health food store, just to see which versions you like. When you begin feeling comfortable from not eating red meat, you can move to the next stage.
2. Chop the Chicken
Cut out the chicken – but still include seafood and fish like tuna, salmon, shrimp etc.
You can also start to try preparing some vegan meal recipes (you can find a lot online – and many times they are also reviewed by other vegans – so you can find the ones that REALLY taste good).
3. Cut out Seafood and Fish
By now, you’re pretty much at the vegetarian stage – congratulations! Now it’s time to cut the seafood and fish – but keep testing out other meat-alternatives like soy-based patties etc.
Your protein will also be coming from legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and black beans. There’s also whole grains, vegetarian mince, vegetarian patties, some other meat-free products like the vegan bacon.
4. Bid Farewell to Cheese
OK, this might be the more painful part for many of us. We love our cheese. But there are cheese alternatives like rice cheese and soy cheese. You’ll have to experiment here to find which kind of cheese works for you.
For example, I can’t stand soy cheese – but there’s a rice-based cheese I can buy at my grocery store that is fantastic – it even melts like real cheese!
5. Eliminate Eggs
This may also be a bit challenging – mainly because eggs are used in a lot of baked products and recipes.
But there are lots of egg-alternatives you can use in baking your goodies. Some people use gelatin-water mixes (which are OK for recipes using less than 3 eggs).
Other options include apple sauce and egg-replacement powders that you can often find at many specialty health food stores.
6. Cut out Cream and Butter
Again, this can be challenging since cream is often used in coffee – and butter is often used in recipes for baked goods.
But the good news is that there are great vegan alternatives. Coconut oil is an excellent replacement for butter in recipes (it’s basically a 1:1 replacement ratio). You can also use olive oil if you’re cooking dinner meals like stir-fry dishes.
And for cream there are some excellent non-dairy creamer-alternatives like soy milk, coconut milk (very thick and creamy) or even coconut butter.
Look around your grocery store as there are specially formulated non-dairy creamer options in the health food section. (Sometimes regular coconut milk or almond milk will separate in your coffee – these creamers won’t separate in your coffee).
7. Letting Go of Milk
This may seem hard – but you have a LOT of options here so it’s really not that bad (I actually found cheese to be much harder!).
Vegan alternatives to milk include rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk and nut milks like almond or cashew milk.
You can also use these milks to bake or cook with, eat them with your cereal, or you can simply drink them from a glass.
8. Finding The Best Vegan Recipes – and Restaurants
Good news – you are now completely vegan. But you still have to live your life without being chanined to your kitchen.
And you need to maintain a social life – which means eating out!
Now it’s time to start finding more recipes that you love (so you can make them up to have on hand throughout the week). I usually pick one day like a Sunday and make all of my food for the week, freezing the meals that will be used towards the end of the week.
Also, start investigating what you can have at restaurants. Depending on your area, you may actually find a vegan restaurant or cafe.
Not sure what you can eat at a certain restaurant? Most places have their menus online so you can look up what’s on the menu. You can also call ahead and ask what they might have that you could eat. Many restaurants are more than accommodating if you give them a heads up (they want your business after all).
So those are 8 steps on how to start a vegan diet without losing your mind. Some people like to go gradually.
However if you prefer to jump in with both feet, another option is to use a vegan meal delivery service for a month or two. This will assure that you’ll eat delicious food (so the transition won’t be so hard) and you can slowly learn the lifestyle at your own pace.
Going vegan can be challenging – but there are ways you can make it a lot easier. Hopefully these tips have helped. Before long you’ll be feeling healthier and stronger! Good luck and here’s to your health!