About the author – Katy Malkin is an adventurous writer, health-conscious foodie, and the creator of Learner Vegan. She is passionate about making veganism accessible for all.
Veganism is becoming huge! With more media coverage, increasing food choices and better awareness about the food industry, it’s not hard to understand why at least 3% of the USA identify as vegan. There are so many reasons to follow this lifestyle. Some people decide to change for personal reasons, such as a shift in morals and heightened awareness of farm animal cruelty. Others decide to explore veganism to live a healthier lifestyle, or because of the environmental damage meat and dairy causes. In fact, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults in Great Britain by Mintel, a total of 49% of those interested in cutting down on their meat consumption said they would do so for health reasons.
There’s no ‘correct’ reason to go vegan. Ask 100 vegans about why they decided to live that lifestyle, and you might get 100 different answers!
However, in the beginning, it can seem like a daunting task, and your reasons for wanting to make the switch can start to fade as you are faced with this new world and big life changes.
Fortunately, there has never been a better time to try veganism. Last year, the USA launched a huge number of new vegan products, giving us a diverse range of eating options.
Perhaps you’re still apprehensive about going vegan. You might worry about making mistakes, or get overwhelmed by all the information about veganism. Fortunately, making the switch can be quite easy, if you take it one step at a time as I did, and follow these simple tips.
Increase the foods in your diet
Rather than looking at what you can’t eat, take some time to look at all the different foods available that you may not have noticed or paid attention to before. For instance, your favourite brands such as Ben and Jerrys offer dairy-free alternatives, so why not add it to the basket on one of your shopping trips? Grab some almond milk, and try dairy-free cheeses. Peruse the plant-based options at your local restaurant.
Rather than swapping your diet out in one extreme swoop, take the time to find what you like and introduce it gradually. Then remove the items that these new foodstuffs will be replacing. You could start with meat substitutes, then dairy, and finally eggs. A slow transition is better than no transition at all. This method is great for those who struggle with going ‘cold turkey’ and willpower. Veganism doesn’t mean missing out at all.
Looking to dive right in with no transition period? The next tip is perfect for you.
If you intend to change to a vegan diet overnight, then it will help if you remove temptations or potential pitfalls that could see you make a mistake you’ll late regret.
For instance, still have a lot of treats left over from Christmas that contain dairy? Why not donate them to a local food bank or give them away for Easter? Treat yourself to some vegan chocolate as a reward. Did you know that Oreos are vegan?
Find it difficult to grab a vegan lunch on-the-go? Start preparing your meals the night before and ensure you take it with you every morning. Include snacks too! This worked particularly well for me, as I found it difficult to locate, and eat, the food I wanted when I had only 30 minutes to spare during working hours. Removing this obstacle by taking in my own lunch daily not only gave me more time to enjoy breaks, it allowed me to stay on the diet I wanted by taking guesswork out of the equation. It saves money, too!
Know the basics
You don’t have to be knowledgable about nutrition, the food industry and health in order to be vegan. However, some people like to be armed with information. It certainly helps to have a basic knowledge of veganism, so that you are equipped to answer any questions thrown your way by family and friends.
Seek out vegan documentaries, books, magazines, websites, blogs, forums, and people. They can all offer valuable insights, support, and will help you to feel more confident in your transition. I love ‘What the Health’ and ‘Cowspiracy’. You can also find out how to veganize your favourite recipes, which is a lot of fun!
Download an App
Our phones keep us constantly connected, and they are with us all the time. Take advantage of it! There are loads of apps for Android and iPhone that can help you with making the transition to veganism easier.
- ‘HappyCow’ allows you to search out restaurants local to your current location that are vegan-friendly. It even includes delis and stores.
- ‘Is It Vegan?’ allows you to scan product barcodes to find out if the product is suitable for you.
- ‘Bunny Free’ lets you search for companies by name and tells you if they test on animals. This is ideal if you frequently buy cosmetics and toiletries.
- For travellers, ‘AirVegan’ tells you which airport terminals have plant-based options.
Remove the thinking and let the apps help you. Moving to a vegan lifestyle will seem easier than ever.
Embrace the vegan community
Things seem so much easier when you’re part of a group. Ask anyone who has attempted to go the gym on a regular basis – it’s always better when you have a work-out buddy to motivate you and share war stories with.
80% of people have friends or family who are vegan, 84% have eaten a vegan meal and 90% think it’s easier to eat vegan today compared with 10 years ago. This means it’s likely you know someone who has had interaction with the vegan world and can support you in some form.
And if you’re stuck for a real-life vegan companion, the online vegan community is always happy to welcome new members. After all, they want to see more and more people becoming vegan.
Use Facebook groups both nationally and locally to get involved in conversations and ask for advice. It can seem scary at first, but it’s also a great place to meet new friends. In local groups, you can also find great suggestions for eateries, events and social meet-ups.
Concentrate on you
Unfortunately, just like there are militant meat-eaters, so too there are militant vegans.
Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life, regardless of which community they belong to. Someone might tell you that you are not really vegan if you do a certain thing, such as if you don’t partake in activism and go to marches, if you marry a non-vegan, or if you have pets.
Stick to your guns – your reasons for making this change are your own, and you can go about it in whatever way you want. Why did you want to go vegan? Make sure you’re really clear on it, as it will help you to make friends with the right people, and stop you giving into any pressure or temptation. Surround yourself with like-minded people and do what feels comfortable for you. And remember, veganism isn’t about 100% perfection or following somebody else’s rules.
Give it time
There’s a train of thought that says if you do something for 28 days in a row it becomes second nature. People often use this when giving up bad habits, or starting new ones.
So a couple of days in, veganism might start to feel difficult. Situations and questions may crop up that you hadn’t initially considered. Two weeks into being vegan, your friends are going out to a restaurant and pressuring you to eat meat. It won’t matter just this once, right?
Stick at it! Believe it or not, as each day passes, it will start to become the new normal for you. Soon, you’ll wonder why you ever ate meat, dairy and eggs at all.
But what should you do if you do fall off the wagon, or make a mistake?
Don’t give up
Everybody makes mistakes. It’s natural and unavoidable. We need to make mistakes to learn and grow as people. I’ve accidentally picked up snacks bars that contain milk, even after 6 years as a vegan!
The most important thing to remember when you make a mistake is that it’s ok. But also, take the time to figure out what led you to make that mistake so you can avoid it in the future and then get back on it! Were you in a rush? Pressured? Put steps in place to handle it in the future.
Don’t let the mistake overrule your reasoning for wanting to make the switch in the first place – you’re doing great.
And finally – please do enjoy being vegan!
Remember, veganism isn’t about cutting things out, missing out, feeling isolated or being different.
Being vegan is getting into a wonderful community of compassionate people, trying lots of new foods, being healthier and making a small change in the world.
Go into it positively. Every vegan I speak to says they wished they did it sooner. They love being vegan. I hope you do too!
Check out this site for even more help on becoming vegan!