11 Super Helpful Tips For Going Vegan
It's actually not going to be as hard as you think!
On 1 August 2017, I started a 3-month vegan experiment, so I'm currently just over one month in. Previously, I was a committed omnivore.
In this post, I want to give you 11 super helpful tips for going vegan.
Whether you're trying out vegan / plant-based for one week, one month, three months, taking part in Veganuary, or you're moving over to vegan / plant-based for life - this post will help you:
to prepare better
to make the transition as simple as possible, and
to ensure that your first month is incredible as a result!
1. Don't feel guilty before you begin your experiment
If you're anything like me, in the leadup to my experiment beginning, I ate ALL the non-vegan products out of my fridge and freezer as best I could, and I made a point to eat some of my favourite non-vegan dishes and meals prior to beginning the experiment. However, this was also the time that I began watching more films on the topic, was researching online, and planning for my experiment... so increasingly I began to feel a little bit guilty for eating non-vegan during that same time period... But look, you haven't started your experiment yet! Enjoy your favourite non-vegan foods if you would like to, and use up what's left in your kitchen by all means.
And just adding to this point - choosing to go vegan or plant-based doesn't mean that when you change your way of eating on day 1, you have to change everything else in one go. Note my non-vegan boots, non-cruelty-free bleached hair, plus whatever other body and makeup products I was using on day 1 of my vegan experiment. If you want to change everything all in one go, go for it. But be sensible, e.g. can you afford to buy everything vegan you'll be needing and kick off all in one go? If not, don't get into debt over this. And don't feel guilty about it. As you make any new purchase decision, choose then what step you want to take. Every day, you make daily choices. You're moving forward, day by day.
2. Gradually eat more vegan-like foods
Keep step 1 (above) in mind, but in the leadup to beginning your experiment, do also feel free to start to integrating more vegan foods or vegan-like foods (by vegan-like I mean: not quite vegan but with fewer animal products than usual for you) into your daily and weekly diet. This will only help with the transition.
3. Get your B12 sorted!
Okay, depending on the length of your experiment, you may not actually be in dire need of a B12 supplement, but why not just buy one (they're pretty affordable) to use anyway, just to be on the extra safe side. A friend recommended a little B12 spray that sounded convenient, so I pre-ordered it and began using it from day one. As much as any health benefit, you'll find it incredibly useful in reassuring other people that yes, you have researched this whole thing, and yes, you do actually know what you're doing!
4. Be informed
Watch films, read blogs and books, research, make an appointment with a nutritionist or dietician who is able to assist you. Being informed about what you are doing and how to do it well will help you MASSIVELY because:
a) you'll get on board with WHY you are doing this, whether that be for reasons of compassion to animals, health, environment, social justice, your personal faith, to challenge yourself to think more openly, or whatever other reasons
b) you'll be able to make considered and wise choices in relation to your nutrition and health during your experiment, e.g. you're not just going vegan by eating hot chips with tomato sauce every day...
c) you'll be able to explain your decision to others to help them to understand a) why you are doing it and b) that you do know what you're doing (e.g. I'm getting enough protein, I promise!)
5. Consider monitoring your food intake
Admittedly I've taken this to the next level (I got a blood test done before beginning my experiment, and I'll get another one done at the end of it) - but at a basic level, I would suggest that you consider using a food calculator app. These are so helpful! I had already been using FitnessPal for 11 months straight when I began my vegan experiment. It enables you to monitor your food intake and actually see (approximately) how much protein, fat (different types of fat), carbs, fibre, and key nutrients you're getting every day, across your week, and then compare across past days and weeks. The only adjustment I made to my profile settings when beginning my experiment was to lower my daily protein requirement level. This is because through my research I had quickly discovered that I actually didn't need as much protein as I thought I did. Funnily enough, having made that adjustment, I am finding that it's easy to get enough protein every day.
6. Suss out where to eat beforehand
Before beginning my experiment, I downloaded the Happy Cow app onto my phone and did a search to see what vegan or vegan-friendly cafes and restaurants were close by my house and close by my work. I also did some research on the top vegan places to eat out in my city and emailed the links to my housemate (so we could check some of them out together). This info, and this app, have became a quick reference point for whenever I am too tired and just want to get takeaway for dinner or just eat a fuss-free dinner locally, as well as for whenever I want to treat myself, satisfy my inner foodie, or just go out somewhere good (that actually has good vegan options!) with friends.
7. Social media - find your tribe & think vegan
I started following a bunch of vegan accounts on Instagram.
As simple as this may sound, I have found incredible encouragement in being connected with other vegans around the world. I follow accounts, check out different hashtags, like photos, and engage in comments. Sometimes a photo or meme is the exact encouragement you need! Find your (global vegan, and local vegan) tribe!
Plus by doing so, you become exposed to a lot of vegan food inspo. This is practically helpful to learn how to prep delicious vegan food, as well as to start to retrain your brain to think vegan in terms of food cravings and meal planning. Within a few weeks of my experiment beginning, I also found that I wanted to begin unfollowing other food accounts which featured photos of non-vegan food. Essentially, I made vegan food dominant on my Instagram feed, and by doing so, started to retrain my mind to think vegan. No, I don't have evidence to back up how and if this really works - but as a bit of an Insta-addict, I definitely found that this helped me out!
8. Have fun!
This seriously is going to be so much fun!!! You get to try heaps of brand new foods, new ingredients, new food combinations, new dishes and meals, new ways of cooking, new places to eat out! How is this not an amazing prospect?? Less restricted by tradition and mainstream same-everywhere options, you get to be more creative, you get to learn about how to make all sorts of different foods (including how to create new vegan versions of some of your favourite non-vegan foods).
As part of intentionally having fun with this, and as part of my learning (since I was an absolute vegan newbie), I signed up for a 3-month vegan mystery box subscription from The Cruelty-Free Shop.
This was an excellent decision, and I highly recommend it. At the beginning of each month, I get sent a mystery box of goodies to try out. Even from the contents of the first box, I discovered some things I loved, and some things I didn't love. And I SO LOVE the idea of a mystery box - each month picking it up from the post office all excited... unwrapping it at home to see what treats lay inside.. experimenting with new ingredients... trying brands and foods I otherwise wouldn't have even known about or known what to do with! And this service is especially great as they include a printed sheet or two for any brand new products in their range to explain what they are and how to cook with them. Super. Helpful. And fun!
If you want to buy anything from this place, it's also worth knowing that you can create an account and earn points as you spend. If you're going to create an account with them, click here and follow the prompts, and then I can shamelessly also collect some points at the same time ;)
9. Go shopping!
Yes! Stock up your cupboard and fridge and freezer (to appropriate levels... !) with vegan ingredients for the meals you are planning to make, with snacks, and if you like, with treats. This way, when you get hungry, you have what you need ready to go. Most vegan ingredients tend to be things easily found at most grocery stores - fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, pasta, plant milks, nuts, etc. There are a few vegan alternative products that you might want to buy as well though (e.g. if you love mayo, maybe pickup a vegan mayo before starting your experiment so you don't get tempted to use your old one... better yet, maybe finish up or throw out your old mayo before beginning your experiment!). A benefit, of course, is most vegan foods are also very budget friendly!
10. Meal plan and prep meals in advance
To an extent this depends on what your normal week looks like. I generally aim to prep lunches over my weekend for the coming Monday-Friday work week, with maybe a few meals extra for weeknight dinners. This is especially helpful for when you begin your vegan experiment, as you don't want to be stuck on your lunch break unable to find something to eat (though to be fair, you'll soon find the vegan options around your workplace). But it also means you can ensure that nutritionally you are kicking off your experiment well, and you are eating enough to last you through the day.
11. Don't feel guilty during your vegan experiment
Mistakes happen. Weird ingredients get put into foods that really have no good reason to be there. Sometimes things are mislabelled. Sometimes things are lost in translation. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding, and it turns out that dish isn't actually vegan. Even if it's because you willingly ate something non-vegan, don't panic out over it. Just accept that it happened, learn whatever you can from the mistake, and get up and do your best again!
Your vegan experiment or your first month as a vegan is going to be an incredible experience. It's actually not going to be as hard as you think! Yes, it can be a challenge at times, but it is SO worth it! My first month vegan / plant-based was eye-opening, freeing and honestly, quite life-changing. Bring on month two!
What has been your biggest challenge in transitioning to vegan / plant-based?
Were these tips helpful for you? What else would you recommend?