Going vegan is extremely hard for those who do it cold turkey. We’ve grown up in a society that has meat protein and dairy in almost every meal. Those who jump into it without conditioning and preparation won’t get that far especially because they fail to understand its a process, rather than an immediate shift. I have been vegetarian for almost two years, and vegan for over five months, and these are what I deem to be the 10 most important steps you must take before making the big change to a plant based lifestyle.
Step 1… Find Your Purpose
Don’t decide to just go vegan because your best friend is… The most foundational step in this process is actually finding your own purpose when leading a plant based lifestyle. Some of the most predominant purposes include…
- Health… lower risk of heart disease, lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.
- Environmental… reduce carbon footprint, save large amounts of water and reduce methane production.
- Animal/Ethical… kinder to animals, stand against animal cruelty and align with your values.
Step 2… Research and Define
Start looking into blogs about the plant based lifestyle, read their advice and tips! Learn more about what has drawn you into this way of life. For example if your reasons are environmental, watch documentaries and read articles about the different effects going vegan has on the planet. Then, define your goals. “I’m vegan for the animals” is not enough to keep you motivated! Have a clear definition. Trust me, people will bombard you with questions.
Step 3… Understand Your Deficiencies
Contrary to popular belief, you will not flop over and faint from a protein or calcium deficiency the minute you turn vegan. Beans and nuts are very rich in protein, and many greens are fortified with calcium (such as broccoli). In reality, what many plant based people run low on are B12, zinc, and iron. This is key to understanding the plant based lifestyle.
Step 4… Meal Prep
Now build your grocery list! Follow lots of vegan blogs and instagram accounts. Go to your local library and check out some plant based cookbooks. Create your own virtual cookbook. Make a grocery list and fill your fridge with vegan food for your plant based lifestyle.
*Note* Many people skip this step and end up only eating carbohydrate rich food, and notice they are gaining weight. Pasta and rice is not the only food you can eat as a vegan – neither is grass,- so do your research to avoid this common mistake!
Step 5… The Baby Step
Even though I suggested filling your fridge with vegan items only, you should first focus on making the shift to a vegetarian diet. Becoming vegetarian is in reality a much harder process than making the shift from vegetarian to vegan. You should focus on eating vegan at home (where you can cook your own food) and eating vegetarian when you are out of the house. This way you can slowly ease into being comfortable questioning your food and being picky with friends and at restaurants. It gets easier after a while to ask fifty questions about one dish.
*Note* Vegetarians refrain from eating meat, chicken, seafood, and gelatin. Vegans refrain from the prior in addition to dairy – and some, including myself, refrain from honey too.
Step 6… Know Your Boundaries
I briefly mentioned this in step 5, but there are many ongoing debates about whether honey is considered vegan or not. There are also some vegetarians who uphold the gelatin rule very ~loosely~. This is your process, so shape your own beliefs and know your boundaries!
Step 7… Educate Yourself
Learn about what restaurants are vegan friendly, and learn how to veganize items on menus that don’t offer specially vegan dishes. Talk about it with your friends, and answer their questions. Keep in mind, not everyone will understand or want to listen. If you find yourself questioning things, then do some more research! Answer your doubts.
Step 8… Change Your Eating Habits
Begin to swap out your dairy for non dairy items. Experiment with different non-dairy milks, such as oats, soy, almond, coconut, macadamia, and many more (I know… oat milk? This is some modern science). Ask for your coffee with almond or soy milk whenever you can. Opt for a sorbet instead of gelato or ice cream! Start reading labels, they’re there for a reason (it gets easier, but you never stop looking like a grandma doing this).
Step 9… Live Outdoors
This part is ironically less physical, per se, but rather more enriching. Start to go outdoors more often, and explore nature in its rawest forms. You’ll gain new perspectives that will help you understand the bigger effect you have by making this shift. Feeling more connected, will only strengthen your mentality.
Step 10… Go Vegan!
You made it. This process can take some weeks, months, or even years. It took me a year and a half! Don’t rush your journey, the longer you spend building your foundations the easier it will be.