I’m assuming here that you’re going vegan cold Tofurky!
But if you’re easing into a plant-based lifestyle at a gentler pace (which I wholeheartedly encourage if you think this is best for you), these tips will also apply, though perhaps at different stages.
1. Inform yourself well on plant-based nutrition
Before you run for the hills because you didn’t expect to have to study – RELAX.
It’s not complicated and will not take long, I promise. Here is a good starting point.
The reason this is top priority is because there are lots of people who go vegan without being sufficiently informed on nutrition, and as a result relapse back into meat-eating because they feel like they are missing an important nutrient.
Being well nourished on a vegan diet WILL become second nature to you much quicker than you think.
There is NO nutrient in meat that isn’t available from a healthier source in plants (before you say vitamin B12 – vitamin B12 is a bacteria that animals ingest, it’s not actually FROM animals, and we can supplement this easily).
Therefore, with a little studyin’ (not much, honest!), or a little help from a coach (Hi there!) there is no reason to be undernourished and every reason to enjoy your best health ever!
2. Do a big-azz shop.
You’ll need lots of gorge-looking food at home to inspire you, and so you’ve always got enough stuff on hand to whip up something yum – even if it’s dead simple.
I don’t care whether you shop at a farmers market, at Whole Foods, Lidls or Walmart. Doesn’t matter.
Include: Lots of colourful fresh produce (don’t forget potatoes, both sweet and the white variety; avocados and squashes); a good selection of grains (brown rice, quinoa, wholewheat pasta, oats etc); beans (chickpeas, red kidney beans etc); lentils, nuts and seeds, and some decent wholewheat bread. Dips like hummus, guacamole and salsa are great for snacks. Maybe some olives to stick in a pasta dish…
3. Get some answers to the questions and comments you’ll inevitably get when people find out you’ve gone vegan.
Don’t worry, you really don’t get bombarded with aggressive questions when people find out you have this new lifestyle, in fact the most common question is ‘what made you go vegan‘ so you’ll already have your answer for that.
But, whether its internet trolls, paid shills or actual friends and family who are misinformed about a plant-based diet, you’ll need answers to lots of questions and comments that you’ll come across. Whether it’s the PROTEINPROTEINWHEREDOYOUGETYOURPROTEIN??? Or ‘But lions eat gazelles it’s the circle of life don’t you know…’ if you are armed with knowledge you’ll be confident and assured in your responses.
You don’t have to learn this all at once; you can always read up as you’re going along. If you’re making a lifestyle shift as impactful as going vegan, then you are probably motivated and firm in your intention and a few silly comments won’t bother you or sway you from your path anyway – it’s just satisfying to have that knowledge to draw on those times when you need it.
There’s a lot of dodgy health info around as well so you’ll need to know what’s good and what’s really serving some animal-product based corporate interest.
4. Avoid animal products.
Well, duh! I’m trying to do that anyway, hence the whole VEGAN thing?
What I mean is, clear them out of your space. If you still have some eggs/butter/cheese in the kitchen – get rid. When you’ve been vegan a while, you’ll be fine those times you have to be around animal products, but until your taste buds adapt to your new diet, get temptation out of your face.
5. Whatever the word ‘treat’ means for you – make absolutely sure to have plenty of it around
The last thing you want to feel is treat-less. You’re gonna feel pretty damn hard-done-by if you see everyone else gorging on yummies and there’s nothing for you. This is the easiest way to give up. No matter what your ‘treat’ is, make sure you have plenty on hand in the first few weeks of going plant-based.
If your particular ‘treat’ food isn’t vegan – veganise it. Google ‘vegan (your yumminess here)’
For example, one of my treats is chocolate (I know, how pedestrian!), so I had to find amazing vegan chocolate. Luckily, it turns out the best chocolate is vegan anyway; I just had to steer clear of the milky, over-sweet stuff.
6. Plan for some kitchen time.
Yes, there are vegan ready meals and even vegan meal delivery services now (Cheers Beyonce!), but it’s a great idea to get into the kitchen and find a repertoire of new meals you enjoy, so you’re never at a loss for a great meal.
I’d say you need 6 dishes or so to start off with. After you’ve made each recipe a couple of times you’ll know it by heart and you’ll be able to whip it up in no time. It may take a bit of trial and error finding dishes that work and that you love, but once you’ve found a selection of meals you like, you’ll have a great foundation. After that, when you get a bit of free time, find another dish to add to the rotation.
Here are three of the dishes in MY rotation that are delicious and easy, but you’ll want to find some for yourself to suit your tastes.
7. Have some ‘can’t be bothered’ meal ideas ready.
Sometimes you’ll need a quick solution.
You may have had to go late night shopping and there’s no time to cook. Or you’ll just have had ‘one of those days’ – you come home and you really CANNOT be arsed cooking a meal from scratch. You couldn’t focus on what you were doing anyhow.
It’s easy for new vegans to relapse on days like these and just dial a pizza.
Think baked/mashed potato and baked beans (mashed is quicker if you’re really short on time); or baked/mashed sweet potato, corn on the cob and a steamed green veg.
If even that would take too long – you’ll find vegan ready meals at your local supermarket. In the UK try Dee’s Wholefoods , and the Bol range – some of which are vegan. In the US, Whole Foods has several ranges of vegan ready meals, and bigger supermarkets stock some in their health sections.
Keep a couple in always, for when you really have no energy left to cook.
8. Set your intention.
Set your intention to become vegan (in whatever time frame you intend to do it), but be kind to yourself and KNOW that there may be mistakes or ‘cheats’ along the way.
Obviously you’re not willing these things to happen, it’s just that even with the best intentions, they often do – you may buy a product that seems vegan, then later realise it wasn’t.
I did this with falafel once. I was starving and bought some falafel to eat cold, then later realised they had egg in them. Now this is ridiculous. Falafel should NEVER contain egg, that’s why I didn’t take much notice of the list of ingredients when I bought them. But it turned out they did.
You may find yourself with a group of friends who are sampling a cheese board, and not be able to resist taking a piece of cheese.
These slip-ups do NOT negate your intention to be vegan. Be kind to yourself and move on. Tomorrow is another day. Hell, the next hour is a new hour!
You WILL get to a place where these incidents barely happen.