How to start being vegan?
Depending on what your diet is currently, how to start a vegan diet may be an extreme change. On the other hand, one that slowly occurs, like it was in my case.
Beginning a vegan diet is all about breaking a cycle. The way we eat is a habit, and in order to change that habit you need to take slow steps to break it.
Cutting the Addiction
If you’ve ever quit smoking cigarettes, managed a drug addiction, or tried to quit drinking, you know that just quitting cold turkey (no pun intended), doesn’t tend to be successful.
Becoming vegan was a process for me and my particular journey to full veganism happened over the course of about a year. It can take shorter or longer depending on how serious you are about making the change, and what factors are contributing towards the goal.
If becoming vegan is for health reasons like it was for me, for instance, I find that the process is a lot quicker. A health scare can really motivate you to make some changes.
Someone close to me was actually suffering from dairy related migraines, so cutting out dairy was as easy as saying “do I really want another migraine? No.” And that was that.
For those that don’t have any surface problems with dairy or meat, it can be a lot trickier because the choice to going fully vegan needs to come from a source of concern for the treatment of animals, not wanting all the unnatural hormones pumped into dairy livestock, and/or a legitimate concern for the environment.
But what steps do you take first?
Step by Step – How to Start a Vegan Diet
1. GATHER YOUR RESOURCES
What restaurants to eat at?
There is one website that I couldn’t recommend enough and it is the Happy Cow.
find vegan restaurants nearby
This is such a great resource on starting a vegan diet and finding restaurants near you that are vegan friendly or fully vegan.
In addition to that, Happy Cow even offer suggestions on what meals at a particular restaurant are noteworthy.
Anytime I travel, the Happy Cow is the website I use.
What books to get for starting a vegan diet?
There have been so many wonderful resources and books I’ve gotten over the years to assist in transitioning to a vegan diet.
I recommend getting as many as you can to explore everyone’s unique style.
A good idea is to grab some books that have breakfast lunch and dinner recipes, some vegan dessert books, some raw food books (I personally don’t follow a raw diet but I absolutely include raw meals weekly).
This Cheese is nuts was such a fun book to learn how to make my own vegan cheeses at home! I could see this being a really fun project to make with your kids.
Try planning a get together to make some of these gourmet cheeses. For instance, I made my own cheese to go with a vegan charcuterie board and it was a hit!
Joel Kahn’s book, The Plant Based Solution, was a great resource explaining the benefits to your heart and cholesterol levels when you switch the a plant-based diet.
did you know: the only source of cholesterol comes from eating animal-based products?!
His book also offers a meal planning recipe area with some decent recipes. Some of the meals are quite bland, but great base recipes like a meatloaf and an oatmeal bake that have become regulars for me.
2. CREATE A TIMELINE
Set a goal for yourself depending on what your starting point is
Creating a personalized goal to when you want to be vegan is so important.
Make a realistic expectation. Does that mean a year for you? 6 months? 6 weeks? I highly recommend not making drastic changes (unless it is necessary for health reasons).
What is your starting point? Are you currently a meat eater? Do you only eat chicken or fish? Have you been a full vegetarian for a few years? Everyone’s starting point is different so what your plan will look like will be different than everyone’s!
Lets break down how a carnivore can become vegan within a year.
If you’re already a full vegetarian, or eating just fish, skip to those months and you’ll be even closer to the goal of a full vegan diet . Certainly you can draw out the process a little longer, whatever works for you.
Above all, do what works for you
But make sure to stay focused and stick to your goals!
MONTH 1 – CARNIVORE —> GOAL: MONTH 12 VEGAN.
MONTH 1: Carnivore: You’re eating red meat, chicken, fish and dairy at this point
week 1 : Firstly, eat how you normally would, take notes of the meals you’re choosing and how many of those meals have meat, dairy, and is totally plant based.
This is your base point. You’ll use this starting point to help craft your meals going forward. For instance, note how many days you’re eating red meat, poultry, and how much dairy you are taking in.
week 2: Cut out one day of meat. For instance, try doing “Meatless Mondays”
week 3: Meatless Mondays continued
week 4: Meatless Monday + One more meatless day
Not so bad, right? How did you do? Feel proud, this is a big accomplishment!
MONTH 2: eating less red meat, less chicken, less fish
week 1: 2 Meatless Days
2 Meatless Days
3 Meatless Days
3 Meatless Days + 1 Dairy Free Day
MONTH 3: eating mostly chicken and fish
1: 3 Meatless Days + 1 Dairy Free Day
2: 3 Meatless Days. Start Cutting out Red Meat all together. For example, replace with chicken / fish + 1 dairy free day
3: Continue with 3 meatless days, no red meat at all + 1 dairy free day
4: Continue with 3 meatless days, no red meat at all + 1 dairy free day
MONTH 4: eating only chicken and fish
Move up to 4 meatless days ( to clarify, still no red meat) – 1 dairy free day
2: 4 meatless days + 2 dairy free days
4 meatless days + 2 dairy free days
4: 4 meatless days + 2 dairy free days
MONTH 5: full pescatarian
Side note: I know many that don’t care for fish to begin with – if that is the case, move to month 7 . To clarify, continue with 5-6 poultry free days for the month.
Time to cut out poultry & replace with Fish- continue with 4 meatless days + 2 dairy free days
4 meatless days (no poultry or red meat at all) + 2 dairy free days
4 meatless days (no poultry or red meat at all)+ 2 dairy free days
5 meatless days + 2 dairy free days
MONTH 6 : full pescatarian
This whole month, the entire week except one days is meatless. For example, one day of the week, make a fish dinner, or have a tuna sandwich for lunch. Whatever you like
If you can’t stand fish already, just skip to month 7!
All month we will be doing 6 meatless days and two dairy free days
MONTH 7 : full vegetarian
This month is all about adjusting to being a full vegetarian. Meanwhile, have fun playing with new recipes. By now you probably have a lot of favorites you’ve learned along the way. If you slip up, don’t be hard on yourself, this is a big lifestyle change but you’ve made it more than halfway!
The first 3 weeks will have no meat at all and two dairy free days.
On last week of the month add on one more dairy free day for a total of 3!
MONTH 8: full vegetarian
Now is the time to really start experimenting with your dairy replacements. As a result, by now you probably have found some of your favorite substitutes and didn’t even miss the dairy.
On your specific dairy free days, try adding recipes that include plant-based milks and cheeses. Find the one’s that is most palatable. For instance, create some favorite recipes like pizza, tacos, “fake chicken” parmesan. Get creative! Every recipe can be veganized.
This whole month we will work towards 3 dairy free days every week.
MONTH 9: full vegetarian
For this month, our goal is 4 dairy free days.
MONTH 10: full vegetarian
Stick to a goal of 5 dairy free days this whole month.
MONTH 11: full vegetarian
Every week this month you will aim for 6 dairy free days.
MONTH 12: CONGRATULATIONS!!! 100% VEGAN Diet
You have made it!!! This week you will be 7 days of a full vegan diet. As a result, this slow process of weening off dairy little by little and finding your favorite dairy replacements has paid off.
In conclusion, this guide is only for an example of how to start a vegan diet, it by no means is the only way to start a vegan diet.
What works for me, will not work for the next person. But what it does show is how to slowly ween off meat and addictive dairy products little by little.
Knowing the reasons for starting a plant-based lifestyle be it health, ethics, or environment, will help to guide what your specific timeframe will be. Let the timeframe come naturally, and most importantly, one that you can stick to realistically.
As always, email me with any questions or let me know how your process is coming along. In addition to that, has this this guide on how to start a vegan diet has been helpful for you?
Love & Peace – Robb