After seven years of following a plant-based diet, I have plenty of advice about veganism for beginners. This post just scrapes the surface of what I have to share! This post was originally published on my other blog in spring of 2019, and it’s since been updated with more advice.
I remember the day I’d had enough. I was a senior in high school, and every meal I ate made my stomach hurt so badly I wished I hadn’t eaten at all. So, I decided I would stop eating meat for a few months to see if it helped.
I never ate it again. That was
five seven years ago.
Going vegan is easily the best choice I’ve ever made. If you want to read more about my story and journey to veganism, you can do so on this blog’s about page. Here are a few tips of mine for switching to a cruelty-free, plant-based lifestyle gradually and sustainably.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and I am not giving medical advice in this article. I recommend for you to consult with your physician about changing to a vegan lifestyle and its potential effects on your body.
1. Start small, and make changes gradually.
I realize this is the exact opposite of how I described (in short) my own journey to veganism, but I do recommend taking one food group at a time out of your diet. I have been allergic to dairy my whole life, so taking out meat and eggs was the only change I made.
It could be too great a shock to your system if you were to take meat, dairy, eggs, and every other animal product out of your diet all at once.
You could do Meatless Monday or eat vegan for one meal a day to start, then build to a fully vegan diet over time. Do your research or talk to your physician to determine what supplements you should take to transition to a vegan diet. I take B-12 vitamins, multivitamins designed specifically for vegans, and probiotics every day to keep my health in check.
2. Ditch the meat substitute products, at least in the beginning.
When I say meat substitute product, I mean the meatless chicken fingers and other products found in the frozen section of your local organic grocery store or the nature’s market in any large chain grocery retailer.
These likely have harmful chemicals to replace and imitate the taste of meat. When I ate these regularly at the beginning of my path to veganism, there were few available alternatives in the frozen section.
Now, there are definitely healthier frozen meat alternatives. However, I would still follow that rule of thumb to stay away from imitation meat products in the beginning of your vegan journey.
Instead, there is a multitude of recipes on Pinterest and Google for veggie burgers made from beans, rice, and beets, or quiches made from tofu. This way, you can know for certain where the ingredients came from, and that there’s nothing in them that can cause more harm to your body than good.
3. Use HappyCow to find local vegan restaurants.
HappyCow has been my saving grace as a traveler and just for finding new local vegan restaurants in my hometown.
All you have to do is type in your location, and the website will show you restaurants that are completely vegan. It will also show vegetarian places, creameries, bakeries, and coffee shops. You can even find veg-friendly restaurants, which serve meat, but offer clearly marked vegan dishes on their menus.
I usually look for vegan restaurants when I’m alone or with other vegans, but the veg-friendly option is nice if I’m with friends that eat meat. I have not traveled to one destination without using HappyCow, and highly recommend it. They even have an app for $3.99, or you can just use a web browser while on your phone.
4. Get plugged into the vegan community
This one follows from HappyCow, because it’s a great resource to help you meet other vegans all over the world. I have become friends with people that work at the vegan restaurants in my community by becoming a regular at these small, local businesses.
While traveling, I’ve met incredible people from Japan, Spain, Ukraine, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, Italy, and so many other places. And that’s just from going to restaurants listed on HappyCow! These restaurants usually have window stickers of the HappyCow logo, so you know you’re in the right place.
When I was in Tokyo, I met the owner of a vegan restaurant and went back to her shop multiple times. She was so kind and made delicious food, and was always ready to welcome me back. I wouldn’t have met people like her had I not tapped into the vegan community and put myself out there to bond over our shared lifestyle.
5. Never stop learning about plant-based nutrition.
This is a key piece of learning about veganism as a beginner to the lifestyle and beyond. I’ve been vegan for seven years at this point, and there is still plenty I want to learn about nutrition in general. Plant-based nutrition is a subset of this knowledge area that is important to me to learn.
As of right now, I’m starting with this list of books about vegan nutrition. I’ll update this section periodically with my own progress.
6. Listen to your body very, very carefully.
As a vegan, I’ve never felt better. I truly believe that, at 25 years old, I have yet to reach peak physical performance because I started enjoying fitness later in life than most. This can be directly linked to my choice to change to a vegan diet.
I’m learning more about my body every day, in part because I now actively listen to what it needs. Of course, there is still much for me to learn in this arena. But, veganism has helped me understand how to do so in the first place.
On the other hand, I’ve met people whose bodies fell completely out of equilibrium with a vegan lifestyle. Maybe their hair started falling out, or their weight dropped unsustainably. Regardless of the symptoms, listening to your body is essential to knowing if continuing a vegan lifestyle is the right choice for you.
And, please know this loud and clear: There is absolutely no shame in choosing to stop your vegan diet at any moment, for any reason. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re in the wrong.
7. Don’t let the negativity of others discourage you.
Ironically enough, there are many negative things people have to say about those of us that follow a cruelty-free lifestyle. There are many people in my life, who I love dearly, that thought my vegan lifestyle was just a phase. People made jokes, and some even said I was stupid for cutting meat out of my diet. I let all of it roll off, because I knew I had never felt better.
I have two friends that said they could never stop eating meat. Now, one is vegan and the other is vegetarian! Also, some of my mom’s favorite restaurants are vegan. You never know whose minds will change and what impact your lifestyle could have on the people in your life.
Regardless of whether or not their mindsets changed because of you, it is amazing to see people’s eyes open to the possibilities of a lifestyle without animal products.
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I hope this guide to veganism for beginners helps you as you determine if veganism is right for you.
These are just some preliminary tips, but they can definitely help you get on the track of changing your lifestyle. I have not regretted being vegan once in the past seven years, and I’m never going back. I only wish I had made the change sooner!
What else do you want to know about going vegan? Comment below and I’ll try my best to answer your questions!