Tips For Transitioning To A Vegan Diet

We've recently received several emails from people telling us they're new to veganism and it occurs to me that it might be time to review a few strategies for new vegans.  So here are a few things we recommend:

  • Set a date, this allows you to clean out your kitchen without wasting food, and also allows you to mentally prepare for your new way of eating.
  • Borrow a few cookbooks and books on veganism from your library, poke around the internet, try to get a few recipes in place before you make the transition.  This way you're not struggling to find something to eat those first few days.
  • Get the best produce you can, having fresh, ripe ingredients really makes a difference in your recipes.
  • Pick up a few pre-prepared vegan items...  It's important to have a few quick-fix items at home that don't require any thought!  (We love Morningstar's Grillers Vegan and Gardenburger's Riblets.)  Remember not to rely on these pre-prepared foods too heavily.
  • Buy the smallest amount of new foods you can.  This way if you don't like what you've bought/made, you're not wasting a lot of money/food.
  • Scope out your local restaurants on-line.  Many restaurants have their menus on-line.  This allows you to determine, in advance, if there is something for you on the menu.  You can also email the restaurant to get the ingredients in a particular item.  We find this to be more reliable than asking your server.  They often don't know and the kitchen staff is too busy during the dinner rush to go over their ingredient lists.
  • When trying vegan items, be aware that they are not going to taste like their non-vegan counterparts, even if they have the same name.  Things like vegan macaroni and cheese are not going to taste like their non-vegan counterparts.
  • Check with your doctor, and perhaps a nutritionist, to make sure that there are no special nutritional concerns you need to be aware of.
  • Allow yourself some transition time if you need it.  We had friends who went out for a non-vegan dinner once a month for the first few months of their veganism.  Jane and I thought we'd allow ourselves a non-vegan Thanksgiving.  When it came down to it, we didn't "need" it anymore, but that was something we could look forward too when we were feeling "deprived."  (That feeling has long since gone away.)
  • Finally, be compassionate with yourself.  It's very difficult to radically alter your way of eating.  If you slip up, don't be too hard on yourself.  We all do.  Just dust yourself off, and get back in the game.

These are just a few of the things you can do to make your transition to vegan eating a little smoother.  It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, after all you're changing the way you've done something your whole life.  But after a short period of time, it becomes second nature.

Make sure to check out our Vegan Resources page for some great links.  We haven't updated the page in a bit, but the links are still good and you'll find a lot of helpful information there.

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Comments

  1. While these are helpful tips, I’m not too keen on the doctor/nutritionist one. If you’re going from vegetarian to vegan, then ok. But if I, as a meat-eater, was told to see a doctor first, I wouldn’t do it. No one likes to go to the doctor. That’d be a perfect excuse not to go veg. I say go veg first and then see your doctor at your next yearly checkup.

  2. When I decided to become vegan (after being vegetarian for a few years), I first stopped buying non-vegan food when I went to the grocery store. I still had some leftover stuff in my pantry with dairy/egg so I continued to eat that until it ran out. Being a college student without a lot of time/inclination/money to cook meals, I survived on prepackaged stuff for the most part. I also wasn’t the type to eat out much so I didn’t really look into vegan restaurants much (plus, the veggie friendly restaurants were usually vegan-friendly also).

    I do agree with Tracy in that suggesting that someone go to a doctor first is a major turnoff. Unless you start feeling horrible after switching your diet (and by “horrible” I don’t mean getting lots of cravings for non-vegan stuff ;)), then you are ok letting your doctor know about it the next time you happen to visit them. While I didn’t do it after I first switched, supplementing with B12/omega is a good idea.

  3. no doubt, fresh is the BEST way to go…when picked only hours or minutes before, there is just so much more nutrition in the food…enzymes, vitamins, and all that other good stuff!

    great piece of writing, very informative.

  4. Hi Tracy,
    I understand your point… however, I don’t agree. If you don’t want to go see a doctor/nutritionist, you don’t have to. We just think it’s a good idea to seek professional advice before making any radical changes. Having said that, Jane’s chiming in that she never sought nutritional advice before beginning any diet and she tried some whoppers when she was younger (grapefruit and cabbage soup diets). In any event, it’s all a matter of personal choice.

    Hi Sat,
    Funny, we just wrote a post on B-12 tonight…
    We too, relied more heavily on the prepackaged stuff early on. As Jane got more comfortable cooking for us, she slowly cut down on those things. But we still LOVE our riblets and grillers vegan…

    Hi EB,
    Thanks! Glad you liked it.
    The tomatoes straight of the vine in our garden are amazing… as are the blackberries our bush produces. And the produce we get from our farmers market is far superior to what we get at the grocery store…. So add taste to the nutritional issues and you have very compelling reasons to eat fresh!

  5. i really disagree with using meat and dairy as a motivation to quit. strikes me as having a cigarette to reward yourself after not smoking for a few weeks. why give it the power?

    bake some vegan cupcakes as a reward, or buy yourself a recipe book. don’t be a crazy person.

  6. A few “adjunct” thoughts:

    – If you do go to a doctor or nutritionist, try to find one who is knowledgable on veg*anism and not irrationally opposed to it. A local veg group may be able to help you with this. Which leads to the next point…

    – Local veg societies may be of great help in terms of answering questions, providing support, recommending area restaurants, stores, physicians, etc.

    – These are easy to remember as transition guides on the net: tryveg.com., chooseveg.com, goveg.com. Oh yeah, one more: veganbits.com. :)

  7. Thanks for the posts about transitioning into veganism, definitely will be helpful for me. I have also found it to be an isolating and lonely process. I guess I’ve decided to do it because of realization of exactly where meat, dairy, and eggs come from. But it feels like everyone I know treats me like I’m dumb and bought into the PETA extreme mentality. I feel like I’m alone and have to keep my beliefs and thoughts to myself.

  8. Hi Anna,

    Hang in there, it is overwhelmingly likely to get better.

    Almost nothing hits closer to home then diet, and from what I can tell most people don’t realize that on a conscious level – but they do tend to get defensive if their dietary choices are brought into question, even if implicitly, e.g., by your presence.

    Often brochures and handouts are a handy way to educate people; they may be less likely to put up all kinds of annoying and/or rude pushback if they’re reading info on their own time. Offering food can also be disarming.

    After about a year – sometimes more, sometimes less – friends, family, and co-workers realize that you’re the same person as always, only more committed to certain moral aspects of your lifestyle, and they tend to settle in somewhere in this continuum:

    angry/resentful — nonchalant/accepting — inspired — following in your footsteps

    and life proceeds.

  9. Hi Becky,
    I think you misunderstood what I wrote… we weren’t using it as a motivation to quit, or a reward. It’s like dieting. Some people can quit cold turkey, and some people begin to crave things they know they can no longer have and then wind up bingeing. (Or smoking… some people quit cold turkey, and some people need the patch or gum.) We decided we’d allow ourselves a turkey for thanksgiving should we still desire that. And just knowing that we were going to have that was enough. Because for us, the first month or so was kind of difficult. After two or three months, that desire went away, so we had the tofurkey.
    Our friends who went out for a non-vegan meal once a month also had the same idea. That by allowing themselves a non-vegan meal they wouldn’t obsess about it when they weren’t having it. I think they had 3 non-vegan meals and then mentally couldn’t do that anymore. It takes time for some people to make changes in their lifestyles. I’m advocating that people should allow themselves a transition period. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks for the excellent suggestions. I would have never thought to go to a local veg group to find a nutritionist… but who better to help find one who is knowledgeable about vegan eating!

    And thanks for your response to Anna. Although I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of giving out brochures etc. I think it has to be handled delicately. We definitely have friends/family who become more antagonistic any time the topic comes up. A brochure would just put them over the edge! Of course there are people who do want more information. And then we’re happy to share.

    Hi Anna,
    So sorry to hear your feeling isolated. I’ve experienced what Gary talks about above… that people become immediately defensive when they hear about your veganism, as if you condemning their morality. Whether or not you actually say anything!
    We do not proselytize. We take a different approach. We don’t bring up our veganism. If someone asks, we’ll explain. (No brochures here, but if they express interest, we suggest websites…) We also usually give them some kind of warning that the nature of the conversation will become quite graphic and if they are really interested we’ll continue… but if not, we respect their right to eat/think as they choose. This approach works well for us. It’s diffused a number of potentially antagonistic encounters. Most of the time, they’ll discontinue the conversation. Often, it comes up at a later date.
    The other thing we’ve learned is that, if we want to go out with our omni friends, we need to make sure that our eating isn’t a burden to them. We don’t require they eat at vegan restaurants. That means that sometimes we eat before we go out, because there won’t be anything for us at the restaurant they’ve chosen. Then we’ll just have a drink and a salad. We often volunteer to bring food when we go to peoples homes. This is usually a relief to the host too.
    But there are some people who will drift away regardless. Hopefully, over time, you will meet new people who can replace them.
    If you google “vegan social” + your city, you might be able to find some people who share your interests… (or vegan society, vegan organization)
    Anyway… GOOD LUCK! It does get easier.

  10. I really appreciate this article. I recently decided to become a vegan and I have found through my research online and talking to vegetarians and vegans that there was more judgment on me for being an omnivore all of my life than helpful advice and encouragement on becoming vegan. This article was very informative and well written. Thanks!!!

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