I remember the day I went vegan well. It was 2012. I was on my way to visit my sister and standing in a well-known food shop in a London station. As I looked around for a snack to buy for my train journey, I remember thinking: ‘Crap, I’m never going to be full again.’ There was literally nothing available to buy in this shop that was vegan except hummus and carrot sticks. I remember panicking and thinking that a vegan diet couldn’t possibly be sustainable. If this was all that was on offer for us, how could I keep this diet up long-term?
Thankfully, seven years on (and still vegan!) I am happy to say that things have changed. The world has embraced the idea of veganism with impressive speed, and there are more and more vegan options available in restaurants and stores each day. With this wealth of food available, it’s no longer a chore being vegan but a pleasure. Despite this, I know how difficult it can be to make the initial switch, from reading labels, to explaining your new diet to friends, to craving cheese! If you’re wondering how to go vegan and make it stick, read on for my top 10 steps. Remember, if I can do it you can to!
1) Go Slow
One of the easiest mistakes people make when going vegan is thinking that it has to be done overnight. It doesn’t! It’s totally ok to take it slowly. Whilst it’s fantastic if you want to adopt a vegan diet all at once, it’s also great to start by cutting down on your consumption of animal products. Taking simple steps to start with like eating meat-free for one day per week, or one meal per day can be much more achievable at first. Start with this, then progress to eating more vegan meals as you begin feeling comfortable with that way of eating. And remember: be kind to yourself! You’re bound to fall off the wagon occasionally while you’re still new to this and that’s ok – it will get easier with time!
2) Don’t Focus on What You Can’t Eat
Many people wondering how to go vegan focus on what they’re going to be cutting out of their diet. Instead of thinking about how much you miss cheese (I feel your pain!), think about what you can replace it with. For every food you’re worried about giving up, take some time to find an alternative that you love. Foods like the Beyond Burger have grown incredibly popular in the last year, and there are a wealth of meat and dairy replacements out there. With a little experimenting, you’ll find some alternatives that you love.
3) Embrace New Foods
Use this time as a new vegan to embrace all the new foods you might not have tried before. Things like tempeh, tofu, nut butters, plant milks, coconut yoghurts and fermented foods are all delicious and have many varieties. It’s a pleasure trying out all these new foods, and many more are appearing on the market every week! Tempting as it is to try loads of vegan fast food substitutes (which are of course delicious), remember to primarily focus on whole and minimally processed foods to keep your nutrients boosted.
4) Try New Restaurants
One of the best parts about going vegan! In almost every town and city now, there are a variety of vegan, or vegan-friendly restaurants to choose from. If you’re tired of thinking about what to eat for dinner, sometimes going out to eat provides a welcome break and inspiration for your next meal! You’ll even find that many chain restaurants now offer a vegan menu or vegan options, too. The easiest way to find vegan-friendly restaurants near you is to download the Happy Cow app. You can search for every vegan, vegetarian or veg-friendly eatery in your area. Perfect.
5) Don’t Just Eat Junk
Oh, I know! It’s so tempting to live off vegan junk food when there are so many options to choose from! The reality though is that you need to eat mostly healthy food in order to support your body, particularly when you’re transitioning to a new diet. It’s great to indulge in treats and fast food some of the time, but it’s not sustainable for the long-term. If you’re looking for healthy, whole food plant-based recipes, you’ll find loads on this blog! My favourite easy ones for new vegans include Warming Bean Chili, Simple Chickpea Fritter Bowls, Winter Warming Dhal and Vegan Buddha Bowls with Tofu.
6) Get Organised
Yes, changing your diet can seem like hard work, but it doesn’t have to be! Figuring out how to go vegan (and how to make the change stick) is pretty easy if you just get a little organised. It sounds boring, but things like meal planning all really help here. Plan the meals you’re going to cook ahead of time, and shop intentionally for them with a list. ALWAYS shop on a full stomach – that way you’ll be less tempted by all the treats! If you’re having trouble knowing what to buy, I have a handy guide here on How to Shop as a Vegan. You can also find my guide to vegan meal prep here.
7) Learn a Few Basic Recipes
This basically follows on from the point above. Don’t try to master complicated recipes when you first go vegan – learn a few simple ones and make them your staples. Recipes like chilis and stews all yield lots of portions and are simple to make, requiring just one pot. They’re great as leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day and are packed full of healthy ingredients. By all means, take the plunge and go for complicated a la carte recipes once you’ve found your feet, but at first take it slow, cook meals you’re comfortable with and make it easy for yourself.
I’m not a nutritionist and don’t have any health qualifications so cannot advise specifically on this, but it is worth reading up on useful supplements to take when adopting a vegan diet. As with any dietary change, you want to make sure you’re not missing any nutrients so it’s a good idea to check in with a professional who can advise on this. Plant-based doctor Gemma Newman offers some great guidance on the supplements she recommends vegans take, including B12 and vitamin D.
9) Ask for Support
Don’t do it alone! There are loads of great organisations and groups out there for anyone wondering how to go vegan. Veganuary and The Vegan Society are both excellent resources. There are also many vegan magazines available on news stands these days, containing recipes and inspiring guides on nutrition, shopping, travel etc. Look for local Meetups and social events with other plant-based peeps, and chat to your friends! Just because they may not be going vegan themselves doesn’t mean they won’t be supportive and interested. You might be surprised.
10) Don’t Get Disheartened
Changing your diet is a huge leap, and what you’re doing is amazing! It’s natural that there will be moments when it all feels like too much or where you might fall off the wagon. If this happens, there are loads of things you can do. First, breathe! Second, remember why you decided to go vegan in the first place. Sometimes it helps to think about your reasons for making such an impactful change. Third, go out for the evening. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but enjoying some delicious vegan food that you didn’t have to cook can take a lot of pressure off. And remember: the change you’ve made is a big one – it’s ok if you can’t do it all perfectly from the start! Enjoy the process – before you know it you’ll have been vegan for years!