Wondering how to go vegan but not sure where to start, what to do or what you can eat? Follow these 21 simple tips to make becoming a vegan a breeze!
I remember the day I went vegan well.
I made the decision and instantly thought: 'I'm never going to be full again' because there were virtually no plant-based snacks in the shops except hummus!
I panicked. If finding a simple snack was this hard, how could a vegan diet be sustainable?
If this was all that was on offer, how could I keep this up long-term?
Thankfully, more than 10 years on, things have changed massively.
The world has embraced plant-based eating with impressive speed, and there are more and more options available each day.
So if - like I was - you're wondering how to transition to a vegan diet, read on for 21 simple tips.
Note: I am fortunate to live in a part of the world where following a vegan lifestyle is both accessible and affordable. I'm aware that this is not true for everyone.
Please take these tips in the spirit they're meant - as suggestions - and modify them as needed.
Thinking about transitioning to a plant-based diet? Listen to my podcast episode 5 Tips for Going Vegan.
One of the most common mistakes people make when going vegan is thinking it has to be done overnight.
It doesn't! It's totally ok to take it slowly.
While it's fantastic if you want to adopt a fully vegan diet all at once, it's also great to start by just reducing your consumption of animal-based foods.
Take simple, manageable steps like eating meat-free for one day a week or one meal per day, or switching to dairy-free milk like soy milk in your tea and coffee.
Remember that small changes count too!
Increase the amount of plant-based foods you eat as you get more comfortable with them, but don't feel you have to switch to 100% vegan at once.
And be kind to yourself!
You're bound to fall off the wagon occasionally while you're a beginner and that's ok - it will get easier with time.
Accept that you will fall off the wagon
It's inevitable and it happens to us all at some point.
Making a radical lifestyle change isn't easy - there's a reason many people don't feel capable of doing it.
I remember making the decision to go vegan, then days later being unable to resist the lure (and smell!) of cheese on my pizza.
At the time I felt really bad about it, but then decided to give myself grace. I was new at this and still finding my way.
And a few months on, I felt virtually no temptation to eat cheese anymore.
Amazingly, your tastebuds actually change over time and you'll find you crave things like cheese way less!
The best thing you can do if and when you fall off the wagon is be kind to yourself, and start over.
You don't need to be perfect at this to begin with, and it will get easier with time. I promise.
Let go of assumptions about veganism
"Vegan food tastes bad." "Vegans aren't healthy." "Vegans don't get enough protein."
If I had a dollar for every time I've heard these...
Vegan food can taste as good or as bad as any other kind of food! The preparation and cooking is no different.
Similarly, a well-planned vegan diet can provide all your nutritional needs, including protein!
Let go of assumptions about a vegan diet that you've heard before.
We live in an age where there is plenty of information about how to cook plant-based food, how to ensure you're eating a balanced diet, and how to feel satiated.
So you can take advantage of the health benefits and embrace this new diet.
Many of these assumptions are outdated and simply not relevant anymore to anyone transitioning to a vegan diet.
Do your own research (or speak to trusted authority sources) rather than listening to the opinions of everyone else around you (especially on social media).
Focus on what you can eat
When people go vegan they often focus on what they're cutting out, which is a sure way to make yourself miserable!
Instead of thinking about how much you miss dairy products like cheese (this was definitely me), ask 'What can I eat as a vegan?'
For every food you're worried about giving up, take the time to find plant-based alternatives you love.
Veggie burgers like the Beyond Burger have become incredibly popular in the last couple of years.
There are also huge ranges of plant-based milk, ice cream and cheese out there now.
Over the last couple of years, vegan milk chocolate (that actually tastes good) has appeared on the market too!
Experiment, and see what products you might not have tried before.
Embrace new vegan foods
Use this time when you're switching to a vegan lifestyle to try all those foods you might not have eaten before (because I promise you, there are lots!).
Before going vegan, I'd never tried sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh or miso, to name a few.
My culinary world expanded massively when I started adding these new flavours into my diet!
My meals became far more varied and I was genuinely more excited about cooking than I had been pre-vegan.
Why not try some of the following:
Tempeh & tofu
Nut and seeds butters
Dairy-free milks like soy, almond, and oat milk
Fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha
Changing your diet can seem like hard work, but it doesn't have to be!
Learning how to become vegan (and keeping it up) is actually pretty straightforward if you just get a little organized.
You can do this by:
- Making meal plans for the week.
- Shopping for them with a list of ingredients (and stick to the list).
- Always shopping on a full stomach - that way you'll be less tempted by all the products you don't need!
Don't forget protein!
A really common mistake made by people newly adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet is to just omit meat and animal products from their meals, forgetting to replace them with protein.
You NEED to make sure you're replacing protein with plant-based sources, otherwise it's a one-way ticket to feeling fatigued, unsatisfied and hungry!
Luckily, this is very easy to do as there are plenty of vegan protein sources, such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, soy curls, veggie burgers and sausages, nuts and nut butter, seeds and even some grains like quinoa.
Peanut butter on toast, chickpea curry, and tofu stir-fry are all simple meal ideas that contain protein.
Clear out non-vegan products
I'm all for not wasting the food you've already bought.
So if you'd rather gradually transition away from buying animal-based products by using up what you already have in your fridge/pantry, go for it.
That said, you might be starting to feel overwhelmed and anxious knowing you've still got non-vegan foods in your home.
If that's you, and that in turn is making you feel stressed, I recommend a good clean out.
Go through the cupboards and remove anything that contains animal-based ingredients.
You can offer them to your friends or list them on a food waste app.
Then you can start afresh, knowing your kitchen is vegan-friendly!
It probably sounds obvious, but one of the learning curves of going plant-based is figuring out how to read product labels.
The easiest way to know if a product is vegan is to look for the 'vegan' label. But it's not always there.
Yes, if that sausage lists pork as an ingredient, we know that means it's not vegan.
But what about less common words such as casein, lactose, collagen and shellac? (Ding! These are all animal-derived ingredients.)
Check out this guide on how to read product labels for a helpful list of some less obvious animal ingredients to watch out for.
A great rule is also to look at the list of allergens on a product.
If it says for example 'contains milk/milk products' then you know it's not vegan, even if you can't tell exactly which ingredients are animal-sourced.
With a bit of time, reading labels will get much easier and you'll know what ingredients to look out for.
Remember not all alcohol is vegan
I know, a lot of people don't know this and are shocked when they find out!
Some wines and beers are refined through animal products (like fish gelatine, blood etc.).
Although the finished product doesn't technically contain them, they will have been used in the manufacturing process.
In addition, some cocktails contain things like egg whites (for foam), or could contain wines that aren't vegan.
Most spirits are naturally vegan, unless they're matured in port or sherry casks. (Like other wines, port and sherry are often refined through animal products.)
There are two ways to know if your alcohol is vegan:
- Look at the bottle to see if it is labelled as such. This isn't super common, although more and more wines and beers are starting to do it.
- Search for it on Barnivore, a global online directory of vegan and vegetarian beers, wines and liquors.
Learn A Few Simple Recipes
Don't try to master complicated recipes when you first start becoming vegan, because it can be a steep learning curve.
Instead, take it slowly and cook familiar meals you're comfortable with, swapping out animal products for vegan alternatives.
Learn a few easy vegan recipes and make them your trusted favourites.
It's a big help to have minimal dishes to wash when you're first learning new recipes, and big portions are great as leftovers for lunch or dinner too.
And don't forget breakfast! Try these Cookie Dough Overnight Oats for a tasty but simple brekkie you can make in advance each week.
On a budget?
Try these cheap vegan meals:
You might also be interested in my 20 Minute Vegan Dinners eBook, containing 10 easy and accessible vegan recipes for beginners.
Expand your repertoire
Once you're comfortable with a few staple recipes and your meal prepping game is tight, branch out.
You don't need to make this overly ambitious or stressful - in fact, definitely don't do that!
Keep it simple. Try just one new recipe each week.
I recommend making a list of the new recipes you try, so you have a record of the ones you liked.
In no time at all, you'll have a wealth of tried and tested plant-based dishes up your sleeve!
Don't Just Eat Junk
I know, it's tempting to live off vegan junk food when there are so many great options.
Buuuut we need to eat a balanced diet to support our bodies.
Try to focus on eating mainly whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains to ensure you're getting plenty of nutrients and feel satiated.
Of course indulge in treats and fast foods from time to time, but don't make them the focus of your diet.
If you're looking for healthy meal ideas, you'll find loads here!
Each of these contains multiple servings of veggies and a source of protein.
Try New Restaurants
This is one of the best parts about going plant-based!
In almost every town and city now, there are a variety of great vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants to choose from.
If you're tired and can't face making dinner tonight, why not go out (if it's accessible to you)?
It can provide a welcome break, not to mention some fantastic cooking inspiration as you continue exploring the non-vegan world.
In addition to fully plant-based restaurants, many popular chains now offer vegan menus or options, too.
Places like Dominos and Pizza Hut have vegan cheese available, and you'll find plant-based milks in almost every coffee shop worldwide!
The best way to find vegan food near you is to download the brilliant Happy Cow app.
It lists vegan and vegan-friendly spots all over the world - I rely on it whether I'm at home or away travelling!
Just search your current area in the app to bring up all the vegan options near you.
Pssst! I also share vegan restaurant guides to some of my favourite cities in the world on the blog. Have I covered your city?
An important part of how to transition to vegan is knowing what vitamins or minerals you may need to supplement.
As with any dietary change, it's important to make sure you're not missing out on essential nutrients.
It's a good idea to check in with a doctor or nutritionist who can help you.
I can't advise on this as I'm not a nutritionist or health professional, but plant-based doctor Gemma Newman offers some great guidance on the recommended supplements for vegans, including B12 and vitamin D.
Ask For Help
Don't do this alone! There are loads of great organizations and support groups out there for anyone wondering how to go vegan.
There are also many vegan magazines containing recipes and guides on nutrition, shopping and travel etc.
My favourite is Vegan Food & Living.
Look for local Meetups or events in your city with other plant-based peeps, and chat to your friends!
Just because they're not vegan themselves doesn't mean they won't be supportive and interested.
Expect some pushback from family and friends
This can be a tricky part when you're going vegan.
You probably feel very clear about why you've made this decision, but sometimes family and friends (however well-meaning) don't fully understand or agree with it.
If this is the case for you, try if possible to take their questions, criticisms or teasing in a lighthearted way.
If you want to, explain calmly why you've made the decision you have without becoming agitated.
Stand your ground and be polite but firm.
You don't need to justify yourself to them, nor do you need to convince them your way is the right way.
We're all on our own journeys and it's possible they too may come to a similar conclusion in time.
An effective method I've found to combat any resistance from friends and family is to suggest going out for a plant-based meal together at a restaurant you love, or even cooking for them if you feel like it!
Often, this is a great way to make people see vegan food through a different lens, especially when they realize how delicious and satisfying it can be.
Have a sense of humour
Another great way to deal with pushback from family and friends about your new eating habits is to have a sense of humour!
If they ask where you're getting your protein now that you don't eat meat, make a joke of it.
Similarly, if someone is trying to wind you up about being vegan, laugh at yourself with them. They'll likely get bored and give up when they realize they aren't going to get a rise out of you.
Remember your why
Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle can feel hard sometimes!
This is really normal.
And there are probably going to be moments where you'll wonder why you're doing this because it feels too tough/you miss cheese/you're craving a hamburger.
I've been there.
In these moments, remember why you decided to go vegan in the first place.
Whether you did it for animal rights, the environment, health reasons, or for personal preferences, spend time reflecting on this.
Think of the benefits of your decision (i.e. knowing less animals have been harmed, the planet is a little better off, you're feeling healthier etc.).
This helps ground you and gives you a huge motivation boost to keep going in your vegan journey - which we all need sometimes.
Don't be all or nothing
It's easy to get stressed about not being a 'perfect' vegan and omitting all traces of animal products from your life (clothing, cosmetics, lifestyle etc.).
Newsflash: no one can do this 100%, and we shouldn't be aiming for perfection!
Do the best you can, and don't give yourself a hard time if you still want to wear that wool sweater or those leather shoes you've had for years.
You're doing the best you can to be a more conscious consumer which is already fantastic.
And remember: progress is always better than perfection.
Don't get disheartened
What you're doing is amazing and it will get easier the longer you do it!
But it's natural that there may be moments when it feels like too much.
If this happens, here are some things you can do:
1) Breathe, and don't beat yourself up in the moment!
2) Do something fun to relax, or if you can, go out for food. (Enjoying delicious food you didn't have to cook can often ease pressure.)
3) Remind yourself you're doing a great job and that you've come so far already!
And remember: the change you've made is a big one - don't expect to do all of this perfectly.
Give yourself grace and enjoy the process - before you know it you'll have been vegan for years!
According to a variety of doctors and health organizations, being vegan at any age is safe. As with any diet change, remember to plan your meals and ensure you are getting all the micro and macronutrients you need.
As with any dietary change, you could notice small initial digestive issues that clear up once your body is used to this new way of eating.
Always make sure you follow a well-planned vegan diet and that you're including adequate sources of protein, iron, and healthy fats as well as grains and fruits/vegetables. And if you have any concerns, always consult your doctor.
Strangely, this is one of the questions I get asked most often! Vegans can eat so many breakfast foods - we're not short of options.
Overnight oats, smoothies, sweet oatmeal and savoury porridge, avocado toast, tofu scramble, waffles, pancakes, chickpea-based omelettes, chia pudding, granola, and muffins are some of the most common.
Check out my web story on how to transition to a vegan diet!
If you’ve enjoyed this guide on how to go vegan, please leave a comment or tip for others below. I'd love to know what your experience was like!