Wondering how to go vegan but afraid you'll fall off the wagon? Follow these 10 simple steps to make it a breeze! (Post originally published August 2019 and updated June 2021)
I remember the day I went vegan well. It was 2012. I was on my way to visit my sister and standing in King's Cross station in Londond. I'd just decided I wanted to be vegan - looking back, not great timing. As I looked around for a snack to buy for my journey, I remember thinking: 'Crap, I'm never going to be full again.'
There was literally nothing vegan available to buy except hummus and carrot sticks. I remember panicking and thinking if it was this hard, a vegan diet couldn't possibly be sustainable. If this was all that was on offer for me now, how could I keep this up long-term?
Thankfully, seven years on (and still happily vegan!) I am glad to say that things have changed massively. The world has embraced plant-based eating with impressive speed, and there are more and more options 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 diet to friends, to craving cheese! So if, like I was, you're wondering how to go vegan and make it stick, read on for my 10 simple steps. Remember, if I can do it you absolutely can too! 🙂
I also have a podcast episode on this subject you might be interested in - 5 Tips for Going Vegan in 2021 (Season 1, Episode 4).
1) Go Slow
One of the easiest 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. Whilst it's fantastic if you want to adopt a vegan diet all at once, it's also great to start by just cutting down on your consumption of animal products.
Taking simple steps to begin like eating meat-free for one day a week, or one meal per day can be much more achievable than going fully vegan at first. Start with this, then progress to eating more vegan meals as you begin feeling comfortable with it.
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 (It's a trap I fell into)
When people go vegan, they often focus on what they're cutting out of their diet, which is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable! Instead of thinking about how much you miss cheese (this was DEFINITELY me), think about what you can enjoy instead.
For every food you're worried about giving up, take some time to find an alternative you love. Meat alternatives like the Beyond Burger have grown incredibly popular in the last couple of years, and there are a wealth of dairy alternatives out there too, like Coconut Bliss Ice Cream and tons of nut-based cheeses. With a little experimenting, you'll find some new products you love.
3) Embrace New Foods
Use this time as a new vegan to embrace all the 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 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 (if accessible for you) provides a welcome break and inspiration for your next meal!
You'll even find that many chain restaurants now offer a vegan menu or options, too. The easiest way to find plant-based restaurants near you is to download the worldwide Happy Cow app. With it, you can find all vegan-friendly restaurants in your local 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 a balanced diet in order to support your body, particularly when you're transitioning to a new way of eating. It's great to indulge in treats and fast food some of the time, but it's not sustainable everyday.
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 Homemade Vegan Chili, Creamy Broccoli & Mushroom Pasta, Red Lentil Dhal and Almond Butter Tofu Noodles.
6) Get Organised
Yes, changing your diet can seem like hard work, but it doesn't have to be! Learning how to go vegan (and how to stick with it for good) 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 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 trusted favourites. Recipes like Homemade Vegan Chili and Easy Vegetable Stew 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 gourmet recipes once you've found your feet, but at first be kind to yourself, take it slow and cook meals you're comfortable with.
I'm not a nutritionist so I can't advise specifically on this, but it is worth reading up on supplements you should take when adopting a vegan diet.
As with any dietary change, you want to make sure you're not missing out on 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 for vegans, 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 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, and don't beat yourself up too much! Second - remember why you decided to go vegan in the first place. Sometimes it helps to think about your reasons for choosing to go vegan in order to help you keep going. Third - if you can, go out for food and relax. It doesn't have to be fancy, but sometimes enjoying some delicious vegan food that you didn't have to cook yourself 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!