How do you go vegan or vegetarian? Tips for going vegan or vegetarian
Many people want to know how to make the transition to being vegan or vegetarian, and for good reason. If you have been eating the SAD (standard American diet) all your life, it's a pretty big transition to become a vegan or vegetarian. But trust me, you can do it! It's much easier than it may seem.
Here are some tips for going vegan or vegetarian:
- There's no right or wrong way to do it. Some people go "cold turkey," as the saying goes, and they immediately stop eating the non-vegetarian or non-vegan products. They just decide that a specific day is the day that it all changes. Others ease into it, by gradually replacing items. They may start out with swapping out some of their meat-based dinners with vegetarian ones, switching their breakfast sausage patties with a vegan one, etc. Neither of these is right or wrong, it's a matter of which route works for you. If you want to stop everything all at once, great! If you want to take a gradual approach to switching, that's fine, too. You have to do what works for you. So, make a plan to either cut it all out overnight, or to take a gradual approach, and then make it happen.
- Know what a vegetarian and vegan is from the start. Many people get confused about what a vegan and vegetarian is. Go into it knowing what the terms mean. A vegetarian does not eat animals, which includes meat, poultry, fish, gelatin, animal rennet, etc. They may or may not choose to eat vegetarian dairy products (some dairy products contain animal rennet, making them non-vegetarian) and eggs. A vegan avoids all animal products, which includes products that come from animals, such as milk, eggs, etc. But veganism is more than a diet, it's a lifestyle. Vegans aim to reduce their contribution to cruelty in every area of their life, so they also avoid zoos, buy cruelty free hygiene products, don't wear leather or wool, etc. If you are following a vegan diet, but not incorporating the rest of the vegan lifestyle, then you are eating a plant based diet, you are not vegan.
- Be gentle with yourself. There is a learning curve when you become vegetarian or vegan. Be easy on yourself as you take the time to learn this new way of living. You will most likely slip up once in a while and eat something you thought was vegetarian or vegan, only to find out it wasn't. There are a lot of non-veg ingredients that show up in foods that you would think are vegetarian. I have seen fish listed as an ingredient on microwave popcorn, and gelatin in a jar of peanuts, making both of them non-vegetarian. Just take the time to learn and trust me, it will become like second nature after a while. Some of those "hidden" ingredients to look out for include gelatin, cochineal, animal-based broths, confectioners glaze, whey, some added vitamin D sources, and more.
- Plan ahead when it comes to dining out. If you are able to, take a look at the restaurant menu ahead of time to see what you could order. Give them a call with questions regarding the ingredients and what options they have for vegans. If you are attending a special event that is catered, it's a good idea to eat something ahead of time, because there may not be much there for you to eat. Enjoy the event, eat what you are able to, and move on. Relish the times you dine at an all vegan menu. You will be in heaven when you can comfortably order anything on the menu.
- Learn about the why's behind veg living. Some people go vegetarian or vegan for health reasons, environmental reasons, and for ethical reasons. No matter what reason brought you to the lifestyle, learn about the other reasons. You may be surprised at what you find out. Read some books on the issue, know how to respond to people who question your lifestyle choice, and become familiar with the many benefits of being a vegetarian or vegan. You may start out doing it for health, and then come to love compassionate aspects of it, or vice versa.
- Be ready for people to question you at first. A vegetarian or vegan is a constant reminder to others that they are consuming animals, and yet are likely against animal cruelty. They do this through cognitive dissonance. But they will try to get you to join them again in eating meat, so be ready for them to question you and your motives, try to scare you about kwashiorkor, which is a disease you get from protein deficiency, which doesn't really exist in America. Know how to respond so you feel strong and don't second guess what you are doing. The more you know about the lifestyle and benefits, the less you will worry about people asking you questions. Plus, the longer you are veg, the less they will say anything, because they will get used to it.
- Ignore the vegan police, and don't join the force. I've learned over the years that when you first become vegetarian or vegan, you have a tendency to want to be really active in sharing it with others. I mean really active. If you became veg for health reasons, you want to get in everyone's face and tell them how they are messing up with their diet. If you did so for ethical reasons, you want to start going into restaurants and calling the diners murderers, or flooding your Facebook page with gory slaughter videos. Then once you have been veg for a while you tend to relax a bit (not everyone, but most do). You realize that everyone is on their own journey and you can't force people into vegetarianism or veganism. If they make the decision, it will be their decision to do so. When you put people on defense about what they are eating, your message is lost. My approach is to always provide info to those who want it, introduce people to delicious vegan food, and to lead by example.
- Find the products that you like! I've watched a revolution take place in the veg world in the past couple of decades. Today, there are many vegan cheeses, vegan ice creams, meat alternatives, many plant based milks, and more. There are so many vegan options today! It's fine to read reviews of what other people think of the products, but the best thing to do is try multiple products yourself and find the ones that you like. My favorite vegan cheese may not be your favorite one, for example (my favorite is Violife, by the way). Try numerous products to see what's good and what stinks. Narrow down the ones you like. Some are awful and some are wonderful, but that's the same with non-veg products, too! If you want a vegan product that isn't available yet, just wait, it will be soon. New vegan products come available all of the time. It's amazing how many are flooding the market in recent years.
- Get some vegan cookbooks. One can never have too many vegan cookbooks, if you ask me! Gather the cookbooks, try new recipes, see which ones you like, and repeat the process. You can buy them, but you can also get them from your local public library. You could check them out, see which ones you really like, and then buy those. You can also find them used at bookstores, thrift stores, and garage sales. Stock up, scour through, and find some good recipes to try. I have some favorite easy vegan recipes you can try, and have my favorite vegan cookbooks. Also, be sure to read what others have to say on moving toward a vegan lifestyle.
- Find support. Research shows that around 84% of those who go vegetarian or vegan end up going back to eating meat. Why? The reasons vary, just as the people themselves do. I've personally known many people over the last couple of decades who have went veg, and then went back the other way. I've even seen some die-hard vegans who did outreach events and protests go back to eating meat. That being said, you are going to be more apt to stick with it if you follow the advice on this page, and you get support. What I mean by support is that you need to know you are not alone in this. You need to connect with others who live the same type of lifestyle. You can do this through online groups, local vegetarian/vegan groups, attending veg fest's, etc. Find out what is in your community. You may find there are local meetup groups, educational outreach groups, and more. Staying connected with provide you helpful support and put you in touch with like-minded people.
- Enjoy the journey. There is a Buddhist saying, which says "every step of the journey is the journey." You don't have a destination to get to and then it all stops. It's all part of the journey, so embrace and enjoy it. You are choosing a new way of life that is more peaceful, compassionate, healthier, environmentally friendlier, and more mindful. That is amazing. Kudos to you for taking the journey and making such a decision! We all want to do something to make the world a better place. Being a vegetarian or vegan helps make the world a better place.