I have been vegan for coming up on a year now and it has been, honestly, pretty damn easy for me. I was a vegetarian for about two years before I went vegan, and I think that definitely helped make the transition easier, as it’s quite a different way of thinking about food and living than we’re used to. I don't want to make the claim that going vegan is strictly easy, simply because everyone is different and I would hate to discourage anyone who has/will struggle to make the transition. You can read my previous post about why I went vegan here for all my disclaimers, etc.
That being said, veganism suits me very well and my goal for this post is to explain a little about my thought processes and a few other practical things to show that it's not nearly as difficult as people seem to think it is. So here is a little guide for my friends who are interested in either transitioning fully to veganism or even just exploring and trying some recipes or incorporating some good good vegan shiz into their lives.
Before we get into things, though, I want to make the distinction between “vegan” and “plant-based.”
Veganism is an ethical standpoint that champions animal rights and manifests throughout a person’s entire lifestyle, including their diet and the other purchases they make (i.e. avoiding both foods and other things, such as makeup or clothing, that are derived from animal products or that have been tested on animals), whereas plant-based refers solely to diet.
A person that claims to be “plant-based” is not necessarily vegan, and a vegan may or may not eat an entirely plant-based diet (for example, Oreos and french fries are vegan, but they are not plant-based) and someone who maintains a plant-based diet, while they don't eat meat or dairy or other animals products, they may still wear leather or buy cosmetics that were tested on animals, whereas a vegan would not.
All of this to say, I consider myself vegan and so I will use that terminology throughout this post, but I’m all about educating and letting people decide what choices are right for themselves, so please do feel free to use different terminology if you prefer.
ALRIGHT, enough of that. Let’s get into it.
First things first, get your mindset and your motivation figured out.
Are you going vegan for the animals? Are you concerned about the environment? Are you focused more on a whole foods, plant-based diet for health reasons? Probably a little of each?
Write down your reasons and keep them in mind; they will help you stay on track if and when you’re feeling discouraged or having trouble sticking to your goals. Speaking of, write out your goals too! It’s always helpful to keep in mind not only WHAT you’re doing but WHY you’re doing it.
Part of that process is doing your own research about a vegan lifestyle. Whether that’s the diet and nutrition aspect of it or the ethical side (animal welfare, environmental impact, etc.), I think it’s important to be educated and confident in the reasons you have behind what you do.
Personally, I don’t think of myself as “trying” to be vegan; I AM vegan. Eating and buying animal-derived foods and items is simply not an option. Though I rarely feel burdened or inconvenienced by my choice to be vegan, having that mindset of, “I made a decision to live my life in this way, I wholeheartedly believe in that decision, and living my life any other way is unthinkable,” has been very grounding.
Keep the focus on adding and replacing instead of elimination.
While, yes, it’s true that you are eliminating meat, dairy, eggs, and all other products that contain them (and all the other weird animal products that find their way into our food), from your diet, focusing on all of the things you “can’t” eat is the quickest path to discouragement and the destruction of your goals and motivations.
Start slowly introducing different vegan alternatives into your diet, such as buying vegan mayo or butter or salad dressing or an alternative milk (seriously guys, oat milk is the future) instead of what you normally buy. Experiment with new vegan recipes or find vegan recipes for dishes that you already love. If you think all vegans eat is salad and smoothies and sawdust, you could not POSSIBLY be more WRONG.
Spaghetti and meatballs? Done it. Breakfast burritos? Hell yeah. Burgers and fries? Biscuits and gravy? French toast? Stir fry? Banana bread? Chocolate chip cookies? You can have it all! A lot of things and ingredients that we already use and eat are vegan just by nature, so all it really takes is making a few adjustments and finding the right recipes.
Pro tip: MEAL PREP. It makes things SO much easier. I honestly almost never do this outright, but I will usually at least pick a cuisine or two for the week and generally stick to it, just to make cooking and grocery shopping easier. For example, some weeks I feel like pasta, so I buy all the things I need to make and eat pasta all week, whatever noodles and sauce and veggies I feel like or veggie meatballs or sausage if I'm feeling fancy.
Same principle applies for whatever meal I’m into that week; if I’m feeling like stir fry, sub out a different type of noodles, sauce, and veggies. Add a difference sauce and switch out a few veggies and toppings and you can eat essentially the same thing with a whole new flavor spin.
One of my laziest meals is roasted veggies - usually some combination of sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, and brussels sprouts - with rice (sometimes lentils), sautéed kale (if I’m feeling less lazy), avocado, and Yumm Sauce or Bitchin’ Sauce or hummus. It is SO easy to make and honestly? It’s probably my favorite thing to eat.
Now, that’s just my style and what works for me at this time in my life. I love leftovers and I’m also the kind of person who doesn’t mind eating the same meal a hundred times if I like it, so it works for me. But if that ain’t you, break free from that and cook a different meal every day! Or, meal prep the HECK out of your week and be all nice and organized! Find what works best and switch it up if you need to.
There are SO many vegan alternatives available at literally any grocery store; Safeway, Albertson's, Fred Meyer, even freaking WALMART (not that I recommend shopping there, but you get the point). This ain't just a Whole Foods, Sprouts, Market of Choice, *insert local health food store* game anymore, ya'll.
The best part about all of this stuff is that even the little changes you make still have an impact. You're saving animals, you're using less water (to produce veggies VS to produce meat/dairy), you're helping the environment, you're (probably!) eating healthier, WHOLE foods that not only make your bod feel good when you eat them, but that you can feel good about all around.
Alright, well that's it for now. I hope this was helpful, at least as a base to get you started. I've also put together some lists and things below to give you an idea what what I buy when I grocery shop as well as other resources and sites that I use. Thanks for reading, please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, concerns (nice ones, not mean ones), etc. :)
Lists and resources that might be helpful:
Tortilla chips (+ salsa, obvs)
Noodles (Italian and Asian varieties)
Spices (get experimental or keep it simple, but learning how to use spices will change your life)
Canned soup/instant ramen for when I'm feeling lazy
typical weekly-ish grocery list:
Sauce (pasta, teriyaki, curry)
My fav “accidentally” vegan snacks:
Sour Patch watermelons
Chips and salsa/guac
Veggies and hummus
Potato chips (always double check the vegan status if they're flavored!)
My fav vegan brands for meat/cheese alternates and "junk" food:
Field Roast (mini freaking corndogs, ya’ll)
Follow Your Heart