So… you want to go vegan. When I decided to become vegetarian, I admired vegans the way some people admire celebrities. I desired their level of self-control, compassion, and dedication to the cause. Yet I struggled for years to fully adopt this vegan lifestyle. Time and time again I would eat vegan for a month and then feel it was too hard to find vegan options on menus, to resist cheese, to fully change my habits. But now I am fully vegan, and it feels like everything I thought it would—amazing. My only regret about becoming vegan is not committing to it sooner. So here are all the tips that worked for me. I hope they work for you.
1. Force yourself to watch behind the scenes footage of factory farms, especially of dairy farms.
For a while I avoided watching this kind of footage. I had read about the torture animals go through in factory farms and that was hard enough to handle. However, there is a difference between reading about something and actually seeing it, and after watching footage of calves getting torn away from their moms after birth, and hearing their desperate calls to each other… something in me did change. After watching documentaries like Vegucated (they only show a couple minutes of this footage) and Earthlings, I didn’t just want to become a vegan… I had to become one, because dairy was ruined forever. Any time I found myself wanting dairy, images of that footage would come into mind, and I couldn’t choose my taste buds over my beliefs any longer.
2. For the first couple of weeks, cook at home. Or plan ahead and find restaurants that offer vegan options.
Once you’re able to go grocery shopping on your own, and have a kitchen to cook in, becoming a vegan isn’t hard. More and more grocery stores and restaurants are offering vegan—not just vegetarian—options now. If you don’t buy dairy, meat, or other animal-derived ingredients, you won’t be tempted to cook with them. And if you make sure you go to vegan-friendly restaurants, you won’t have to stress about what to resist on the menu because you’ll know what to order. After a few weeks of eating vegan, it will be easier to expose yourself to old foods and not even want to eat them.
3. Find vegan replacements for the foods you love ASAP.
This will help to prevent a relapse. When I first tried going vegan, I tried resisting cheese (my old favorite food) all at once without even thinking of what could replace it. Then I found Daiya, a vegan company that makes various dairy-free cheeses, and becoming vegan was almost too easy after all the years I struggled. (You can find Daiya at Whole Foods and some grocery stores—check for it in the dairy section of your grocery store). Nowadays, there are vegan replacements for everything, and they’ve been perfected to taste AMAZING. A lot of meat products are processed with a bunch of fillers anyway, which makes the taste pretty easy to replicate. Here are my favorite vegan replacements:
Almond Milk for cow’s milk (it tastes better than regular milk, won’t make you bloat or breakout, and won’t make you fatten up like cow’s milk)
Nice Cream for any ice cream (made from soy, almond, cashew, or coconut milk, there is an endless amount of rich, creamy flavors to try!)
Tofu for scrambled eggs (Scrambled tofu is my favorite breakfast… Recipe on my Instagram: @that_vegan_hippie)
Tofurkey Vegan Deli Meats instead of animal deli meats (these are SO MUCH HEALTHIER than lunch meats)
Smart Balance Vegan Butter instead of butter
Frozen Vegan Meat Replacements instead of Meat (they have vegan replacements for burgers, chicken, fish, taco meat, hot dogs, corn dogs… you name it, they literally have it)
Mashed bananas for baking instead of eggs (this is much healthier than using eggs anyway—read The China Study—and a good way to sneak in a serving of fruit for the day)
Vegan Cheese for any animal cheese (it’s a lot creamier than animal cheeses, but so delicious and you can eat it with a clear conscious. They also have vegan mac and cheese sold in boxes so you can easily make mac and “cheese”!)
4. Follow vegan accounts on social media or look for recipes online before you buy vegan cookbooks
This may be a personal thing, but buying vegan cookbooks right away was intimidating. I looked up what the best cookbooks were for vegans, and ordered a few of them, but when they came in the mail I realized most of the recipes involved ingredients I had never cooked with or heard of before (how the hell do I pronounce seitan? I thought). As a college student, I wasn’t used to cooking for myself to begin with (I didn’t live in a place with a kitchen until my junior year of college), so the idea of cooking with ingredients that I didn’t know seemed like a lot of work.
However, there are so many vegan accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and blog websites that use familiar foods, which helps make the transition easy. As an added bonus, online accounts offer more pictures, so it’s more tempting to try out those recipes. I’ve noticed that following vegan accounts also make you feel part of a community, which makes you realize the difference you are making by adopting this lifestyle.
5. To end with a corny tip… Have fun.
Order yourself some new vegan gear such as shirts, necklaces, car magnets, etc. Nothing helps you maintain a good habit like positive reinforcement. A lot of vegan gear can be found on PETA’s website or Etsy. Start a vegan blog or account, talk to people about your new decision who you know will support you, and try out some new veg-friendly restaurants in the process.
Anytime you feel discouraged, or feel like you’re not making a difference, just remember that the average vegan saves 2,000-6,000 animals in their lifetime. Remember that you alone may not be able to stop cruel practices, but that doesn’t mean you have to/should support them. And remember that you are part of a larger community that, together, will inspire enough change in the world to make an even bigger, lasting difference.
Hope these tips help you on your vegan journey! If you have any more ideas, or any questions, please leave them in the comments =] xoxoxo