Are you thinking of adopting a cruelty-free lifestyle? That’s great! Giving up animal products offers a host of benefits for your health and the well-being of the planet.
As a vegan, I enjoy answering questions from newcomers to the lifestyle. So many have asked how to get started. Here’s how I made the transition virtually painless and how you can do the same.
1. Start By Eliminating One Meat
My favorite novel as a child was “Charlotte’s Web,” so when I learned about the horrors of gestation crates, giving up pork was a logical starting point. I had formerly enjoyed bacon as much as anyone, but I chose to start by cutting bacon and other pork products out. Over the years, one thing led to another until I phased meat out of my diet entirely.
If you eat meat in all forms, start by eliminating only one. I recommend starting with beef or pork, as both contain high levels of saturated fat. Trust me when I say your taste buds will adjust over time! I truly don’t like the taste of meat anymore, but that does take time, so be gentle to yourself as you’re transitioning.
2. Increase Your Vegetable Consumption
Many Americans fail to eat sufficient vegetables for optimal health. Did you know that women between ages 19-50 should have seven to eight servings of fruits and veggies daily, and yet relatively few hit the mark? As a result, we miss out on a world of health benefits, like increased phytonutrient consumption!
Strive to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables at every meal. Balance out the rest with healthy grains like quinoa, as well as lean protein. This process gives you a starting point for making substitutions. Could you use beans instead of beef in that burrito bowl?
3. Try One New Food Daily
The bad news? If your mom was a carnivore, she gave you a taste for the stuff before you were even born. Research shows that what expectant mothers eat influences her baby’s later food preferences.
However, you can change your taste buds by introducing new flavors. Did you know you might need to try a new food up to 20 times before you acquire the taste? That doesn’t mean you need to eat the entire dish. However, don’t turn up your nose automatically if the opportunity arises to give it another go!
4. Learn To Meal Prep
To outsiders, the advent of brands like Beyond Meats makes it seems like the world is going vegan. Those of us who embrace the lifestyle know it isn’t that simple to find quality nom-noms on many menus. Learning how to meal prep can save you time — and preserve your health.
Cut up your vegetables into individual servings after you return from the farmer’s market. You’re more likely to choose carrots as a snack if you don’t have to chop them. Make your freezer your best friend and make lunches you can zap in your office microwave.
5. Take A Cooking Class
If you thought going vegan meant eating nothing but salads till the end of your days, think again! You can create a host of gourmet dishes — if you know what to do.
I recommend taking a cooking class, preferably one geared to the lifestyle. You’ll learn how to balance the five flavor elements so that your dishes taste amazing without the need for a ton of additives like salt. Plus, you’ll meet new friends, and they can prove invaluable lifelines in supporting your new lifestyle.
6. Experiment With Substitutes
Like many people, the most significant resistance I demonstrated toward going fully vegan was giving up cheese. I didn’t know how I could live without dairy. Now that I have found vegan cheese substitutes that I adore, I don’t miss milk products at all.
I don’t use meat substitutes often, but if you can’t forgo the flavor, a host of alternatives exists. However, just like finding your favorite steakhouse, it takes time to find varieties you enjoy. Experiment with different types, and don’t overlook your spice cabinet. Those black bean burgers you thought tasted like cardboard might perk up with some paprika and garlic.
7. Find a Support Network
I hate to tell you this, but when you fully transition to veganism, you’ll face considerable flack. Half of your circle will suddenly earn their medical degrees and lecture you about the presumed health benefits of meat. Even respectful folks will utter, astonished, “I couldn’t survive if I could never enjoy a slice of real pizza ever again.”
Find a small circle of like-minded friends, even if you only associate with them online. You can even join a social media network catered to the cruelty-free lifestyle — several exist! These folks can help keep you on track when you feel your resolve wavering.
You can transition to a vegan lifestyle!
If you’re new to veganism, I promise that you can transition painlessly to the lifestyle. Start slow, forgive yourself for any mistakes, and enjoy the numerous health benefits!