While I’ve been a vegetarian for over five years now, I only recently transitioned to veganism. I feel like I was always meant to be eating a plant-based diet, and yet I’m still learning so much about this lifestyle each day. I wanted to put together this blog post to inspire those of you who may be interested in a vegan diet, but need some suggestions on how to maintain this lifestyle. However you choose to go about it, there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be an amazing journey for you!
- Recognize Your Motivation
This one is a biggie. What drew you towards veganism in the first place? Are you an animal lover at heart, or maybe an environmentalist? Did you go vegan for the sake of your health? Maybe you were just curious and wanted to try it out, or maybe it’s a little bit of everything! I know when people ask me why I’m vegan, I usually just say “Everything”. It’s easy to derail from this lifestyle if you don’t have a clear cut reason as to why you tried it out in the first place.
2. Seek out vegan restaurants
Dining out is huge for me and Skyler. We both love experiences and we love going out to eat. One of the main reasons I stuck with vegetarianism for so long was because I didn’t want to not have food options when we went out. Now as a vegan, I realize how silly that was. I live in a college town and there are vegan options all over the place! We even have a restaurant and bakery that is completely vegan. If you live in a small town or rural area, this may be a lot more difficult for you. I would suggest emailing your favorite eateries and asking them to offer a vegan option. You’d be surprised at how many places are accommodating. No one wants to lose a customer, and restaurants are now realizing how big the vegan community is. More vegan options = more customers for them = more money.
3. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Shit happens. People slip up (intentionally and unintentionally). We just bought a bag of chips the other day and later realized they had milk powder in them. Stuff like that just happens, and there’s no reason to stress yourself out over it. Reading labels takes time, and some ingredients can be super ambiguous. Just learn from each experience so you’ll be better prepared in the future.
4. Variety is the spice of life
Whoever said vegans only eat salad has never met me. Skyler and I are constantly eating burrito bowls, BLT’s, hamburgers, pizza, etc. I’ve never felt limited on a vegan diet. With all the substitutes that exist, there’s literally no reason you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Don’t stick with the same boring meal because it’s safe. Think of all your favorite foods you used to eat and recreate them at home! Which brings me to my next tip:
5. Seek out alternatives
I love cheese. Like LOVE it, especially chips and queso. Instead of suffering for the rest of my life, I’ve found tons of vegan cheese alternatives that satisfy my cravings. Chao cheese for sandwiches, Daiya boxed Mac and Cheeze, homemade cashew cheese queso, etc. Maybe you really love yogurt, or milk, or chicken. Purchase some vegan alternatives and try out different brands! I have tried some gross vegan cheese, not gonna lie. But I didn’t give up and found some brands I’m absolutely obsessed with. Don’t let something like that deter you from your goal. With all the vegan alternatives on the market today, there’s definitely going to be an option you love.
6. Always bring snacks
Going to a backyard bbq or headed out of town to visit family? Bring your own food! Don’t ever let yourself get hungry in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat. When you get hungry, you get angry, and your brain doesn’t make good decisions. I’m a wedding photographer, and in my contract I ask to be provided with a vegan meal. If that’s not doable, then I ask to be notified ahead of time so I can bring my own food. Keep granola bars, veggies, cookies, pre-made sandwiches, etc, in a cooler in your car when you know you may be somewhere that has little to no vegan options.
7. Find out which fast food places have options
When Skyler and I travel for work, we probably hit Taco Bell up like 10 times. Their menu is totally customizable, which means I can get a ton of vegan burritos for cheap. Panera Bread also offers a vegan option, and even Whataburger will allow you to customize a hashbrown burger. Sometimes fast food is inevitable, and when you’re on a trip and starving, it’s a relief to know that you can get something to eat. Taco Bells are literally everywhere, so I know even if I’m in the tiniest town, I can still get something I love.
8. Learn to cook
Not saying you can’t be vegan and never cook, but you’re gonna have a bad time if you never spend some time in the kitchen. Luckily, I freaking LOVE to cook so this was a huge plus for me. I could go to my favorite vegan restaurant and get takeout everyday, but I’m pretty sure my bank account couldn’t handle that. Learn to make your favorites at home and save some money. Meal prep bulk meals on Sunday if you’re constantly busy during the week. You don’t have to get fancy with it either if you don’t want to: make some pasta, rice and veggies, sandwiches, burritos, etc. Cooking at home is fun and doesn’t have to be a chore.
9. Take time to transition
Some people become vegan overnight, giving away or donating all the non-vegan foods they have at home. Others may cut out foods out here and there, opting for a slower, smoother transition. Deciding to transition slowly may feel better for your mind and body, and will give you time to get used to all the changes going on. Whatever you decide to do, know there’s no right or wrong way to make the switch.
10. Surround yourself with supportive people
I saved this for last because I believe it is hands down the most important. Do you see how often vegans get made fun of on the internet and real life? As an adult, I don’t really get hate like that anymore, but when I was a vegetarian as a teenager I received rude comments all the time. Having a group of vegan and vegetarian friends (and plenty of people who don’t follow diets like that but aren’t jerks) has been amazing. My best friend is vegan, so we share recipes all the time. My husband is vegan, so it’s not like I have to deal with my significant other being unsupportive. Even if you don’t know anyone in real life who follows a plant-based diet, I would recommend joining Facebook and Reddit vegan groups. These are places you can share recipes, questions, struggles, and victories. There’s nothing quite like having a community of like-minded people to cheer you on, and who knows, maybe some of these online friendships will become real life friendships (how my best friend and I became friends).
Lastly, remember to have fun!
Do you guys have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!