In honor of Earth Day I wanted to write about transitioning into a vegan lifestyle! It’s become an area of my life that I am really passionate about and I love to educate and introduce veganism to as many people as I can!
Unfortunately many people are afraid of the word ‘vegan.’ Sometimes people think of us as crazy, hippie freaks who want to shove animal rights down other people’s throats. However, please know that we are not all like that and I definitely don’t think that’s an effective way to promote my lifestyle.
Also, some people like to use the term ‘plant-based’ instead for whatever reasons.
Basically, being vegan means adopting a new LIFESTYLE. You don’t consume any animal products, you opt for cruelty-free and vegan hygienic/beauty products, and you don’t purchase leather/fur/feathers.
Plant-based is a diet. You don’t eat animal products but you choose to purchase MAC, Revlon, Suave, leather boots, etc.
While I consider myself vegan, I THINK BOTH LIFESTYLES ARE A HUGE STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
Anyway, if you’re interested in going vegan, PLEASE read these tips and don’t hesitate to ask me any questions or to expand on a subject!
Know your why
Why do you want to go vegan??
If it’s because you love animals and can’t stand the idea of their suffering for your pleasure…welcome to the club! If animals are your drive behind this then you’re less likely to go back. I would never in a million years go back to being vegetarian/a meat-eater.
If you want to go vegan for health reasons…that’s amazing too! You’ll definitely experience many health benefits, but do realize that every one has different reactions to going vegan. You may not experience the clear, glowing skin that your friend did. You might feel every ache and pain disappear from your life. You may not feel more energized. You may lose all the weight you want. You may end up bloated for days!
Whatever your reason may be, just know why you’re starting and know that this is an extremely beneficial decision for yourself, animals, and the planet!
There are many, many resources these days to educate yourself on a vegan lifestyle. Recently, I noticed a TON of people switching over after watching the documentary ‘What the Health’ on Netflix. It’s a great documentary but can be considered quite biased, so I highly suggest doing your own research about parts that intrigue you.
There’s also a ton of myths and misconceptions about veganism, so please read my post regarding that.
I put off going vegan because I thought I needed to be rich…not realizing how affordable vegan food actually is. I also put it off because “I love cheese too much,” without realizing that I would end up thinking it’s disgusting now AND there are so many amazing alternatives!
Here are the main areas I recommend doing research on:
-The conditions that animals live in before slaughter
Free-range is a HUGE lie.
Humane slaughter does not exist.
Dairy cows are essentially raped (by human hands) in order to remain pregnant, however there babies are taken from them immediately after birth (a very traumatic experience for both mom and calf).
Animals are confined in tight spaces covered in urine/feces. Etc.
-The additives and dangers in meat/animal products
Livestock are given antibiotics (antibiotic resistance) and steroids, which humans ultimately consume.
Nitrates are added to meat to enhance the color and make it more appealing.
Other coloring compounds are added (to most processed foods of course).
Animals get cancer too! They just cut out tumors or don’t see anything at all and sell it in the grocery store!
Remember that there’s a lot of money to be made in pharmaceuticals and medicine…the sicker we are the more money they make.
-The extreme environmental impacts
The amount of methane (which traps heat in the atmosphere) that cows create is astounding.
Unethical fishing causes death to millions of tons of by catch (turtles, dolphins, rays, etc.) and damages many parts of the marine ecosystem.
Raising animals for meat/dairy requires a ton of water, land, and energy, all which could be used to grow affordable crops that could potentially end world hunger.
-Meat and dairy alternatives
Anything you can eat I can eat vegan! I’ll get more into this below but trust me when I say my diet is anything but boring! There are many alternatives.
There are many scientific studies involving a vegan diet that result in cancer cells/masses disappearing, eliminating diabetes and heart disease, and relieving inflammation in the body.
Try going vegetarian first
I was vegetarian for nearly 13 years before going vegan. I definitely wish I went vegan sooner but a vegetarian diet benefits yourself and the planet as well!
If you’ve been a meat eater all of your life it may be more difficult for you to start, which is why when my friends/co-workers ask for tips I always say try going vegetarian first. Honestly a lot of people struggle with removing so many things from their diet, especially if they’re used to eating it.
This concept is similar to someone trying to diet/eat really healthy who is not used to that. It’s definitely possible, but most people will eat completely clean for a couple days but then give into their cravings and binge eat everything in site.
Removing everything you typically eat can be a big change, so slowly transitioning may be better for you.
Add a vegan day per week
This week consume ONLY vegan food on Saturday, next week eat ONLY vegan food on Saturday and Sunday, and so on and so on. Keep adding days and soon enough you’ll be at 7 days/week!
This will help you commit to something smaller that still offers many benefits. You may feel a difference in your body after a couple days in a row (better digestion, more energy, clear skin, etc.) to convince you to make the switch! However a couple vegan days a week is better than no vegan days a week.
You’ll learn new recipes, find vegan foods that taste incredible, and maybe even discover new restaurants!
Find meat/dairy alternatives you enjoy
Just because we’re vegan doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like the taste of meat/dairy, we just choose not to participate in cruel practices.
I’ve definitely grown to view meat/animal products as disgusting and sad because I look at them and see the back story. I see their eyes, I see the torture, the fear, their inability to understand why that’s happening to them. I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to eat that, HOWEVER, I love “chicken” nuggets and burgers made from plants that taste similar to meat!
There’s no need to feel guilty about eating vegan meat or cheese, enjoy it! It’s cruelty free!
Finding alternatives takes a bit of trial and error. You’ve got to be open minded and understand that some foods are not going to taste exactly what you’re used to. Eventually your palate adjusts, but honestly some alternatives just taste nasty! There is a lot of progress being made in this area…companies are finding better and better ingredients!
Here’s a few common “staple items” that I prefer:
Vegan cheese: Follow Your Heart
Vegan coffee creamer: Silk Almond Milk creamer in caramel
Understand that vegans don’t just eat salad
People always question what I eat as a vegan…where I get my protein…etc. I’ve also met several people who tried to go vegetarian or vegan and ate ONLY vegetables, therefore they ended up getting really sick.
A vegan/plant-based diet is extensive! Of course a lot of us eat a lot of fruits and veggies but there’s beans, rice, lentils, cous cous, nuts, pasta, bread, and of course a ton of processed foods that pass as vegan (Oreos, Teddy Grahams, potato chips, many candies, bagels, pretzels, etc.)!
Of course a primarily whole foods vegan diet is ideal, but there are plenty of snacks and goodies for us to eat! Revolution Donuts in Atlanta has some of the best vegan donuts I’ve ever tasted and Cafe Sunflower has the richest, softest cakes. Not to mention you can find an unlimited number of recipes for whatever you’re looking for!
Mistakes will be made
Nothing in life is perfect. There’s been a number of times where I’ve accidentally bought something with an animal ingredient in it that I missed and I even ate it! If I accidentally buy something with an animal ingredient but then realize it once I get home, I won’t eat it. I’ll give it to someone else.
For example, one time at the start of my vegan journey I bought Pop-Tarts. I read the ingredients but missed that they have gelatin in them (gelatin comes from animal bones/skin/tissue) and I unfortunately ended up eating them. It’s not the end of the world!
I wasn’t intentionally eating it, I still consider myself vegan, and now I know for next time!
Get into the habit of reading food labels
The easiest way to eat vegan is by consuming whole foods (foods that come from the ground). If you purchase processed foods, just know that you’ll have to get used to reading labels. Some breads have egg or milk in them and many snacks contain milk (even some potato chips!).
Typically, items will list an allergen warning…THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS: MILK, EGG, WHEAT, SOY, (etc.). However, a common sneaky ingredient is gelatin (found in marshmallows, jello, pop tarts, gummies). There are several milk products (casein, whey) they may be sneaky as well!
It may sound like a pain but honestly you figure out the best products for you with time and it gets so much easier. Tons of products list ‘Vegan’ on their packaging these days which of course is a huge help!
The most difficult part is going out to eat, weddings, events, etc.
I’m not going to lie, depending on where you live it can be difficult to eat at most restaurants and to find food to eat at events.
Before going out to eat I check out their menu and read the ingredients list. Honestly, I never ate out much before going vegan but I decreased going out to eat even more once I did make the switch. Sometimes I’ll ask the server/manager about what ingredients are used but they can’t always be trusted!
There are several all-vegan restaurants near where I live (in Georgia), but other states may have more or less. Chipotle is usually my go-to if anything!
If all else fails, order french fries! Haha except from McDonalds because they cook it with beef broth!
For weddings and other events I eat beforehand (or after if necessary) and I’ll ALWAYS bring snacks just in case.
Not everything has to happen at once
If you want to adopt a VEGAN lifestyle, definitely start with your diet. When I started I wanted to purchase and switch over to all cruelty-free and vegan products too, however I still had makeup, shampoo, perfumes, etc. that I needed to finish!
There’s no need to throw everything away…don’t waste it! Use it up and find a new product once you run out. This is going to take time and some items can be really difficult to find or really expensive. For example, vegan detergent is a lot pricier and limited. Finding a vegan perfume that you love may be challenging.
I highly suggest shopping at your local health foods store or Sprouts or Whole Foods if you have one nearby. They have a wide variety of cruelty-free/vegan products including household cleaning supplies and beauty products. If that’s difficult to find in your town Amazon has tons of products and of course MANY other websites!
In my opinion, trying to shop more ethically is a lot better than not trying at all. There are still some products I have purchased recently that are not vegan, but I know majority of the choices I make are highly benefitting the planet!
A vegan lifestyle is definitely a passion of mine and I think this planet needs a lot more love and appreciation than it receives. Going vegan undoubtedly benefits the ecosystem and expresses your compassion for other beings.
Like I said, I’m not here to shove veganism down your throat but I definitely will promote it. I think ANY step toward veganism is great and I hope you decided at least to try.