It’s New Year’s resolution time and maybe you or someone you know is resolving to adopt a vegan diet. But how do you do it so that the change will stick? It’s a big deal, after all, that encompasses a whole bunch of new habits.
And you have to know a few things beforehand, including some nutrition basics.
A recent study by the Humane Research Council found that those who transition to veganism more slowly have a better long-term success rate. That’s not surprising to me. Dietitians know that it can be easier to maintain and build on small-step changes than to dive into a complete overhaul of your diet.
The concern about a more gradual approach is that people will make a few changes and then poop out. I’m sure that happens sometimes. But my hope is that those who embrace a vegan ethic will continue to explore and learn and move forward. Especially when they see how doable each step is.
So where to start? I suggest that people begin with these two changes. One is easy, the other hugely impactful.
- Remove cow’s milk from your diet. This is the easy one. There are so many alternatives and they all provide abundant calcium and can be used in place of cow’s milk in any recipe. With so many choices, it’s likely that most people will find something that they like.
- Stop eating meat from chickens. This is a simple concrete change that has a major impact. The lives and deaths of chickens are brutal, especially since there are no laws governing their slaughter (they are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act.) And they are small animals so that you only need to skip a few meals of chicken meat to save the life of one animal. It’s the kind of change that can really help new vegans feel that they are making a difference.
From this point, there are any number of steps that new vegans can experiment with. Here are a few that Jack and I suggested in Vegan for Life. Each one brings you a little closer to a vegan diet.
- Make small, easy substitutions:
- Just Mayo or Vegenaise in place of egg-based mayonnaise
- Olive oil and vinegar on salads instead of creamy dressings
- Vegetable broth in place of chicken broth
- Low sodium Worcestershire sauce in place of the regular type (the low sodium kind is usually free of anchovies but you should check the label to be sure).
- Coconut-based ice cream instead of ice cream from cow’s milk.
- Experiment with veggie meats. Some are better than others. I’m a fan of the ones made by Beyond Meat, Gardein, Tofurky and Field Roast. Chopped into soups and stews and sauces, they can be especially helpful for those who are craving the flavor, fat and texture of meat.
- Identify a few good ideas for vegan breakfast.
- Learn to bake without eggs. Invest in a few good dessert cookbooks like Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar or My Sweet Vegan to learn about egg-free baking from the experts. Or check out this vegan baking guide from PETA.
- Learn to live without cheese. It’s a sticking point for a lot of people who want to go vegan—how can they ever give up cheese? One option is to simply omit it and replace it with other umami-rich ingredients. Or try some of the commercial vegan cheeses like Daiya and Field Roast or Tree Line. If you have the time, you can also make your own.
Some changes are easier than others and some take a bit of experimenting. It can help to remind yourself that every time you choose a plant food over meat, dairy or eggs, it makes a difference for animals. When you look at each change that way, it becomes a little easier to move forward with compassionate choices.