Whether you are diving head first into a vegan lifestyle for the new year, or beginning a transition to veganism over the next months, here are seven tips to increase your chances of success.
Learn About Nutrition
You don’t have to know a lot, but you need to know something. The idea that simply eating a variety of whole plant foods will magically meet your needs for protein, calcium, iron and other nutrients is not true and it is dangerous advice. For quick overviews on the basics, see my Plant Plate, my Vegan 101 series on this website, these Tips for New Vegans, and this more comprehensive article on vegan nutrition.
Moderate Your Expectations.
You will not “detox,” when you go vegan and your body is not “addicted” to dairy. You may crave these foods (more on that below) but that is different from having actual withdrawal symptoms.
Likewise, you may or may not experience weight loss or health benefits when you go vegan. If your blood pressure and cholesterol levels drop (and they very well might) those are nice bonuses. But if you somehow don’t find yourself with more energy, clear skin, and the slender waist you were expecting, it doesn’t mean a vegan diet “doesn’t work.” A vegan diet always works because it always reduces your contribution to animal exploitation and it lessens your impact on climate change.
Satisfy Your Cravings
Veggie meats and cheeses can be effective for adding back flavors and textures that you may miss when you go vegan. They vary a lot in quality, which means you may need to experiment to find ones that you enjoy. Here is a good list to get you started. Also explore foods that offer the flavor/essence known as umami. Animal foods are rich in umami, but you can find it in plant foods as well. Finally, don’t limit the culinary possibilities of a vegan diet by getting caught up in fad versions of plant-based diets like those that drastically limit fats or cooked foods. These approaches have no particular advantages over other vegan eating styles, and they can make it more difficult to find foods you enjoy.
Start with What is Easiest
Probably the easiest choice you can make in your transition to a vegan diet is to replace cow’s milk with some type of plant milk. Because plant milks are used in the exact same ways as cow’s milk, you don’t need to learn anything new. Pouring oat milk over your morning cereal is just as easy as pouring cow’s milk over it. And given the variety of these milks on the market, it’s easy enough to find ones you like.
Also Start with What is Most Impactful
The single most important dietary change you can make is to remove the meat and eggs of chickens and turkeys from your menus. These animals suffer greatly in food production and they suffer in huge numbers. Eliminating the products of the chicken and turkey industries is the most immediate and effective stance against that suffering that you can take.
Honor Your Intentions and Efforts
Veganism is a stance against the exploitation of animals. It’s not a personal purity contest. Any effort to move your consumption habits away from animal exploitation is significant. If you lapse in your food choices now and then, it doesn’t mean you are a “failed vegan.” It means your habits sometimes lag behind your ideals and intentions, which is true for most of us in many areas of our lives. In particular, this may happen in social situations for new vegans. But as the world shifts toward embracing more vegan ideals and offering more vegan choices, it will get easier. Whatever you are doing to enable that shift is of value. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive toward making as many vegan choices as possible. It just means that you shouldn’t berate yourself or give up on veganism when you falter.
Explore Vegan Choices Beyond Your Diet
If you are struggling with some aspect of your vegan diet, put it aside for now and explore some of the other ways you can address animal exploitation. Download an app that will help you find cruelty-free personal care products. Cancel your family trip to the zoo or circus or aquarium and head to an animal sanctuary instead. You truly have choices every single day to make a difference for animals. Don’t get fixated on what is most difficult, but instead keep moving forward with all the things you can do.