Whether you’re diving headfirst into a vegan diet or making a gradual transition to more plant-based eating, you’ll maximize your chances of success by learning a little bit about nutrition, finding foods you enjoy, and having realistic expectations. Most of the information here comes from the Keys to Success section of Vegan for Life.

Be Smart About Nutrition

It’s easy to meet nutrient needs on a vegan diet but it’s not enough to simply eat a variety of whole plant foods. If you’ve always depended on cow’s milk for calcium and meat for protein, you need to learn new ways to get these and other nutrients. The Vegan for Life Food Guide will get you started and you’ll find more information in my nutrition primers and in this comprehensive article. Make sure you’re taking the supplements you need to stay healthy on your vegan diet.

Eat the Foods You Enjoy

Yes, a focus on whole foods is good, but it doesn’t mean you can’t cook with oil, or eat regular pasta, or enjoy a veggie burger. Don’t make it difficult to eat a vegan diet by adopting unnecessary restrictions. Some vegans eat high carb diets and some like a little more fat in their menus. Find what works for you. Take advantage of vegan convenience foods if you find them helpful, and don’t be fearful about enjoying a few treats.

Focus on a Vegan Ethic

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 lessens your impact on climate change.

Satisfy Your Cravings

Veggie meats and cheeses can be an effective for adding back flavors and textures that you may miss when you go vegan. Experiment to find ones you enjoy. Also explore foods that offer the flavor/essence of umami. Animal foods are rich in umami, but you can find it in plant foods as well.

Put Lapses Into Perspective

Veganism is a stance against the exploitation of animals and every effort you make to put it into practice is good. If you’re just getting started, your habits and choices may not always keep up with your intentions. It doesn’t make you a “failed vegan.” Veganism isn’t a personal purity contest, so don’t give up on it when perfect choices elude you. Keep making changes and keep moving forward. It truly will get easier over time.