So you have just started your vegan journey or maybe you’re only thinking about it. Although it can be an easy transition for some, it can be challenging for others. What am I going to cook? Should I give everything up at once? What if I get off track? Here are the 25 Best Tips for New Vegans that can help make your switch to a vegan diet easier.
Best Tips for Getting Started
1. Transition slowly.
From both personal experience and countless stories from other vegans, the easiest way to transition is to do it slowly. If you eliminate all meat, seafood, dairy and eggs all at once, it’s going to be challenging to figure out what to eat for every meal. I recommend a 4 step process.
- First, eliminate all meat.
- Next, stop eating seafood.
- Third, stop eating eggs.
- Lastly, eliminate all dairy.
Take as much time as you need for each step as there is no right or wrong way. Just take it at your own pace. For more detailed steps, click HERE.
2. Find a takeout place or restaurant that has good vegan options for when you’re stuck for dinner.
It can be hard to figure out what to make for dinner for anyone, no matter how you eat. Find restaurants that have vegan options in case you don’t have any time to make dinner or you just don’t know what to make. You don’t need to find a restaurant that’s 100% vegan. Most restaurants have a few options on their menu that don't contain animal products.
When looking for vegan-friendly restaurants, your best choice might be international cuisine. Mexican food is probably the easiest to eat vegan. There are lots of vegetables, beans, rice and wonderful seasonings. Most kinds of Asian cuisines are very light on dairy although you do need to be careful about fish sauce which is frequently used. Just check when you are ordering. Italian food is often full of cheese so it’s not always the best choice.
3. Make some vegan treats to ease the transition.
Yes, many people go vegan for their health so why would I recommend making treats? When you are completely changing the way you eat and maybe giving up some favorite foods, having a little treat goes a long way. I’m not saying to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream every day…although their vegan ice cream is amazing! But it’s not a bad idea to make a batch of vegan cookies and have one or two and have some to share.
4. Check out your local Trader Joes or Whole Foods for quick and easy meals.
Hopefully you have a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s somewhere nearby. These two grocery stores have an abundance of vegan products, especially in the frozen section. Stock up on quick and easy meals so you always have something ready. Trader Joes has ready made meals in their refrigerated section as well. Whole Foods had a large prepared food bar with many vegan options.
5. Figure out if you need to take a supplement.
There is only one supplement that is essential to vegans and that is Vitamin B12. Find yourself a supplement to take regularly. You can even find vegan gummies! However, some foods are also fortified with the vitamin B12 so you may not have to take another supplement. I drink soy milk daily which provides 100% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin B12 so I do not need to take a supplement. Some vegans also rely on nutritional yeast to supply some B12. Nutritional yeast (also known as nooch) is used in recipes to provide a cheesy flavor.
6. Find your favorite non-dairy milk.
There are so many non-dairy milk options. There are classics like soy milk and rice milk. But there are also lots of nut milks such as almond, hazelnut, walnut, and more. And don’t forget about oat milk, coconut milk and hemp milk. There are pros and cons to every milk. Some are better for baking while others are better for savory dishes.
My favorite milk to use is Silk Unsweetened Soy Milk. It has a lot of protein, essential nutrients, and it works well in any type of cooking. Wander around your local grocery store and see what options are there. For more information about the different types of vegan milk, click HERE.
7. Don’t be hard on yourself if you make a mistake.
Whether you accidentally ate something with meat in it or you grabbed some non-vegan fast food when you couldn’t figure out what to make for dinner, it’s not a big deal. The worst thing to do is just give up. Instead, get right back into your vegan lifestyle and carry on. If you want to read more on the Perfection Myth, click HERE.
Best Tips for Cooking for New Vegans
8. Substitute fake meat into your favorite recipes.
Meat alternatives aren't the healthiest to eat all the time. But they do make meat substitutes that taste like the real thing. (With the exception of bacon!) While you don’t want to completely build your meals around fake meat, having a Beyond Burger now and again is fine. And it can be delicious! If you can work vegan alternatives into a few of your favorite recipes, you already have some options that you know you'll enjoy.
9. Don’t try to recreate cheese-heavy recipes.
While it’s easy to recreate recipes with a vegan version of meat, it’s not the same for recipes using a ton of cheese. Some dairy alternatives are better than others. Vegan butter and milk have lots of great options. But cheese...not as much.
Yes, there are a lot of vegan cheeses out there. Some vegan cheese tastes pretty good, too. If you use a little bit of cheese in a recipe, it can work. But don’t try to recreate your favorite mac and cheese. It will not taste the same...at least not yet. I’m not saying that there aren’t any tasty vegan mac and cheese recipes out there. But they are not going to have the same mouth feel or taste as you’re used to. It’s better to just steer clear of those kinds of recipes…especially at first.
10. Try cooking international foods.
Some types of cuisine rely less on meat, seafood, eggs and dairy than others. When looking for vegan recipes (similar to restaurants), your best bet might be International cuisine. Step out of your comfort zone and don't be intimidated! It's fun to experiment with new spices and seasonings. Think about a simple veggie lo mein or a fried rice dish. They are easy to make and delicious to eat.
11. Find a few easy recipes and rotate them frequently at first.
In the beginning, just find a few recipes to make and rotate them throughout your week. Pasta with marinara sauce and a side of veggies is a quick and tasty meal. There are lots of delicious vegan soups that you can serve with crusty bread. Find a few recipes for everyday meals and just repeat them. You can slowly add more and more to the rotation as you go.
12. Eat leftovers for lunch.
This might be my favorite tip. I don’t want to spend a ton of time every day figuring out lunch and dinner. It’s so much easier to just make enough at dinner to have leftovers for the next day. I don’t think I ate leftovers too much before going vegan. Now, they’re my favorite. It’s great to already have some tasty food in the fridge ready to be heated up for lunch. No thinking needed!
13. Find an easy breakfast to eat every day.
I don’t know about you, but mornings are hard. I just want a quick breakfast that’s full of protein and nutrition to set me up for the day. This might not be for everyone, but I eat the same exact breakfast every day. Before, I used to eat a smoothie with protein powder but I’ve switched to a less processed breakfast smoothie. Mine is made up of soy milk, peanut powder (or peanut butter), and frozen banana. I actually love having the same breakfast every day as it’s one less meal decision to make. You don’t need to eat the same exact thing, but having a few options to choose from each day makes mornings easier.
14. Start to meal plan.
If you plan your meals in advance, you are setting yourself up for success. Spend some time one day a week coming up with meal ideas for the week and create your shopping list. You’ll waste less produce and time if you plan in advance and your week will run smoother too. It’s hard to carve out the time, but it’s well worth it.
15. Join recipe groups on Facebook and look to Pinterest for ideas.
There is a whole helpful community on Facebook that’s ready to help you. Join some groups for beginner vegans or vegan recipes for some great ideas. Pinterest is also a great place to look for recipes.
Best Tips for Inspiration
16. Watch a great documentary.
Many people are inspired to go vegan after watching a documentary and there are many great ones out there. Some of my favorites are:
- What the Health? Check out my review HERE.
- The Game Changers
- Forks Over Knives
- Food Inc.
- In Defense of Food
17. Read a book about becoming vegan.
It can be very helpful to read a book or two about all the reasons to become vegan. Some of the best books are:
- How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
- The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Thomas Campbell
- The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World by John Robbins
- Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
- How to Go Vegan by Veganuary
18. Buy a great cookbook or get one from the library.
Sometimes a cookbook can be a great form of inspiration. The new recipes matched with gorgeous pictures can help keep you excited about your new lifestyle. There are cookbooks for any type of vegan cooking: crock pot, barbeque, raw, quick and easy, southern style, desserts, and many more. I love desserts and my favorite vegan dessert cookbook is Chloe’s Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli. It’s fun to walk around a bookstore and gaze at all the vegan cookbooks.
19. Visit an animal sanctuary.
Not everyone goes vegan for the animals, but many do. If you are an animal lover, it may help you to visit an animal sanctuary. Seeing these beautiful rescued animals living out their lives in a non-violent way, not waiting to be made into food, will help you keep your resolve. To find one, click HERE for a list of animal sanctuaries in the United States.
20. Find a few vegan bloggers to follow.
There is a large vegan community online. There are a lot of great vegan bloggers out there who are constantly putting out new content and information. Find a few of your favorites and check back frequently to see what’s new. They are a great source for new recipes!
21. If you can, join a CSA or shop at a farmers market.
I’ve joined a local CSA in my area. It’s a great way to get fresh fruits and vegetables right from a farm and support local businesses. I also love getting vegetables that I might not be very familiar with and figuring out ways to prepare them. Going to a farmer’s market will also provide you access to fresh produce.
Best Tips For the Long Haul
22. Don’t think “I’ll never have _____ again”. Focus on what you can have.
When starting something new, it’s best to take it day by day. If you think about your life without your favorite non-vegan food, it might then seem impossible. Instead, focus on all the new foods you’ve discovered that you love. With time, you'll no longer crave those foods that you once ate anyway.
23. Make new holiday food traditions or find vegan versions of the ones you have.
Holidays can be challenging for new vegans. You might think about all your favorite foods that you’re missing. The key is to either veganize your favorite recipes or find new ones. I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for many years. Once I became vegetarian, I just didn’t eat the turkey or gravy and substituted vegetable broth for chicken broth in my recipes.
Then I became vegan. We still serve turkey but also I make a vegan roast. Many of my side dishes are easily veganized. I also sometimes make vegan and non-vegan versions of the same food, like mashed potatoes. It’s really not that challenging and the newer vegans in my extended family appreciate the options.
24. Connect with other vegans in your area.
It can be hard to go vegan on your own. If you don’t know any vegans, connect with some like minded people online. There are great Facebook vegan groups that connect vegans from a certain area. This is incredibly helpful for restaurant recommendations among other things.
25. Remember your WHY.
If you are new and struggling, it’s best to think about why you made this life change in the first place. Are you doing it for your health? Are you worried about the state of the planet? Do you love animals and can’t stomach their torture? These reasons are more important than your desire to eat a fried chicken sandwich.
It can be challenging to go vegan on your own without any support but there's a whole community out there to help. Either online, in book form or in a documentary, there are a ton of great resources. There are bloggers to follow and new restaurants to try. There are so many recipes for delicious vegan food just out there waiting for you to discover them. Going vegan is good for you, the planet and the animals. You've made a great decision! Stick with it and you will be making a difference.