Top 5 tips for vegetarians who want to go vegan

Top 5 tips for vegetarians who want to go vegan | Get your FREE vegan meal planning checklist at VeganYogaLife.com

I was vegetarian for a few years before I went vegan. In fact, this blog used to be called What Vegetarians Eat before I decided to switch the name to something a bit more relevant – Vegan Yoga Life.

I still remember the last time I ate cheese. It was New Year’s Day and I was with my friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I ordered cheese enchiladas. And they were glorious.

The following day I had a little free time when no one else was home and randomly decided to watch a documentary on Netflix called Vegucated. That was the day I went vegan. I simply had no other choice.

Now before I give all of the credit to a single documentary, I want to point out that many seeds had been planted over the years. I had previously worked at a company that shared an office building with a Los Angeles PETA office. I had a good friend who was vegetarian with whom I had several discussions with over the years.

I even looked into vegetarianism when researching health and fitness a few years previously, which led me down the rabbit hole of many documentaries…Food Inc, Forks Over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. And from there I found my way to Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat To Live. This is the book that really helped me make the decision to go vegetarian. I realized at the time that his book was essentially touting a plant-based diet, though there was really no mention of the word “vegan” from what I can remember. But even still, the best I thought I could do at that time was “mostly vegetarian” which some fish here and there.

Looking back, I realize that this limiting belief was most probably due to the fact that I just “loved cheese too much”… and I was simply unaware of – or unable to recognize the truth about – the plight of animals in the dairy and egg industries.

So by the time I watched Vegucated on Netflix that fateful day, I had already been eating a mostly vegetarian diet for a few years.I have to say, at that point I was pretty darn proud of myself for being a vegetarian. I figured that I was no longer contributing to harm against animals and felt like I was helping the world be better place. Not to mention, I was also healthier, too!

I had proven to myself that it wasn’t actually so hard to give up meat, which was something I had grown up believing as many Americans do, was an essential part of a healthy diet. 

My view of a healthy diet had shifted in this way, which had already set the groundwork for my ability to understand that things aren’t always as they seem. If I had been so implicitly wrong about something as ingrained in my culture and lifestyle as eating meat then wouldn’t it stand to reason that there were other things I could have backwards?

So when I was confronted with the truth about the dairy and egg industries I was so shocked that I had major anxiety the entire night.

How could I not have known? I had lots of feelings. I felt so fooled. So disappointed. So…angry.

I didn’t feel better until I finally realized that there was simply no other choice but to go vegan. 

I knew I would encounter resistance. In the form of food cravings, a vegan cooking learning curve, naysayers and skeptics, etc. And so I started doing my research.

In the years since making the decision to go vegan I’ve learned a lot. It may not have always been easy, but I never regret making the decision. And that’s why I’m SO passionate to help others along their journey as well.

My goal is not to convince or “convert” anyone. My goal is to educate, empower and inspire those who are interested in adopting a vegan diet and/or lifestyle.

If you’re curious about going vegan but you have questions or insecurities, then you’re in the right place! I know that it can seem daunting in the beginning and that’s why I’ve put together this list of my things that really helped me (and things I learned/discovered later that I wish I’d known back when I started).

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Top 5 tips for vegetarians who want to go vegan

1. Figure out your why

When making any big change or going after a new goal, it’s important to understand your intentions behind it by getting really clear with what you are hoping to receive in exchange for your efforts. This is going to improve your ability to stay on track towards your goals by serving as grounding energy that you can always come back to if you start to feel overwhelmed, unclear or stuck.

Maybe you want to cut dairy and eggs out of your diet for health reasons. Maybe you had an experience similar to mine where you feel it is the only way forward. Whatever it is, get really clear about why you want to go vegan. It can help to write it down in a journal that you can refer back to on a regular basis or on a piece of paper that you tape to the mirror so you’ll see it every morning. 

2. Save money by eating whole foods

Whole foods are defined as those that have been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances. (Journal of the American College of Nutrition)

We’re so lucky these days that it’s super easy to find amazing vegan products in most stores and the options are almost endless if you look online (like Vegan Cuts, for example). There are creative new vegan products popping up all the time (like the Vegan Egg from Follow Your Heart). And I get beyond thrilled when I see companies like Ben & Jerry’s releasing dairy-free ice cream – WHAT!?

However, the primary problem with buying a bunch of these kinds of “novelty” products, is that it really starts to add up quick. For the cost of one pint of vegan Chunky Monkey and box of Pizza Flavored Mac n’ Cheese I could buy all of the ingredients required for a pot of minestrone soup that has 10+ servings. A night of binging on vegan junk food is ok every once in a while, but if you’re trying to stick to a budget, limiting how many of these packaged products you buy if essential.

The secondary problem is that even though we’re spending a good chunk on these products, they won’t go as far as a meal prepared with whole foods. That’s because, generally speaking, packaged foods are not as nutrient-dense as whole food. They’re not going to be packed with as many micronutrients even if it’s something that’s made with healthy ingredients. Take chips “made of vegetables” for example. There will have been essential nutrients stripped away during processing, making it less nutritious than it’s whole vegetable counterpart, even though it costs three times as much!

When you buy packaged food, you’re also paying a premium for the brand name and marketing(I used to work at an advertising agency and I know first-hand that companies spent A LOT of money trying to get you to buy their stuff and then they pass that cost on to you!), production, packaging, etc.

Bottom line is…when you buy whole foods over processed products, the food goes WAY further which gives your wallet a break.

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3. Plan ahead

If you’re already vegetarian, you may be a step ahead of the rest when going vegan since you’ve already been eating a meat-free diet. However, there is still a learning curve to cooking without dairy and eggs. I know that after deciding to stop eating meat I tended to rely even more on things like cheese to give my food flavor. It’s not uncommon to have cravings for things like cheese. Did you know that it’s literally addictive? The way to combat cravings is to be always prepared with food, snacks or at the very least – a plan.

Maybe this means always having something around the house that you actually want to eat so that when you get busy and don’t feel like making dinner there’s still something to eat.

Maybe this means when you leave for work in the morning you already have an apple, some raw almonds and cliff bar in your bag for when you’re stuck in traffic on the way home and you have the temptation to pull into a fast food drive-thru.

Maybe this means when you’re going out to your friend’s birthday dinner you check the restaurant’s menu or call ahead of time to see what vegan options they have. Sometimes they’re willing to make accommodations that aren’t listed on the menu and by calling ahead you can be prepared by knowing exactly what to order without having to ask the server a million questions.

4. Find your favorite treats

I always encourage basing your diet on whole, plant foods, which have been minimally processed. Whole foods are PACKED with nutrients and it’s easier to get more of these into your diet – without any unnecessary added ingredients – when you’re preparing meals yourself.

All of that being said, I still encourage you to test out different products and find some easy alternatives for those you will no longer be using in your vegan diet. Just because you’re nixing dairy and eggs doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your favorite foods! Give yourself some leeway in the beginning to test out different plant-based alternatives to dairy and egg-based products such as vegan cheeses, milks, desserts, etc.

Having some of these products around can help you out when you have a craving for something familiar and you want a simple vegan ingredient trade. For me that sometimes looks like grilled cheese with Chao slices, Daiya mac n’ cheese or Ben & Jerry’s dairy-free ice creams. (check out my favorite vegan “dairy” alternatives here)

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5. Focus on abundance

A few days after I decided to go vegan I started to think more and more about the things that I was cutting out of my diet. Things like cheese and ice cream….some of my favorite foods were going away – FOREVER!

It’s very possible that you’re dealing with the exact same thing right about now. So how do you deal with those feelings of fear and insecurity when making such a big lifestyle change? The key is in your mindset and attitude.

Focus on shifting your attitude from scarcity to abundance.

When you focus on all of the things you are cutting out of your diet, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed and limited. It’s because you’re lining your energy up with scarcity and feelings of lack.

But when you make the conscious choice to focus on all of the new things that you will be learning and trying, things start to seem a lot more exciting again. Recognizing the wealth of options in your new lifestyle will aline your energy with abundance and possibility.

By cutting out dairy and eggs and incorporating more whole plant foods, you’ll probably also start rediscover the taste of these foods without a ton of added salt and sugar. I remember starting to recognize how much flavor and even sweetness vegetables had when they weren’t doused in butter or cream sauces.

Another area in my life that thrived after going vegan was a greater appreciation for all living beings. I felt like my capacity for empathy was increased exponentially and I even enjoyed an even closer bond with my companion animals (two cats I had previously adopted).

By focusing on the positive effects of your newly adopted vegan lifestyle, you will find it easier to release some of your old habits and tendencies. And by redirecting your thoughts toward abundance all around you will help you live more joyfully.

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