The Ultimate Guide To Going Vegan

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The complete guide to going vegan | #GoingVegan #MindfulVegan #VeganTips #VeganYogaLife

Going vegan is something that more and more people are trying these days. While some people go vegan “cold turkey” and others make small changes over time, it is always a process. There is a learning curve, a lot of information to process and incorporate into your daily lifestyle. I thought it would be helpful to create a guide to going vegan that you can follow when you’re just starting out. So let’s start at the beginning. 

Going vegan is something that more and more people are trying these days. While some people go vegan “cold turkey” and others make small changes over time, it is always a process. There is a learning curve, a lot of information to process and incorporate into your daily lifestyle. I thought it would be helpful to create a guide to going vegan that you can follow when you’re just starting out. So let’s start at the beginning. 

What does it mean to be vegan?

A lot of people assume that it only requires changes to your diet. But veganism is about a lot more than that. 

The original definition of the word Veganism is:

Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.

– Donald Watson

I like to share this definition for anyone who is unfamiliar with the original ideals of veganism.

However, I strongly believe in starting where you’re at. If that definition doesn’t sound relatable to you, that’s ok! In fact, the very first thing I recommend for you is to get clear about what going vegan means to you.

The Complete Guide To Going Vegan

1. Figure out your why

When you’re first going vegan, it’s super important to spend a little time figuring out why it’s important to you. 

Many people are trying a plant-based diet to improve their health or to reverse health issues such as high blood pressure or heart disease. 

A lot of people are going vegan to do their part in protecting the planet and reducing their carbon footprint.

And of course, there are people going vegan for ethical reasons.

The actual reason doesn’t really matter so much. What DOES matter is that you give yourself some time to really figure out your reason. Knowing your why, and being equipped with the proper tools and knowledge (forthcoming) is what is going to help you stick with it in the long run.

2. Educate yourself

One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself when you’re first going vegan is to educate yourself. The more you are curious about all of the questions you have, the sooner you can feel confident in the choices you make on a daily basis to support your new healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. The fact that you’re reading this guide to going vegan is a great first step!

The area I recommend to tackle first is to familiarize yourself with the basics of plant-based nutrition so that you will know what to eat. We make decisions about what we put into our bodies multiple times daily, so this is the thing we want to focus on first. It’s important to learn how to do grocery shopping and meal planning effectively so that your lifestyle change can be sustainable budget-wise as well.

Learn about what vegans eat:

So you know that vegans don’t eat animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs. But what DO vegans eat? Vegans follow a plant-based diet which usually focuses on eating minimally processed whole foods.

This diet includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, herbs and spices. With the huge availability of plant foods we can create an endless amount of amazing, delicious and healthful vegan food! Check out this vegan food pyramid for a visual representation of a plant-based diet.

Start collecting vegan recipes to try:

Learn about important ingredients for vegan cooking:

Learn about vegan food substitutions:

Having eating animal products until this point, it’s fair to assume that you’ll want to find replacements for those items that you’ll be eschewing moving forward. Have fun trying out different vegan versions of the foods you sued to eat. I’ve listed out some of my favorite dairy alternatives here for starters.

Make sure your kitchen is properly equipped:

You’ll probably want to try some new recipes so make sure you have the right tools to get the job done. These are my favorite kitchen tools for vegan cooking.

Learn how to get the right nutrients on a vegan diet:

Wondering how vegans get enough protein and other nutrients? Check out these resources for more info and don’t forget to do your own research, too!

Learn how to understand nutrition labels

In the beginning you might find yourself spending extra time examining nutritional labels. To save time, be sure to educate yourself about non-vegan ingredients and how to read nutrition labels to spot them more easily.

Stay curious and keep learning:

Please check out my vegan resources page for other great ways to educate yourself on a vegan lifestyle. There are books, videos, movies and websites that cover topics ranging from diet and nutrition to vegan ethics, environmentalism and sustainability.

3. How to Deal with Resistance

You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, by stamping on it, by railing against it, or by any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine a light on it.

– Shakti Gawain

Chances are you’ve already come into contact with some form of resistance when it comes to going vegan, whether it’s self-inflicted or coming from others. These are the things that threaten to undermine your desire to go vegan and stay vegan. So it’s important to think about these things if you truly want to make the change to a vegan lifestyle.

Resistance that comes from you can often come in the form of excuses. Maybe you’ve been curious about veganism for a long time but made excuses for why it wouldn’t work such as: “It’s too expensive” or “I won’t get enough protein” or “I could never give up cheese.”

Fear can also manifest as resistance. It might not be immediately apparent how fear can be woven into the process of going vegan, but trust me, it’s there. I can tell from my personal experience that it can rear its ugly head in a few different ways such as:

  • Fear of how my lifestyle shift would affect my relationships with friends and family
  • Fear of not being “good enough”
  • Fear of not being able to stick with it

It’s common to perceive resistance in the form of overcoming habits, changing routines and confusion with such a big lifestyle change. 

Just as I asked you before to figure out your why, it’s important to give some thought to the places where you’re feeling resistance. This will give you some insight into where you need more knowledge, support and/or practice.

4. Overcome old habits for sustainable change

If you’ve already decided to go vegan then you’ve probably undergone a huge shift in your thinking in some form or another. You’ll quickly find that deciding to be vegan means adopting a new mindset about many things, not just what you eat. It also means creating new habits and rituals.

Rewiring how we think about food and meals

Like many Americans, when I was growing up I was used to a plate with some sort of meat, poultry or fish and then a couple of side dishes to go along with it. I got pretty used to thinking that was a normal meal. So when I went vegan, I really had to take a step back and think about the big picture when it comes to diet. 

Just because you don’t have a chunk of meat on your plate at every meal doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get enough protein. Instead, it’s important to make sure you’re eating a large variety of whole (unprocessed), plant-based foods.

Going vegan isn’t simply replacing any animal product with a vegan version. Sure, you could do that. But it probably isn’t going to be as satisfying as trying new meals and ways of preparing foods. 

Keeping an open mind about what your plate “should look like” while also exploring new recipes and ingredients will really aid in your ability to truly enjoy a vegan diet.

Adjusting to vegan cooking

Even if you cooked a lot before going vegan it can be a learning process to figure out how to weed out dairy, eggs and other animal products from your diet. 

Many foods are “accidentally” vegan simply because they already contain no animal products. Once you learn how to navigate nutrition labels, it will be easier to spot these foods. I love Facebook groups like this one where everyone shares the vegan items they found at Trader Joe’s. There’s always stuff I never knew about!

Finding your favorite vegan alternatives of meat, dairy and egg products is important. Even though some may say it doesn’t make sense to stop eating [insert random animal product here] only to eating a “fake” version of it. But I feel like this is part of the transition process and to fulfill cravings to keep us on track toward our goal of living a vegan lifestyle. I make TONS of recipes with vegan versions of animal products but it took a little exploration to find the ones I liked best.

In addition to cooking at home as much as possible, there are other considerations that will set you up for success as well, such as planning meals ahead of time, bringing snacks when away from home and traveling, checking restaurant menus or calling ahead before eating out, etc. 

5. Live with Joy & Intention

In my opinion, no guide to going vegan would be complete without talking about mental health and wellbeing.

Ultimately, I view veganism as a way to live more compassionately, which brings more joy into my life. Yes, adopting a vegan diet will likely improve your health. You will probably lessen your environmental impact. And you will DEFINITELY save lives. 

But, whatever your reason is for going vegan, the main thing that will help you stay the course is to find that you are living more joyfully and mindfully. Here a few things that might help set you up for success.

Understanding what veganism is NOT

“We do the best we can. When we know better, we do better.”

– Maya Angelou

  • Veganism is NOT an end in itself, it is a means to an end. It can be easy to get caught up in all of the “rules of being vegan.” You may find yourself worrying that you’re not doing it “right.” That’s when it’s important to remember the reason you went vegan and also the original ideals behind veganism as a movement. Even though this post is a “guide to going vegan,” it’s still important to remember the bigger picture. Simply following some set of rules is not the point.
  • Veganism is NOT martyrdom. Going vegan for ethical reasons doesn’t make someone better than those choosing a vegan lifestyle for other reasons. It’s also important to remember that veganism is not a sacrifice. It’s about choosing to live according to your own values rather than in continue in the status quo and habitual patterns you were raised with.
  • Veganism is NOT a cure for all that ails you. There are lots of promises being made about the benefits you’ll see after going vegan. Yes, you will most likely see positive changes in your life after switching to a more healthful and compassionate lifestyle. But don’t forget that you will only get out what you put in. Simply going vegan will not magically cure all of your problems. And eating a vegan diet isn’t necessarily going to help you lose weight or turn you into the healthiest person ever.

Remembering that it’s ok to not be perfect

The only constant in life is change. We are all constantly learning and growing and changing. Recognizing that shifting to a vegan lifestyle will not happen overnight. It’s a process, not a destination. It’s ok to not know everything. It’s to feel like you’re making mistakes. It’s ok for you to be “trying to go vegan.” 

Something that has always helped me when I feel unsure about something is to just do/say what I know for sure, from my own experience. Saying “I don’t know” is totally fine.

Don’t be so serious!

When we take ourselves too seriously we close off, contract and restrict. When we lighten up, we expand and dilate. We can create a bigger container for our lives. More space and feeling of openness and ease. If you feel like you get overwhelmed with feelings or anxiety, here are some ways to take care of yourself.

  • Write in a journal
  • Find like-minded people to talk to (online forums such as my Facebook Group are great for this! Also check out Meetup.com and the Next Door app to find people in your area to connect with. Or find a vegan date using websites like veggieconnection.com, veggiedate.org
  • Remember to resort to compassion and empathy rather than judgement or comparison. This goes for your attitude toward yourself and others. Everyone has their own path.
  • Channel negative emotions into action. Volunteer for causes that are important to you. (animal rights, environment/sustainability, etc), educate others about veganism, get political and make your voice heard when it comes to legislation that relates to issues you care about.
  • Find a vegan mentor!
  • Attend vegetarian and animal rights conferences
  • Start a vegan potluck or dinner club
  • Meditate. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce anxiety and stress along with many other benefits. I recommend doing a loving kindness meditation to refocus your awareness toward gratitude and abundance.
  • Eat mindfully. This means paying attention when you’re eating and focusing on how it tastes and smells, taking in the colors of the food and the sensations as you chew.
  • Notice abundance. Appreciate the options you have rather than focusing on the things you are avoiding.

Pin this guide to going vegan to read later!

I hope that this guide to going vegan has helped you understand what to expect and give you a plan to follow on your journey. If you have questions or want to get in touch, please leave a comment below, join my Facebook Group and follow me on Instagram for vegan food ideas and recipes.

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