We know a healthy outside starts from the inside and one of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health, boost energy levels, and prevent chronic diseases is to move to a plant-based diet. If you’ve seen Forks Over Knives, you know that science shows changing your nutrition is a powerful way to live longer, help the environment, and reduce your risk of getting sick.
You’re probably thinking that moving to a plant-based diet sounds like a great idea, but you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place—we’ve got the tools, insight, and expertise to make the change easy and enjoyable. We’ll answer your questions, provide helpful advice, and share the techniques you need.
Follow these tips to make the change to a successful vegan diet:
1. State your intent
You’ve already come up with your own reasons for starting a plant-based diet – now state your intent. You can do this by writing your intention on a sticky note and putting it up somewhere or writing it on your bathroom mirror so it’s visible each day. The goal here is to be conscious at all times of why you’ve decided to become vegan. This will help when times get tough (and it does get tough, particularly where cravings for your old comfort foods are concerned).
2. Start slowly
Don’t rush into becoming vegan by instantly transitioning from a meat-based diet to consuming only plants, otherwise you may be setting yourself up for failure. Lasting lifestyle changes are thoughtfully considered and executed well. Some advice here: start by adding more vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains to your diet and then take it step-by-step and day-by-day as you find recipes and meals you like and can cook with confidence. You might start with removing meat from your diet once a week and having a meatless day (Meat-Free Mondays!) or you may try going a whole week first (Meat Free Week!). Over time, you should challenge yourself to increase these meatless days, letting your body become accustomed to a new way of eating.
3. Do your research
As you transition from a meat diet to veganism, do your research to find out what foods you can swap in as replacements for the foods you usually eat. If cheese is a big part of your diet, and one of your favorite foods, online research will show you that cashew-based vegan cheese make a great substitution. Or if bacon is your Sunday go-to for breakfast, you’ll quickly learn that “mushroom” bacon is just as tasty and satisfying. Remember your eco-friendly reasons for not having that meat burger and revel in eating the lentil burger that helps to reduce your carbon footprint – and save animal lives. Some great resources for preparing plant-based meals include Minimalist Baker, Deliciously Ella and Oh She Glows.
4. Find a vegan buddy or community
Find a friend who wants to start a plant-based diet just like you. It’s much easier for two of you to hold each other accountable and support each other through those early days when you’re craving meat. You can also encourage each other so you stick to your eating plan as you make the transition to a vegan lifestyle. You will find many vegan communities on Facebook such as Vegan for Her, What Broke Vegans Eat, Vegans in Australia if you’re looking for like-minded friends, advice and recommendations and a support network to help you transition.
5. Don’t let outside factors influence you
If your reason for going vegan is to lose weight and/or improve your health, don’t let outside factors influence how you’re feeling about the results. Everyone is different – you may be losing weight slower than someone else but remember that the journey will look different for everyone, and you’ll lose weight at your own pace. Keep track of your own progress in a journal so you can see the great strides you’re making.
6. Cooking at home
During the transition phase, as you become familiar and accustomed to being vegan, try to cook your meals at home. This gives you greater control over your diet – you’ll know exactly what’s going into each meal. Cooking at home also lets you make substitutions based on your own preferences. If you’ve learned that cashew cheese is great on homemade pizza, you’re the one who can make that happen.
7. Have a plan for eating out
It’s inevitable that you’ll want to eat out and when you do, it’s important that you have a plan in place for dining in restaurants. Know what to look for when you’re browsing through the menu – look for vegetable dishes as well as others to see if you can make them vegan. For instance, in a Greek restaurant, choose hummus and pita bread or vegetable dolmades. If possible, find a menu online before booking a table at a restaurant so that you’re confident there are meals you can eat when you get there. And when you are at a restaurant, it doesn’t hurt to ask wait staff for their advice on menu items that can be prepared vegan
8. Seek out vegan restaurants
Even smaller cites have caught on that vegans are here to stay. Look for vegan restaurants where you live or if you’re traveling. If a vegan option is unavailable, find one that’s vegetarian as they can usually make meals animal product free. Larger cities have a great selection of vegan places to eat, many with amazing menus as chefs specialize in meatless cooking. Download free apps such as HappyCow and PlantEaters as they will help you track your next vegan meal wherever you are in the world.
9. Be prepared to put in the work
Becoming vegan doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take time to make the move from a meat and dairy filled diet to one that’s loaded with plants and plant products. You need to learn what you can eat and what’s off limits. Even when you’ve successfully made the transition to being vegan, you’ll still need to put in the work by planning your meals, prepping and cooking, and learning all you can about a vegan lifestyle, from choosing vegan beauty products to buying vegan fashion. The ‘Vegan Style‘ book by Sascha Camilli is a handy guide book if you are looking to build a stylish, cruelty-free lifestyle.