Vegan How To: Part 1 (How To Make The Transition)

221 comments

{Catching up? See the Introduction, Part 1: Making the transition (this post), Part 2: Replacing Dairy Milk, Part 3: Homemade Oat Milk, Part 4: Homemade Almond Milk, Part 5:  Ten Tips for eating out as a vegan}

After seeing your comments and emails pour in on Monday and Tuesday, I’m so thankful I took the plunge with my new Vegan How To series. What a great way to kick off 2013. We’re already starting conversations about important topics. While I can’t promise to have answers to all your questions, I can share my experiences with you and encourage you to do the same. There are many things we can learn from each other so let’s talk, share, and get inspired!

Today’s topic is about making the transition to a vegan diet. What I’ve written below is what has worked for me, so take this with a grain of salt – everyone’s experience will be different (and I’d love you to share yours below!). It’s also worth repeating that I’m not a nutrition/health professional and my opinions/experiences should not be substituted for medical advice. Always consult your doc before making any diet/lifestyle changes.

How I made the transition to a vegan diet (in a somewhat condensed nutshell, but not really because I’m chatty):

1. Slow and Steady

I’ve never been the type of person who rushes into anything. Eric and I dated for 8 years before we got hitched. I’m turning 30 this year and I don’t feel close to being ready for motherhood. It took me a year to finally start this how-to series. You get the point. It doesn’t help that Eric is the exact. same. way. We can barely decide what laundry detergent to buy let alone make major life decisions. On the bright side, the decisions I do make are often long-lasting and my transition to a vegan diet was no different. I was in recovery for an eating disorder and looking to make some positive changes to my diet. After all, I had lived off of processed, fat-free, artificially-sweetened diet foods for years and I knew it was taking a toll on my health. I suffered from IBS and other digestive issues, so per my doc’s suggestions I experimented with reducing my consumption of meat and dairy to see if it would make a difference. When I started to shift away from all that dairy I was eating, I felt better, my skin started to clear up, and many of my digestive issues decreased. I was never a huge meat eater to begin with, so that part wasn’t as difficult for me, although it was still a challenge. Overtime, I really had no reason to go back to my old diet, even though giving up certain foods like cheese proved to be very difficult (more on this in a future post). When I’m asked what worked for me, I always say baby steps. Yes, it’s a cliché, but small changes really add up over time!

This isn’t to say that going cold-turkey won’t work for you – many people go cold-turkey with diet/lifestyle changes and are successful with it.  That just wasn’t my approach. I think it comes down to your personality and what you think will work best for you.

2. Stock your pantry

A well-stocked pantry is one of the keys to success, especially in the beginning. We need options and fuel! And by options and fuel, I don’t mean the dry lettuce and tomato salads that restaurants often try to entice me with. How about fresh produce, legumes, herbs/spices, quinoa, rolled oats, edamame, and almond milk to name a few. I wrote a post a while ago called “My Vegan Pantry“, listing the most common foods I have stocked in my cupboards from dried beans to vinegar and everything in between. I do need to update the post, but I still hope it’s helpful for you. Keep in mind that some of the items are my baking ingredients and not what I would consider “necessities” by any means.

IMG_1981_thumb

When I first made the transition I stocked my fridge with mock meat and dairy products like Tofurkey slices, vegan sour cream, and TVP crumbles. Yes, if you go back in time on my blog, you might come across the odd Tofurkey sandwich! The truth is, I had no idea how to eat a fulfilling, vibrant, and healthy diet on my own without these substitution foods. I wasn’t wrong for eating them, I just didn’t have all of the knowledge I needed at the time. I didn’t feel great eating these products, or at least, I didn’t feel as great as I did without them. Eventually, I discovered how to thrive on a vegan diet without relying on them, but I do recognize they were helpful for me in the early stages.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a big bowl of lentils and tomato sauce was much more satisfying than mock deli meat from a box. Once I made this connection, it got easier and easier.

3. Be your own teacher

If you think that I grew up learning to cook and bake, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Four years ago, I had no idea how to cook dry lentils or so much as roast a batch of root vegetables. I could barely dice an onion for the life of me! This meant I had to teach myself how to prepare almost all of the foods I now enjoy. I did a lot of reading, Googling, watching cooking shows, devouring cookbooks, and searching You Tube for how-to videos. Little did I know, this girl who used to survive on diet foods would soon find a passion in food and cooking like never before. So can you.

Along the same lines, it’s good to research the nutritional aspects of a vegan diet. There are many books out there now with this information to help guide you. I also recommend checking out Forks Over Knives for an inspirational documentary on the benefits of a plant-based diet.

4. Focus on what you add, not take away

As I mentioned in my first post, I eventually learned that a vegan diet is really about what I add and not what I take away. The more I focused on all the new foods I was trying, I really didn’t feel like I was missing out at all. My diet used to be so limited and boring, lacking in colourful produce, and inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of foods I can eat on a plant-based diet. If you are feeling stuck in a rut, challenge yourself to try one new food a week and pick a recipe to make with it. There are so many recipes and tutorials available online that make cooking new foods a breeze. Or better yet, start a food blog to document your new journey! Having accountability online is a great motivator and you get to meet other like-minded friends.

5. Don’t expect perfection

I have slipped up on my vegan diet just like many of you have. Guess what? We are human! My advice is to focus on all the amazing choices you’ve made to date instead of that time when you slipped up. No matter what kind of diet you eat, every time you chose plants over animals you are making a difference. For me, this journey has been easier and easier as the years go by. The cravings I once had are much, much less. Instead of craving the old foods, I now crave the new foods that I eat. It’s amazing how the taste buds can adapt when you give them a chance.

6. Get support

Find friends who want to take this journey with you. I didn’t know any vegans until I met many friends online through reading other blogs and going to meet ups. It’s important to have a support system. Join clubs, recipe groups, meet ups, and attend conferences. I’m going to my first vegan conference (Vida Vegan Con) in May and I’m so excited to meet new friends in this community.

7. Pack food

When I leave the house for long periods of time, I always pack snacks or meals with me. Whether it’s an afternoon out or a few days at the in laws, I plan ahead and bring food. You can always find a couple energy bars in the bottom of my purse on any given day! Most days I don’t need them, but I feel great knowing I have a healthy snack on me in case the hunger monster strikes.

Well, I could go on and on, but since this is already quite wordy I will pass it over to you!

What’s your approach when making a change – slow and steady or cold-turkey?

How did you make the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet? What strategies worked for you?

Have you read any books or watched any movies that helped you with the transition?

Are you making changes to your diet right now? What are you doing to make the transition easier?

For Part 2, see Replacing Dairy Milk

Let's get social! Follow Angela on Instagram (@ohsheglows + @theglowspot), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Google+

Previous Posts

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Page 5 of 5«12345
Sandra Croley February 13, 2017

The idea of trying to become more plant-based is a new one for me, so I think it would be a good idea to try one or two meatless days a week, to start. I think it will be hard to convince my husband, although he very open to new foods. I think it will be more successful to try interesting recipes little by little til it we have gradually made a change. In the last year, I’ve cut most dairy and sugar out of my diet and feel pretty good. I am sensitive to almonds and wonder what your recommended substitute for almond milk would be?

Reply

Angela Liddon March 31, 2017

I think a slow and steady transition to a plant-based diet is a great idea, Sandra–that’s how I did it! And it sounds like you’re doing great with your goals so far. :) In terms of a substitution for almond milk, there are lots of other plant-based milks out there for you to try. Store-bought soy milk or cashew milk are two alternate options, for example. You could also try something homemade like my Coffee Shop-Worthy Hazelnut Milk (which calls for almonds, but you can omit those and replace them with more hazelnuts). Hope this helps!

Reply

Shelby June 7, 2017

There’s all sorts of milk products made from different nuts. I really like Silk’s cashew milk, and there is always soy milk as well (although you want to keep the soy in moderation). There’s coconut milk as well made by Silk that isn’t the creamiest, but it is definitely tasty.

Reply

Sarah Robertson May 25, 2016

Hi Angela!

Brilliant post! I have been vegan for 1 week and 3 days and went cold turkey! Something just clicked in me where I wanted to make the change so just committed to it! I may have some slips ups this way but as you said everyone is human!
I am so thankful for your blog as I do not know any vegans or even vegetarians! So I am depending on the internet for information quite a lot, and learning everything from my own research! It has been a lot of fun so far and I feel brilliant!
Cant wait for my first vegan festival in Maidstone, Kent, UK in July! Hoping to make some friends in this brilliant community!
Thanks again,
Sarah xxx

Reply

Angela Liddon May 25, 2016

Hi Sarah, I am so glad you’ve been enjoying the transition to a vegan diet so far! It’s wonderful you’ve been finding my blog helpful, and I hope you continue to find lots of recipe inspiration here. Wishing you all the best as you make this journey! :)

Reply

Sarah Robertson May 27, 2016

Thank you Angela! I have tried and loved your Burrito bowl, the Alfredo pasta is next! Burgers at the weekend too! This is such a positive journey to be happy, healthy and confident and I am hoping this will inspire those around to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle! We shall see! Have a lovely day and weekend =D xxx

Reply

Ashley April 1, 2016

Hi Angela,

Some great tips to become vegan! Thank you for spreading the word on veganism! Together lets help make the world a better place a step at a time!

Ashley x
theveganapprentice.com

Reply

Corrine January 27, 2016

Hi Angela,

Thank you for your honesty about your transition and what worked for you. I recently became vegan (took the cold turkey route), but I have found that I need to be more creative in the kitchen. My refrigerator always looks the same, and there isn’t any excitement with my meals. Tempeh and seitan have become staple items for me, but my meals need more vibrancy. I’m glad I made the decision to go vegan, but I also don’t want it to be boring. Seeing your blog and the many creations you’ve come up with let’s me know this is totally doable and I can have fun with this lifestyle. Thanks so much!

Reply

Gen November 26, 2015

I started the gluten free diet in april. I thought this would get ride of my symptoms like massive stomach aches, GERD, constipation and on and on. I lost 20lbs since then and cant seem to bring it back up.. I also had to cut all dairy from my diet about one month and a half ago because my symptoms came back. Stress has an influence on it but it then influences the relationship i have with food. So, My dietician then talked to me about your blog and all the benefits a vegan diet could give me on top of gluten free diet. I love my fish and espacially seefood but i will stick to i only when i go ou for sushi, as a treat lol :) i’m excited to start this new adventures an live it to the fullest because all i really have to cut is eggs and like 2-3 portions of meat/fish a week lol so i think i’ll be the cold turkey hahaha can’t wait for the second book!!

Reply

Embo September 25, 2015

Hey! I’m slowly transitioning to a plant based lifestyle. I’ve battled weight gain/loss cycle for many years, and felt this lifestyle will help me overcome this. I’m taking baby steps, but it is difficult as family very reluctant, so I still have to cook meat meals for them (though these are cooked as healthy as I can, and I’m slowly incorporating vegan foods in, without them knowing hehehe). I love your website and have been trying many of your recipes, which are all delish!
Emily from the UK xxx

Reply

Irma February 15, 2015

I’m also in my transition into becoming pescetarian. That’s my first step in becoming vegan one day. So all these types seem very helpful for people like me who are taking their first steps into this new lifestyle.

Reply

Victoria August 20, 2014

I wish you had talked about vitamin b 12 a little bit! :) I was inspired to jump into being a vegan, and I didn’t know that I needed to take a supplement and became severely deficient in it. It was a very painful condition, and I didn’t know what was happening to me! Please try to inform more people about this!

Reply

Rachel March 28, 2014

I am contemplating moving towards a diet with less (or no) meat or dairy. We already don’t eat much meat, so really removing dairy. However, I have concerns about how this would impact our social life. My husband I already eat much less meat and dairy than our friends. Usually our socializing consists of dinner parties at someone’s house. How have other dealt with dietary changes that impact their social life? While I am sure my friends would accommodate I don’t think that it would be that easy for them. Any tips, advice, or relevant experiences?

Reply

Lee March 12, 2014

I have been a vegetarian for more than 40 years, but have been preparing more and more vegan meals for approximately 3 years. Until recently I was living in South America for almost 2 years where the quality of both the cheese and yogurt were so poor that I rarely ever ate them so I got much more proficient at cooking vegan meals. Recently returned to US due to illness and was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I had a total hysterectomy almost 2 weeks ago after being in almost constant pain and bedridden for 9 weeks prior to diagnosis and treatment. Lost too much weight. Now I was told that I will need radiation therapy. Since I returned to the US I added cheese in very limited quantities back into my diet. I have however been surviving on organic Greek yogurt. I was told to eliminate all lactose, all raw fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, all legumes, nuts and seeds from my diet prior to and during treatment and maybe even forever. They say I must follow a very low fiber diet and want me to eat bananas, white toast, white rice and applesauce. The diet they are recommending is very high in sugar and sodium and processed junk foods like puddings and gelatin. I think their diet will just make me much sicker. I need some easy, inexpensive vegan ideas and recipes to help me get through this and on into the future. I am allergic to soy so have never bothered with and have absolutely no interest in meat or dairy substitutes. I am by myself, I need to cook things that are easily available, cook quickly and easily and require few and inexpensive ingredients. I am also told nothing spicy including hot, curry or ginger. What am I going to eat. Any ideas and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

Reply

Chloe January 5, 2014

Going vegan was such a challenging and also a great journey. I have been vegetarian for 2 years before thinking about switching to vegan. I was not totally satisfied with eating dairies and egg, for ethics and health reason. I wasn’t eating healthy enough and it was hard to be travelling and eating well at the same time. I was lazy and I was making horrible food choices. Increasing my veggies and fruits intake was the first step, I felt great. I forgot how I use to love them and I started to ”over” eat them! What a joy! At the same time I stopped eating dairies and I felt even better.

Then, while keeping travelling, I had lots of trouble after changing environment to keep eating mostly vegan. I felt I was depriving myself and I was quite negative about it… wrong wrong way. I was craving pizza, and eggs and ice cream. I felt it was my ego talking. So I changed the way to see the situation. I knew I had to do it for myself, and that it would happen but with love, slowly, and also with lots of joy :)

So I started to cook only vegan as I cut dairies. And, I cooked great healthy food and it made me feel so happy. Instead of seeing what I couldn’t eat, I was embracing plant food. And I stopped eating animal products slowly and I can say now that I am vegan 98%. It has to be a love journey, love for food, for life, for animals, for health, and for ourselves.

Thanks for your blog, it is very helpfull, and it’s a great demonstration of how food is a great celebration everyday :)

I am French speaking at first so sorry if my English sounds weird sometimes.

Chloe

Reply

Violet December 13, 2013

Thank you for your wonderful blog. Some of these recipes that I have tried to date are fantastic. So much flavor. Who on earth needs meat when you have all this good stuff?!

I am a Buddhist who has been attempting vegetarianism on and off. When I tried it initially at the age of 16, I became sick and ended up with anemia. My body has always had issues with iron so I was told by my family doctor to avoid a veg based diet and continue consuming meat.

This year, I tried again with vegetarianism. Slowly. I am not prepared for a vegan diet and I do not know if I will ever be but this is the next step. I incorporate a lot of legumes/lentils/different vegetables/healthy plant based fats/etc. My concern is still my health and making sure I get what my body needs. Any suggestions on that?

My reason for switching is ethical. As a Buddhist, the practice of ahimsa, or non harm is a big part. I have always been a huge animal lover and the thought of meat consumption always made me feel horrible and guilty. My husband is a Hindu, but unfortunately, he is a meat lover and is not prepared to quit. I do cook for him but do not eat ‘his’ food myself. I guess its just something I have to accept about him lol.

So, I just wanted to post a few questions which maybe some of us have, especially in terms of transitioning:

1. Do you take any supplements to ensure a balanced diet/vitamins?
2. What do you do for DHA? I know fish oil seems to be the major if not only source of this brain functioning nutrition? How do vegetarians and vegans ensure they are getting it?
3. Do you use some of the vegan cheeses out on the market and what do you think of them? For example, there is the Dhaya brand I believe?
4. Any tips on how to convert my husband? lol

Thank you so much. Much love from one Torononian to another! Can’t wait for your book to come out! :)

Reply

Jolie September 7, 2013

First off let me say that I LOVE your blog and your recipes. You Rock!!

I am a cold turkey kind of girl. I am totally a newbie to the vegan lifestyle, but so far so good. I have had no cravings for meat or dairy and its been 3 weeks now. I have been watching documentaries and reading different vegan blogs. I did watch “Forks over knives” and even bought the cookbook. I haven’t used it yet because I’m so hooked on your recipes.:)
The hardest part about the transition for me is that I have kids and they are not on board with this and I don’t know how to get them on board. Especially my son who is on a swim team. I don’t know what to feed him after his 2 hours of swimming that would satisfy him and provide him with all the nutrients he needs.
Well thanks again for all you do. I’m a fan. :)

Reply

KP September 2, 2013

I totally want to make the transition to becoming vegan. My husband and I are both over weight. I have 2 small children and I want to provide a healthy lifestyle for them. I love to cook and come from a family of cooks. All my family recipes aren’t very healthy and certainly not vegan friendly.
It almost feels impossible to embark on this challenge. Financially it is taxing but moreover, my husband’s lack of desire to change his eating habits (meat & potato kind of guy) makes me feel hopeless.
The idea of baby steps makes it feel less daunting. I am going to start by replacing my dairy products with dairy substitutes.

Thank you for inspiring me.

Reply

Kendra July 6, 2013

Hi! Thank you so much so far in this reading. I have been wanting to do this but I really did not know how to start and what to do. It’s a huge decision but ready for it I think. :) I’m scared but excited! I think slow is a good start. Cold turkey does not work for me. I’m getting ready to start really soon!

Reply

Lisa July 4, 2013

Indisputably, an informative helpful post series on going vegan! Unfortunately, I have one more thing to add to the list of “no-no’s” when optimal health benefits are concerned – – the beautiful pic of your pantry items stored in those glass preserve jars are being exposed to BPA. It’s in the lids of the lining of almost all the major brands, including Ball Jars.
Fortunately, they have started selling BPA-free lids to replace your old jars. Sorry to be a Debbie downer! Keep blogging~

Reply

Angela (Oh She Glows) July 5, 2013

I didn’t know that Lisa- thanks for the tip. I will look into it :)

Reply

prettyleodia June 23, 2013

I came across your blog while searching for more recipes. I really like the fact that you have a Vegan101 page!
My story: I had been a vegetarian since 2000. We ended up moving to NC in 2007. And for a reason that I cant remember I tried going vegan in 2008. That lasted about 2 months.
I felt sooo overwhelmed by all the information and cooking etc…It just seemed that it was a hard transition. I caved in to a cheese pizza. Oh the shame. So yet again I was back to vegetarianism (my definition: if it has a face or can taste me back I won’t eat it. lol).
My weight ballooned due to a combination of poor diet and medication. And a long bout of depression. I gained 50 pounds in a year and a half! Fast forward to now. My medications are doing what they are supposed to and I was sick of feeling crappy all the time. All my attempts at losing weight (visalus, isagenix, bikini bootcamp, even martial arts) failed. Then I found DDP Yoga. Loved it and followed the recommended diet and then took it a step farther and went vegan. Sooo much easier this time, thanks to sites like yours! I’ve lost 20 pounds in three months and my skin has cleared up dramatically and I have more energy!!! Thanks for the work that you do!

Reply

term life insurance April 23, 2013

Excellent article. Keep posting such kind of info on your blog.
Im really impressed by your site.
Hi there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and in my opinion suggest to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this
site.

Reply

Sarah March 20, 2013

I became vegetarian March 1st of this year. To date it’s been 20 days of no meat. At first I thought I was going to need a slow transition period but I cut it out cold turkey and have been fine with it. Unfortunately cutting dairy is proving to be quite a challenge: dairy is in everything! I’m glad I’ve come across this series so it can help me see all the things I’m gaining instead of giving up. The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone is also helping me quite a bit.

Reply

Elsie W March 18, 2013

Transition to a vegan lifestyle…my husband and I watched Forks over Knives one evening last year, paused it in the middle, and commented to each other, ” we have a big change to make”, watched the rest of the movie and the next day….BAM! Cleaned out the cupboards, freezer and fridge and began! Your site has been our go to spot! We have a foodie vegan group for support, two or three good books and are totally thankful for this lifestyle change. Bloodwork shows top marks, daily physical activity is our friend and many new discoveries have been made and friendships formed. One transitionary move we made was rather than name the meal as ie. “Shepard’s Pie” we simply say, supper ‘s ready and the meal is appreciated as is. It removes any idea that you have to make something look like it use to and instead, enjoy it as is! Thanks for your amazing site….Cheers, Elsie

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: