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

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

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

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{ 210 comments… read them below or add one }

Rajvinder Kaur January 2, 2013

I almost teared with joy after reading this blog because you just described me. My thought process behind transitioning into becoming a vegan has been to take it slow. I grew up drinking chai (Indian tea) with whole milk my entire life and having to give it up all of a sudden felt scary, so what I did to find a way to still have it was to do lots of research. I found many recipes to make this chai using non-dairy creamers that make it taste just as good as the original using whole milk. I still have my tea and it’s also vegan :). So for anyone thinking that becoming vegan means having to eat lettuce and carrots at all times is wrong. I think almost every non-vegan recipe can be converted into vegan and enjoyed just the same way. I always find recipes and convert them into vegan and I have never been disappointed. I am also very THANKFUL for your blog because it has kept me so motivated and inspired to cook at home every day. I cannot wait for your cookbook to come out so I could share it with everyone around me :).

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 2, 2013

I’m so happy to hear this, thank you! I agree that many recipes can be made vegan without sacrificing taste and the ones that can’t – well, I have been eating too much good food to miss them.

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Gretchen Noelle @ Provecho Peru January 2, 2013

Glad you are doing this. I tried vegan for a month last year and some things I liked (my skin) and some things I didn’t (my energy level). I want to go that direction this year for health reasons so all advice is helpful. I really liked your point about being mindful of what we are adding instead of what we are taking away. That is a key for me to get in my head! Thanks!

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Susan January 2, 2013

Last year my 2012 New Years Resolution was to go from vegetarian to vegan for one month and then evaluate. One year later, I still eat vegan and don’t think I’ll ever go back. The digestive benefit alone was worth the change and initial challenge. Confessions of a former cheese addict, I was always backed up. My skin is much clearer and my mood is more even which I attribute to proper working plumbing. I had no idea what to eat the first couple weeks, I bought way to much replacement foods on my stock up trip to whole foods, vegan sour cream, cheese, and faux meats, earth balance and veganaize. Some of these products work great as substitutes and some you can do with out. I still do not like any of the vegan cheese. I have grown a fondness for “nooch”. Finding all the recipe blogs, cookbooks and sites has been what supported me in the change. It’s a process and takes a little time to find your stride. The cheese cravings go away when you take the dairy out of your diet, it didn’t take me long to love pizza without cheese.

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Kari@Loaves n Dishes January 2, 2013

I love to eat vegetarian (I love cheese & eggs too much to go vegan), but more importantly whole foods, not processed. Thanks for providing great information and recipes Angela!

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Barbara January 2, 2013

I can be called the ‘accidental vegan’ because going totally vegan wasn’t my initial intent. Oh I had thought about it many times, but dismissed those thoughts as unattainable. How could I possibly undo something I did for over 50 years?? I started off my lifestyle change with just trying to eat healthier – with the main intent of losing weight. I cut out sugar, white flour, potatoes and artificial sweetners. Before I knew it, I was cutting out meat and eating more fish. Then I was taking entire days and going meatless. Last to go was the dairy. This worked for me because it was a gradual thing – and before I even realized it I was a vegan – and 35 pounds lighter. I’m 51 and I feel the best I’ve felt in my life. For the first time in my life I feel like my body isn’t angry at me.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 2, 2013

awesome story, thanks for sharing & congrats on your changes.

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Amber January 2, 2013

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

For me, I have to AIM for cold-turkey, although just because I say “cold turkey” doesn’t mean I’ve been perfect. If I go in with the mindset that I’ll eat 100% vegan, I’ll eat about 90%. If I allow slips, I’ll slip OFTEN. I ate a mostly vegan diet all December, but gave into my family’s traditional holiday food for Christmas. I’m just now getting back with it. I will say that one downside of making the transition suddenly is, personally (and sorry for the TMI!), it makes me incredibly bloated and gassy for 3-5 days. I mean, it’s stretchy pants BAD – can’t even wear my bigger jeans. Once I get past that, it’s like something in my body clicks and says, “Oh, this is nice!” and everything starts working perfectly. So if you decide to go with a sudden change, be aware that might be an issue for you.

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

This blog is my favorite! It has opened my mind to so many new things. This is where I began considering a vegan diet…I think I came across it after watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, then jumping on the juice train, and eventually finding Green Monster smoothie recipes here. Any of those foodie movies are good motivators for me – Food Inc, Forks over Knives, Food Matters. Healthy for Change is a newer one on Netflix that’s great. There are also some TED Talks about food that largely promote plant-based foods. I have found other vegan blogs by googling “vegan blogs”, so try that, too. Follow them on Facebook or use Google Reader so you can read new posts all in one place.

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

If I don’t plan my meals well, I waste so many veggies, so meal planning is my current focus. I started a spreadsheet for meals, listing (more or less) what I’ll eat, but most importantly, what will be leftover. If I open a can of chickpeas for a salad, I want to plan to eat it in another meal soon after. I don’t want to make a pot of soup unless I’m sharing it, because it goes bad before I can eat it all. I haven’t mastered freezing foods in a way that makes them at ALL appetizing later. I usually eat vegan alone, but sometimes my boyfriend joins me, so we’ve already talked this year about getting together on meal planning even though we don’t live together. We are both serious about cutting back on wasted food. One thing we are planning to do (though haven’t started yet) is have a veggie prep party on Sunday. He’s really good about eating healthy when he tries but spends a fortune doing it at restaurants.

Off to read the other comments!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) January 2, 2013

Hi Amber, Thank you for your thoughtful comment! Great insight and tips. I haven’t seen all of the movies you mentioned, so I’m off to google a couple. Thanks!

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Amber January 2, 2013

I figure TED talks might be the hardest to find if you have never heard of them before. Here are some about food:
http://www.ted.com/talks/tags/food

Food Inc is more about going organic than going vegan, but learning about the former naturally led to the latter for me.

What I liked about HUNGRY for Change (NOT Healthy for Change, that’s a typo above…doh!) is they focus some on mental wellness, not just physical.

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Amber January 2, 2013

Great feedback from others. :) Another thing I thought of is that, contrary to what some may think, this is a very budget friendly way to eat. Have you seen meat prices lately, especially beef? And that’s not even local, organic meat. Grocery shopping is simpler, too. Almond milk, canned tomatoes, beans, and veggies, occasional freezer items, and produce.

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jenna January 2, 2013

what a great series! I’m excited to read more. these are all really resourceful tips for someone just going vegan.

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Ariel January 2, 2013

I am neither vegan nor vegetarian, but find that the easiest way to transition to a low meat diet, is to make items that can be customized to include meat, or not. For instance, you can make a large pot of vegan vegetable stew/gulash. Throughout the week, you can add some cooked beans, a dollop of greek yogurt or hummus, left-over fish/meat, serve over quinoa, or just eat as-is.

This makes the “base” of your meal vegetables, and gives you the option to add whatever you like. Same thing with big salads – chop all the different components at one time, and then assemble as you like. One day vegan, one day vegetarian, one day carnivore.

Also, a good way to approach meal prep if you are a working mom. . .

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debbie January 2, 2013

I went from vegetarian to vegan seven hearts ago and have never reqretted it. I amlucky that my one daughter is vegetarian and supports my food choices.but often I feel alone and like an outsider with family .my iterated big concern is I still crave sweets vegan of course. But would love to kick this habit any help please.

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Dara January 2, 2013

I know how you feel!
I am from Texas and my whole family eats meat.. pounds of meat at every festive event.
They are always curious and wear that “oh my goodness” look on their face when I don’t grab turkey or chicken at these events. Its OK though, they support me regardless. Thankfully, I have an aunt who is health conscious and we share ideas.

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Dara January 2, 2013

What’s your approach when making a change – slow and steady or cold-turkey?
Slow and steady..
1. I gave up junk and fast food when I was 17/18 years old and became very aware of the food I was putting into my body but I went very extreme with this and avoided all fat as much as possible thinking that not eating it would help me lose all my fat (oh how uneducated I was at that time). I even cut out all sweets.. every last one for an entire year
2. I learned that indulging is OK and slowly started to eat sweets again
3. In 2010, during a month long surf trip in Mexico I met my first Vegan (from Austria) and another friend I met recommended the Blood Type Diet – both inspired me to give up red meat and eat more plants (the BTD claims red meat is toxic to A+ blood). I did not stick to the BTD to the T but I took information I thought was more true than others to mind and followed this – I have not eaten red meat since. Oh, wait. Those reading may find this amusing but a few months after returning from Mex and not eating red meat was the local Mosquito Festival and annual BBQ cook-off. Our friend won first place for his Brisket. I love Brisket. The meat smelled so good and I spent my whole life growing up on BBQ – so instead of eating it I just took a chunk from the pan chewed on it for a good minute just to get the flavor and then spit it out.. haven’t been in contact with red meat since.
4. September 2011 I decided to go vegetarian. I ate my last piece of chicken at a favorite Thai restaurant. From then until now the only meat I have eaten is seafood. My diet is basically vegan anyways since animal products are expensive and I am on a college budget so seafood, butter, eggs, and yogurt wasn’t a daily food.
5. This year, 2013 – it is a resolution to go vegan – have not slipped up.

How did you make the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet? What strategies worked for you?
Flexitarian to ovo-lacto-vegetarian to now vegan
Strategies:
1. My biggest “stick-to” is a whole foods diet. Meaning foods that are a fresh as possible and contain at most 10 ingredients. Larabars are basically the only food that have the most ingredients I eat. I am not fooled by the “health” labels on “health” food. Even if the box says organic I still read the ingredients list and I stay away from soy (soy protein isolate – especially) AMAP.
2. Can I make it myself? I have learned over the past year that grocery consumers will either spend the most of time or money when it comes to food. I chose time. Purchasing bulk items and making my own foods that typically come packaged (such as vegan yogurt, almond milk, WW bread, hummus, peanut butter, and ketchup) has saved me a bunch of money and has also given me experience with trial and error food preparation. I love it.
3. Open mind. Never fear unknown food – this helps me with my variety.
4. And speaking of variety – I am a mixture person and will combine the oddest of foods.. how about beans (plain, soaked and cooked legumes) in plain oatmeal sweetened with banana and dates? Or roasted pumpkin seeds in tomato salsa? or mustard on baked potato? yea- I believe my strange food combos helps me maintain what I need from a nutritive standpoint.

Have you read any books or watched any movies that helped you with the transition?
YES! Reading is what got me started on my health kick in the beginning! I read like crazy: books, magazines, blogs, articles, and websites..
The documentary Forks Over Knives inspired me to give up meat. I also have seen Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation, these helped with the transition as well.

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Dara January 2, 2013

one more strategy I find helpful:
each week I purchase the same staple foods: garlic, tomato, lettuce, carrots… etc and I use these easily perishable foods with the pantry foods to create a multitude of meals every week. each food is versatile and easy to work with. unlike other skilled folk, meal planning gives me a headache.

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debbie January 2, 2013

I would love a sample diet plan that could give me ideas what to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner and snacks. I struggle with eating the right portions. Any help please

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Dara January 2, 2013

What kind of food do you like?
What do you prefer at certain times of the day?
How much of a budget do you allow for groceries?
How easy is it for you to shop at a store that has bulk purchasing options?
How much time do you allow for daily and weekly food prep?
And most important – how serious are you about sticking to a lifestyle diet that will keep you happy?

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Emily January 3, 2013

Debbie,
The Happy Herbivore has meal plans that you can buy each week with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I haven’t tried the meal plans, but I have all the cookbooks. The food is easy to prepare and pretty darn good. I think the plans are reasonably priced too.

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Robin January 2, 2013

Great post! I went slowly, too, after many, many years as a vegetarian. I eliminated eggs first, then dairy milk, then cheese and finally Greek yogurt. It was a good pace for me – I never went back. My advice to new or aspiring vegans is to read a lot (about nutrition, shopping, recipes, non-food items, etc.) and be open-minded. It’s fun and exciting! Your blog was a big help on the recipe side of things. Thank you!

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 2, 2013

Great post Ange!! I love these tips, especially the one about stocking your pantry. I think that in order to make any dietary changes, you’ve got to be prepared. By keeping unhealthy processed (or in your case, non-vegan) foods out of sight, and filling your kitchen with all the foods that DO fit into the type of diet you’re aiming to follow, they sort of become forgotten. Even though I’m not vegan, this was definitely the case when I transitioned to a whole foods diet. With all the fruits and veggies, there literally is no room in my fridge for anything else!!

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Lia @ Sojourning January 2, 2013

Yay! I love these sorts of series and instructional posts! I actually went cold-turkey. Meat-loving to vegan overnight. It helped my IBS and I felt great, so I never went back. It was supposed to be just a week-long experiment to help me be more creative in recipe creation. I’ve definitely gone back and forth since then, but have been a happy vegan advocate for years now. Reading posts like this is always a motivation for me to stick to things that I know are better for me. I love the food films and Earthlings is a great one too. thanks for starting this!

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Megan @ MegGoesNomNom January 2, 2013

Love this post. Even as a non-vegan I found reading about your personal experiences very interesting – thanks for sharing!

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K January 2, 2013

I’m vegetarian, and have been for almost 20 years. I want to try going vegan eventually. I find it easier in the summer months when there is so much fresh produce to choose from. I also eat less processed sugars and unhealthy fats in the summer, I find.

Movies/documentaries I’ve seen that have been a great inspiration include:
Food Inc. Veganomics, Forks Over Knives, Hungry for Change.

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Herbivore Triathlete January 2, 2013

I ate a vegetarian diet for most of my teen years so when I decided to eat a vegan diet, I went cold-turkey! It’s been 7 months and your blog has helped me tremendously. Love all your recipes!

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Adam January 2, 2013

I really like the point of not expecting perfection. Too many people try to aim for the stars then go back to their old ways when they don’t reach them immediately. Change is a process.

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alex January 2, 2013

Today is Day Two of being vegan, after nearly a year of eating a vegetarian diet. Technically tomorrow will really be day one because i didn’t finish up the last bits of butter and cheese until today, but I haven’t bought any since my last pizza on the 31st (farewell to a great love :) ), so I’m counting it. My husband has been mostly vegan since June, so the transition has been pretty slow and easy for me.

What helps me is to have lots of resources on hand, like this website and others like it, to help me find fun and exciting food to try to distract me from what I’m “missing,” and to help me learn more. So far it’s working pretty well, and I’ve found lots of new favorite foods.

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Kayla January 2, 2013

I love that you mentioned the documentary “Forks over Knives.” I watched this movie a couple of months ago and have been making an effort to implement a “full” vegan approach into my diet. I have been a vegetarian for the past 2 years; I love to cook and I loved my current eating habits. Slowly, but surely I have been cutting dairy out of my diet, but eggs and yogurt have been my two biggest obstacles. Any recommendations or tricks to ease the pain of replacing dairy?

So excited that you are approaching your blog from a new standpoint this year! I hope you continue blogging your yummy recipes and posting photos though! :)

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Fit Missy January 2, 2013

My boyfriend and I have decided to transition over to eat more fruits and veggies, and legumes in the new year. For him it’s a bigger change as he has decided to cut out processed food such as cold cuts and dairy.

It is helpful that there is 2 of us doing it together.

Thanks for this post.

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Katy January 2, 2013

I went cold turkey when I became vegetarian five and a half years ago. I was nineteen, and it was like an epiphany..I don’t have to eat what other people make me anymore! and so i didn’t. i never chose to eat meat and noticed how heavy and lethargic it made me feel. i felt instantly lighter upon giving it up and never looked back! the vegan journey has been somewhat rockier. when i gave up meat i also gave up milk and eggs. other animal products were few and far between, but i did eat them, mostly out of convenience and peer pressure. when i was twenty i became independent from my family and finally felt in control of what i ate, completely. i was perfectly vegan for the first three months on my own, lost weight, and my period! co workers and a boyfriend eventually drew me back into eating dairy more regularly, at least in the form of bakery goods and mexican food. [i was a cake decorator and had a latino boyfriend]. i saw an immediate change when i started eating dairy regularly. my skin broke out and my metabolism slowed down. In October 2011 I regained control. I started refusing the bad food my boyfriend always wanted to eat and would cook for myself. Eventually he wanted to eat what i was eating! he started to notice positive changes in how he felt, and preferred to eat more like me most of the time. the most important things i gained from making this change was that, first of all, i became an awesome cook! i have never been someone who settles for bland food, and now everything i eat is delicious and plant based. but also, i became empowered by realizing that i can be the trendsetter. i don’t need to eat anything just to please someone else. i havent been perfect. my greatest downfall is probably sweets that are offered to me. staying away from processed sweets, and sugar works best for me. I am generally satisfied if i just stay away completely and use fruits or smoothies in lieu of desserts. all the great documentaries and books out there are awesome! i’ve read skinny bitch, eating animals, and the kind diet, all of which reinforced why i don’t want to eat animal products. docs i liked: food, inc., fat, sick and nearly dead, food matters, and forks over knives. i also recommend the blood type diet book, although i am of the sort who believes that if you have a blood type which is apparently accustomed to certain animals/animals products, that doesn’t mean one should eat them, but only that she should be aware of what nutrients she needs.

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Melanie McDaniel January 2, 2013

Angela,

Really looking forward to this series and sharing this with others. As I have commented before, I LOVE YOUR SITE. I literally make your recipies every night. Every single thing I’ve made from your site is so yummy. We have, at all times, endurance crackers, adventure trail cookies and lightened up protein salad ready to eat. Literally at all times!! My husband and I were very nervous when you mentioned a new blog coming with the new year. We were so afraid your incredible selection of recipies would be taken down. Whew…what a relief to see what you have in mind!! So proud of you, Angela. Love the direction you’re taking!

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Ashley P January 2, 2013

I love this series and this is such a great post! I have been vegan for almost a year now but I was vegetarian long before that. The last thing I gave up was my love for chobani greek yogurt, but I eventually found decent substitutes, like Almond Yogurt. I definitely think it helps to take those baby steps into this transition. Ever since I became vegan I have been loving what I put into my body and all the energy. Some good cookbooks I have found with easy vegan recipes are the Happy Herbivore cookbooks. I also recommend “Main Street Vegan” by Victoria Moran, which is a great read for transitioning into a vegan diet and also has some easy recipes.

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Samantha January 2, 2013

What’s your approach when making a change – slow and steady or cold-turkey?
I have been vegan for about 15 years now (vegetarian for about 24 years), I hadn’t much thought about the transition of it until this series.

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

Vegetarian transition was “easy.” I never liked meat and one day I told my parents I was done. While living at home in family meals I just picked the meat out. We were a large family so there was no way I was getting a special side meal.

Vegan just sort of happened. Short of cheese I just didn’t find it very hard. I had to pay attention to bread labels, but other than that it was a lifestyle choice I wanted to make. I can’t say my diet was great or balanced, but I was younger and could get away with it.

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

Surprisingly no. And to be honest I avoid any of the movies or books that are going to be hard to watch or read. I didn’t need to be horrified into my choice. I am well aware that our food industry in general can use some work.

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

The biggest change that has come with age is to be more whole foods based and more balanced. When I was younger I could get away with a lot more. Now if I don’t even enough or enough variety I will generally feel kind of crappy.

The hardest part of my transition when I did it was family and friends.

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Moni @ {Meals Meals} January 2, 2013

I love that you are doing this Angela! Look at how many people you are helping! Wow. I love your advice-spot on. ;)

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Jessica January 2, 2013

Great post! I think a lot of these ideas apply to any dietary changes someone is approaching. I’m currently trying to heal my gut and have removed dairy (already had it mostly out), gluten, processed soy, corn, and a few other items. While I didn’t take baby steps, it can obviously ease the transition. I really like your advice on stocking the pantry (haha I JUST got home from the grocery store doing this) and focusing on what you add. Doing this also helps you be your own teacher and gain confidence in a new skill and lifestyle. Your list makes the changes attainable. :)

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Aileen Cohen January 2, 2013

Completely accidental and pretty much cold turkey. I was an omnivore in a food rut and looking at vegan blogs for new recipes to enjoy the vegetables I eat. I made several great recipes and when I realized I had gone three days without any animal products I just kept going. It’s been about 3.5 months and my family is getting used to it although my mother jokingly hopes it is a phase.

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Lorinda @ Everyday Endeavours January 3, 2013

So excited by this series Angela. Thanks for sharing (even more) of your wisdom with us. I’ve been vegetarian for years but vegan for only a few months–I know there’s still plenty to learn!

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Amy January 3, 2013

Thank you SO much for this post! You are such an inspiration. Even though I’m not sure if I’ll be riding the vegan train yet, I’ve been struggling with a junk food addiction/under eating for a long time and am working on changing my eating lifestyle and my view of food in general, and these tips are great!! It’s silly, but it’s so nice to read that I’m going to slip up and that it’s ok, and not to focus on that but on the GOOD changes I’m slowly making. One step at a time, for sure! Thanks again and happy New Year!

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kally January 3, 2013

for medical reasons I changed my diet completely about a year ago. I gave up all red meat and all dairy, but I still kept a bit of chicken and fish. Since then I have given up all chicken too. I eat a low fat plant based diet with some fish.

The fish seems to be an integral part of the diet I need for my medical condition. I think about giving it up, but until I am sure I can find the right amount of replacement I will keep the fish for now.

I love this new way of eating. I make all kinds of great foods and I have found many on your site too. I have shared a lot on Facebook, and in our small town, we have a once a month vegan meal. i can usually eat just about everything there.

What surprised me the most was, as I learned about this way of eating, I picked up information about cruelty to animals, that I kinda, sorta always knew, but didn’t really face. I have become much more of an activist around that issue, especially farm animals.

Who knew my life would change this way. I really think I have a good chance of holding back my symptoms and of dodging some of the big bullets. Forks Over Knives was also very encouraging.

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Lou January 3, 2013

Hi Angela! I am looking for your post around a year ago where you decorated your lunch/dinner table very festively and it was all red and very nice.. I’d like it for some ideas but I can’t seem to find it anymore! Do you think you know what i’m talking about and perhaps link it to me? Thank you :)

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Clare January 3, 2013

I love this topic and all the discussion. I went vegan over night after reading “the kind diet”. That was two years ago and I it was the best choice I have ever made. We eat only vegan at home but I find it really hard when we are out at other people’s houses. They often go to the effort to make me something vegetarian but will add eggs or cheese. I hate to make people feel bad for trying but it isn’t what I want to eat. HELP! how do others deal with this?

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Chris January 3, 2013

I wouldn’t call myself vegan, but rather I’m trying to focus on a plant-based diet. This might seem like semantics. For me I think it’s a difference of intention.

Anyway, my biggest struggle has been giving up cheese. I thought I would miss drinking milk, but no. Cheese is the only dairy I really crave. I’m looking forward to reading more about how you managed these cravings during the transition. Thanks for a great post!

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Ann Marie January 3, 2013

I’m also turning 30 this year and decided last year to adopt a mostly vegan diet after reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, The China Study, and The Lucky Ones. Most of the recipes I use are from your blog and I now have a crowd at work that is eager to try my “exotic” vegan lunches. Anyone can do it… and I live in cowtown y’all!

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Susan January 3, 2013

I know you’ve mentioned this on the blog a few times, but I still can’t believe you didn’t know how to cook 4years ago! Your recipes are always delicious and flavorful. I’ve yet to make one that isn’t a flop ( unlike many others out there) and I find it amazing that you are self taught. I consider myself to be a decent cook but I almost always cook from a recipe. You’ve actually inspired me to start experimenting and cook with an overall idea versus a prescriptive recipe.

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Maureen January 3, 2013

My process with vegetarianism has always been gradual. I stopped eating meat when I was 12, but in my early 20s I had all sorts of variations of eating. When I had my daughter, I got serious. I just couldn’t see feeding her something that I knew was so bad for her. So, we launched into full vegetarianism 2.5 years ago. My husband had some cholesterol problems, which led us to reduce dairy (which changed his cholesterol overnight). For the New Year, I am looking to reduce to no dairy at home, and eating vegan when we can out and about. Eventually, I can see us becoming a vegan family. So, I guess we do things gradually with purpose. And like you said, we don’t beat ourselves up if we slip, we just look forward to the next meal. I found being gradual and forgiving means less slip ups.

One way that I keep myself motivated is that I interject books/movies/etc every couple of months to help remind me and motivate me. On my blog, I have a list of books, movies, and sources to help readers http://vegetariansalmon.wordpress.com/educate-yourself/

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Kelly January 3, 2013

I love reading others’ journeys to the vegan lifestyle. I went cold turkey at the beginning of the summer, much to my extended family’s horror right before I went out to visit them haha! For me, though, the transition wasn’t too far from my regular diet. My parents went vegetarian when I was 9, so I enjoyed 20 years of home cooked vegetarian meals. Watching my parents cook was always a fun past time, so when I moved out on my own I rarely turned to fast food or restaurants. My current roommate hasn’t minded being a vegetarian guinea pig to some of my random meal ideas, though she’s more wary of the vegan meals. I do love exploring things to do with kale, though. It has become my absolute favorite leafy veggie and I I issued myself a challenge to a week of kale in every meal, although I’m still working on how to best prepare it with my steel-cut oats for breakfast… it’s a crazy idea, but it’s actually not bad! Just needs some work lol!

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Livvie January 3, 2013

I think someone above said it best. Becoming vegan isn’t a diet, it’s just how you choose to eat and live :)

Now. I will admit, sometimes I do like faux-analogs, but I i like MAKING them a lot more. (ie: chickpea cutlets, seitan, etc). and I DO put TVP crumbles/SoyCurls etc in that category, but I do head towards more legumes and stuff as well. It’s about balance :)

Cheese, actually, wasn’t that tough for me to give up. Not with Daiya out there. (YUMMY!). and books on how to make your own. :)

But I think just information like this (Angela’s blog was what prompted me to be vegan), is just key. Find it, and you will become vegan. :D

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Livvie January 3, 2013

Oh! Clara – this is what I do
(and it’s funny, because my two best friends are 1: Allergic to Soy and 2: Allergic to Walnuts and Cashews (which are like two vegan staple nuts).

When I’m invited, I kindly remind them that I am vegan, which means, no animals/no animal byproducts (including honey for me). I tell them the truth, that it’s two fold. I AM sensitive to animal byproducts (1/2 reason why I went vegan, not vegetarian), so it will make me sick.

I read that there are some vegans who WILL eat it, to be polite, but then just take them aside, and remind them of the No Animal/No Animal Byproduct.

Another option is to bring a dish (enough to share!) so you know you have an option. :)

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