5 Tips for Transitioning to a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

 

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Transitioning to a vegan diet wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it also wasn’t the most difficult. I was the girl who went from eating meatballs and cheese squares to declaring I’m vegan the very next day. You can read more about my transition to a plant-based diet here. Transitioning (or jumping, in my case) was a challenge and still is sometimes, but possible nonetheless. If you are reading this, then you may be considering transitioning to a more specific diet. Whether you are thinking about becoming vegetarian, more plant based, or just healthier in general, these tips can be useful. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in the past few months that have helped me maintain thus far:

Tip 1.) Take Baby Steps: Don’t feel like you have to go all out on day one. This is one mistake I made when I transitioned. I dove right in, which you can do if you choose, but I also became discouraged pretty early on. Take your time, do some research and don’t feel bad for not getting it perfect right away. If you want to be vegan but can’t give up cheese, then first try giving up all other animal products but cheese. If you want to be vegetarian, but don’t feel quite mentally prepared to give up chicken breast, then maybe try limiting it to once a week rather than completely eliminating it. Set small goals and don’t forget to give yourself credit for the progress you do make.

Tip 2.) Take it One Day at a Time: In order to resist temptation, you will have to be prepared. You have to anticipate the challenges and strategize ways to combat them. Schedule time to grocery shop during the week. Make lists for what to buy if you need to. Cook on days when you have more time to do so. Pack lunches and try to keep snacks available for at home and while you’re out. I tend to struggle more when I am out somewhere and food is being provided. Yes, I’ve learned to peel cheese off of my pizza, but I’ve also learned that it is just better to have my own food with me. I don’t feel as discouraged when I have my own food to eat and I’m also not as tempted by the other foods.

Tip 3.) Try New Foods: If you’re going vegan, you may be excited to try all of the alternatives…fake cheese, fake sausages, fake eggs; but don’t expect the alternatives to taste like the real thing. My mom was pretty disappointed when her pizza with Daiya cheese wasn’t as amazing as pizza with real cheese. I’ve learned to accept the alternatives for what they are – tofu, seitan, veggie burgers, nutritional yeast, ect. I no longer tell my meat-eating relatives that lentil sloppy joes will taste like ground beef. It’s not ground beef. It’s lentils. Accept the food for what it is and try lots of new things! Pinterest has been my greatest resource in this area. I never ate black beans, egg plant, falafel, chickpeas, cashew-based cream sauces or many other things until I started this journey. Open your mind. It’s been exciting! I always hear people say they love food too much to make a change, but while giving up many things, my mental food bank has also expanded a great deal. Veggie Fritters and Roasted Chickpea Gyros are amazing! #HappyVegan

Tip 4.) Remember Why You Started: No matter what your motivation may be for making this dietary change, be sure to remind yourself often. When people question it or make it seem crazy and impossible, remind yourself of why you started. In my case, I’m not only doing it for my own health, but also for my future kids and their kids. Maybe you are trying to lose weight, maybe you’re lactose intolerant and tired of always feeling bloated, maybe you are pre-diabetic or have another health condition your fighting, maybe you appreciate the earth and want to stop polluting it, or maybe you love animals enough to not eat them. You could even simply be trying to prove to yourself that you are strong enough to do it. Whatever your reason, just know that you CAN do it and when you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself why you started!

Tip 5.) Be Proud of Yourself: Regardless of where you are in your journey, you took the first step. You decided in your mind that you want to make a change. You may slip up sometimes, but at least you are trying. Early on I had to learn that it is okay to make adjustments that best fit me and my lifestyle. I am no longer picky about if the cook at a restaurant uses butter to prepare my food. The fact that I cook with vegan butter at home is worthy of applause. My cheat food is Hot Cheetos. I have no idea why I crave those of all things – but I do, and it is okay (every now and then). The fact that I haven’t had a single piece of meat in 4 months is worthy of applause. Instead of being hard on yourself for falling short, applaud yourself for the things you do right. Set your goals and work towards them. Even if you don’t reach them immediately, keep trying and keep recognizing the small achievements. This tip is important because if you allow your short comings to discourage you, you might end up talking yourself out of trying at all anymore. But don’t give up. Be strong and keep going. Every step counts.

It is my hope that these tips are both helpful and encouraging to you. Changing your diet can seem scary or even impossible sometimes, but it can be done. Making the transition to healthier living is more of a mental challenge than anything else. We have to want it and be willing to stretch ourselves to make it happen. It can be difficult at first, but once you really begin to live it, it does get better. If you have any other great tips to add to these five or any questions, please share them in the comments below! I am wishing you well on your journey. Good Luck! 

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