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How to Become Vegan: All the Basics + How to Get Started

How to Become Vegan: My Story + How to Get Started - vegan waffles with blueberries, seeds on pink plates next to a coffee pot and coffee in a mug for a vegan breakfast
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I took the plunge into going vegetarian and almost vegan at the same time back in 2018. I’d been debating the decision for a while, and as I got better at cooking for myself and preparing my own meals, I took control of my diet and began the change. Since then, I’ve become completely vegan, in my diet and also in my lifestyle. Do I like it? I absolutely adore it. I’d happily tell anyone who was interested to go for it. I’ve noticed massive changes in my body and I feel so much more aligned with my values. So today, we’re discussing how to become vegan.

“Veganism is not a sacrifice. It is a joy.” – Gary L. Francione

First, what is a vegan?

A vegan is someone who doesn’t use any animal products in their life. In terms of diet, this means they don’t eat meat or any animal-derived ingredients, like dairy, eggs, honey, etc. But, veganism is also a lifestyle choice, meaning avoiding using animal products in general – this is everything from avoiding leather, fur, silk, wool and other animal products in clothing, to choosing cruelty-free, vegan make-up and toiletries to not supporting the use of animals in circuses – essentially a whole range of stuff. But everybody’s views vary, so there are no rules about which bits you have to believe in or keep to!

What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?

A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat or fish/seafood, but may still eat foods made by animals (dairy, eggs, etc.) and use products made by/from animals.

What is the difference between vegan and plant-based?

Being plant-based just means you stick to the vegan diet. It means you don’t consume any animal products but may still use them in your day-to-day life. Plant-based also tends to refer to a diet that avoids processed food, packet foods and processed oils, etc.

Why do people become vegan?

There are many, MANY reasons why people choose to go vegan. I’ve listed a few of the main reasons below!

1. Animal welfare ~ In 2015, over 10 billion animals were killed for food in the US (and that doesn’t include any fish or seafood!). That’s just animals slaughtered for food, nevermind animal testing, animals that weren’t fit to be used for food, or animals used to produce any other foods (dairy cows, hens, etc.)

2. The environment ~ Animals used for meat, eggs, dairy, etc. use 83% of the world’s farmland, despite providing only 18% of our calorie consumption. Plus, they contribute up to 58% of food’s emissions.

3. The economic value ~ If everyone in the US switched to a vegan diet, there would be enough food to feed an additional 350 million people.

4. Health ~ An 11-year German study involving more than 800 vegetarian men found that their cancer rates were less than half those of the general public. And there are tons more health benefits!

7 steps for how to become vegan

1. Do your research!

Step number one in how to become vegan is no doubt the most important. I wouldn’t advise anyone to go vegan without taking this step seriously. It’s fairly easy for us to get the vitamins, and other nutrients we need from a non-vegan diet without even trying. This doesn’t mean you can’t get them from a vegan diet – it’s still pretty simple to – but, in an omnivore-centric world, we’re not taught how to properly use all of the foods we have access to.

It is possible to get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet if you know where to look. Dig your teeth into some research and find sources of all the nutrients you need. This is a great resource, and I also find the NHS page on veganism to be really helpful too. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this kind of research super interesting!

This is also the time to do some research into the reasoning behind your move to veganism. No matter what your reason is, it’s good to have some research behind you to refer back to and keep your motivation alive.

2. Find resources and support

You’ll likely find some resources you like during your research. The Vegan Society and PETA are two of my personal favourites for information, and there’s a whole wealth of recipe sites out there to keep you enthusiastic and well-fed ~ Pinterest is a great resource for finding them too! Finding food you enjoy is going to help keep you motivated to keep going until it becomes your new normal.

Otherwise, find support from people. Try going vegan with a friend, family member or your partner. I went vegan solo but found online influencers that helped keep me motivated and learning more about the vegan diet and lifestyle. Since then, I’ve had many friends go vegetarian and I love being able to share recipes with them.

We’ll talk a little more about it later, but remember that not everyone will be completely open to your choice. Often, this can come from concern (be ready to assure a lot of people that you’re getting enough protein) so don’t take it personally if someone questions your decision. Take time to explain your reasons to them and assure them that you’ve done your research – there’s nothing more you can do than that.

3. Ease yourself in

How you get started is really up to you. Most people find it easy to transition slowly. When I went vegan, I hadn’t been a huge meat eater for a while anyway and I’d already been using alternative milks for a year or so. I went about 95% cold turkey when I went vegan. In this, I made sure I didn’t make/buy/cook anything that wasn’t vegan but gave myself some time and leeway with eating out and eating at other people’s houses whilst I found my feet and figured everything out.

I recommend swapping a few meals a week or trying it just on weekdays, especially if you’re someone that consumes a lot of animal products right now. Lots of people find the transition easier when they include some vegan alternatives – meat substitutes, vegan cheeses, etc. They’re easy to cook, are usually fortified and help keep your protein and nutrients up whilst you learn about other alternatives.

That being said, if you’re happy jumping in cold turkey (or no turkey, hehe) go for it! It’s different person to person and circumstance to circumstance.

4. Treat it as an exciting change!

It’s easy, when making this kind of jump, to stare longingly at all the things you’re removing from your diet, but this is also a chance to add lots of new! A vegan diet allows for more space and experimentation with all types of veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes (I could go on…) that you might have never had before. Had you shown me a jackfruit five years ago, I wouldn’t have known where to start with it!

One massive benefit I found with going vegan, was finding that simpler ingredients tasted so much better to me! In Western culture, meat is often the centrepiece of a meal, but now I was making the most of other ingredients (and not coating everything in cheese!) I was noticing their taste more and being far more creative with them!

5. Find new restaurants

To add to the excitement, hunt for some vegan restaurants, or restaurants with vegan items on the menu. I’m lucky, living in Brighton, where the vegan scene is growing wildly and has been for the past few years. But, we are beginning to see a boom in vegan restaurants right across the globe! Large chains are adding vegan food to their menus and I’ve visited loads of smaller independent places that are really innovating the diet!

Happy Cow is a great resource for finding nearby vegan and vegetarian food.

6. Remember your reasons

Especially in the early days, temptation and cravings can make sticking to your choice really tough, especially if you find yourself surrounded by people and foods that aren’t vegan. But, I’m happy to say that it’s quite common for these feelings to go away completely. As your diet changes, the cravings you get will change too so it’s natural for your body to forget your old favourites and start craving your new vegan faves!

When the going does get tough, though, the best advice I can give is to remind yourself of your reasoning. Why did you decide to become vegan in the first place? Read up on the subject again, watch a documentary or list out all your reasons. Reminding yourself of why you made the decision will help reinforce your will to stick to it.

If you do slip up, accidentally or through a craving, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Any vegan choice is better than nothing. If everyone in the UK swapped out just one red meat meal a week for a vegan alternative, we’d reduce our annual gas emissions by 8%. The little things really do add up.

7. Be strong in your choice

When you make any big lifestyle change, you’re bound to get a lot of questions. It can be tricky to handle this well, but as long as you’re being authentic to yourself and respectful of someone else’s opinion, you can only hope they’ll do the same (if they don’t, I’ve found it’s best to just leave the conversation). Generally, you’ll get a feel for if someone’s open to what you’re saying or not.

Vegans have got a pretty bad reputation for being aggressive and forceful with their views (although admittedly I’ve never met one like that in my life) so a lot of people have a negative predisposition towards hearing about it. Sharing the message with love, positivity, and an open mind is the best way, I think, to hold any conversation and will help people be more open to your views and message too.

Arming yourself with lots of research is also a good way to share your point. Knowing what you’re talking about and having factual information to share with people will help you get your point across convincingly.

Anyways, that’s my quick two-cents on how to become vegan. I still see every day as a learning process, as with anything in life, so I’m learning alongside you! I think the most important point to remember is that 100 imperfect vegans will help the world more than 1 perfect vegan. Anything you can do, no matter how small, is helping.

Love, Ella-Rose xx

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