Curious about going vegan? Here is a comprehensive guide with all beginner vegan tips to help get you started!
So you're thinking about transitioning to a vegan diet? I bet there has been a rush of emotions going through your brain, wondering whether or not you should go vegan: excited, scared, empowered, nervous. Do I sound about right? Luckily, I have been there, and you're totally not alone in all of your feels! We all have to start our vegan journey somewhere.
In this comprehensive guide, I will be laying it all out for you, from what exactly a vegan diet entails to my beginner vegan tips and even a sample vegan menu for a week. I am here to show you that going vegan might seem daunting at first, but it definitely doesn't have to be. Make sure to bookmark this article or save the pin below to your Pinterest board so you can always refer back to this article if you have any questions that pop up along the way.
Here are all of the topics we are covering today:
- Why go vegan?
- What vegans can and cannot eat?
- Beginner vegan tips
- Do vegans need supplements?
- How to eat vegan out at restaurants?
- Complete one-week vegan meal plan
- The vegan lifestyle
Why Go Vegan?
Every vegan is different and has their own special reasons for choosing to go vegan. Your reasonings can also shift along the way. I, for instance, originally went vegan for environmental reasons. I thought it was a big way that I personally could impact the environmental trajectory of our plant. The longer I've been vegan, the more connected to animals I have become. Thus, a huge part of why I remain vegan is for the animal's well-being too.
Nine times out of ten, I feel like the choice to go vegan boils down to one of three reasons:
- Ethical reasons
- Heath reasons
- Environmental reasons
Going Vegan for Ethical Reasons
The goal of veganism is to reduce the suffering, harm, and exploitation of animals as much as possible. It makes sense that many animal lovers choose to go vegan as they don't want to see animals confined to small cages and live an inhumane life that ultimately leads to their slaughter. Personally, the more I thought about it, the more backward it became that people can care for their pet dog and think it unfathomable ever to eat a dog, but cows, pigs, and chickens are not afforded the same sympathy. If you're interested in reading more about the ethical reasons for going vegan, I really enjoyed this document from The Vegan Society.
Going Vegan for Health Reasons
It's no secret that eating more vegetables is good for you. In fact, a 2019 study found that "diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in a general population." While going vegan often leads to increasing one's intake of vegetables, I want to caution that being vegan and healthy are not synonymous. There is still a lot of processed food that a vegan can enjoy, and there are definitely ways to be an unhealthy vegan. I recommend picking up a vegan nutrition book that will walk you through the ins and outs of eating a healthy vegan diet. This list is a great place to start!
Going Vegan for Environmental Reasons
According to a study done at the University of California, animal agriculture accounts for about one-fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture is also a huge water suck. Researcher Joseph Poore at the University of Oxford even stated that "A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use.” I am by no means a scientist or expert on this matter, so I highly recommend doing your own research and reading studies like this one to find out more about the environmental effects of animal agriculture.
What Vegans Can and Cannot Eat?
"Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."The Vegan Society
While a lot of people think being vegan refers to your diet choices, it actually transcends diet. Being vegan is a lifestyle. In addition to not eating anything derived from animals, vegans also try to live in a way that avoids the consumption, use, or exploitation of animals in all forms. This means not buying beauty products tested on animals, not wearing leather or suede, and not purchasing anything made from beeswax.
Don't let this overwhelm you, though! Changing your diet is the first step and, in fact, a huge step in the right direction. As I said, we all have to start somewhere, and it doesn't mean you have to throw away all your makeup or your favorite leather boots right this second.
I will get more into the vegan lifestyle aspects a bit later in the post, but let's start with an easily digestible list of what vegans can and cannot eat.
What vegans choose not to eat:
- Dairy and dairy products
- Anything else derived from an animal
There are random ingredients that are derived from animals that pop up in things like salad dressings, refried beans, and even candy. As you get further along on your vegan journey, you will get really good at reading ingredient labels and know the ingredients to look out for. Here is a solid list of some of the more obscure items you should avoid as a vegan. When in doubt, look for the Certified Vegan Label.
What foods vegans can enjoy:
- Dairy-free milk and milk products
- Herbs and spices
- Vegan processed food
Thankfully, it is becoming easier and easier to make vegan choices. These days, there are vegan alternatives for every possible craving, so you don't have to worry about saying goodbye to things like mac and cheese or even eggs. If you are looking to up your pantry game, I even have an entire list of vegan pantry staples to make your life easier.
Beginner Vegans Tips
Now what we are all really here for... the beginner vegan tips! Here are my top beginner vegan tips to help you transition to the vegan lifestyle.
It's okay to transition into veganism slowly
Some people can watch a few documentaries and go vegan cold turkey. More power to you, but I was not that way. I went vegan over a TEN-YEAR PERIOD! First, I started by not eating red meat, then not eating any meat, then cutting out eggs and dairy, and then working veganism into my entire lifestyle. It took me a lot of time, and that's okay! The point is to do whatever works best for you. You can do what I did and slowly cut things out until you don't even have cravings for those things anymore. Or I've also heard of people choosing a day (or a meal) each week to be fully vegan. Once you get the hang of one day or one meal, you can up it to two days or two meals and so on until all of your meals become vegan. There is no right or wrong way to go vegan. Try to find a strategy that isn't overwhelming to you, and go for it!
We've all heard the saying that "knowledge is power." When transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, educating yourself is a must! It is important to find your "why" for going vegan, so you always have that driving you. Here is a solid list of documentaries I recommend watching to help you discover why so many people choose to go vegan:
- What the Health is on Netflix
- Cowspiracy is on Netflix
- Blackfish is on Netflix
- The Game Changers is on Netflix
- 101 Reasons to Go Vegan is on YouTube
- Eating Animals is on Hulu
- Vegucated is on Amazon Prime
- Forks Over Knives can be rented on Amazon, YouTube, or Itunes
- Earthlings is free on their website
- Dominion is free on their website
The education shouldn't stop at your "why." Even after three years of being vegan, I am still continually educating myself. It is important to stay up-to-date on ingredients and how to read labels so you can spot non-vegan ingredients. Also, learn how to veganize some of your favorite meals like french toast, noodle stir fry or donuts. This will help you feel like you're not missing out on anything because you can enjoy the same meals you know and love once you're vegan. Finally, talk to your doctor to ensure you're getting the proper nutrients and eating a well-balanced diet. The education never stops, and the more you know, the better prepared you will feel about transitioning to the vegan lifestyle.
Have fun in the kitchen
This point goes along with my previous point about doing your research. In addition to researching documentaries and nutrition information, also research things in the kitchen! Discover new foods you've never tried, play around with different herbs and spices and come up with go-to vegan meals. Going vegan opened my eyes so much in the kitchen. Unlike what many people would like to think when you say you're vegan, you don't only have to eat salads! I highly recommend checking out my recipe index so you can hopefully find your new favorite vegan meal.
Always have snacks on you
I have been fortunate that my family and friends have made it so easy to eat vegan at any of our social events. Those around me have become accustomed to making things vegan or providing a vegan option, so there is always something for me to eat. However, other vegans might not be as lucky as I am. That is why as a vegan, you should always have a snack on you. I throw things like granola bars and trail mix in my purse whenever heading out, so I never have to worry about finding something I can eat. When traveling, I always bring a few of the Trader Joe's instant ramen cups in my suitcase, so I have a dinner option no matter what.
You can be a cheap vegan or a boogie vegan
It is a complete myth that you have to be rich in order to be vegan. The bulk of a vegan diet (beans, rice, lentils, etc.) is some of the cheapest food out there! However, you definitely can be a boogie vegan if you want to. Major cities are seeing vegan restaurants pop up that can be exciting to try, and more and more brands are coming out with delicious vegan junk food. These things can make transitioning to a vegan diet fun and easy.
Here are some of my go-to vegan snacks and/or junk food that I like to have on hand when a craving hits:
- Daiya Mac and Cheese
- Popcorn (click here for an entire post about which popcorn brands are vegan)
- Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Squares
- Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos
- Peach Ring Smart Sweets
- Sour Patch Kids
- Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
- Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy Ice Cream (one of my favorite flavors is P.B. & Cookie)
- My favorite Trader Joe's vegan goodies
You're going to need some comebacks
Once you go vegan, you'll get pretty acustom to people asking you the same questions:
- How do you get all of your protein?
- Aren't plants living things too?
- You can't really make a difference as one person going vegan, right?
It can be a little daunting at first when you feel like everyone is asking you questions and making you defend all the reasons why you chose to go vegan. Again, it comes down to research. If you have "comebacks" to some of the common questions people keep asking you, you'll feel a sense of confidence when talking about going vegan. And who knows, maybe all of your knowledge will rub off on someone you're talking to and make them think about going vegan too! I love this guide that the Vegan Sidekick made that provides you with answers to all of the questions you might get about being vegan.
Find a vegan community
For my very last of the beginner vegan tips, find a community! Going vegan can open up a new world full of other like-minded, animal-loving people. I encourage you to follow vegan hashtags, join a Meetup or Facebook group, and find ways to connect with other vegans in your area. Finding a vegan community allows you to ask questions, discover new recipes, and befriend new people. Food is one of the biggest connectors that humans share because we've all got to eat, right? Connecting with fellow vegans will help you feel as though you're not alone in this awesome vegan journey you're embarking on!
Do Vegans Need Supplements?
A big question many people have when going vegan is if they need to take supplements. Vegan or not, I highly recommend getting an annual physical to ensure everything inside is functioning properly. A doctor can test all of your levels and let you know if you're lacking anywhere and need to take supplements.
Here are some common supplements vegans may take:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
How to Eat Vegan Out at Restaurants?
Going vegan does not by any means mean that you have to avoid eating out. I find there is always a way to make something on the menu vegan. If you can suggest a restaurant, I recommend going with more ethnic cuisines like Indian, Mexican, or Thai, as these restaurants tend to be pretty vegan-friendly. Here are some of my beginner vegan tips to keep in mind when eating out:
- Download the app Happy Cow to your phone. This app will quickly become one of your best friends because it highlights vegan-friendly restaurants.
- Don't be afraid to call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if there are vegan options or if the chef can make something special for you.
- Even if the menu doesn't specifically have a vegan dish, there are always things that can easily be made vegan. A salad or pizza without cheese, pasta with marinara sauce, french fries, or veggie tacos are some of my go-to dishes to ask for. Bookmark this Spoon University article about hacking any menu if you're vegetarian or vegan so you can always refer back to it when you're eating out.
- When in doubt, eat something beforehand if you think there will be limited options.
Complete One-Week Vegan Meal Plan
Below is a complete one-week vegan meal plan to spark some ideas of all of the delicious and nutritious foods you can eat on a vegan diet. I've linked delicious recipes from myself and fellow food bloggers, so make sure to click on any of the recipes below if you're interested!
- Breakfast: overnight chia seed pudding
- Lunch: veggie burrito
- Dinner: green chili soup
- Snacks: dairy-free yogurt with nuts and granola
- Breakfast: veggie tofu scramble
- Lunch: chickpea wraps with avocado and spinach
- Dinner: Spicy noodle stir fry
- Snacks: cookie dough bites
- Breakfast: blueberry avocado smoothie
- Lunch: lentil bolognese
- Dinner: Firecracker tofu bowl with broccoli and rice
- Snacks: popcorn
- Breakfast: oatmeal with berries
- Lunch: Greek buddha bowl
- Dinner: Shepherd's pie with Beyond Beef
- Snacks: bell peppers and guacamole
- Breakfast: Just Eggs, English muffin, and fruit
- Lunch: soup and a side salad
- Dinner: chickpea curry
- Snacks: baked matcha glazed donuts
- Breakfast: strawberry rosemary scones
- Lunch: black bean burger with sweet potato wedges
- Dinner: lemon asparagus pasta
- Snacks: hummus and crackers
- Breakfast: vegan french toast with Just Egg
- Lunch: vegan BLT
- Dinner: poke bowl
- Snacks: sliced apple with nut butter
The Vegan Lifestyle
As I've mentioned, going vegan is a lifestyle choice. Diet is a huge part of being vegan, but veganism can trickle into all aspects of your life, from clothing to beauty and household products. It has been a fun discovery process finding different vegan brands. Unfortunately, I do want to caution that we do not live in a vegan world. It is almost impossible to avoid every single thing that contains animal products or is tested on animals. Do the best you can, and don't be too hard on yourself about this. Our goal as vegans is to reduce the suffering and exploitation of animals as much as possible, so any step in that direction helps! To help you fully immerse yourself in the vegan lifestyle, below, I've listed some vegan clothing, beauty, and household brands I've found.
Vegan Clothing Brands
- Alternative Apparel
- Hurtig Lane Watches
- Matt and Nat
- Stella McCartney
- Vegan Outfitters
- Veja shoes
- Wama Underwear
Vegan Beauty Brands
- Eco Tools
- E.L.F Cosmetics
- Herbivore Botanicals
- KVD Beauty
- Mario Badescu
- Milk Makeup
- Summer Fridays
Vegan Household Products
- Isavibe shop
- Package Free Shop
- Pinrose Candles
- Ravenscourt Apothecary
- The Dirty Vegans
- Vegan Bunny
Did you make it all the way to the end of this beginner vegan tips guide?? I hope you resonated with something in this post, and it helps you on your vegan journey. Please, if you have any other beginner vegan tips, make sure to comment below. Also, make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more vegan food inspiration!
Remember that the vegan journey is indeed a journey. Have fun, do the best you can, and don't be too hard on yourself if you slip up!