How to go vegan for beginners: A step-by-step guide
With awareness of veganism growing around the world, and a new plant-based product seemingly popping up every other day, you may have found yourself wanting to learn more about veganism. Why are so many people interested in shifting away from animal products? How can you start your own vegan journey and what might you expect from it?
What is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle, the followers of which seek to reduce the animal suffering they cause as much as practically possible. Though examples of vegan living include not wearing or buying leather, not using products that have been tested on animals and not going to zoos, circuses or aquariums, the most prominent and well-known facet of veganism is the vegan diet. A vegan diet excludes foods and ingredients that are derived from animals. Some common animal-derived foods that a vegan eater would seek to avoid are eggs, milk, cheese, meats and honey. Though people can adopt a vegan diet for a variety of reasons, one of the most common is to avoid causing animal suffering.
Is it hard to go vegan?
Giving up dairy, meat, eggs, and other animal products may seem a daunting task, especially when many of the recipes we know and love place these foods and ingredients at the center of our meals. But the reality is that going vegan is highly achievable, and something that approximately 79 million people around the world have accomplished.
There are a number of different techniques that you can use to make going vegan easier, such as focusing on the foods that you can eat, reducing the animal products you eat over a longer period of time, trying a vegan challenge, replacing your favorite animal products with plant-based alternatives, and finding other people on the same journey who can give you a helping hand.
Is it cheaper to go vegan?
Whether or not veganism is cheaper than your current diet depends largely on the foods you’re presently eating. According to a study by researchers at Oxford University, if you eat a Western-style diet, one filled with lots of meat, dairy, eggs, and processed and prepared foods, then switching to a vegan diet could reduce the cost of food by as much as a third.
Why do people become vegan?
There are many reasons why a person might choose to adopt a vegan diet. These include religious preferences, personal health concerns, the environment, and animal rights. Regardless of the reason you start, eating plant-based has the potential to positively impact all of these areas.
Going vegan for the animals
Many people who decide to adopt a vegan diet do so because they want to stop contributing to animal suffering. The animal suffering that takes place as part of the production process for meat and other animal-derived foods is considerable. Egg-laying hens spend their lives jammed into tiny cages where their only purpose is to produce hundreds of eggs a year until their bodies give out. Chickens raised for meat are selected to grow so quickly that this imposes on them leg deformities and heart diseases. Farmed fish have been found struggling in visibly filthy water before being gruesomely butchered. Cows are often shipped across oceans by the thousands, spending weeks or even months in extreme temperatures standing in their own waste.
Going vegan for the planet
The planet and our environmental well-being make up a compelling reason to adopt a plant-based diet. Animal agriculture contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, species loss, the destruction of marine ecosystems, and global land use. These changes to the climate and environment threaten humanity’s ability to produce food in the future the way it does now. It is likely that much of the food we currently cultivate will not be able to grow where it presently does by the end of the century.
Going vegan for health
Eating a vegan diet — specifically, a whole-food plant-based diet made up of mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of processed replacements — has been associated with a variety of positive health outcomes. Among those aged 60 and above, eating a plant-based diet has been associated with a lower need for medications. Eating a vegan diet has also been associated with a lower risk of contracting COVID-19, whether severe or not. Researchers evaluating the ties between diets and cardiovascular health have found that opting into a healthy plant-based diet correlates with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
What are the benefits of going vegan?
In addition to the benefits of reducing animal suffering, pollution, and environmental degradation, there are also a number of positive personal health outcomes that have been associated with eating more plant-based foods.
Lower risk of heart disease
Several studies have suggested that adopting a healthy plant-based diet results in better cardiovascular outcomes than a diet high in animal-derived ingredients and foods. Eating plant-based was associated with a 16 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease and a 32 percent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality. Even adopting a vegetarian diet has been connected with a reduced risk of heart disease, improved cholesterol, and blood pressure levels when compared to other diets containing meat and other animal products.
Lower risk of cancer
Vegan diets and diets that include low levels of animal products have been associated with reduced risk of developing several different types of cancer. Among the cancers which plant-based eaters are potentially at a reduced risk of developing are prostate cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Lower risk of diabetes
Numerous studies have suggested that adopting a plant-based diet that emphasizes legumes, vegetables, and fruits instead of meat and other animal products can prevent and potentially even treat diabetes.
Improved gut health
Eating a vegan diet contributes to a healthier gut microbiome. Specifically, those eating a plant-based diet have more diverse bacteria in their gut than those eating a diet loaded with animal products. This in turn contributes to greater immunity against pathogens and better regulation of the critical functions of the intestine.
Brain health and better mood
Those following a high-quality plant-based diet made up of mostly whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains may be at a reduced risk of developing depression.
What are the side effects of going vegan?
Many of the most commonly experienced side effects of a transition to veganism are social side effects. Most vegans have found themselves in situations where a well-meaning family member or friend fails to provide a suitable option at dinner. These situations can prove awkward and difficult to navigate, especially when the dietary change is new.
Aside from that, if you have the means and the opportunity, it is always wise to consult a doctor or other medical professional to discuss your unique situation and how best to begin transitioning to a vegan diet.
What do you eat as a vegan?
The foods that vegans can eat far outnumber those they can’t. Vegans enjoy all types of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains. In place of animal's milk, those eating a plant-based diet might enjoy a plant-based alternative made from soy, rice, almonds, oats, or even peas.
How to go vegan
Learn about it. One of the most crucial steps for successfully adopting veganism is to research the diet and what it means. Understanding the reasons why you want to go vegan and having a plan for moving forward is key.
Know your “why.” There are many reasons to go vegan. There could be one that you’re particularly passionate about or you might have several unique reasons for wanting to go vegan. It is important to keep your reasons in mind to help you stay the course, whatever they are.
Ask for help. Finding someone to take the journey toward veganism with you or to support you in your decision and help keep you motivated is an awesome way to learn new recipes and network.
Be kind to yourself. Shifting to a fully vegan diet can be challenging. If you do slip up it is important to be kind to yourself. At the end of the day it is better to be a flawed vegan than to give up on your values altogether.
Don’t give up. Veganism can be difficult but it is important not to give up. Having a support system, favorite foods, and a strong reason, or reasons, for starting and maintaining a vegan diet is key.
Add more before subtracting. Focusing on adding more vegan foods to your diet before cutting foods out is an awesome way to find new favorite recipes and notice the change less if you stop eating your current favorites.
How to go vegan slowly
When switching from a diet heavy with meat to a vegan diet, going slowly is important to help increase the odds that you stick with it. Perhaps cutting out red meat first and then white meat a week later before eventually also eliminating cheese, dairy, and other animal products over the period of several months may be a good tactic.
How to go vegan for a week
Another tactic for going vegan is to go vegan slowly over several months by first going vegan for a week out of a month and then eating vegan for two weeks the following month. This method would result in a full transition to veganism in about four months.
How to go vegan for 21 days
Some people say you need 21 days to get used to new habits. Going vegan for three weeks through a challenge is an awesome way to begin eating more ethically.
How to go fully vegan
There are a number of methods by which to go fully vegan. You could start by going pescatarian before moving to vegetarianism and finally veganism, or try it as part of a challenge. Different people find different means of transitioning to veganism the most effective. Whatever the method that you decide to use, the result will be a more positive outcome for the environment and a reduction in animal suffering.
Transitioning to veganism can be daunting, but successfully moving away from consuming animal products can have a profound impact on your personal health, the welfare of animals, and the environment — and with your satisfaction with yourself, by living in a lifestyle that matches your values. On top of the many benefits associated with adopting a vegan diet, for many meat-eaters making the transition is also likely to result in a lower grocery bill.