How to Become Vegetarian (or Vegan) the easiest way (the ULTIMATE transition guide)

Topics in this Post

  • Is it healthy to be a vegan?
  • Is it healthy to be a vegetarian?
  • Do vegans or vegetarians live longer?
  • What do you eat as a vegetarian?
  • What vitamins should I take when becoming vegetarian?
  • Do some vegetarians eat fish?
  • Why are some people vegan?
  • What does it mean to be vegan?
  • TRANSITIONING PLANS

Is it healthy to be a vegan? vegetarian?

Any diet or lifestyle can be done incorrectly.

A vegan living on potato chips and Twizzlers is not "healthier" than a vegetarian who eats mostly salads but dabbles in cheese occasionally. Likewise a vegetarian living mostly on mac n cheese, cupcakes, and cookies is not "healthier" than someone who eats mostly steamed vegetables and lean meats.

While there are associated health risks to consuming meat, eggs, and dairy products, a "junk food" vegan or vegetarian is not necessarily healthier.

However if you keep the "veg" in vegan (or vegetarian) and center your vegan or vegetarian diet around mostly whole plant foods, then yes, that IS healthier as any diet is healthier with more whole foods and vegetables in it.

Do vegans or vegetarians live longer?

There have been plenty of studies like this one in the UK that find vegans and/or vegetarians have substantially lower death rates than meat eaters.

Is it better to not eat meat?

Consumption of meat (as well as fish, dairy and eggs) has been linked to increased health risks including a higher risk for developing cancer, T2 diabetes, autoimmune disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stoke, Alzheimers, and obesity, among many other illnesses, diseases, and chronic conditions such as infertility, migraines, acne, eczema, asthma, and allergies.

What are the benefits of a vegan diet?

  • Improved Health
  • Environmental (a vegan diet is more eco-friendly)
  • Less Waste
  • Compassion / Animal Welfare
  • Human Welfare
  • Financial (a vegan diet is cheaper)

What do you eat as a vegetarian?

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Tubers (e.g. potatoes)
  • Leafy Greens
  • Nuts (e.g. cashews)
  • Seeds (e.g. sesame seeds)
  • Sea Vegetables (e.g. seaweed)
  • Legumes (e.g. beans, peanuts)
  • Grains
  • Mushrooms
  • Yeast
  • Eggs (vegans do not eat this)
  • Dairy (e.g. milk, butter) (vegans do not eat this)
  • Honey (some vegans do not eat this)

What does it mean to be vegan?

Vegans abstain from anything that involves the use of animals or animal products.

Vegans not only eschew animal products from their diet but also from their entire life. Leather, fur, wool and silk are not worn. Products that are tested on animals, such as some cosmetics, are also not used by vegans.

Why are some people vegan?

Animal rights. The belief that animals should not be exploited, killed or eaten is central to veganism. Some vegans may have additional reasons or motivations for being vegan, such as personal health or environmental concerns (a vegan diet is more eco-friendly) but veganism is rooted in animal rights.

What vitamins should I take when becoming vegetarian?

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or an omnivore (meat eater) you should regularly have all of your labs and levels checked. Even with a "perfect" diet, deficiencies can happen. If you are deficient for any reason, talk to your doctor about if you need a supplement.

It is genuinely recommended that vegans take B12, although vegetarians and omnivores are often B12 deficient as well. If you live in a cold, overcast climate it might be necessary for you to also take Vitamin D, regardless of your diet.

See this video for vitamin supplements worth taking on a vegan diet.

What is missing in a vegetarian diet?

Nothing (with the possible exceptions above for B12 and D, which is not necessarily due to dietary deficiency).

If you eat sufficient calories, predominately from whole plant foods and not highly processed plant foods, you should obtain all necessary nutrients.

Keep in mind that it is absolutely possible (and very common) to be nutritionally deficient and vitamin deficient even when eating meat.

Do some vegetarians eat fish?

A person who follows a vegetarian diet but also eats fish is called a pescatarian.

THE ULTIMATE TRANSITION GUIDE

Phasing items out slowly over time is the easiest approach for most folks, but others (those "all-or-nothing" types) do better with a total 180 overnight.

Make changes at your own pace.

People who fail usually do so because they hold themselves to too high a standard or place too many constraints or limitations on themselves right away.

How to Prepare to be Vegan or Vegetarian:

  • Switch to (sweetened) almond milk.

Swap dairy milk for almond milk or another type of plant-based milk. Be prepared to try a few different brands a until you find one you really like. You might also want to try other plant-based milks such as soy milk or cashew milk or a blend.

  • Incorporate more vegetables NOW before you transition.

Get used to eating more vegetables (and fiber). Start adding vegetables to every meal, filling at least half the plate with vegetables. If you're serving chicken, add a side of green beans and carrots. If you're eating pasta, add peas or broccoli to it. If you're eating fish, add a side of asparagus or cauliflower. Steamed or microwave vegetables are the easiest to digest. Avoid raw vegetables initially.

  • Adopt "Meatless Monday" and/or "Vegan Wednesdays"

"Stop looking for meat on your plate" is my husband's #1 piece of advice for those transitioning. Getting used to meals without meat (after a lifetime where it was the centerpiece) takes some mental cartwheels. Eating meatless or vegan few times a week is a great first step. PLUS it'll expose to new vegan and vegetarian recipes leading to the next tip:

  • Keep a binder or list of recipes and meals you've tried and liked. When you have at least 5 meals (ideally 7-10) you like and are easy to prepare regularly (a.k.a. on a weeknight), you'll be ready to transition. (see the recipes page!)

Download your Free 7-day vegan meal plan (includes 18 popular recipes)

  • Eat simpler meals.

Gourmet is fun but not practical when you're getting started. Get used to simpler meals like beans and rice, pasta with sauce and veg, noodles with teriyaki sauce and frozen stir-fry veggies, pb&j, hummus vegetable wraps, frozen bell peppers and onions cooked with a packet of faijta seasoning (put in tortillas), black bean burgers, polenta and marinara, refried beans and salsa with chips or in a wrap, salads and soups.

  • Have patience, give it time.

If you don't like anything at first, that's normal. It takes 21-30 days to adjust to a new way of eating, especially if your previous diet wasn't the healthiest.

  • Write 3 reason why you are changing your diet and lifestyle.

Re-read these reasons daily. (I have them pop up as a "reminder" on my phone).

  • Slowly replace dairy items like butter and cheese with vegan alternatives.

These items won't taste THE SAME and it's important to remember that. You're getting used to a new (and improved!) flavor. You might also need to try a few different brands before you find your favorite.

  • Join an online group.

If you belong to Meal Mentor, say hello in the private forums.

  • Start cooking again.

Get used to cooking for yourself, batching or prepping a few meals on the weekend. This is healthier and more cost effective, but when everything is new, you can get overwhelmed easily "foraging" for food.

Plus it'll take a while for you to get comfortable ordering at restaurants and asking for menu modifications. If you can avoid eating out as little as possible in the beginning, you'll thank yourself--Chipotle and Subway get old fast.

  • Rediscover your supermarket.

Walk down different aisles and browse the lower shelves. There's a treasure trove of ingredients just waiting to be discovered by you! Most people report eating a wider variety of food AFTER they become vegan or vegetarian.

  • Try new restaurants!

Try the local vegetarian restaurant. If your town doesn't have one, try Indian, Thai, and/or Ethiopian. These restaurants always have vegetarian menus. Be adventurous and curious. Think of it as a mini trip to a new country!

TRANSITION PLANS... EASY AS 1, 2, 3

Plan A (24 hours): This plan is aggressive and challenging, but the quickest way to adopt a vegan diet. Plan A is recommended by those who are motivated by ethical reasons, live alone, generally adapt to change easily or are already vegetarian.

On this plan, you’ll go completely vegan overnight (“cold tofu”). You can choose to start your vegan diet the morning after completing this course, or you can select a future date where it will occur. For example, Jessica, a long-time vegetarian, decided she would go vegan on Earth Day. I, on the other hand, went vegan while on vacation in San Francisco.

Plan B (one week): Slightly less aggressive than Plan A, using Plan B will adapt you to a vegan diet in 7 days. Each day, you will phase out one animal product. This plan can be extended longer, allowing more than one day between each phase, but should be completed in no less than three weeks. For days 1–3, it is strongly recommended you eat at least one vegetarian meal. For days 3– 4, it is strongly recommended that you eat one vegetarian meal and one vegan meal each day. For days 5–6, it is strongly recommended you eat mostly vegan.

Day 1: Eliminate beef, organ meats and game meats.
Day 2: Eliminate pork.
Day 3: Eliminate poultry (all bird meats).
Day 4: Eliminate fish.
Day 5: Eliminate eggs and shellfish.
Day 6: Eliminate dairy.
Day 7: Eliminate all animal by-products, such as gelatin.

Plan C (one month): This plan is very gradual, allowing adjustment to a vegan diet over a 30-day period. You are encouraged to eat as many vegan and vegetarian meals as possible during each week. For weeks 3–4, eat at least one vegan meal on a vegetarian day.

Week 1: Eat vegetarian 1 full day, plus 3 other vegetarian meals that week.
Week 2: Eat vegetarian 2–3 full days, plus 3 other vegan meals that week.
Week 3: Eat vegetarian 3 full days, vegan 1 full day plus 2 other vegetarian meals.
Week 4: Eat vegetarian 4 full days and vegan 2 full days... then get ready to go vegan!