Click to go directly to That day☝︎
WHY GO VEGAN
Welcome to day one! I hope you're excited to begin what can be a very transformational period of your life. Despite the guide being formatted to help you go vegan in 30 days, take however long you need to reach your goal (whatever that may be). I personally went vegan in a little over 2 months and on the other hand some people go vegan over night and others take a few years! Even if your goal isn’t to go fully vegan, i still hope this can help. The bottom line is we're all very different and if you want to read this, say, all in one day- then go for it. The format I use in this guide might not feel like the best thing for you so if that's the case, definitely alter it so you can get the best outcome. For example, if you feel like getting rid of eggs is going to be really hard for you.. you might want to eliminate all other things first to make it seem less overwhelming.
I think it's important that, before you start physically making any lifestyle changes, know why you're doing it. What's going to drive you to go through with this? Not only do you want to know just the basic reasons of going vegan, you want regularly be reminding yourself of the ones that mean the most to you.
I go into more detail for the 3 main reasons to go vegan (planet, animals, and health) in the later days but for now I'm just trying to emphasize the importance of having goals to work toward.
When I was transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, I found it very helpful to watch vegan-related videos everyday. From What I Eat In A Day videos to recipes to ones simply explaining the benefits of veganism, anything that can help keep you on track. Even if you sit down for 5 minutes one day and read an online article about the correlation between the standard american diet and heart disease… it's kind of like creating a vision board- just being able to look at it a few times a day helps you accomplish your goals.
So throughout this guide, I want you to set your own goals for your own reasons and make sure that you're keeping yourself motivated to achieve them. If you feel like your struggling mentally, watch videos, documentaries, read articles, books, studies. I'm totally not trying to make going vegan sound super hard (because it's really not from my experience) but having periods of not feeling as motivated is normal so hopefully you will remember to just surround yourself mentally (and physically if possible) with things that will help you make the change you wanna make in your life.
REDUCING MEAT CONSUMPTION
Most people start eliminating meat first when going vegan and that's the way I did it so I think this is a good place for most people to start. Before I went vegan, I consumed a LOT of meat and dairy. My step-dad is a hunter and so 4-5 times a week I would have some sort of steak for dinner (for years) and toward the end of my meat eating days I absolutely could not stand eating the stuff anymore.
Since I wasn't a big meat eater by choice- I was truly excited to not have to eat meat anymore! But I realize this probably isn't the case for everyone out there. It might be pretty hard for you to give up meat- but if you realize that the 'struggle' you may have is mainly mental- it will make it much easier.
If you want to eliminate meat all at once:
If you're ready to just jump right in like I was, then take your last bite of meat right now and don't look back. When I went vegetarian- I lived with my parents so I didn't have to worry about not finishing any meat products I had previously bought- because they would. But if that's not the case for you, maybe you live alone, then I recommend either:
Finishing them off
Giving them to family/friends/neighbors or
Donating them (say you have canned chicken noodle soup, you could give that to a local food pantry)
Once you've gotten rid of what may have been a big part of your daily meals... you're going to have to get other foods to replace those things. But since most people who've eaten meat their whole life don't exactly know how to replace it, let me give you the run down.
All vegans eat very differently- so there's no right way to eat.
Don't be scared to experiment and try new things.
Rice, potatoes, lentils, pasta, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and tofu are all staples.
You have to eat enough food (even if you're trying to lose weight) If you're satiated after every meal, you will be far less likely to get cravings. Plant foods are less calorically dense than animal products on average so you will have to eat a greater volume of food to feel full. Please do not restrict yourself.
If you want to reduce meat consumption gradually:
I recommend starting by getting rid of the meat products that you think will be the easiest to remove from your diet. Which ones do you eat on occasion but don't really love? Just take those out of the equation right away. If you're the type of person that needs a visual then maybe write out a list of the different things you eat that are meat or contain meat. Cross off the ones that you feel ready to not eating anymore. Then with the remaining ones, find a way that you can eliminate those at your own pace.
Some things you could do are:
Only eat what you have left in your house. Once you've finished off those products, don't buy any more of them.
Replace meat with other foods that are high in protein. Having a salad for dinner instead of a hamburger isn’t going to be satisfying. Adding lentils, beans, quinoa, tofu, etc to meals will make it much easier to reduce your meat consumption.
Find some good brands of vegan alternative meats. You might've had a really bad veggie burger experience before but I promise there are some very good vegan meat brands out there such as Gardein. Begin to replace real meat with those a few times a week.
Don't ever doubt yourself throughout this process. If you feel like you're craving meat, remember the tips above or try some vegan meats if you have them available to you- I promise a lot of them are actually really good. Some can be expensive but even in my little midwestern town i was able to find some that were pretty cheap! But when I first went vegan I didn't eat vegan alternatives for quite a while and I never found myself craving animal products. So that's a possible approach you could take. If you don't think that'd work, then the alternatives are great choices.
How to find them:
Go to the store
Note that even if you live in a small town- there will still probably be a few choices. If your population is about 300 and your grocery store is a gas station.. well you might have to take a road trip to bigger city nearby. If your pop is 5,000-15,000 then you might have a few times. And then if you live in a place like LA you shouldn't need my help for this :)
Some stores may have a natural section where there'll be some plant based things. Otherwise the vegan versions of things might be right by the non-vegan versions. Another good place to check are Asian food stores or even if there's just a foreign food aisle in a store, there will generally be a few really unique (accidentally) vegan things. So you'll just have to do some exploring!
If you want to succeed, you need to prepare, right? And any kind of dietary change is going to require a little bit of research. I will try to give you some of my advice and tips and help educate you but for the most part I think it’s best for you to research on your own because I am not a dietician or nutrionist so I don’t want to be giving dietary advice aside from basic facts like: don’t under eat.
There are many great websites, blogs, youtube channels, books, and documentaries that are packed with great info.
So I have homework for you today:
Find answers to 3 questions you have related to diet/health.
Also, two great presentations you can check out are 101 Reasons To Go Vegan and The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear. They're both about an hour long and are extremely informative so whenever you have a little extra spare time I recommend checking these out!
Going into veganism (or any big dietary change) without doing research and rather just eating like you see others eat on the internet can lead to a lot of problems. Normally when we see people experience health problems on a vegan diet and return to a non vegan diet, they were not eating very balanced or getting enough vitamins and nutrients. The best way to avoid that is to educate yourself on how to eat a well planned plant based diet, not from someone like me, but rather from someone who has the credentials to say what’s healthy and what’s not.
EATING ENOUGH FOOD
Arguably the biggest reason people go back to eating animal products is that they were just craving meat, dairy, or eggs. And they may think the cravings were because humans are meant to eat meat or their body just isn't suited to only eat plants.
But the reality is that those cravings were most likely caused by not eating enough food and/or not eating enough of certain nutrients. So how does this happen?
As you can see from the picture above, plant foods have a much lower caloric density than animal products. This means that you have to eat a higher volume of plants to get the same amount of calories compared to eating meat, dairy, or eggs. If you set out 2000 calories worth of fruits, veggies, and starches on one table and 2000 calories of animal products on another. . . the plant table is going to have a lot more food on it. But most people aren't aware of this (I wasn't for months after I went vegan) so when they're changing their diet to a more plant-based approach, they tend to not eat enough calories.
When you're taking meat, dairy, and eggs out of your diet, you need to replace them with an about amount of calories from plants.
Since you probably don't know the exact amount of calories in everything you eat, you might want to try recording what you eat on a site like Cronometer. It's not only great for tracking calories but also carb/protein/fat ratios, vitamins, and minerals. It's not something you have to use religiously, but I found it nice to use about once a week for a while just to know about how many calories I was consuming- not to restrict myself, but to make sure I was eating enough and not lacking in any nutrients! If you do have a background of restrictive eating or unhealthy calorie counting- it might not be a good idea to use this but it's up to you to decide if you want to or not.
When you're not eating enough food, your body is going to try to tell you that it needs food by making you feel hungry. When you get hungry- you're not usually craving celery or iceberg lettuce. You're usually craving high calorie, high fat foods because the more calorically dense something is, the less volume needed to fill you up. Fat has 9 cals/gram as opposed to carbs and protein having only 4 cals/g and we know that meat, dairy, and eggs have a high caloric density and (most) are high in fat, so those are going to be common things for you to crave when you're not giving your body enough fuel.
Veganism is an ethical stance. It’s not a weight loss program. If you want to eat a plant based diet to lose weight, that’s great. Please don’t restrict yourself though.
GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN
The number one concern people seem to have about vegans is: Where Do You Get Your Protein!?!
It's been asked thousands of times and to someone who's been vegan for a long time... it can seem like a dumb question. But the reality is- almost everyone has been raised thinking that protein is pretty much synonymous with meat... that they are interchangeable words. So it’s completely reasonable to be concerned about getting enough.
An easy place to find out vegan protein sources is just by looking up ‘vegan protein sources’. There's honestly tons of vegan protein sources that you may have never thought of (or even heard of).
It's common for people to look at protein as something that you can never get too much of.. but that's not the case. The Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.36 g/lb). The WHO also states that we need at least 5% of our calories to come from protein. Now that amount can easily be met on a vegan diet unless you’re under eating. You don't need to go out of your way to eat high-protein products or take protein powder- but if you want to you can!
P.S. There is protein in almost every food except certain condiments like oil and vinegar and other misc. things but there's protein in even fruits and veggies! Cronometer is great and will tell you how much is in any food.
Here I have linked some sites you can go to if you want to know about these health issues and how they can be helped through a plant based diet. Other than that the one thing I want to mention is that if you are experiencing health problems, not matter what your diet looks like, it is very important to see a dietician or doctor about it instead of trying to figure it out on your own. The longer you let something go untreated, the worse it’s usually gonna get. You can certainly experience health issues as a vegan, so if you do, don’t make assumptions about what caused it or what you should do to cure it, see a professional.
Low Energy Levels (1)
Here are 30 good vegan staple foods.
Bananas- So many different uses. You can just eat them plain, make banana ice cream with them, or use them to make smoothies.
Frozen Fruit- Great dessert/snack option and mixing any kind with fresh bananas makes for a great smoothie. Go well with oatmeal too. Also can be less expensive than fresh fruit in certain areas.
Mangoes- Might be expensive where you live but if you can find inexpensive, high quality mangoes- they go great with a lot of things and are nice snacks.
Apples- Great if you don't live somewhere tropical or in a huge city because everyone has apples!
Peaches/Nectarines/Plums- Again, good snacks.
Melons- Refreshing, hydrating.
Lentils- Also called split peas, can be used in making burgers, soup, dahl, and so much more. Very filling, a bunch of protein, here's 21 recipes that use lentils.
Rice- Rice goes so well with just about everything so it's great to have some basmati (not sticky) and/or some jasmine (sticky) rice on hand at all times. And even brown, wild, or black rice is fun to experiment with as well.
Potatoes- Regular and Sweet Potatoes can both be used in so many different ways and are super easy to just throw in the oven or microwave and top with some veggies, beans, seeds, and a sauce.
Ketchup- Self explanatory.
Sriracha- Spicy sauce but goes good with everything.
Salad Dressing- If you like salads then having a vegan salad dressing on hand is necessary. My favorite brands are Annie's and San-J (keep in mind not all dressings from these brands are vegan, just some).
Liquid Aminos- This is just low sodium soy sauce.
Noodles/Pasta- Super easy to make and cheap to buy.
Pasta Sauce- You've gotta have some sauce to go with the pasta.
Coconut Milk- If you like curry and things of that sort, coconut milk is good to have on hand.
Sweet Chili Sauce- Goes nicely with everything.
Beans- Kidney, garbanzo, black, lima, great northern, etc. There are so many varieties of beans that you can eat with so many meals to satiate you.
Hummus- Nice snack idea along with some chips or pretzels.
Plant-Based Milk- There's tons of varieties of this too: almond, soy, oat, cashew, hazelnut, rice, hemp, etc. so you're bound to like at least one kind. If you're looking for the least sweet kind (and the one that probably tastes most like cow milk) it's probably gonna be unsweetened almond milk.
Cereal- Easy breakfast.
Oats- Another good breakfast idea- except more filling.
Clif Bars/Granola Bars- Any vegan granola/protein/fruit bars are nice to have when you're to lazy to do anything but are a bit hungry.
Dates- These are fruits that kind of taste like caramel and are SUPER filling but at the same time very rich so you can't eat to many at a time... but make for great snacks.
Broccoli- There's so many veggies I could list but this is just one that you can add to lots of different meals.
Lettuce/Spinach/Greens- It's nice to have some kind of leafy greens to add to different food combos.
Corn- I honestly eat corn with everything, baked potatoes, pasta, rice, burritos.. you name it- just a nice way to enhance any meal.
Tortillas- So you can make tacos or burritos.
Peanut/Almond Butter- As you probably know, a very filling snack.
Maple Syrup/Agave Nectar- Alternatives for honey. Also a great topping for sweet potato fries along with tahini.
This should probably be pretty easy considering most people aren't addicted to honey or even eat it on a weekly basis. Because this one is so easy I'm gonna challenge you to dive right in and fully eliminate honey from your diet right now as you're reading this.
If honey is something that you do consume somewhat often, I recommend replacing it with agave nectar or maple syrup. Agave Nectar is probably a lot closer to the taste and consistency of honey but both are great to use instead.
If you have a bottle of honey that you no longer are going to use than I recommend giving it away to family or friends rather than throwing it away, or just finish it up.
Meat: It's fairly easy to see how meat consumption is only possible through killing animals. The conditions that they go through, even in 'humane' farms, are probably not ones you would want to live in. It's easy to separate ourselves from animals and their lives because we tend to see humans as the superior species to all others. But if you take a moment to place yourself in the animals position- it's a lot easier to connect to their circumstances. Picture yourself as a pig who's entire life purpose is to be made into bacon. You spend your entire life locked in a cage so small you can't even turn your body around. You're never able to go outside. Your living space is dirty and dark. You live for a few months or years in absolutely horrible, disgusting, and crammed conditions and then to put you out of your misery they send a bolt through your head. And because profit is the main goal and the more animals killed, the more money made- effectiveness isn't the main priority. So sometimes the bolt doesn't kill, and they'll just slit your throat while you're hanging by your feet from the ceiling and let the blood pour out of your body while you flail and scream in pain or you might just be scalded to death. You can feel free to look up videos of this, I'm not making stuff up. These are not isolated cases either so don't assume the animals you may eat are treated with lots of love. Before you came upon veganism you might've unconsciously been disconnected to animals, but now that you know some of the pain they go through- it can be easy to consciously disconnect because it causes you pain to know that others are going through pain. That was one mistake I made when transitioning to veganism. I tried to block that stuff out and therefore didn't really have that to push me to transition faster than I did. So I'm not saying you have to wake up and watch videos of animals being slaughtered everyday, but just to have that awareness of where your food is coming from.
Dairy: First I recommend checking out this 5 min video on the dairy industry. It's super short but still packs in so much information that (based on comments) has made so many people stop eating dairy instantly! All animals that produce milk, produce it for their babies. Humans, cats, dogs, rats, cows- it doesn't matter- mothers produce milk for their young. So the only way for a female cow to produce milk, is to make her pregnant. Now if you do the math, you'll realize that there is a lot of demand for dairy in the world and the dairy farmers don't have time to sit around and wait for cows to mate whenever they please. So they use artificial insemination, which is basically taking the semen from a male cow and putting it into the female. Then they wait for the baby to to born, let it pop out, and take it away. Take a moment to imagine being a mother and watching your baby get ripped away from you at birth... The reason they do this is because if the calf was left with the mother, it would drink her milk- but that's not what they want because the cows milk is suppose to be for the humans. Males will be killed within a few months for veal, or sometimes just days after birth if it is intended for lower grade use such as tv dinners. I knew many people before I went vegan who would say they'd never eat veal because it's only a baby and thats just cruel. But it's honestly the least cruel of them all! I mean would you rather live a short life of cruelty, exploitation, physical and emotional exhaustion, and horror that ends in death or a long life of cruelty, exploitation, physical and emotional exhaustion, and horror that ends in death. That's what happens to the female calves, they are raised to live a life just like their mothers. For our consumption of them. They exist to have their udders hooked up to a machine where they unwillingly give the milk meant for their young... to us. And when they're no longer profitable, or when they are so exhausted that they just collapse and can no longer stand on their feet, they're taken to the slaughterhouse.
Eggs: Once you stop eating eggs and learn what they really are- they become quite gross to think about. Just like female humans release eggs when they ovulate, so do hens. Just like humans, hens don't release eggs every single day. But thanks to genetic manipulation- they can. So the hens are put unwillingly through tons of stress so they lay 250+ eggs/year in stead of just 10 to 15. The more chickens they can fit into a smaller space, the better, so they crowd chickens into cages where they have no room to move. But that's not before they're painfully debeaked. That happens much earlier in their lives, only to the females because they're the egg makers. The males on the other hand, don't do anything of use to humans so they just get ground up alive right away. The ones we can't use, we kill right away, and the ones we can use become slaves to our system. Their entire life is over-producing eggs for people to consume when they are absolutely not necessary to human health. And then at the end of their lives they get their throats slit or they get scalded to death.
Honey: This is definitely the least obvious of all of them. And part of that is thankfully because they are usually exposed to less cruelty than in the other industries. But that doesn't just make it all love and good vibes for the bees. They are not living undisturbed by man when they are used to get honey. If you'd like an amazingly in depth article about why vegans don't eat honey, click here. Otherwise, the first thing I want to mention is that is bees don't produce honey so we can take it and eat it. They also don't produce it just for the heck of it. They make it so they can use it. Over the colder part of the year, they use it as a way to store food since they aren't able to go out and forage and gather much food. Honey is full of tons of essential nutrients that are necessary to be bees and they need the energy from it to help them go about their daily duties. So when beekeepers extract the honey from the hives, they replace it with a sugar substitute that is not nearly as healthy for them as honey is. Another thing beekeepers will do is clip off the queen bee's wings so they don't leave the hive. Obviously it's harder to empathize with insects compared to other animals based on the way we are taught to see them, but it's important not to separate yourself from these amazing creatures when we don’t need honey to be healthy.
One amazing documentary called Earthlings highlights so many different aspects of animal cruelty and although it's graphic it's definitely something you should watch sometime :)
TRYING NEW THINGS
It's never a bad idea to try new things, right? And we're certainly not making any exceptions here. Chances are- there are so many vegan foods that you've never tried or never heard of that you could eat one new food for the rest of your life and never run out of options. I promise there are more plant based foods out there besides just fruits and veggies. It's likely that before you started this journey you didn't scope out vegan things every time you went to the grocery store so you might not feel like you have many options near you. I know I already briefly went over this but obviously if you live in a town with a population of 1,000- you probably won't be finding vegan hot dogs at your local gas station. But there are tons of products that are just kind of accidentally vegan, many of which you've probably had before.
If you do live in an area big enough that there are lots of unique and diverse foods, then that's great! Something I think you should definitely do is go to you grocery store(s) one day and just look around for a while. Discover some new fruits that you've never seen before, go down the ethnic foods aisle or through the natural section (if you have either of them). Check out the places you don't usually go to.
For example, some cool things I found in my area were:
These delicious black bean burgers
Homemade sweet potato fries
Lots of plant based yogurt
Boom Chicka Pop popcorn (not all are vegan)(my favs are the sweet + salty and the sweet + spicy)
Quinoa Salad (Mex-Style)
And those are just a few things.
Now the only thing that's more important than trying new foods important is trying new food combinations. I could probably make 50 different meals involving rice (which is cheap, tasty, and super easy-to-make in bulk) because I've tried so many random, and sometimes gross, combos with rice. You can also do a lot with potatoes... and pasta... and homemade pizzas.. and burritos.. and that's where you can create tons of diversity. With potatoes- you've got regular and sweet potatoes, you can boil, bake, or make fries out of them. From there- you can eat a baked sweet potato with steamed veggies and beans or boiled regular potato with some vegan chicken wings on the side.
So while you might not be super excited to try tofu or vegan cream cheese or whatever it may be, I think it's a really good idea in the long run to just go out of your food comfort zone and try new things if you're able to. Don't afraid to whip up weird concoctions in the kitchen because they could turn out super good! This is all a learning experience and it should seriously be fun- don't think that if you go vegan you can only eat boring tasteless food. If you explore your options, you may discover so many great foods and meals that you'll love. If you're anything like me, you'll be trying out a bunch of different recipes from online or in cookbooks in the beginning and then slowly find a few favorite meals and just eat those every single day. So try some new things.. and enjoy :)