So you’re a new vegan. Congrats! You’re doing something great for your body, the planet, and the animals. But changing your lifestyle is hard – especially getting started. Well, rest easy. We’re here to get you going with some of our best beginner’s tips for going vegan, from staying satisfied with plant-based proteins like nuts and beans, to making these quick and easy vegan swaps in the kitchen, to batch cooking and meal planning, to getting support from family and friends about your new lifestyle.
1. Stay satisfied
No one likes a hangry person. When you cut out animal products be sure to add lots of nutrient dense plant-based foods to keep you full and happy. Bulk up your meals with plenty of fresh veggies, whole grains (high fiber keeps you full longer!) and plant-based proteins like:
- Raw nuts including almonds, cashews and walnuts
- Beans and legumes, including lentils, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and edamame (soy beans)
- Whole grains like brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, steel-cut oats, and wild rice
- Seeds like chia and flax
- Nut butters, like all-natural peanut butter and almond butter
- Green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, bok choy, and kale
- White potatoes
- Soy-based proteins like tofu and tempeh
2. But don’t stress too much over protein
Worried you won’t get enough protein? This is a common concern, but not a necessary one. Not only is it super easy to get all the protein you need on a plant-based vegan diet, but protein deficiency is also pretty rare. (It’s fiber deficiency that’s got 97% of Americans in its grasp!) By eating a well-rounded vegan diet filled with lots of whole grains, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, all your nutritional needs will be met. Wondering how much protein you actually need? Calculate your protein requirements here.
3. Cashew cream is your friend
You can give up cheese, we promise. You just need a little help from your new friend, cashew cream. It will make your pasta sing and help you overcome your cheezy cravings. To make homemade cashew cream just soak 1 cup raw cashews for at least an hour in 2 cups of water. You can add a pinch of salt if you like. Once soaked, blend in high-speed blender or food processor until creamy. We like to add in 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast to give it a nutty, cheesy flavor and a squirt of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for a nice tang. Test your favorite herbs and spices as well.
4. Seek out vegan restaurants or vegan options nearby
Eating out as a vegan is easier than ever before and a little research goes a long way. Check out websites like HappyCow or Yelp to search for vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants in your area. You can also join regional vegan Facebook groups to get recommendations from local veggies. If you don’t have time to plan ahead you can still enjoy your meal by following these tips for dining out on a plant-based diet.
5. Make a meal plan
Having a plan in place at mealtime is key for any vegan newbie. It’ll help you avoid making not so vegan food choices when you’re hungry and tired, plus it’ll keep things interesting so you can avoid the dreaded dinnertime rut. Grab these vegan meal planning tips to get started.
6. Download a vegan app
Vegan apps will make your plant-based life so much easier — from helping you navigate airport food options to scanning products in the grocery store to ensure they’re actually vegan. Here are 8 vegan apps to add to your phone ASAP.
7. Find your favorite vegan substitutes
Tips for eating vegan 101 always include adapting some of your favorite recipes with vegan ingredients. Not sure how to do that? We’ve got your back with these 11 plant-based ingredient swaps to make at home.
8. Pack snacks when you are on the go
No matter how much you prep and plan, there will be times when you’re somewhere at mealtime that just doesn’t have any vegan options for you. So what’s a hungry vegan newbie to do? Pack snacks! Keep your car, backpack, purse, coat pockets stocked with grab-and-go vegan snacks so hunger won’t ruin the day. Check out these 10 quick and easy vegan travel snacks for your next day out.
9. Get some awesome cookbooks
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel in your newly vegan kitchen! There are so many awesome plant-based cookbooks out there to peruse and find inspiration. Some of our current favorite healthy vegan cookbooks:
- Oh She Glows
- No Meat Athlete Cookbook
- Power Plates
- The Plant Power Way
- The Happy Herbivore
- Straight Up Food
- Forks Over Knives
- Thug Kitchen
Or browse these great healthy vegan recipe blogs:
- Forks Over Knives
- Clean Food Dirty Girl
- Chef AJ
- Happy Herbivore
- Running on Real Food
- Plant-Based Dietitian
- Straight Up Food
- UC Integrative Medicine
10. Find a supportive community
You don’t have to do it alone! Thanks to the world wide web, you can connect with fellow vegans in seconds. There are so many vegan Facebook groups, whether you’re looking for vegan recipes, vegan pregnancy support, local meetups, whatever you need.
11. Avoid convenience foods
A quick health tip for vegans is to remember that just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s good for you! Oreos are vegan, after all. One of the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle is that it’s so darn good for your body. But ditching animal products is just half of it. If you’re replacing animal products with processed vegan junk food, you may be doing the animals a solid, but you’re selling your health short. Adding a wide variety of whole plant foods to your diet is key so eat up lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds.
12. Load up and try new veggies
There’s a whole wide world of delicious and healthy vegan eating out there — go explore! Try at least 1 new fruit, vegetable, or whole grain every week. Test out different cooking methods, roast veggies with new spices and seasonings, or get creative with your vegan garnishes.
13. Batch cook
If cooking dinner every night simply isn’t for you, we highly recommend you batch cook. Making a big pot of whole grains will pay off big time as you head into your busy week, saving you time, money, and energy. Get our favorite vegan batch cooking tips here.
14. Don’t be embarrassed by your decision and leave judgments at the door
Change is disruptive by definition. But it doesn’t have to be a bumpy transition to the vegan life. There are ways to get the support you need, as well as ways to handle skeptical family and friends.
15. Remember: progress, not perfection
Rome wasn’t built in a day and a “perfect” vegan doesn’t exist. If you “cave” at your office party and nibble on some cheese or if you discover halfway through a restaurant meal your dish has meat in it (even though you were assured it was vegan), take a deep breath — in and out — and relax. All you can do is your best and take it one step at a time. You’re doing just fine and tomorrow is another day.
Featured image: a spread of healthy, plant-based food.