MY THREE STEPS FOR GOING VEGAN.

(Updated 11/16/2013)

The initial thought and practice of going vegan can be insanely overwhelming. I've been vegan for over five years now, and remembering my first few months as a new vegan was like remembering how I navigated my first few months as a post-graduate in my early twenties - I was scared, anxious, and - you guessed it - overwhelmed beyond belief.   


How did I make it through that difficult transition of entering the real world after eighteen years of school and parental codependence? By putting one nervous foot ahead of another, taking a deep breath, and walking slowly. I took baby step by baby step. Find a job. Defer my loans for a year. Stretch my weekly groceries into monthly groceries. Keep a gratitude journal to remind myself I have it better than most. I kept taking baby steps until everything started falling into place, and becoming a grown-up was not nearly as scary as it first appeared to be.  

Now, all of this is not to say that being a grown-up - or maintaining a vegan lifestyle - is a breeze 100% of the time. I would be lying to you if I said that. But don't all the best, most fulfilling experiences and goals in life take effort? The cool part about accepting this notion is that once you start allowing yourself to make space for the work, the benefits outweigh any possible stress you may experience in living this way. And as overwhelming as it can seem to go vegan at first, it does get easier. It also gets yummier, more and more promising, and even joyful. It's all about allowing yourself to make room for this lifestyle. A little bit of wiggle room will go a long way, I promise.  

As most of my readers know, I love to make lists of reasons to smile. I can't think of a better way for me to introduce steps towards a vegan lifestyle than to make a list for you - so I have. Below, I've listed three simple steps you can take to make the transition towards veganism easy, and maybe even fun!  

My list may not match up completely with another vegan blogger's recommendations. That's okay. If I've learned anything on my own journey, it's that the best way to stay strong as a vegan is to grab at any inspiration you possibly can. Feel free to take apart my list, dissect it, glean what you can from it, and throw away what doesn't work. I promise, I won't take it personally.  

And don't fret - this list is not overwhelming, because it only contains three steps. Three simple steps you can take at your own leisure and pace. Enjoy these steps. Find ways to celebrate your new lifestyle by exploring them in ways that make you feel good! Don't look at these steps with fear or nervousness. Find a step - or a step within a step - that works for you, and try it out. You may find that you surprise yourself! 

Lindsay's Three Simple Steps For Easing into Your Vegan Lifestyle

1. Empower yourself with the truth - do your research! 

There are countless books out there that can be great resources of information to help you make informed decisions. Some of these may be at your local library, and if not, you can always order them on amazon.com or half.com if money is tight. You may even be able to find a book swap online, where you can swap an old book for a book about veganism. The more you learn, the more equipped you will be in any situation - be it if you're out at a restaurant and unsure of what to order, with a meat-eating friend whose opinions differ from yours, or just trying to find a decent vegan cake recipe.   

Here is a list of great books and other resources to begin your journey. Some are books about how to go vegan, some discuss the moral, physical, and environmental impact of eating animals, and some are just fabulous cookbooks. All of them are wonderful ways to inspire you at the beginning of the process:

BOOKS ON VEGANISM AND ANIMAL ADVOCACY
Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn
Vegan's Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus
Diet For A New America by John Robbins
Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
Dominion by Matthew Scully
The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle, PhD
Animal Camp by Kathy Stevens
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy
The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanna Stepaniak  (*this was the first book I ever read on veganism*)
Raising Vegetarian Children by Joanne Stepaniak
Yoga and Vegetarianism by Sharon Gannon
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
A Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Living by Beverly Lynn Bennett
Vegan in 30 Days by Sarah Taylor
Glow by Carlye Katz
Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds by Gene Baur
The Inner World of Farm Animals by Amy Hatkoff
Making Kind Choices by Ingrid Newkirk
Ninety-Five edited by No Voices Unheard
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals (a children's book) by Ruby Roth

VEGAN COOKBOOKS THAT ROCK
How It All Vegan, by Sarah Kramer (also check out Vegan A Go Go)
Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (also check out Vegan Brunch, Veganomicon, or Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)
Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm 
Spork Fed by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg
Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry
Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
The Happy Herbivore Cookbook by Lindsay Shay Nixon
Forks over Knives The Cookbook by Del Sroufe 
The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen

VEGAN HEALTH BOOKS

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD & Thomas Campbell, MD
Prevent and Reserve Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD
The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn
My Beef With Meat by Rip Esselstyn
Thrive by Brendan Brazier
Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD
Unprocessed by Chef AJ
Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness by Robert Cheeke
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever, RD

GREAT VEGAN WEBSITES
www.the30dayveganchallenge.com
www.thekindlife.com
www.sporkfoods.com
www.vegnews.com/ (*The website of VegNews - an AMAZING vegan magazine)
www.veganatheart.com
www.compassionatecooks.com
www.thediscerningbrute.com
www.midlifevegan.blogspot.com


KICK-BUTT ORGANIZATIONS
Mercy for Animals - www.mercyforanimals.org
Farm Sanctuary - www.farmsanctuary.org
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine -  www.pcrm.org
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary - www.woodstocksanctuary.org
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - www.peta.org
The Elephant Sanctuary - www.elephants.org
Defenders of Wildlife - www.defenders.org
A Well-Fed World - www.awellfedworld.org
YEA Camp - www.yeacamp.org
In Defense of Animals - www.idausa.org
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!- www.kissmyvegan.blogspot.com (Duh.)

GREAT VEGAN-FRIENDLY FILMS
Vegucated
Forks Over Knives
Earthlings
Bold Native
The Ghosts In Our Machine
Fowl Play
Blackfish
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Year of the Dog
Speciesism: The Movie
Skin Trade
Got The Facts On Milk? (The Milk Documentary)
Meet Your Meet
Farm To Fridge
The Engine 2 Diet Kitchen Rescue

ETC.
www.ahimsalifecoaching.com - vegan transitioning coaching
www.reikiforcreativeminds.com - energy healing for activists
www.veganstore.com - vegan goods & apparel
www.mooshoes.com - great place to order vegan shoes
www.alternativeoutfitters.com - vegan clothing & apparel
www.herbivoreclothing.com - vegan clothing & apparel
www.caringconsumer.org - this site lists all vegan and cruelty-free companies and products

2. Learn to cook with - and love - new foods.  

Take about thirty days or so and challenge yourself to try out new foods. There are countless dairy, meat, and egg alternatives out there - it's almost silly how much is there for you if you take the time to explore.  When I first started on the culinary journey of eating vegan, it definitely took time - I had to challenge myself to try a bunch of new foods, some that I didn't love at first (like tofu and tempeh - which I can't get enough of now!). I bought cookbooks, scoured the internet for vegan recipes, and did a lot of trial and error. The result? I've fallen in love with this way of life, and this diet. I actually wake up each morning excited to eat. I never feel deprived or unsatisfied. It does take some work to live this way, but it is more worth it in the end than I can ever possibly explain. And what's that quote again? Something about having to kiss a few frogs to get to a prince? Well, think of your new diet as the prince (or princess!), and allow yourself to mess up a few "frog" recipes to get to the ones you'll come to rely on and love. 

I also must add that aside from the financial investment of stocking my kitchen properly with spices, eating vegan on a weekly basis is as expensive, if not cheaper than eating a diet including meat, dairy, and eggs. We are fortunate to live in a time when vegan alternatives are becoming more reasonably priced and much more accessible, so celebrate this by being bold and trying out a few new foods today!  


Here's a starter list of great vegan alternatives to commonly used non-vegan foods. Always try to buy local and organic when possible, because you will be supporting local farmers and workers, as well as sustainable and environmental living. Enjoy!


Dairy alternatives
Almond Milk (a great starter milk for transitioning away from cow's milk)
Soy Milk
Rice Milk
Hazelnut milk
Coconut Milk
Hemp Milk
Oat Milk
* Favorite brands of mine include EdenSoy, Almond Breeze, and Tempti Hemp Milk 

Other Dairy Alternatives:
Earth Balance vegan butter (the perfect dairy butter alternative - available online and in most health food stores)
Daiya Vegan Cheese - for those wary of soy, don't worry - it's soy-free!
Coconut Milk (any organic brand) - to add creaminess to dishes or as a delicious dessert with fresh fruit and a little sweetener
Follow Your Heart - Vegan Cheese, Vegan Cream Cheese, and Vegan Sour Cream
Tofutti - another great dairy alternative - just make sure to buy the non-hydrogenated version of the cream cheese)
We Can't Say It's Cheese - cheese & cream cheese alternative
Purely Decadent's Coconut Milk Ice Cream line - hands down, the best vegan ice cream on the market!
Nutritional Yeast - adds yummy, nutty, parmesan-like flavor to savory dishes, like pasta, popcorn, stir-fries, and my personal favorite, tofu scramble.

Egg Alternatives for Baking and Cooking:
Tofu - I eat scrambled tofu frequently and love it. It takes roughly the same amount of time to make as a scrambled egg takes, but with no cholesterol or cruelty as a by-product!
Ground flaxseeds, mixed with water
Mashed Banana
Applesauce
Silkened Tofu
Soy Yogurt
EnerG Egg Replacer (can be purchased online or at health food stores)

*** For measurement help: http://www.theppk.com/veganbaking.html

Basic Tofu Scramble Recipe (I put the ingredients in bold, and I don't use exact measurements - so I suggest you try it out for yourself and make your own):  


Buy 1 package of extra-firm tofu, and squeeze the excess water out of it. Crumble it into a bowl. Heat a pan with a little bit of cooking oil, toss the tofu in, and let it cook til nicely browned (I like it crispier than most people, so I cook it for a while). After about two minutes or so, sprinkle on a good amount of turmeric and mix well - this spice will turn the tofu a lovely yellow color. I also like to add the following spices: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and a LOT of nutritional yeast. Don't be shy about the nutritional yeast, folks! As I said above, I don't really measure, and I don't think you should either - just sprinkle a little of everything on, and taste it to see what you like. I usually require a lot of spice for mine - the most important spice is definitely the turmeric. This whole process should take as long as it takes to scramble an egg, especially once you get the hang of it. If you're serving it for friends or want it look a little fancy, I suggest sprinkling a little paprika on top.  

Tofu Scramble tastes great with baby spinach, onions, mushrooms, or whatever other vegetables you can imagine (baby spinach is my favorite). Just add your vegetable(s) a few minutes at the end of cooking.

Plant-based Proteins:
Beans (the cheapest and easiest alternative, in my humble opinion!)
Tofu - I especially loved Trader Joe's brand pre-baked marinated tofu - mmm...
Nuts
Quinoa - pronounced "keen-wah" - which is a complete protein (it also happens to be a seed - cool stuff!)
Broccoli - I just put this here to emphasize that you don't have to stress as much as you think you do about the protein factor when you go vegan. Broccoli has, calorie for calorie, more protein than a piece of steak! Trust your veggies and nature to help you on your way with finding ample daily protein.


Veggie Meats I LOVE:
Gardein - can be found in Whole Foods in the freezer section (and some other grocery stores)
Field Roast Veggie Sausage
Tofurky products!

Other foods you should add to your diet, if you haven't already:

- Local, organic produce! Lots of it! (I know it's more expensive than the other stuff, but it is so much better for you! Think of the extra cost as a donation to the Earth and local farmers). Basically, learn to love vegetables. Find ones you like and learn to cook with them in ways that excite you.

- Whole grains - brown rice is a fabulous place to start. You can even have brown rice for breakfast - it makes a great porridge in the morning with dried fruit, some sweetener, and nuts!

- Speaking of grains, alternatives to whole wheat pasta - I love Brown Rice Pasta and Quinoa Pasta, just to spice things up a bit.


- The key is to eat a little bit of everything and to add a good vegan B-12 supplement and a vegan multivitamin to your diet - my favorite is SuperNutrition Calcium Blend Multivitamins, and I take them with a Whole Foods brand B-12 supplement. (For more info on B-12 requirements, click here.)

3. Go slowly, and most importantly - don't go at it alone. 

Okay, this is kind of two steps in one. 


Let's tackle the "going slowly" part first:


Veganism is a big change, especially if you're transitioning from a meat and dairy heavy diet. My advice will always be to start with baby steps. I surely did. In the three years it took me to transition to veganism, thankfullyI had nobody pressuring me, and that definitely helped me feel good about my decision to commit fully to this lifestyle. 


Bottom line: don't pressure yourself to make all of these changes at once. Like any lifestyle shift, veganism takes time and tons of patience. And forgiveness. You could be all gung-ho about going vegan one day, and the next day, you eat a piece of cheese without thinking. Forgive yourself. Believe me, there have been many times in the past where I've either accidentally eaten meat in a dish or lazily eaten something that may have had a little dairy in it. Take it one day at a time, and don't punish yourself if you haven't been perfect that day. But KEEP GOING.


And likewise, if you've read this post and you still don't think veganism is for you, that's okay. Just try one aspect of it. Take your time with this transition. Just one small change can make all the difference. For instance - keep eating meat, but add tofu to your chicken stir-fry. Or for one day a week, pour almond milk over your cereal. No one is asking you to make big changes right away - this is your life. Go at your own pace, and celebrate your small successes along the way. As Alicia Silverstone suggests in her amazing book, The Kind Diet, become a vegan "flirt". Or follow vegan baker and activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's sage advice: 



"Don't do nothing, because you can't do everything. Do something, anything!"  

And now for the "don't go at it alone" part


One of the complaints I hear from new vegans on my blog is how isolating the lifestyle can become, especially when you don't know other vegans. It does not need to be this way, folks! What you will slowly learn as you adopt this lifestyle is that the vegan community is filled with people just like you - and all you have to do is reach out to them! The best part? You can do a lot of this reaching out from the comfort of your own computer. Find a vegan meetup group in your area by searching for it on www.meetup.org. Start making yourself known on the forums at www.thekindlife.com. Make a facebook group for local vegans in your area, and see who reaches out to you! There are more vegans around you than you think, and they're all hoping to connect with people like YOU. Farm Sanctuary even has a resource for people all over the country interested in volunteering for them - check out www.farmsanctuary.org/act for more information and to get involved. 


Having a sense of community is essential to this lifestyle, because there will be days, like there are in life, when you feel rundown, tired, and ready to throw in the towel. And your vegan friends, even if they are internet friends, will help remind you to stay committed. They will be the people you can vent to when you've become passionate about this path and are met with all kinds of opposition and/or hostility. They will be your greatest cheerleaders, fans, and mentors. Reach out.  


As a final note, if you've read to the bottom of this page, you are ABSOLUTELY headed in the right direction! Congrats! 


If you still have questions, feel free to tweet me - my handle is @kissmeimvegan & Steve's is @ahimsalifecoach. We are more than happy to help guide you in whatever direction you need to go.


With love and endless amounts of support,  


Lindsay, your faithful vegan blogger


P.S. A few quotes to inspire: 

Unless someone like you
Cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better,
It's not. Dr. Seuss, The Lorax 

Be passionate and follow your heart, which will encourage and empower yourself and others. And listen to your gut. It is shocking what happens on factory farms; it is not wrong to feel that people should know about it and want it to stop. Gene Baur

Being vegan helped me realize I can say and do what I believe is right. That’s powerful. Nothing’s changed my life more. I feel better about myself as a person, being conscious and responsible for my actions and I lost weight and my skin cleared up and I got bright eyes and I just became stronger and healthier and happier. Can’t think of anything better in the world to be but be vegan. Alicia Silverstone
  
I just could not stand the idea of eating meat – I really do think that it has made me calmer... People’s general awareness is getting much better, even down to buying a pint of milk: the fact that the calves are actually killed so that the milk doesn’t go to them but to us cannot really be right, and if you have seen a cow in a state of extreme distress because it cannot understand why its calf isn’t by it, it can make you think a lot. Kate Bush

I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives. Dean Ornish, M.D. 

If you don’t want to be beaten, imprisoned, mutilated, killed or tortured then you shouldn’t condone such behavior towards anyone, be they human or not. Moby 


I do not like eating meat because I have seen lambs and pigs killed. I saw and felt their pain. They felt the approaching death. I could not bear it. I cried like a child. I ran up a hill and could not breathe. I felt that I was choking. I felt the death of the lamb. Vaslav Nijinsky 


The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.  If beef is your idea of “real food for real people” you’d better live real close to a real good hospital. Neal Barnard 

I began to wonder why we cuddle some animals and put a fork in others. Henry Spira 

I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other. Henry David Thoreau 

Some people are still going to want to eat meat. We do agree though that vegetarianism is a healthier diet. David Stroud (of the American Meat Institute) 


The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.  Gandhi

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does. Margaret Mead