Sunday I was at a birthday party of my nephew and niece when everybody started asking me how to start a vegan diet. They obviously knew that I had become vegan, but I never thought of it as a big deal.
So, I thought: “Maybe more people want to know how to start a vegan diet.” That was an excellent topic for a blog post, and it fits this blog nicely.
Today, you will learn everything about how to start a vegan diet. Get ready to read this article in the following 12 minutes if you want to know all about it.
How To Start A Vegan Diet
When I decided to become a vegan a couple of months ago, I had it on my list for 2018 for a while. But then I thought: “What the hell, why not start now?!” So, that’s exactly what I did.
I’m still figuring things out and trying to optimize my diet (with a diet I mean every piece of food you consume, not a strict regime or anything). In the process of finding this out for myself, I will share it with those who are interested in becoming vegan as well.
Naturally, we should start with the reasons why you would want to become vegan. If you don’t have a reason to do it, you won’t do it at all. Simple as that.
Why should you become vegan?
This is not about me converting you to a vegan, I chose to become vegan but if you think being a vegetarian is already hard enough or you’re not ready to give up meat, be my guest.
I’m not stopping you, do whatever the hell you want. But, you’re reading this which means you either are interested in veganism, becoming vegan or you’re a struggling vegan. It doesn’t matter for which reason you’ve come to this article; I’ll cover all the basics here.
So, my reasons to become vegan were the following:
- I wanted to feel closer to nature and eating a plant-based diet would exactly do that.
- Animal slaughter to me is as bad as men slaughter. Animals live too, and I think it’s egoistic for us to lock up and slaughter animals while nature offers us everything we need.
- I believe that a vegan lifestyle is healthier than eating lots of meat. There’s a lot of contradicting research on this, but you can find the most significant study about this in the book The China Study*.
Your reasons can be related or completely something else. Whatever you do, if you want to become vegan, you will have to have at least one reason why you want it.
What does it mean to be vegan?
For those of you who don’t know by now, being vegan means eating no products related to animals at all. No meat, no cow milk, no cheese (from animal products) and no honey. It also means not using any products for cleaning or clothes with animal products in it. In this article on how to start a vegan diet, however, we’ll only focus on the diet aspect of becoming vegan.
How To Start A Vegan Diet Step-By-Step
Down below we’ll start the process you can take to become vegan. I did it with an all-or-nothing approach but for most people, this doesn’t work, and it isn’t the best option either.
Learning to read labels
The most important aspect, especially in the beginning, is reading labels. You can check everything you eat first before you even start becoming vegan. This makes you much more conscious of everything you’re consuming, and you might learn a thing or two.
There are usually two kinds of labels on a product. The first one is the basic list of the number of carbs (carbohydrates), proteins and fats are in a product. These macronutrients are divided into micronutrients which don’t matter at this point. That complete list usually has a title ‘Nutrition Facts’ above it.
What does matter though is the second list which is under the bold letters ‘Ingredients’. This list consists of every product that’s in it, and when that product is animal-related, you can’t eat it as a vegan. Sometimes they also mention it below all the ingredients in bold letters to make it easier for you. In that case, they will say something along the lines of: “Contains milk and wheat ingredients.”
Include more vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts
A vegan diet isn’t called a plant-based diet for fun; it actually is all about plants. This naturally means that you should include more greens and fruits in your diet. You can do this by having a green smoothie first thing in the morning, and instead of making carbs the half of your plate, make veggies half of your plate.
You can eat fruits and nuts throughout the day for more sustainable energy. Consider eating a handful of almonds a snack, as well as a banana. They have many health benefits[1, 2].
When you start your process of becoming vegan, the first step should be to minimize meat and cut it out entirely. You can do this by slowly replacing meat with plant-based protein sources (you will find these in the vegan food list down below).
You might also want to start supplementing with vitamin D and vitamin B12 when you start cutting out meat. Make sure that these supplements do come from plant-based sources though ;).
The next step, when you’ve cut out all the meat from your diet, is to exclude the dairy products from your diet.If you drink a lot of milk, substitute this with water or almond/rice/soy milk.
There are also vegan meat substitutes and substitutes for basically everything that is not vegan. But try to eat a plant-based diet without these substitutes, it will only make it easier in the long run.
Build vegan habits
This process of becoming vegan can take a lot of time, and you should use that time to establish healthy habits that will make your life easier.
Knowing how to start a vegan diet is not enough, you have to continue the vegan diet if you really want to make this world a better place. First of all, you should continue to check food labelsto make sure that everything you eat actually is vegan.
After that, you can build other habits too, like:
Planning meals in advance, you can simply look at what you eat on a day and write it down to make it easier.
You can also prepare your meals in advance, but you should take the preservability in mind when doing this.
If you’re still not sure about becoming vegan, commit to it for seven days straight and turn it into a vegan challenge.
When you’re ready to become vegan, commit to it by publicly declaring you’re vegan. Stating it publicly will hold you accountable for staying vegan. You can even do it together with friends and/or family to keep each other accountable.
Exercise regularly, this doesn’t mean working out like a powerlifter for two hours a day, but a form of exercise. This can be jogging for 20 minutes in the morning or doing yoga, whatever you like.
Do a regular health check up to see if you have deficiencies you.
How To Stay Healthy While Becoming Vegan
Now you know how to start a vegan diet, you should know that there are some risks involved if you don’t know what you’re doing (like me). Every diet has its lack of nutrients, but when you become vegan, these deficiencies can be easily determined. So, to stay healthy while becoming vegan, you should know where to keep track of.
If you really want to know how to start a vegan diet, you should also know how to stay healthy while becoming vegan.
Getting enough nutrition in
With enough nutrition, I mean getting in enough calories, carbs, protein, and fats. This depends on many factors; you can calculate your needs here.
Whether you want to lose, maintain or gain weight, it’s useful to know exactly how much you need to get in your body. This doesn’t have to be precise, but I would advise you to track your food intake for a whole week, so you have a clear picture of what you manage to get in.
Once you know what you’re getting in, you can adjust your diet and keep rotating about six mealsto make it simpler to measure. When your knowledge of nutrition expands by diving deeper into the subject, you can improvise more instead of eating almost the same meals.
A common misconception about vegans is that they don’t get enough protein. The thing is, you only need around 50 grams of protein per day (if your body consumes everything). If you’re training intensively you should consume more. But even when you need more protein, Mother Nature offers more than enough protein sources.
When you’re a vegan, you don’t get vitamins and nutrients from meat, fish, and dairy anymore (duh). This means that you will have to compensate for this with supplementation. The most important nutrients you should supplement with on a vegan diet are vitamin D, vitamin B12 (or loads of sun), and long-chain omega-3s*.
Additional supplements you might need:
You could also opt for a complete multi-vitamin, which is also a good option. The only problem with multi-vitamins is that most of them have way too much of a particular vitamin in it (sometimes even up to 14,000% of the recommended daily intake).
Now, you may think that this can only be a good thing, but it’s not. Your kidneys and liver need to process all these nutrients, and if you consume too much of a particular vitamin, your kidneys and liver won’t be happy. And in the long term, this can lead to severe diseases.
Note:I was looking for the perfect vitamin supplements for iodine, iron, zinc and a multi-vitamin. But it’s tough to find one that has no serious long-term consequences. The vitamin supplements I linked to with vitamin D, B12, omega-3s, and calcium are safe to use based on research.
Tips to stay healthy
- Try to avoid pasta, bread, and other refined sugars. Try to consume more greens, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grain foods.
- Limit the number of meat substitutes; they are highly processed food sources.
- Plan for social events like birthdays. Are you just going to eat only the things that are vegan or are you going to take meals with you?
- Listen to your body and look for ways to improve. If you feel tired or depressed due to the diet switch, simply look it up on the internet, and it will give you the answers you need.
- Get enough exercise and sleep in every day. Enough sleep can differ from person to person, but the usual advice is 7 – 9 hours a night. The minimum amount of exercise I recommend is 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day.
- Drink water throughout the day; hydration is vital.
Below, I’ve listed some websites and resources for you to do your own research. I’ve made it easier for you by covering these basics, but you’ll have to do some work for yourself if you’re really serious about this.
By the way, don’t just assume things people say are right, check up on their sources and do your own research. Here you have the resources you need:
- Thousand Eyes(video about factory farming, some may find the footage disturbing)
- The Vegan Society
- Vegan Health
- Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet*
- Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet*
- Becoming Vegan, Express Edition: The Everyday Guide to Plant-based Nutrition*
- Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide*
- Wade Lightheart
Vegan Food List
Now that you know how to start a vegan diet and how to stay healthy on a vegan diet, you need to know what exactly you can eat. Down below, I’ve compiled a vegan food list with the best food sources for every vegan. Make sure you buy the version of the product that’s closest to its natural form, usually called ‘organic’ or ‘whole (grains)’ in supermarket terms.
- All vegetables: broccoli, kale, spinach, collards, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
- Fruits: banana, pineapple, papaya, melons, grapes, mangos, oranges, berries (especially blueberries), etc.
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole grain bread
- Milk from soy, rice or almonds
- Yogurt from soy, rice or almonds
- Cheese from soy, rice or almonds
- Seitan(wheat meat)
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Green peas
- Ezekiel bread
- Soy milk
- Oats and oatmeal
- Wild rice
- Chia seeds, ground linseed, ground flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds
- Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, cashew nuts, brazil nuts (as raw as possible) and nut butter
- Nuts mentioned above and nut butter
- Seeds discussed above and seed butter
- Olives and olive oil
- (Very) Dark chocolate (you have to check every dark chocolate bar as most of them will contain dairy)
- Coconut and coconut oil
As you can see, some foods are on multiple lists; you should prioritize these foods. To have a complete diet means implementing as many variations as possible. If you choose at least one ingredient from each list for one meal, you will have enough variety if you pick for every meal other combinations. Then search for a good recipe for these foods and voila, you have your meals.
It’s fun and all to become this healthy vegan person, but you’re also human. So, you’ll have your cravings and needs for snacks — at least, I know I do. This doesn’t mean that you should be eating these snacks every day, but once in a while, a cheat meal should be allowed. It may even help your metabolism and motivation to continue.
Before I get into these snacks, I want to point out that these aren’t healthy at all. The snacks you’ll find below are unhealthy vegan snacks, just to get lost in from time to time. You still have to check the labels though because some variations might include non-vegan products.
- Oreos (it might have been in cross contact with milk, but that’s true for some other vegan products too)
- Lay’s Potato Chips (barbecue and classic)
- Sour Patch Kids
- Pringles (original only)
- Haribo: Sour Rainbow Strips, Sour Rainbow Twists
- Jelly Tots
I hope you can enjoy these snacks (with moderation)!
What You Learned In How To Start A Vegan Diet
In this article, you learned how to start a vegan diet, how to stay healthy while becoming vegan and which foods are the best sources for your nutritional needs. And you also learned which foods to choose when you want to cheat.
Good luck with starting your vegan lifestyle, testing it out or thinking about it. It is one way to make this world a better place, and now you can tell others how to start a vegan diet too.
If you liked my article on how to start a vegan diet, feel free to share it!
1: Healthline – 11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Bananas
2: Healthline – 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Almonds
3: Healthline – 7 Supplements You Need on a Vegan Diet
4: Healthline – How Much Vitamin D Should You Take For Optimal Health?
5: Mayo Clinic – Vitamin B-12
6: Healthline – How Much Omega-3 Should You Take Per Day?
7: UT Southwestern Medical Center – How much calcium is too much?
*Every product that has this mark is a product I’m affiliated with. This means that I will get a commission if you buy this product through my link. This will, however, not change the price you pay for it.