Even if you are already vegetarian or eat next to no meat/fish whatsoever, that final hurdle into going totally vegan can be the most challenging of all.
The good news - perseverance pays off. Not only this, but the trials, errors and personal experiences of millions of vegans can provide a source of inspiration along the way.
With this in mind, here’s a brief overview of 10 of the most helpful tips, pointers and guidelines that could make your transition to the vegan way of life at least slightly easier:
1. Reverse Your Viewpoint
First and foremost, it is impossible to make positive life changes if you view them in a negative way. If you see going vegan as something of a punishment or an unpleasant lifestyle adjustment you’re not totally into, it just isn’t going to happen.
Consider your reasons for going vegan, make sure you have the motivation to make it work and focus on all the positives. If it is something you want to do and are determined to do, it is far easier to accomplish.
2. Take it Slowly and Steadily
The most common mistake people make when attempting to go vegan (or vegetarian) is trying to do so ‘cold turkey’. Roughly translated - they set a day on the calendar from which they will never eat a single animal-based product ever again. Easy enough for the first few days, but something that can quickly become a chore.
It can be far easier and more effective to gradually wean yourself away from animal products, easing them out of your daily routine on a gradual basis.
3. Do Your Homework
By this, we mean ensuring you have the knowledge you need to make informed dietary decisions. As with any major dietary change, you need to know exactly where you will get your nutrients from and in what kinds of quantities.
Protein, calcium, iron, key vitamins and so on - there are tons of sources of everything you need, if you know where to look. Take the time to look into the whole thing and improve your knowledge, rather than attempting to make things up as you go along.
4. Focus on the Dishes You Already Enjoy
Keep yourself motivated during those tricky first few weeks by treating yourself to the meals you already know and enjoy. Don’t get too carried away with experimentation - stick with simple, comforting and satisfying recipes from your existing repertoire.
It may turn out to be easier than you think to make vegan versions of some of your all-time favourites - subsequently making them much healthier in the process.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Vegan Meats
Many vegetarians and vegans understandably frown upon the idea of fake meat. Nevertheless, many of the plant-based alternatives to meat that are currently available are closer to the real thing than they have ever been.
If you don’t have anything against such products in terms of principles or personal preferences, they can make veganism exponentially easier. You’ll find that most of your favourite meat-based dishes can be faithfully recreated - chances are you won’t even miss the meat you’re no longer eating.
6. Make Your Own Dairy Substitutes
This is recommended for the simple reason that some of the low-grade store-bought substitutes available in standard supermarkets just do not cut it.
In addition, making your own dairy substitutes gives you the opportunity to go as nuts (pun intended) as you like with their creaminess, texture, flavour and so on. Homemade nut milk may seem like a pain to prepare, but try it once and you’re unlikely to buy a carton of the stuff ever again.
7. Embrace the Versatility of Tofu
The whole ‘tofu in everything’ cliché does nothing to boost the appeal of veganism. Nevertheless, there’s no denying how tofu is one of the single most versatile and useful ingredients you will ever come across.
Whether stir fried as a meat substitute, blended into super-creamy sauce or used as the basis for vegan cheese, there really is nothing you cannot do with the stuff. Embrace it, celebrate it and find out just what tofu is capable of.
8. Go International
Going vegan can be the perfect opportunity to broaden your culinary horizons. There are plenty of cultures worldwide where meat is forbidden entirely. In India, for example, a sizeable proportion of the country’s cuisine is based 100% on vegetables.
Try not to limit yourself to the usual staples you already know - branch out and discover the fantastic vegan cuisines of the world.
9. Get Serious with Sweets
Under no circumstances does embracing veganism mean making any sacrifices whatsoever where desserts are concerned.
If anything, it’s quite the opposite - you don’t need a single animal product to make restaurant-quality sweets and plenty of them. If sweets are your thing, be sure to indulge and use them as your motivation to stick with it.
10. Don’t Punish the Occasional Slip Up
Animal products are everywhere, and it is not uncommon to occasionally consume something you probably should have avoided.
Rather than punishing yourself when this happens, accept it as inevitable, learn from your mistakes, and move on. It is not the end of the world, nor is it an excuse for leaping off the wagon and landing in the nearest bacon sandwich.