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Want the REAL deal on how to become a vegan? I created a Vegan for Beginners Guide that gives CRUCIAL tips for adopting and STICKING to a vegan lifestyle
⏱Reading Time: 14 minutes
This Vegan for Beginners Guide is the most honest, real, and down to Earth guide you will come across. You will find valuable resources and real-life advice to not only become a vegan but to stay one!
I have been vegan for over 7 years. (You can read more of my story at Meet Gina Marie) So it’s safe to say I have seen and heard it all. Therefore the tips given are coming from a place of knowledge AND experience.
So let jump in!
Vegan For Beginners Tips and Advice
1. Study the Lifestyle
The first step in becoming a vegan is changing your mind. You change your mind through studying. If you constantly “baptize” yourself in plant-based information, meat-centered dishes will no longer seem normal to you. Plus you become CLEAR in your decision of whether you desire this lifestyle or not.
What Does it Mean to be a Vegan?
A vegan is one who abstains from animal exploitation in what they eat, use and wears.
A vegan diet is one that contains absolutely no animal products. This includes dairy, eggs, and yes even honey.
You may be thinking that it is a little too strict for your lifestyle at the moment. If that’s the case, read Different Types of Vegetarians to see which plant-based diet would suit you better.
However, if the above definition doesn’t bother you let’s continue shall we? So what does a vegan diet consist of? It consists of food from the abundant plant kingdom like vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
A vegan diet DOES NOT have to be gluten-free, oil-free, organic, raw, or “alkaline”. Those things CAN be included in a vegan diet BUT they aren’t what makes it. As long as you aren’t eating animal products you are a vegan.
Vegan Books to Read
Books like Becoming Vegan and Vegan for Life give you a realistic overall view of how to maintain a healthy vegan diet. The China Study is another awesome book and the largest study done on plant-based eating.
My favorite book of all time is Kimberly Synder’s Beauty Detox Solution. This book is the reason why I’m vegan and ironically it’s NOT a vegan book! It’s just a book that encourages eating a more plant-based diet, whether vegan or not. The principles in this book are what helped my body transition into the lifestyle in a safe and healthy way!
Vegan Documentaries to Watch
My old standbys are Forks Over Knives and Food Matters. Hungry for Change is not a vegan documentary BUT has A LOT of useful health information with some emphasis on plant-based foods. Food Inc is an old school documentary giving you an unpleasant look inside the food industry.
Feel Rich and Invisible Vegan are my FAVORITE documentaries on the plant-based lifestyle. It showcases black influencers and celebrities in the Hip Hop community eating plant-based, meditating, and doing yoga! Both of these documentaries are super important if you are a person of color.
A documentary I recently watched and loved is The Game Changers! It’s proof that you can eat a plant-based diet and thrive as an athlete!
My digital ebook, 28 Day Vegan With Curves Meal Plan Guide, was created to help you gain healthy weight while on a vegan diet. It comes with shopping lists too!
I’m also a HUGE fan of 30 Minute Frugal Vegan Recipes and Fuss Free Vegan Everyday Comfort Meals Cookbooks! I reviewed a recipe in 30 Minute Frugal Vegan Recipes cookbook. It was the Coconut Lentil Curry and boy was it delicious!
2. Have a “Good” Reason
Now, you KNOW what a vegan is and you are CLEAR this is what you desire. Ask yourself, why do you want to go vegan? Knowing this is important because it keeps you on track when you want to slip back into old habits.
I can assure you a “bad” reason to go vegan is because of “trends.” This only sets you up for a temporary experience because when vegan is no longer the “cool” thing to do, you will no longer want to do it.
So what are some good reasons?
- Becoming vegan to stop animal oppression.
- Becoming vegan to improve your health.
- Becoming vegan to clean up the Earthly environment.
- Becoming vegan for Spiritual clarity.
How I define a “good reason” is one that will help you stick the lifestyle. A purpose behind any action carries a strong conviction to keep one on track.
Related Content: 4 Important Reasons to Go Vegan
3. Be Willing to Invest in Yourself
I told you that this Vegan for Beginner’s guide would be REAL so here it is…a change in your lifestyle will require effort. Effort in time and yes even an investment of your money. Here’s the deal, becoming vegan is both a privilege and NOT a privilege. (Hey life is a contradiction.)
It’s a privilege in that it allows one to CHOOSE what things she/he will eat. Most of the world, unfortunately, does not have that luxury. It’s also not a privilege in that it’s not some unattainable lifestyle that you are unable to reach.
The fact that you have access to the internet with the ability to even read an article like this means that BECOMING A VEGAN IS ATTAINABLE FOR YOU. You need to invest time in money in the following ways:
- Time: Studying the lifestyle as mentioned in step one, learning how to prepare vegan meals, and actually taking the time to actually prepare them.
- Money: Initial purchase of equipment and/or stocking your pantry with items you may not currently have.
Financially speaking, once initial purchases are made, a vegan diet becomes cheaper to maintain. This is given if you’re not overly relying on vegan mock products, buying everything organic and gluten-free (which has NOTHING to do with being vegan), or buying unnecessary supplements and “superfoods”. Also, it becomes financially cheaper because your overall health will improve.
So yes it will require effort. Yes, it will require an investment. But if it’s something you truly desire, that won’t be a hindrance for you.
4. “Walk It, Don’t Run It” -Take Baby Steps
There are some people who can jump into things headfirst with ZERO issues. Others need more time and that’s okay. There is no “Who Can Become Vegan the Fastest” award or cash prize. One day at a time lovely!
Here are some ways to take baby steps:
- Eliminate one animal product at a time. In my article Eat Less Meat, I go into detail about the many ways you can start reducing animal products in your diet. This allows you to try it out and gain your own experience of the diet without committing yourself too soon to something.
- Not comparing yourself to others. Why compare yourself to someone else’s “walk” when you have a different pair of legs? Your journey allows you to have different insights that maybe no one else was able to see so honor that.
- Staying in the present moment. A journey is a day’s travel meaning every day you must make a choice. All you have is the present moment so focus on what you can do TODAY and lose the anxiety of thinking you have to have it all figured out. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
You do yourself a disservice rushing the process. So slow down and be fully engaged in your new plant-based lifestyle.
5. Prepare Your Environment
I had to include the importance of preparation in this Vegan for Beginners’ guide because if you stay prepared you never have to get ready. There are three ways to prepare your environment; mentally, physically, and bodily.
- Mental Preparation. Get support from others. Join some vegan groups on Facebook and learn from others. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either as most people are here to help. Be aware that in some of these groups (especially the ones with A LOT of members), you have “level 3000 holier than thou” vegans who feel the need to NIP PICK AT EVERY LITTLE THING you do. Please pay them no mind and keep your peace by blocking these folks if need be. Focus on the people who are indeed helpful to you.
- Physical Preparation. Begin stocking your kitchen with more vegan-friendly items and eliminating things that no longer support your new lifestyle. It’s harder to binge on chicken nuggets if there aren’t any in your freezer. Of course, go at your own pace. The more your physical environment reflects how you want to eat, the easier it will be for you to transition.
- Body Preparation: Most of our guts have been destroyed on the SAD (Standard American Diet). So it’s important to rebalance your body so that you can actually digest all that fiber without feeling bloated. One way to do this is by adding fermented foods to your diet. Fermented foods have probiotics (live bacteria cultures) that feed on prebiotics aka fiber. Add raw sauerkraut, kimchi, and/or kefir to your daily diet. That way when you go vegan, you can actually digest and absorb the nutrients from plant-based foods.
Related Content: Vegan Grocery List Resource Page
6. Discipline Yourself
In most Vegan for Beginners articles, you will read how it’s okay to “slip up.” I’m going to offer a different POV and say allow your lifestyle choice to override old cravings and desires. In the beginning, especially, it’s important to discipline say”NO” when you are tempted.
Let’s say you took the baby step of getting rid of pork first. You have been pork free for 1 month and you FEEL GREAT! Then you find yourself at a Summer BBQ where everyone is eating pork BBQ ribs. When offered, discipline yourself to say NO!
“But Gina it’s just ONE RIB I can go back to being pork-free tomorrow. Relax sis!” Listen, sis, we LIVE in our food “habitat” or habits, and a habit ALWAYS starts off very small and harmless. Consistency is the only thing that builds habits. By eating that one rib, you “cheated” yourself. Subconsciously you have said to yourself “I can’t stick to what I say I’m going to do.”
Saying you are going to do something and then actually doing it, BUILDS self-confidence and self-trust. This develops a belief in yourself to be able to next give up beef, then chicken, then fish, etc. Discipline is the mental muscle that when consistently exercised, gets your mind in shape and allows your lifestyle choice to trump your instant gratification cravings.
This is why it’s important to take baby steps. You can easily build that muscle over time by starting small. I’m not saying beat yourself up if you slip up. Dust yourself off and try again. What I am saying is from the beginning, be clear, have a strong reason, take a small step so that you won’t have a slip-up.
7. Keep a Food Journal
A food journal is how you will avoid the roller coaster ride of “what’s bad for you” this week dogma. I’m never moved by these claims because I pretty much know how my body reacts to certain foods. This is what a food journal can do for you. It can help you PAY ATTENTION to YOURSELF.
A great way to keep this journal is after you eat a particular food item, write it down and record how your body responds physically, mentally, and emotionally. Did you feel foggy? How is your energy level? Did your mood change? This will help you navigate your own internal truth of what foods nourish and which ones don’t.
Also when you have cravings write that down too. A lot of our cravings are tied to emotional triggers. Craving dairy, for instance, typically has to do with a lack of nurturing. Once you are aware of this, write it in your journal and jot down alternative things that can feed that craving.
8. Focus on the Benefits
When I travel I’m always excited about the new sites I will see, the good vegan food I will eat, the new people I will meet, and the new fresh air I will breathe. The last thing on my mind is what I will miss back home because I already experience that.
The same is true for your vegan journey. There are so many benefits to becoming a vegan so don’t put all your energy into what you will be missing. Instead, focus on what is in front of you and what you will gain.
Benefits of becoming vegan include:
- Avoiding “itis”. No more needing to take a nap after eating. Plant-based foods don’t leave you with a heavy feeling. Because your digestive system isn’t weighed down, your energy will increase and your mind will become clearer.
- Trying different cuisines. We get conditioned to eating the same things. Most parts of the world’s diets are not meat-centered and so by going vegan, you naturally open yourself up to more variety. This shifts your mind on the things you CAN eat vs what you CAN’T eat anymore.
- Having fun trying “weird” ingredients. An ingredient is only weird because you never heard of it before. All it takes is for you to familiarize yourself and it’s no longer “weird.” So have the eyes of a child and ignite your curiosity. Make it a game of “how many weird ingredients you can try in a week or month.” Buy one “weird” ingredient per week or month ingredient to try. Share your experience on social media or write it in your journal. You might surprise yourself!
9. Beginner Vegan Recipes to Try
“Okay Gina this Vegan for Beginners post has great tips but girl I’m hungry! What can I eat?” I got you! We curvy vegans love our food so below I listed a few recipes to help you get started!
- Try Make-Ahead Breakfasts like my Vegan Baked Oatmeal, Strawberry Oatmeal Bars, or my Irish Oatmeal using a Slow Cooker and steel-cut oats
- Quick Smoothies like Parsley Smoothie and Blood Orange Smoothie.
- Hearty Fried Oyster Mushrooms is the perfect party finger food.
- Versatile Lentil Meatballs made with all plant-based ingredients (no mock products). Eat these as an appetizer or as part of the main course meal.
- Easy soups for lunch and dinner like my Black Eyed Pea Soup, Vegan Yellow Split Pea Soup or this delicious Coconut Lentil Curry.
- Affordable lentil shepherd’s pie recipe. This recipe is GREAT for beginners because the ingredients are found EVERYWHERE and it’s filling!
- Satisfy your cravings with this Vegan Lentil Loaf and Dairy Free Mac and Cheese using the best vegan substitute products.
- Quick and Easy Meals under 30 minutes like my Cucumber Chickpea Tomato Salad or Lemon Tofu Sheet Pan Dinner recipe.
- If you have a sweet tooth, make some homemade Peanut butter Banana Ice Cream
- Keep it simple with eating sliced apples dipped in Date Caramel Sauce
10. Pitfalls to Avoid
Below I have listed some common pitfalls I have noticed in the vegan community you will want to avoid.
- Judging Others for Not Being Vegan: I can always smell a new vegan in the crowd. Typically they are the loudest and haven’t yet reached a place of peace and balance. Going vegan DOES NOT automatically make you better than a meat-eater; remember you were just one! So before you climb on that pedestal ask yourself, “is what I’m about to say going to teach others or judge them?”
- Mind Your Own Vegan. Remember those holier than thou vegans I mentioned in tip no. 6? Don’t become one of those. You’re no more of a “real vegan” just because you only eat Dr. Sebi Recipes or because you volunteer at an animal sanctuary 2x a month. Veganism is not about stroking your ego nor is it a competition. It’s about compassion and that also means compassion for other humans.
- Doubting Your Decision. You will get A LOT of fear-mongering propaganda, especially from nonvegans, about how unstainable your diet is. You constantly hear of the MYTHS of lack of protein, iron, and b12 only vegans seem to have. (Because B12 often brought up, please read this article HERE to learn more). KNOW YOURSELF and trust in your decision. Adjust if need be (remember to go slow and listen to your body), but don’t go back just because your latest YouTube sensation is no longer vegan or because you are afraid of lacking something.
- Relying too Much on Vegan Substitutes. Even if you’re not vegan for your health (and just doing for the animals), remember you too are an animal and that compassion should extend toward yourself as well. Plus eating too many mock products will KILL your wallet because you’re paying for convenience. I eat vegan mock products and include them in some of my recipes like my Dairy Free Mac and Cheese and Vegan Lentil Loaf recipes. However, I don’t rely on them. Eating too much convenience foods can create a habit of being lazy and can often stunt your creativity in the kitchen. Plus you miss out on eating the abundance of veggies and fruits you never tried!
11. Frequently Asked Questions
We are now at the end of this Vegan for Beginners’ guide. It was the most honest advice I could give you and I hope it was of some assistance. Before you go, below I laid out a few common questions asked when starting a vegan diet
Unfortunately, not everyone will be supportive of your decision and again that is their right and their choice. But there is a way to survive it. Read How to Survive the Holidays as a Vegan for some awesome tips!
How can I go vegan if I live with meat-eaters?
This will largely depend on the role you play in your household, your level of autonomy, and how supportive your family members are. Here are some general tips below:
- If you’re an adult that lives with someone, start buying your own separate ingredients and cook your own separate meals. Remind yourself of your WHY when you get tempted to backslide.
- If you’re a minor and live at home, talk to your parents and ask if they could start experimenting with dishes that are meatless. Maybe a Meatless Monday Dinner or agree to make all the sides vegan (for instant mashed potatoes are easily made vegan with simple swaps like milk and dairy).
- If you are the one who cooks for your family, try to use substitutes. For instance, if you’re baking chicken breast for your family, make the sides naturally vegan (with simple swaps mentioned above), and grab yourself a vegan chicken substitute you can pop in the oven for yourself! Season it in the exact same way you would season the regular chicken. Also, make soups! They are a GREAT way to naturally make dishes vegan that are filling, healthy, and delicious for the entire family to enjoy.
- Overall don’t sell it as “vegan” but as you want to become healthier and eat less meat and eat more vegetables.
How exactly do I keep my thickness without eating meat?
Hey sis, you are in the right place! That’s what my website is for. Read my story Meet Gina Marie to view my transformation and also check out this Vegan Weight Gain article (and the video HERE on my YouTube channel). You can also reference this blog post I wrote listing the various Vegan Foods to Gain Weight.
If you have anything else to add or have any other useful tips to share, let me know in the comments below! I READ EVERYTHING! 😊
Congrats again for taking the first step toward your new vegan lifestyle!
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Update Notes: This post was originally published on January 31, 2018, but was republished with new photos, new tips, and a video on January 3, 2020.
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