Making the transition.
It’s funny how perspectives can drastically change over time. A few years ago a vegetarian friend of mine mentioned that she was going vegan. Although I had been vegetarian since early childhood, I was shocked! I thought that being vegan was an unnecessary extreme. For goodness sake, we’ve already given up meat and fish—and, animals don’t get hurt laying eggs and giving milk, right? I started going through the list of all the things she (or I, if I followed suit) would no longer be able to eat: breads, cake, BROWNIES, potato salad, and the list goes on! And let’s not even mention my love for cheese. With those thoughts, I quickly dismissed the notion of joining her and wished her well.
Having been vegan for several years now, I look back on that experience and laugh. Now, one of my greatest joys is helping people transition to a vegan lifestyle. My panic and thoughts of extremism came from a lack of knowledge about the delicious alternatives that abound, including the horrors involved in egg and milk production.
Once you have decided that being free of all animal products is the right choice for you, the next step is planning the transition. The transition generally takes 2 paths: “cold turkey” or phasing. While there are pros and cons of each approach, both require some planning. The obvious benefits of switching immediately to a vegan diet are that you immediately reap the benefits of a healthier diet and you don’t have to bargain with yourself about what you will and won’t eat. There is something empowering about making such a definitive choice. However, if you are not adequately prepared, you may slip back into your old habits because of a lack of options. The benefit of phasing into a vegan diet allows you to adapt to new lifestyle with less shock. However, some can get stuck in a phase and never fully make the transition.
Regardless of you how you decide to go vegan, these guidelines can help you crack the shell on a vegan diet and fully embrace it.
Start eating vegan meals on a regular basis, even before you make switch to a fully vegan diet. This will facilitate a smoother transition.
If going cold turkey, be sure to get rid of all animal based foods in your home.
If you are phasing, set a schedule and plan how you will make the transition. You may choose to eliminate one animal product at a time such as red meat, chicken, milk, then move on to cheese or eggs.
Build up your repertoire of vegan recipes and find your favorites. If you don’t have an arsenal of good vegan dishes to go to, the likelihood of slipping into old habits is high. There are bound to be some dishes that you simply don’t like, but keep experimenting until you find those that you love.
Find acceptable alternatives. If you’re vegetarian, you have probably already found some great meat alternatives. Take the same approach to a vegan diet. Some good alternatives to cheese are nut-based cheeses or the newly popular Daiya “cheese”. Nutritional yeast is also quite popular for making cheesy sauces and is a great alternative to parmesan cheese. Apple sauce, mashed bananas and ground flaxseeds are excellent replacements for eggs when baking or making other items such as pancakes. There are a variety of plant milks from which to choose.
Find support. Enlist the help of a vegan friend, start a vegan dinner group or find vegan support group online. This will allow you to swap ideas and recipes and try lots of new foods and get the much needed emotional support.
Listen to your body and educate yourself on any additional supplements that you may need such as Vitamin B-12 and a whole foods multi-vitamin.
Be gentle with yourself and give it time. Don’t get discouraged if you slip occasionally. It generally takes 21 days for a new habit to take root and for your taste buds to adapt.
As I made my transition I soon discovered that there is an excellent alternative for just about everything. And, you don’t have to live without bread, brownies or potato salad; all of these can be made without cracking a single egg or milking a cow.
Joining us on November 19th for our annual Vegan Holiday Dinner and Webcast is great way to test the waters and try some delicious and decadent vegan fair! Join us in person if you are the area or tune it online and get the recipes! Sign up here: www.rubylathon.com/register
Best of luck on your healthy transition and a healthier you!