6 tips for making the vegan transition

I’ve been vegan for almost 14 years and I have never once questioned the lifestyle. I first became vegetarian at the age of 13 (veganism came several years later) after watching a program on TV about factory farming, and I remember becoming a very determined kid. This was not a decision I took lightly, because I knew it affected the lives of animals that had no choice. Back then, I didn’t know many vegetarians and my parents struggled with what to feed me.

Today, the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” are no longer the foreign concepts they once were, and these plant-based diets are gaining more and more recognition for their health, environmental and social benefits.


If you’re curious about the vegan lifestyle and you’re thinking about making the transition, I want to tell you straight-up that it isn’t about restriction or deprivation—you won’t be doomed to a life of lettuce and tofu. A vegan diet is abundant in wholesome, filling foods, as well as what I call transition foods that mimic the flavours you’re used to, like meat substitutes and vegan cheese. When I made the transition to veganism, there weren’t many vegan wonder brands like Gardein or Daiya or Coconut Bliss.

I’ve compiled six important tips that will (hopefully) help make your transition easier. Most importantly, though, think of it as an adventure, enjoy the discovery process, and allow yourself room for error.

1. Make a commitment.

Whether you decide to completely eliminate all animal products or just phase them out one at a time, the key is to think it through and make a firm choice. There are going to be situations where it is a challenge to avoid animal products, and if you’re still waffling on the idea and haven’t established boundaries, you aren’t likely to make it through.

2. Add on rather than take away.

Consider integrating vegan items into your diet one by one before eliminating all animals products. Finding a brand of non-dairy milk or vegan cheese that you really like can be a trial-and-error process. If you completely change your diet overnight and spend a lot of money on products you don’t like, you’ll likely end up frustrated and may give up altogether. Take your time! If you make just a few positive food choices each week, you have done something worthwhile.

3. Focus on variety.

I can’t stress this enough. If you start out by eating salads and smoothies for most meals, with the same set of ingredients, you are going to get bored—quickly. Buy a cookbook or find a blog or website you like. There is a never-ending universe of vegan recipe websites that can provide ideas on how to cook vegan-style, and you will probably be shocked by the amazing variety of choices. A few of my favourites include Post Punk Kitchen, Oh She Glows, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, Vegan Yack Attack, Plant-Powered Kitchen and Vegan Culinary Crusade, or browse through my own recipe index.

4. Stock your pantry.

Keep basic staples on hand to make life easier. Things like bread, tortillas, beans, salsa, brown rice, oatmeal, peanut butter, and pasta are all vegan! Remember that meals don’t have to be complex. Fold beans and salsa into a wrap, or stir-fry a variety of veggies with tamari and serve with rice.

5. Plan ahead.

Making meals at home is easy if you have a well-stocked pantry, but what about eating out? Planning ahead is key to surviving difficult situations. Call restaurants ahead of time to see if they can accommodate you, or speak to your host and offer to bring a vegan dish to the party. Always keep granola bars, trail mix or dried fruit in your purse or backpack for snacks while you’re out.

6. Join a community!

Getting in touch with other vegans is a great way to gain support, learn insider tips and tricks, and stay motivated. Remember, you’re not alone! If you’re facing a challenge, chances are someone else has already gone through it and you can learn from their experiences. Most large cities have established vegetarian groups—the Toronto Vegetarian Association, for example, is Toronto’s go-to resource for all veg. Find out what your community has to offer.

For those who have already gone vegan, how did you do it? Gradually? All at once? Please share your tips in the comments section below so that others can learn from your experience!



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