My personal account of going from vegetarian to vegan and a number of hadny tips that could help make your transition smoother and more fun! PLUS, a free download where you can grab 90 Vegan Meal Ideas.
I was vegetarian for good 8 years before (finally) making the switch to veganism. By the time I decided to convert to veganism, I could barely remember what it was like to give up meat all those years ago. Contrary to popular opinion, I still think going vegetarian was a perfectly easy and an overall swift transition. This was despite me still living at home with my (meat-eating) parents and not having an abundance of meat substitutes at my disposal. Slovenia was, at the time, still pretty scarce when it comes to substituting meat with anything else than frozen soy burgers or vegetable ‘fish’ fingers!. However, when I went vegan over 2 years ago I was much more aware of how the transition is affecting my everyday life, work life, social life, travel and other aspects of my life.
Below is a quick breakdown of some unexpected things I experienced and a few quick tips that will hopefully make your transition swift and easy!
Going From Vegetarian To Vegan – How Hard Is It?
I can only speak for myself, but going vegan was much more challenging for me than just switching to vegetarianism. When you decide to cut out meat and fish, that’s just one aisle of the supermarket you want to avoid. However, going vegan involves avoiding the majority of them. This might depend on how heavily plant-based your diet already is. If you’re someone that constantly loads up on fruit and veg already, then switching to veganism will be incomparably easier. However, if your current diet involves a lot of eating out, cheese, eggs and buttery desserts, then it’s going to be a bit more of a challenge. You might even want to start by cutting out diary gradually.
Some of the things you might want to expect when going from vegetarian to vegan.
– Fact 1 of Going From Vegetarian to Vegan – Lots of Label Reading
It might become a habit of yours to flip the package of something you want to buy just to read the ingredients list without even actually deciding whether or not you want to eat that. Welcome to the world of checking the labels and looking out for that pesky milk powder. Get ready to spend some extra time in the supermarket!
HOW TO HACK IT? Load up on whole foods like fruit, vegetables, lentils, oats, peas, etc. No label reading required! Secondly, find Instagram profiles in your area that post about (accidentally) vegan food. This means you don’t have to do the research yourself. Plus, you already know where to look for your next snack.
– Fact 2 of Going From Vegetarian to Vegan – Eating Out Gets Trickier
Whereas there are usually at least a few vegetarian options in the majority of restaurants, vegan options can be limited. Luckily, the times of having to eat a combination of side dishes or salads with no dressing every time you go out is pretty much over here in the UK. Still, not every city and country has a booming vegan scene. This means you will probably need to do a little bit more research than before.
What I find helpful is looking up and comparing menus online to see which one is the winner in veggie-friendliness. You might want to start contacting the restaurant beforehand or making sure you choose a place that makes things fresh. Pizza or pasta places where you can ask for certain ingredients to be left out are great. Also – get ready to be the centre of attention pretty much whenever the conversation touches the subject of food.
HOW TO HACK IT? Eating out will undoubtedly become more difficult, but all hope is not lost! Buffets, Italian restaurants, Indian cuisine and cheeky fast-food outings will become your best friends, even if you live in an area with absolutely zero vegan restaurants. Look for options like falafel, spaghetti marinara, jacket potatoes, daily vegetable soups with bread or ask for no cheese on your pizza. Definitely check out your local vegan Facebook group! When I first moved to Manchester, this was my no.1 way of finding new places to eat out.
Tips On Making Going Vegan Easier
TIP 1 – DO IT GRADUALLY
Switching overnight will make it incomparably more difficult. Plus you will be much more likely to end up with you giving up on veganism altogether. Take it one step, day and week at the time, even if it takes months. Start by cutting out something you don’t eat/like as much anyway. This gives your body enough time to get accustomed to your new diet. I started out by cutting out milk and butter in their whole forms, but still ate eggs and yoghurt for a certain period of time. Later on, I cut out eggs as a separate meal, but still ate some pre-made products that contained egg. This did make my transition longer. However, it gave me plenty of time to think about new recipes and discover vegan substitutes for my old favourite dishes.
TIP 2 – RELY ON SUBSTITUTES
I genuinely believe that the benefits of vegan diet don’t come from relying heavily on meat/dairy substitutes. However, they’re of endless value when first transitioning. They will ensure you can still make pretty much all of your favourite recipes while keeping your dairy cravings under control. ALSO – as obvious as this might sound – never starve yourself! If you’re out in about for the entire day and haven’t brought your vegan lunch box along, don’t starve yourself. It will certainly not make you healthier and might actually turn you away from veganism in the long-term.
TIP 3 – PRACTISE SELF-COMPASSION
Don’t be too hard on yourself (which is just an overall life hack anyway). No matter how hard you try, it’s very unlikely that you will make a full transition to strict veganism overnight. That’s perfectly okay. You might accidentally eat something non-vegan. You might find it difficult to find any places to eat out with friends (this very much depends on your location!). Secondly, you might be travelling to a place with almost zero vegan options. Perhaps you might crave a dessert (and let’s be honest, the vast majority of those are not vegan). Remember, you’re already making a huge difference and should be super proud of yourself for taking any steps to reduce your consumption of all animal products.
TIP 4 – FUN IT UP
Last but not least – make it fun and educating! Don’t think of it as depriving yourself and don’t get discouraged by the lack of support by your close friends or family. Also try not to get discouraged by our culture’s general obsession with animal products. Make it fun by watching vegan YouTuber channels, doing it together with a friend, connecting with an online community or writing a blog/journal following your transition! Instagram is of crucial value as well, and my no.1 online community. It helps expand my vegan recipe book, discover places to eat out and reach out to fellow vegans in the area.
This wraps up my tips on going from vegetarian to vegan. Hope you enjoyed it and learnt something new along the way. If you’ve got any questions about going vegan, let me know in the comments section below!