Dominique Side is The Luxury Vegan, a concierge service based out of Houston, Texas helping folks make the often overwhelming transition into a vegan lifestyle.
As an advocate for wellness of all shapes and sizes, we recognize that there are a variety of diets can be healthy and helpful for different individuals. Whether you’re a new vegan or are making a health transition of another kind, Dominique’s advice is useful across the board for making big leaps one breath at a time…
8 Tips One How to Go Vegan
There are many ways to embrace a vegan lifestyle, but one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet. That means avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish, and insects), dairy, eggs, and honey. This is typically the first step most people take as they learn more about other facets of veganism and plenty to deal with on its own. Since we eat all day (or at least I do!), this could arguably be the most impactful, as well as the most challenging, component of one’s transition to veganism.
Embrace the journey + your own pace. You may hear people describe becoming vegan as a “journey” and it is very much that. Embrace it! As with all of life, the journey toward veganism is uniquely yours, so allow yourself to move at your own pace.
Some people manage to go vegan seemingly overnight and, if that’s what works for you, wonderful! But the last thing you’ll want to do is concern yourself with the idea of a “normal” pace if you find that you need more time. All lifestyle changes can take some getting used to, no matter what they are. There is no clock running on your transition and only you can determine your end goal.
Keep it manageable. It can be very overwhelming to eliminate all the animal products in your diet at once. If you don’t plan out how you will approach your meals, you can be left very frustrated — and hungry! — with no pre-planned options for those daily meals. That’s the moment in which many people abandon ship.
If you are an “all or nothing” type of person like me, consider starting a food diary. Keeping a food diary for a couple weeks will help you determine the key swaps you’ll need to source for the animal products you eat most. Don’t forget to consider those snacks!
If you’re a “steady wins the race” type of person, start by simply increasing the number of plant-based foods in your current diet. That could look like swapping only your lunches to all plant-based ingredients. Or perhaps you adopt “Meatless Mondays” and allow new habits with food to grow from there.
Another approach is to start with a few simple swaps at a time like mayonnaise and butter. Others take the plate-crowding approach, adjusting their portion sizes by using more and more plant foods that eventually crowd out animal products altogether.
There are so many options! One is sure to suit you.
Balance your meals.There are so many fun vegan alternatives available these days that weren’t even in existence five years ago. Remember that “vegan” is not necessarily synonymous with “healthy”. It could be very exciting at first to eat vegan junk food all day, but don’t get caught up in a cycle that doesn’t truly benefiit your health.
Although, in general, a whole, plant-based diet is preferable to the Standard American Diet, it is recommended that you consult a healthcare professional that is familiar with your medical history and who specializes in diet assessment when making a big change like this.
One way to be sure you’re getting the nutrition you need while changing your diet is to whip out that food diary I mentioned. Keeping track of what you’re eating, and the portion sizes you consume, can give you a good idea of any adjustments you need to make and what gaps should be filled with supplements.
One easy thing to remember? Color is key! Typically, the best gauge you can use for a balanced diet is to incorporate a variety of different colored foods. You’ll cover a lot of bases using that approach.
Be adventurous! When your plate is centered around meat, you tend to rotate between the same four or five main courses and cycle through a few side dishes repeatedly. One of the things that I discovered after becoming acclimated to veganism was that my meals became way more varied.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone to explore the many options available can open a whole new world. The internet is your best friend when it comes to accessing recipes from any and every cuisine. You can also use recipe research to create dishes from basic items in your pantry. Grab that phone or tablet and start taking an inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. You’ll be surprised at what you can create with the same old staples.
Remain open.Change requires learning. When you know better, you do better. The most successful journeys are built on a solid foundation of education. Decide that you’ll never stop learning!
Going vegan comes with a steep learning curve depending on how you approach it. You’re essentially undoing a lifetime of conditioning and relearning how to make compassion-based choices on a new level. Although the word vegan may be trendy, the number of people who identify as vegan is very small. The concept of veganism is still new to many people and, in that, there will be challenges.
As much as you may think that the information you gather is solely to facilitate your own transition, you will find that you spend a significant amount of time educating those around you. Patience is key. You may find yourself explaining to the server at a restaurant what makes your meal vegan or consulting with the grocery store manager about a product. Allow yourself time and space for that aspect of the journey.
Seek support. Becoming vegan will have you questioning the most basic habits… “How do I bake cookies without eggs?” “Where can I buy vegan chocolate?” “What makes waffles non-vegan?” “How do I survive a holiday gathering with my family?” Everyone who has made the vegan transition has been there!
Seek support as you go vegan. There are so many resources and groups and resources online, all dedicated to sharing information about veganism. There are also many apps you can download to help you find vegan restaurants, brands and sample meal plans
Remember, never be afraid to ask questions! Everyone has had them in the process of becoming vegan.
Prioritize your purpose. The one thing that will keep you focused on your journey through all the adjustment, education and social change in becoming vegan is to keep in mind why you became vegan in the first place.
It could be that your current focus is health, but as you learn more about veganism, you become more aware of animal cruelty concerns or the exploitation or the environment.
Most people find that going vegan is much easier than they thought, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have challenging days. When you find yourself stressed and need those familiar comfort foods, return to your purpose. Watch something uplifting that reinforces your convictions, find cute animal photos, go on a walk and appreciate the nature around you, revisit your health goals and congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made thus far. There are many ways to keep yourself grounded and bring you back to the moment you made the decision to go vegan.
Extend yourself grace.No one is perfect. If you find yourself feeling discouraged, don’t give up! There are more reasons to stick with the commitment you’ve made than go against it. Your friends and family may not understand your decision, but don’t let that deter you.
A great way to prepare for social gatherings that may not have vegan-friendly options (weddings, baby showers, corporate functions, etc.) is to eat an enjoyable meal beforehand. Then you can nibble on whatever may be available while socializing with confidence.
When the people close to you make strange comments about your new diet, it usually stems from a sense of being indirectly judged by your decision. Those comments can also come from a place of ignorance surrounding the vegan lifestyle. Once you recognize that it isn’t personal, you’ll be better equipped to speak from a compassionate place and not internalize their projections.
Hard conversations will happen, doubts around the big change you’ve made will creep in. These are certainties. At the end of the day, remember that you are human, and you’ve made a conscious decision to live with compassion. Remember to treat yourself with the same compassion you’ve committed to showing animals and the planet!
Finally, the hard and fast rule for going vegan: always keep a snack handy!