Going Vegan in 2015 – Tips and Tricks to starting a Plant-Based Diet

Hello all!

The year of 2014 is coming to a quick close, and it has been a great one! One of the most wonderful things about this year for me has been all of the incredible people I have met through this blog and through the social media platforms I use to promote a cruelty-free life. I can’t even begin to count how many of you I’ve emailed with who had an interest in going vegan and changing your lives. I feel beyond humbled to be part of each journey!

I have seen many people show interest in going vegan in the new year, so I wanted to do a post on how to get started and my best tips for success in this lifestyle!

1. Abundance. What do I mean by this? It’s actually really simple – while there are hundreds of delicious fun plant-based foods you can eat and recipes to try, the basics of eating a vegan diet are really simple. FILL your home with an ABUNDANCE of FRESH foods! Do 90% of your shopping in the produce section of your store, and leave the other 10% for whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. If a product contains an ingredient your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize, do not eat it or buy it. Pack your refrigerator and pantry full of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. These are the ultimate fast food! When you’re hungry and craving something sweet, grab a banana, a couple of dates, an apple, some grapes, make a smoothie, or a “nicecream“ (blended frozen bananas). If you’re craving something savory, roast some vegetables/potatoes and throw them on the biggest bowl full of greens you can find, make a veggie burger, make a veggie sandwich on Ezekiel bread, or a massize bowl of zoodles (zucchini noodles) with a plant-based sauce – all of these are super filling and satisfying meals. These are just a few examples of meals we eat constantly! EAT a LOT. Do not ever limit your fruit or vegetable intake. Counting calories is a thing of the past for you. You are counting nutrients now!

2. Educate yourself. The best way to insure success and longevity in this lifestyle is to be fully informed of the reasons why it is so important for each person, our planet, and the creatures we share it with. Veganism is best for our health, the health of the world our children inherit, and the health of the animals we co-exist with. Read books (“The China Study” by Dr. T Colin Campbell, “Whole” by Dr. T Colin Campbell, “801010” by Dr. Douglas Graham), watch documentaries (Forks Over Knives, Earthlings, Vegucated, Cowspiracy), and follow vegan blogs with great tips and recipes (ohsheglows.com, delciouslyella.com, minimalistbaker.com, mywholefoodlife.com, rawsomeveganlife.com).

3. Give yourself grace. This is not a simple transition when you’ve been eating a certain way your whole life. What I can tell you is, it gets easier and easier the longer you do it. I know it seems as though it would be the opposite but it’s not. You will probably feel a little like death for the first few weeks. Your body has MANY chemicals and toxins it will be detoxing from, and it will suck. You will crave sugars, fats, and processed foods like drugs – because they act like drugs to the brain. It’s scientifically proven, refined sugars have the same effect as crack on your brain. IT WILL SUCK. But push through and don’t be too hard on yourself for struggling, it’s inevitable. When you push past the first month, you are in the clear. It only gets easier from there! Your body will begin to crave things like kale, spinach, broccoli, fresh fruits, omega-3’s, and whole grains. You will begin to feel better than ever!

4. Eat out smart. You do not have to confine yourself to your home to eat! Most restaurants have vegan options or are happy to accommodate you, just ASK. Google is your friend! Research a restaurant before going there to plan out what options are available. You do not always have to stick with a simple “garden salad”, how boring is that for every meal? If there are no good vegan options readily available for you somewhere, get creative with menu options and transform a dish by taking away/adding certain ingredients. You will be surprised just how helpful most places are! With all of this being said, I DO recommend most meals be cooked yourself. It’s just better to know where your food is coming from, how it’s being prepared, and what is going into the process. We have become so accustomed to other people making our food for us, we need to take that responsibility back for ourselves and take charge of the fuel we put in our bodies.

5. Invite others on your journey, but never push them. I can say without a doubt, this is an easier transition to make with a loved one! It’s so wonderful to have a partner to hold each other accountable and share your highs and lows with. If you can find that, great! If you can’t, never try to force someone to do this if they aren’t ready. This is not simply a “diet” to lose weight , it is a whole life change. You can be a great example to another person just by living your life and allowing them to see what a positive impact this has on you. Eventually, they may desire it for themselves when they’re ready!

6. Blenders are your friend. I use my blender and food processor constantly. I make soups, desserts, sauces, smoothies, juices, crackers, crusts, breads, and just about everything else you can imagine with these two tools. They make a plant-based diet much more enjoyable! You don’t need a ton of fancy tools, but I do absolutely recommend a great high speed blender and a good food processor.

7. Quit the artificial sugars – NOW. No more splenda, sweet & low, or anything next to them on the shelf. These are cancer causing chemicals that are highly addictive and very dangerous to our bodies. The sweetener I suggest, aside from pure maple and natural fruits, is stevia. It’s made from a plant and actually tastes much better than the alternatives! Liquid stevia may cost a bit more, but if you need to sweeten teas, dessert, lemonade, or smoothies this is the best way hands down. They come in all kinds of flavors (vanilla crème and English toffee are my favorites!). No more carbonated drinks and sugary sodas. Just quit them, cold turkey, and never look back. It is NOT too late to take control of your health.

8. Try new things! There are SO many times on my journey where I would ask my husband to try one of my vegan creations and he would do the Jimmy Fallon “EW” before even tasting it. I would then plead with him to be open minded, and after tasting them, he would be shocked! There are so many incredible foods we are so unaccustomed to seeing in our McDonalds/Taco Bell infested society. Be open to trying new plant-foods and cooking them in different ways to find out what you prefer. Experimenting is your friend. Take a recipe from someone and make it your own based on what YOU like!

9. Be patient with others ridicule. You will be very surprised at how many people will criticize you for your decision. THIS IS OKAY. Most people would be less concerned with you eating a big mac than eating 5 bananas in one sitting. “Don’t bananas have a lot of sugar? Ew.” We as a culture are very confused with food. You will be asked about your protein, daily. Here is a really simple response – all food has protein, and with a well balanced vegan diet you can easily exceed the amount of protein needed to thrive. Have you ever actually met someone with a protein deficiency? I have been vegan for 3 years now, and after getting my blood tested my protein levels were way above what was considered “acceptable”. This is from plant foods only! You will have many people tell you you’re being “irresponsible” with your health by going vegan. This is simply so twisted. This is always why my #2 tip is so important – be INFORMED so you know how to answer the criticism.

10. Do not quit on yourself. This is the rest of your life here. If you drop your phone and it gets a tiny crack do you proceed to chunk it at the wall until it breaks into 1,000 pieces? No. So if you fall off track and make one mistake do not sabotage the rest of your life due to one mess up. There are so many important reasons to commit to a vegan lifestyle, and the more you research the more you’ll learn them in detail, so keep those at the front of your mind and keep pushing forward. Do not quit on your health, you are worth the struggle it takes to get where you want to be.

I hope some of these can help you on your journey forward! As always, if any of you has any questions ask away. I certainly do not claim to have all the answers but I’m here to help any way I can!

I hope you make 2015 the best year of your life!
Xo Sarah