5 Practical Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet. (Part 2) - The How

Bonjour, friends and family and haters.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm not popular enough to have haters yet.

Anyways, today we're talking about how to transition to a plant-based diet. If you haven't checked out the first part of this series, go here and start at the beginning! Because Part 1 is probably the most important part of this series, and without it....well, things are going to be harder than they need to be.

Okay, so you've decided to go vegan and you checked out part one. Great.

Now comes the hard part. The How. It's great that you've got a bunch of ideals floating around your head...but you need a game plan. Why? Because being a vegan is hard. Unfortunately, being vegan comes with it's share of struggles and if you don't have any idea with how to deal with them, you're likely to backslide into eating animal products again.

So, I'm here to provide you some things that have helped me transition immensely. I'm sure I'll be writing more about this in the future because I know it's always great to have more ways to deal with life in general. But for now, here's what I found have helped me.

Plan, Plan, Plan!

At the beginning, your life is going to feel a little weird. Everything you want to eat is going to be "off limits". Oh, damn. No more yogurt in the morning for breakfast? No more grabbing a chocolate bar for a snack? No more nachos with friends? How are you going to live your life and not crawl into a hole and cry?

You're going to plan, that's how.

At the beginning, hone your cooking skills. Or, at the very least, spend time learning about how to make quick and easy meals that you like. Buy spices and use them in everything. Experiment. Go on one of 6 billion vegan food blogs and try what they're cooking. If you're food ignorant, read labels on your favorite foods (yes, oreos are vegan!).

Just make an effort at the beginning. Don't just kind of shrug and think everything will sort itself out. Be conscious of what you're trying to do and set yourself up for success.

How do I do this in my life? Let me tell you the ways!

1. Pre-Made Lunches: On Sunday, I find a recipe I think I'll like, grab the groceries that day, and make enough of it for lunches for the entire work week. 5 days worth of food prep. If I'm lazy, I just throw a bunch of crap in my slow cooker and let it cook overnight. It takes about 30 mins to prep whatever, and it lasts me all week. That's one less thing I need to worry about and one less struggle during a hectic work week.

2. Snack Smart: I also buy lots of fruits and vegetables to use as snacks throughout the week. This week I bought pears and bananas, last week was mangos. I usually get a bag of baby carrots and hummus, too. Whatever. Think of something you can use as snacks and bring it with you to the office. Then, if someone offers you cake or a cookie or chocolate milk....you can avoid temptation and also look normal when everyone else is eating.

3. Staples: I try to have vegan staples on hand, if I need to eat something quick. For me these include sweet potatoes/yams, frozen veggies, oatmeal, rice, cans of beans, peanut butter, soy sauce, and spices. It just makes it easy to throw something together out of these basic ingredients. Also, a lot of them keep forever so I'm not worried about them going off.

4. Offer to bring food: It's freakin' awkward refusing food someone cooks you or just sitting there, not eating. That's why I always offer to bring something to friend/family get togethers. This way you know that you won't be going hungry...plus, you'll look like the super considerate friend. Also, if you can, give your hosts a heads-up. "Hey, I don't eat animal products but I absolutely love big salads! I'll also bring something for the table too, so don't worry about it!" If these people care about you, they'll probably have one or two things you can eat as well. It just makes everything a little less awkward.

5. Prepare a response: It's your body and your life, and you don't owe anyone an explanation about why you don't want to eat animal products. However, you're going to be asked why you're vegan for the rest of your life. So, it's probably a good idea to come up with a response to that question. Obviously, your answer will change based on the person....but know why you're doing this and be prepared to talk about it. Facts and research definitely help if someone wants to get into it with you, so look into it. I'm not super confident about expressing my veganism yet, but I'm sure I'll get there. It just takes practice!

6. Know what you can eat at restaurants: Give the menu a quick read-over before you go wherever you're going. If you're doing pizza, be aware that a lot of crusts have milk products in them - so ask your server before you partake (and of course, hold the cheese on top!) If you're grabbing a big salad, that's great....just make sure the salad dressing has an oil base. If you can, have a few go-to restaurants that you know have great vegan options. I recently tried Chipotle's sofritas and they were delicious and vegan. Just do a bit of research before you head out and you should be good to go.

7. Take a multivitamin: For some reason, some vegans think taking a multivitamin is right up there with eating meat. Meat eaters have no problem taking multivitamins - they don't consider it a hit against their diet or something that shows their diet isn't "naturally perfect". Vegans shouldn't feel any differently. There are many vitamins and minerals that are important to human development and health that don't come in our modern fruits, veggies, and legumes in high concentrations. The ones that I supplement are ALA and omega 3's, iron, B12, Vit D/C, and on top of that....a normal multivitamin. Don't be silly and set yourself up for failure by assuming your diet is perfectly nutritionally balanced.

8. Know your grocery stores: Some stores are more vegan friendly than others, but for the most part, you just need to know where to shop within the stores. Stick to the outside if possible but head to the inside aisles for things like beans, sauces, frozen veggies, canned veggies (like corn), oats, etc. Also, scout out where in the stores they've got all the nifty vegan alternatives - including fake meats, fake cheese, fake butter, almond/soy/cashew milk....yeah, you get the drift. It is such a misconception that you need to go to Whole Foods and spend exorbitant amounts of money on vegan food. You can go to Walmart and get food for the week for under $50. It's possible, it just takes some knowledge.

I'm still learning how this lifestyle works - I'm still a newbie too. As I get more tips and tricks, I'll update here to keep you in on the scoop and any life hacks I come across. This is definitely a journey for me...but so far, it's one I've really enjoyed. I feel like veganism is a diet that is filled with goodness - moral and health related. It's just a matter of making it work for you as an individual and having a positive mindset. You have to look at all the things you -can- eat, opposed to all of the things you -can't-. Just like with everything in life, right?

Have a great long weekend, whoever you are! And stay happy!