We know transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can seem difficult and overwhelming but we are here to help make the process as smooth and easy as possible! Ground Leaf advocates transitioning at your own pace; make small changes that will then lead to bigger transformations. It's not about being perfect but about helping the animals, the environment, and ultimately your health.
Identify meat-free/dairy-free alternatives to your favorite recipes. If you feel like you cannot live without cheese pizza, find a good recipe for cheese-less pizza to satisfy that craving.
Use “fake” meats to make the transition easier. Products like Beyond Meat, Gardein, Quorn, Impossible Burger, etc are great options that are so realistic it’d be hard to miss the meat. Eventually try to reduce the amount of these foods to just an occasional treat to truly be on a plant-based, whole-food, unprocessed diet. Try making your own homemade versions with books like this:
Homemade Vegan Pantry
Seitan and Beyond
The Gentle Sea
Use “fake” cheeses similar to above. Products like Miyoko’s Kitchen, Follow Your Heart, and many homemade versions are great options when transitioning and kicking that cheese addiction (which is a very real thing).
Make your own:
Vegan Artisan Cheese
This Cheese is Nuts!
Try replacing foods one at a time. Cutting out meat may be easier if it’s the only major change to your diet at first. Once you have mastered the meat-free component to your diet, replace the next food on your list. Going cold “turkey” will work for some but not for everyone. Your journey is unique to you.
Focus more on what you’re adding to your diet versus what you’re subtracting.
Remember that the journey to good health is a marathon and not a sprint. If you mess up and eat something you regret, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Once you’ve committed to cutting out one food group try to stay consistent and not “cheat.” Our taste buds and cravings change over time. It typically only takes 21 days to alter your taste buds, so stick with it! If you are continually eating that very food you are trying to eliminate you will not give your body the opportunity to lose your taste/desire for it.
Clean out your pantry! (And fridge. And freezer.) This is a biggy. If it’s not readily available at your fingertips, you’re far less likely to eat it. If you live with someone who is not going on this journey with you, ask them if they wouldn’t mind supporting your new diet and to keep trigger foods for you out of the house. Try this:
I’m trying to change my diet for my health. Cookies are such a trigger food for me and I know if they are in the house I will eat them; would you mind enjoying your cookies when you are at work or elsewhere so that they don’t tempt me? I’m not asking you to stop enjoying your favorite foods but could you help me out and not keep them in the house?”
Outfit your kitchen with equipment that makes plant-based cooking easier: electric pressure cooker, high speed blender, spiralizer, food processor, waffle iron or George Foreman grill, tofu press.
While by no means necessary, these appliances will open your vegan world up to a variety of recipes and make it fun! These additions can be made slowly over time as budget and kitchen space allows!
Be open to trying foods you didn’t like before. Cutting out foods that are high in fat and sodium (meat and dairy) can change your taste buds so much that vegetables that were bland and flavorless can now be appealing to you.
Throughout your journey be sure to try foods you didn’t like before and try them in different forms; different cutting methods, cooking methods, sauces, preparations, etc can help. Check out this article for more thoughts on Not Liking Foods.
Join support groups or find a real-life buddy to go on the journey with you. There are many health-related groups on Facebook that can be very encouraging and Meetup.com has a number of vegan groups that have fun potlucks or get togethers. If you don’t see one in your area start your own!
People who switch from a calorie-rich, fat-rich diet to a plant based diet can sometimes claim they do not feel satisfied. The reason for this can be that plant foods like fruits and vegetables are generally extremely low in calories and fat. You could eat a huge plate of zucchini noodles (aka zoodles*) and feel FULL but not SATISFIED. Using an app can make sure you are getting enough calories to be fully satiated.
*This isn't to say zoodles aren't GREAT. Check out this video for further information
The myth of moderation. We are wired to not remember useless information such as every single thing you ate throughout the week. The downfall of this is that we tell ourselves “Oh I’ll just have one handful of candy” “I worked out today so I deserve this milkshake” “It’s my birthday, I’ll just have one steak to celebrate” and surprisingly reasons to reward ourselves with food adds up more than we realize. Keeping a food diary can help you get a full-size view of the week and see how many rewards you actually gave yourself.
Use chronometer or some other similar app or website to keep track of your food.
The reason for this is two-fold:
"Everything in moderation gives people permission to eat less-nutritious food more often. Frustration then develops, as they view their unhealthy eating as infrequent and don’t understand why they aren’t losing weight or why their health problems aren’t improving."
Be informed. Do your research on why you chose a plant based lifestyle. If you are transitioning because you know that a plant-based diet is healthier then continue to read books and articles and documentaries that will continue to cement that idea so that it becomes harder and harder to eat something you know is not good for your body. If you are transitioning because you’re upset about animal cruelty in slaughterhouses (remember: there’s no such thing as a cruelty-free way of killing a living being, even if you let them roam in pastures their whole life, at the end of the day killing is killing) be sure to watch documentaries and watch videos online of the extreme torture these animals endure to arrive at your dinner plate. The more your eyes are open to the tragedy, the harder it will be to consume them as food.
Check out the Documentaries and Articles sections to keep the education flowing.
Slowly add high fiber foods to your diet to allow your gut to get used to the increase in fiber. Animal-based diets are typically extremely low in fiber and plant-based diets are very high in fiber.
This can be an uncomfortable change.
If beans give your tummy trouble there are a few things you can do to help:
● Add beans slowly to your diet. Even just a spoonful or two a day to start.
● Supplement with alpha-galactosidase
● Add a piece of kombu when cooking beans
Check out the full intro to beans here!
Variety is obviously important to get a multitude of nutrients but if it’s easier for you to have the same exact breakfast every morning so it’s one less thing to worry about then there’s nothing wrong with that. To simplify even further one guy even ate nothing but potatoes for an entire year!! If it’s easier for you to identify 5 or 6 go-to recipes there’s nothing wrong eating your favorite foods repeatedly.
Most of all, enjoy! The transition period can seem difficult but once you start to understand the benefits for your health, the environment, and the animals you will find it so much easier and doable as you try all the amazing vegan foods there are out there!
Keep in mind if you are currently experiencing a health problem or undesired excess weight you may want to convert 100% to a plant based diet sooner than later.