Starting to vegan is both easy and hard. It’s easy to stop eating animals and animal products, including meat, fish, shellfish, dairy and eggs. It can be a challenge to shift your idea of what’s for dinner. Fortunately, we live in the golden age of plant-based diets, when eating more plants is more convenient and more delicious than ever. Get started with my guide below.
How to eat vegan
- Follow the steps for How to Eat Vegetarian, so you are no longer eating meat, chicken, fish, or seafood.
- Also stop eating eggs and dairy, including milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt. You can go further by not eating honey, too, but eggs and dairy are key.
- Make a list of your favorite foods that are accidentally vegan. Mine include peanut butter on toast for breakfast, PB&J sandwiches, bean burritos, red beans and rice, and vegetable stir fries. Start with these.
- Think about food you like that is nearly vegan. Just replacing an ingredient or two with a plant-based alternative can puts many favorite recipes into play.
- Explore new recipes and menus.
- Practice using plant-powered alternatives. For baking recipes, the most rewarding path may be to start with well-tested recipes before you start converting your old family favorites. Replacing one egg or a few tablespoons of butter is easy. Replacing more than that can be tricky.
- For milk, use one of the many plant milks available. I use homemade coconut milk for baking and Coconut Dream coconut drink for cereal and chai. Most plant milks except for soy milk are low in protein compared to cow’s milk. They are usually fortified with calcium and other nutrients.
- For butter to spread, use a plant-based spread, tahini, or avocado. I keep Earth Balance organic coconut spread and Earth Balance organic whipped buttery spread on hand for baking and toast. I use Miyoko’s Vegan Butter when premium flavor is worth the extra expense.
- For butter in baking, use a plant-based spread, vegetable oil, or low-fat alternatives such as apple sauce or mashed sweet potatoes.
- To scramble like eggs, use chickpea flour or tofu.
- For eggs used to stick food together (think burgers and casseroles): use 1 tablespoon finely-ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water or other liquid.
- For eggs in baking, use 1/4 cup applesauce or 3 tablespoons aquafaba or 1 tablespoon finely-ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water.
- Start taking vitamin B12. It’s the one nutrient humans either from animal products, from dirt, or from supplements. I choose supplements.
- Make sure you are getting the right balance of omega 3s to omega 6s. You don’t need to eat fish or take fish oil. Fish get omega 3s from algae and you can too.
- Breath easy about getting enough protein. As long as you are not living on sugar, extracted oils, and fruit, you will get enough protein. In fact, you will probably be reducing your risk of chronic disease and early death by eating a little less.
- Position on Vegetarian Diets by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (This is a great, free resource with the key points of vegetarian and vegan nutrition.)
- Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet by Jack Norris, RD and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD. (This is my go-to nutritional reference book.)
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