How to Transition to Veganism (5 Key Steps from a Vegan Dietitian)

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If you are intrigued by this philosophy and lifestyle, but don’t know how to transition to veganism, you’re in the right place!

In fact, I probably had similar questions!

So let’s make this easier.

In this article, you’ll learn 5 key actionable steps from me – a dietitian who happens to identify as vegan.

Just don’t let overwhelm get the best of you. Keep reading to for tips on navigating this incredible journey!

Disclaimer: This article just providing information and is not providing personal medical or dietary advice. Talk to your own doctor about your health, diet or supplement questions. See our Disclaimers for more details.

graphic reads: 5 steps to vegan. 1. Answer this: why do I want to be vegan? 2. Get familiar with nutrition 
and plan to supplement vitamin B12 (talk to your doctor ). 3. Consider slowly transitioning. 4. Find community/support.5. Refer back to your why

How to Transition to Vegan (in 5 steps)

Here’s a summary of the 5 steps I outlined if you are interested in transitioning to veganism:

  1. Answer this: why do I want to be vegan?
  2. Get familiar with nutrition
  3. Consider slowly transitioning
  4. Find community/support
  5. Refer back to your why

Now, we really should chat about these in more detail.

Think of it like it like a coffee chat with your vegan bestie. I’m spilling the tea with these steps!

Step 1: Answer This: Why Do I Want to Be Vegan?

If you don’t know the answer to this question – why are you reading this?

Just kidding. But seriously, if you’d like to learn about common reasons why people like you choose to go vegan, check out this article about the 3 types of vegans.

Now let’s get started with the basics.

Veganism is actually a philosophy that inspires a lifestyle change in some folks.

And that lifestyle change extends beyond what you eat.

Here is the definition from The Vegan Society(1):

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Source: The Vegan Society

So vegan contrary to what you might have heard, ‘vegan’ goes beyond just avoiding meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey.

This goes beyond health, weight loss, or any other reason you might hear.

Can you be vegan because you think it’s a more healthy choice? Sure!

But, take it from one dietitian: there are several dietary patterns that can be ‘healthy.’

Many dietary patterns can be unhealthy too. This could include a vegan diet (don’t worry, we’ll talk about how to be healthy vegans in the next section)!

But, you just learned that choosing plant based food is only one aspect of veganism.

If you just follow the fully vegan diet and nothing else about veganism, you could call yourself “plant based” (of course, the definition of “plant based” is quite broad).

Those who follow a vegan philosophy are sometimes called ‘ethical vegans,’ but there is a bit of nuance here.

Some studies even suggest that vegans motivated by animal rights are more likely to stay vegan than environmental or health motivations (2).

As a personal aside, my veganism is most motivated by ethics, religion and environmental factors.

Your Action Steps: Now that you know the difference between being plant based and being vegan, think about what lifestyle you want to adopt.

Step 2: Get Familiar with Nutrition

Do not, I repeat: do not skip this step!

Skipping it is probably the number one reason why vegans become ex-vegans.

Why? Because if you aren’t fueling yourself properly, you’ll get burned out, want to give up, or worse!

But here’s what you don’t hear enough of: learning about vegan nutrition can be a learning curve.

There’s probably lots of reasons for this. Marketing, and nutrition recommendations have centered animals as food for a long time.

But we now know that vegan diets can be healthy with some planning that traditional education does not always do the best job of communicating!

When you reduce your use of animals, it’s crucial to know appropriate foods to replace them with. These replacements should include similar essential nutrients, while keeping healthy options at the forefront (just like any other ‘healthy’ diet!).

For example, you wouldn’t replace milk with chocolate would you? Instead, you might consider calcium fortified plant milks, like soy milk, or tofu that is also fortified with calcium (sometimes referred to as calcium set tofu)!

Key nutrients you’ll especially want to have on your radar as a vegan are :

  • Vitamin B12 (vegans must obtain an adequate amount through an appropriate supplement and/or vitamin 12 fortified foods (these must be spread through out the day). Because a supplement is a more reliable source, I’d suggest talking with your doctor about supplementation.
  • Iron
  • Iodine (iodized salt is the most reliable vegan food source, but depending on your overall sodium intake and healh conditions, you might want to consider other ways to get enough of this essential nutrients. So some vegans may want to talk to their doctor about an iodine supplement).
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D (another vitamin you’ll might want to discuss supplementing)
  • Zinc
  • ALA (an essential omega-3 fatty acid)

Action Steps: Most vegans will need to take a vitamin B12 supplement at least. Talk to your doctor about this and other supplements you might need.

Know what foods are good sources of the nutrients mentioned above.

My Vegan Nutrition Guide goes into more detail about these.

It’s a highly recommended read for any new vegan (or anyone eating mostly plant based foods)!

Consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist if you need further help.

Step 3: Consider Slowly Transitioning

Great news: there is no vegan police going around and making sure you cut out everything at once!

Making a slow transition may help your habits stick.

Plus, there’s many ways you con do this.

Here’s some ideas!:

  • Choose one meal to make vegan (say breakfast) for a month, and then add vegan lunches to your meal plan the next month. You can always modify this time period to be shorter or longer.
  • Cut out one animal product at a time.
  • Start to slowly veganize recipes (such as using half beef and half beans in a meatball recipe instead of all meat)

What ever method used, keep in mind that there will be setbacks.

And no, you don’t have to throw out all your non vegan food or things! Do what feels comfortable for you and your financial situation.

For example, I still have leather couches I received from someone else.

As another example, if my husband (who eats eggs and dairy) tries something that doesn’t include 100% vegan foods, and doesn’t want to finish it, I’ll sometimes eat it in all honesty!

Again no vegan police exists, and we must not forget the “as far as practical and possible” part of the vegan definition(1).

Action Steps: Making a slow transition to a vegan lifestyle could help you stay vegan. Try making one meal, animal food swap, or day of the week ‘vegan,’ to start.

What’s possible and practical for each vegan will look different, and that’s ok.

W Want a journal that’s going to help you make a graudal shift to the vegan lifestyle?

Step 4: Find Community/Support

If you feel like you’re the only having a hard time, know that you are not alone!

I’ve chatted with many veagns. And a common theme I hear is how hard it can be.

Especially if you have friends or family who don’t understand what you are doing.

Find your vegan community. If you are passionate about animal ethics, maybe you consider joining a animal advocacy group.

Don’t forget to ask your new vegan friends questions!

They can share personal stories about dealing with critical friends.

Or what their favorite vegan cereal, or plant based snack is.

Chances are, most vegans have been in your shoes and they’ll be happy to help.

Action Steps: It’s going to get tough. Most of the world isn’t vegan! Find good advocates who can lift you up.

If you already have a friend who is interested in becoming vegan too, send them this post so they can join you!

Step 5: Refer Back to Your Why

Some estimates suggest that slightly higher than 1% of the world is vegan(2). That’s not a lot!

Being in the minority comes with a lot of questions that get real old over time (like ‘do you get enough protein? where? (by the way, feel free to send them this list of high protein vegan foods!) .

However, these questions can be especially discouraging in the beginning.

There were many times where I just wanted to eat the same thing at a party!

That’s why I like to reflect on my values. Sometimes I do this by reminding myself about what’s going on in the industry or listening to Earthling Ed (Ed Winters) vegan debates.

Of course, this is easy enough to say – harder to do (especially when everyone else is ordering ice cream and there are no vegan options in sight)!

So tack your “why” on the fridge, phone, door, where ever else you are bound to look at each day. And don’t forget to lean on your support system!

Action Steps: Challenges will come up. So write down your plan of action! Maybe you write down some inspirational vegan quotes (here’s a list for you!). Or call a vegan friend.

FAQ For Vegan Beginners

What kind of activities do vegans avoid?

Vegans avoid certain activities that may involve the mistreatment or unnatural confinement of animals, such:
Trophy Hunting
Horse Racing
Any kind of activity involving forced animal fighting (for example, bull fighting)
additionally, some vegans choose to support and/or visit animal sanctuaries in which it is assumed that the animals are not being exploited.

What are examples of products vegans avoid?

Due to concerns about animal exploitation, vegans avoid certain products, such as animal derived clothing and furniture.
Here’s a list of some more common products/ingredients that aren’t vegan friendly:
Crocodile skin
Snake skin
Down Feathers

How long does it take to transition to a vegan diet?

There is not set number of months or days, and I’d actually encourage you to think about it like a journey instead of a set time period.

When we do it that way, it takes the pressure off, and reduces guilt we might feel if (and when!) we revert back to old habits.

Is the vegan diet healthy?

A vegan diet can be as healthy or unhealthy as you make it!

Plain potato chips and Oreos may be vegan, but they aren’t the most nutritious choices!
Focusing on a variety of whole foods, that are minimally processed, like whole grains, legumes, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables goes a long way.

Convenient foods like frozen fruits and veggies, and canned beans are wonderful additions as well. Try to use low to no sodium varieties.

And don’t forget, it’s imperative to talk your doctor about supplementation of vitamin B12. Other nutrients may need to be supplemented as needed.

Is a vegan diet affordable?

Depending on where you live, a vegan diet may be affordable or not.

One study published in The Lancet suggests that a healthy/sustainable vegan diet as compared to pescatarian, flexitarian, vegetarian, and bench mark diets was actually cheaper in high income countries(3). The “cheapest” vegan diet had a focus on grains.

One thing they didn’t measure however, was the the cost of highly processed foods and drinks. Theoretically, they would increase the price of food.

So, if you want to save money on a vegan diet, try to focus on whole foods, instead of those fancy “meat alternatives”. And don’t forget your legumes and whole grains, which can be quite inexpensive in many places!

Check out or Vegan Grocery List article for more on this topic!

How do I find credible information about vegan nutrition?

It’s important to be selective about what you read in the nutrition space! I’ve read some really crazy misinformation about the vegan diet (and I’m sure you have too)!

Here are some questions to ask when looking for credible sources:
What credentials does the writer have?
Do they have the expertise to provide accurate nutrition information?
Do they cite their sources? Are the studies well designed?
Are the claims too good to be possible?

I hope that you check out our Resources page for a list of awesome resources for vegans!

Did you find this step by step article with tips helpful? Let me know below, I’d love to hear from you!
And since you’re still reading, I thought you might be interested in some other articles related to veganism like:  
-What You Might Experience During the Transition to Vegan
Plant Based Diet Book Suggestions from Registered Dietitians
Vegan Recipe Hacks
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