How to Transition to Veganism: Vegan Beginners Need 5 Steps

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

Vegan beginners will learn just 5 key actionable steps from a dietitian who happens to identify as vegan – so you know it’ll be good!

Disclaimer: This article is not providing personal medical or dietary advice. Talk to your own doctor before adding a supplement or making major dietary changes. 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

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

Surprise! Veganism is a philosophy that 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

At the core, veganism is a philosophy that results in a lifestyle adjustment to reduce personal exploitation of animals.

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

Can you be vegan because you think it’s a more eco friendly or 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, including a vegan diet (don’t worry, we’ll talk about how to be healthy vegans in the next section)!

Choosing veganism for its reduced environmental impacts tends to center around food. For example, beans are more environmentally friendly than beef.

But, we 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.”

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 we don’t talk about enough: 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 are giving up meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and animal derived ingredients, you need to know appropriate foods to replace them with. These replacements should include similar essential nutrients.

For example, you wouldn’t replace milk with chocolate would you? Instead, you might consider calcium fortified plant milks or calcium set tofu (and a plan for iodine)!

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

  • Vitamin B12 (vegans must obtain an adequate amount through vitamin 12 fortified foods or a supplement. Because a supplement is more reliable talk to your doctor about supplementation)
  • Iron
  • Iodine (iodized salt is the most reliable source, but some vegans may need 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 post vegan for beginners goes into 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 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.
  • Cut out one animal product at a time (details in my transitioning to a vegan diet section).
  • Start to slowly veganize recipes (such as using half beef and half beans in a meatball recipe instead of all meat)

What ever method is 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 for get 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 and build on from there until you get the hange of vegan meals!

Don’t feel like you have to get rid of all your animal derived clothing or furniture Sure, you could donate, but that’s up to you!

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

Step 4: Find Community/Support

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

The good news is, that there are many other people who have or had feelings like these.

Find your vegan community. Places to look include vegan advocacy groups in your area, Facebook groups, etc.

Make sure you ask questions.

Want to know how to deal with family who don’t get your values?

Or what vegan foods actually taste like honey?

Ask vegans!

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

Action Steps: Find someone else who is vegan, or find community in groups for support.

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 aloft of questions that get real old over time, but 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 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: Know that challenges will come on your vegan journey, so have action plan! Remind yourself of your why when you feel like giving up, listen to inspirational vegan talks, or get support from your community etc.

FAQ From 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

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.

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(2). 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?

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

How to Transition To Veganism in Summary

Here’s a summary of the steps I outlined for those 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

Remember to be compassionate towards yourself and others as you go through these steps!

Last but not least, make vitamin B12 supplementation (talk to your doctor about this), a top priority since vegans do not get vitamin B12 from animal products.

We hope you found this article helpful! We want to know, do you feel more equipped to start a vegan lifestyle? Leave us a comment if you found this helpful!
And since you’re still reading, I thought you might be interested in some other articles related to veganism like:  
 How to Make a Vegan Grocery List

What You Might Experience During the Transition to Vegan
Plant Based Diet Book Suggestions from Registered Dietitians
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