Regardless of your motives, transitioning to a vegan diet can be tough. Not everyone has it in them to go cold turkey. As a matter of fact, plenty of evidence suggests that this is possibly one of the least effective strategies you can try.
For most people, the key to transitioning permanently to a vegan diet is by slowly adding animal-free foods into their diet, rather than eliminating animal products all at once. This will help you familiarize yourself with the textures, flavors, and preparation methods for the foods that will be a mainstay of your diet. As you become more familiar with cruelty-free foods, you can start slowly decreasing the proportion of animal products in your diet and increasing your intake of vegan foods.
Here are some foods to try during your transition phase.
Legumes such as lentils, peanuts, navy beans, lima beans, and peas are great sources of protein, calcium, and dietary fiber. You’ll be relying on legumes to replace the proteins and minerals you once got from meat. One of the best things about legumes is their extremely long shelf-life and relatively low cost, which dispels myths about vegan diets being expensive and unsustainable. The dizzying variety of legumes can also provide you the variety necessary to enjoy a vegan diet. Legumes, however, require proper preparation due to the presence of antinutrients that inhibit the absorption of minerals. This means soaking most beans correctly as well as learning the correct cooking procedures for each type.
Replacing dairy products in your fridge with quality plant-based milks is a quick and easy way to help you through your transition, and can help prevent the feeling of missing out. The key is to use cold-milled nut and grain-based milks, as these will have a much creamier texture than other plant milks. Cold-milling also preserves much of the nutritional content present in nuts and grains, making it less necessary to include the additives normally present in other plant-based milks.
Rice and tubers such as potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, but many people transitioning into a vegan diet will often miss the taste and textures of bread. There are, however, several types of bread that do not include eggs or other animal products. You can find vegan bagels, English muffins, flatbread, buns, pita, and tortillas in any major American city.
These are great for a special treat, and they just make any vegan bread that much more enjoyable. Try to go for natural nut butters rather than heavily processed varieties, as these may sometimes have excessive salt or sugar in them.
Tofu and Tempeh
These, along with seitan and other minimally processed meat substitutes are perhaps one of the most popular foods for those attempting to transition into a totally vegan diet. Indeed, these foods are also popular with omnivores for their own merits. Many people find that these foods really help speed up their progress into a fully vegan diet. However, try to resist on overloading on these foods. As with an all-meat diet, these meat substitutes won’t provide you with all the nutrition you need to make your vegan diet sustainable.
This often overlooked superfood packs plenty of DHA, a beneficial fatty acid that has been shown to improve memory and brain function in adults. DHA is exceedingly rare in an all-plant diet, so it’s important to regularly have some seaweed dishes or to take algae tablets. Most types of seaweed are also rich in magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and iodine necessary for bodily functions. Seaweed is also rich in antioxidants, which several studies have shown to have some promise in slowing aging and offsetting the effects of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Perhaps most importantly for someone just getting on a vegan diet, seaweed extracts can enhance the flavors of other otherwise bland food items.
Fruits and Vegetables
You might think these are obvious things to have, but many vegans surprisingly don’t eat enough vegetables, instead opting to eat proportionally more meat substitutes, legumes, and nut butters. Part of the reason is that fruits and vegetables have a short shelf life compared to other items on this list. While you want to avoid animal products down the road, you should also try to make sure you are eating a balanced diet as well. Most American cities now have food subscription services that make it simple to have the fruits and veggies you need to round out your diet.
Try to take things slowly, and really focus on understanding what it means to be vegan. You’ll have a better appreciation of our roles in the ecosystem, as well as a better understanding of what goes into the food we eat. Being healthier certainly can’t hurt either.