Getting Started with Going Vegan
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
- 1 Context
- 2 Suggestions
- 2.1 Make a commitment.
- 2.2 Get support.
- 2.3 Realize that perfection is impossible.
- 2.4 Choose a grocery transition strategy.
- 2.5 Learn new recipes and how to veganize your favorites.
- 2.6 Learn how to read food labels.
- 2.7 Plan for eating out.
- 2.8 Choose cruelty-free entertainment, clothing, furniture, and sundries.
- 2.9 Be prepared for the social ramifications.
- 2.10 Bring a vegan dish when asked over for dinner.
- 2.11 Keep educating yourself.
- 2.12 Think of going vegan as the adventure it is.
- 3 Footnotes
- 4 Meta
Once you decide to go vegan, you will undoubtedly spend some mental cycles pondering the best way to go about making this happen. There are so many ways to go about it—and the process is so personal—that it's virtually impossible to lay out a strict blueprint that will work for everyone.
Instead, we provide you with some general tips that we hope you will find helpful in your transition. Beginning vegans have used all sorts of strategies to get started. We can share with you some hopefully useful information from our own experiences and those that have been shared with us.
A good general rule is to proceed as rapidly as you can but not so fast you feel overwhelmed and give up. Keep in mind that once the transition has been made, your new ways of eating and purchasing will become second nature.
Make a commitment.
Perhaps the most important way to start is to make a commitment—a promise to yourself to follow some course of action. Once you read the tips below, particularly the ones involving strategies, commit to the strategies you have chosen and stick to the commitment. Make the commitment as strong as possible and as concrete as possible.
It's a good idea to seek out support and encouragement from other vegans in your area. Often you will find local vegan Meetup and Facebook groups that gather for potlucks, dining out, and other activities. People in these groups are usually happy to answer questions about cooking and other topics. To find these groups in San Diego, for example, search Google for "Vegan meetups near San Diego"—or search Facebook for "Vegans San Diego."
In addition to local groups, there are several national and international Facebook groups with a stated mission of helping beginners. One such Facebook group is "New Vegan Support," with over fifty-seven thousand members and dozens of posts per day. The group is open for anyone to join, but it's a private group, so only members can see your posts.
Realize that perfection is impossible.
Animal products are near ubiquitous—they can be found in bags, car tires, glue, and a wide range of other products for which there are no viable substitutes or for which alternatives are difficult to obtain.
So don't get frustrated because you can't be perfect. There are no perfect vegans.
Choose a grocery transition strategy.
Here are a few overall strategies you might choose in purchasing groceries.
Transition all at once. Not everyone finds it agreeable to immediately throw out existing supplies of meat, eggs, cheese, milk, and processed foods that have animal ingredients. This is, however, the best way to proceed, as it shows the highest commitment and encourages success. In being exposed to the information that contributed to your decision to go vegan, you have likely lost at least some of your appetite for animal products. If this is true for you, then this option is the most viable.
As food runs out. With this strategy, you run down existing supplies and replace animal products with vegan items when the supply of any particular item is exhausted. Some choose this method because they are on a tight budget.
A hybrid strategy. A compromise approach between the above two strategies is to throw out the items that are most obviously animal, such as meat, eggs, cheese, and milk, and then replace other things that have smaller quantities of animal ingredients as they run out.
A meal or a food at a time. Some have chosen to eat vegan for breakfast for a week, then also lunch for the next week, then also dinner. Others have chosen to replace one food at a time. For example, you might decide to replace animal milk with plant milk this week and then meat with either vegan meats or whole-food recipes the next week. And so on.
Learn new recipes and how to veganize your favorites.
There are plenty of vegan recipes available with a quick online search. There are many vegan recipe books as well. And, as you start to interact with other vegans at meetups—and on Facebook and other platforms—exchanging information on recipes and recipe books will become a joy.
You can also make your favorite recipes vegan by substituting ingredients. Just search for "how to veganize recipes," and you will be connected to several articles discussing how to accomplish this.
Learn how to read food labels.
Many foods have ingredients with names that obscure that the ingredients are derived from animals. Here is a list of ingredients that typically are animal in origin: albumin, aspic, casein, cod-liver oil, collagen, elastin, gelatin, honey, isinglass, keratin, lactose, lard, pepsin, propolis, royal jelly, shellac, tallow, some vitamin D3, and whey.
Be aware that glycerine, glycerol, lactic acid, mono or diglycerides, and stearic acid can be from animals or plants. Hopefully, the label will indicate if they are plant derived.
Details on Ingredients
- Albumin: egg white
- Aspic: a jelly made from meat stock
- Casein: milk protein
- Cod-liver oil: oil pressed from the fresh liver of the codfish
- Collagen: protein found in skin and connective tissue
- Elastin: elastic protein from ligaments and the aorta
- Gelatin: a gel made by boiling various animal parts
- Honey: food made by bees for bees
- Isinglass: a sheet made from fish bladders; used to filter some wines and beers
- Keratin: from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and fish
- Lactose: a milk sugar
- Lard: animal fat
- Pepsin: a digestive enzyme of the stomach
- Propolis: used by bees in the construction of their hives
- Royal jelly: secretion of the throat gland of the honeybee
- Shellac: a coating made by insects
- Tallow: animal fat
- Vitamin D3: often derived from an animal source, such as sheep’s wool, but may also be obtained from lichen
- Whey: a milk by-product
Plan for eating out.
Before eating out at an establishment, it's good to check out their online menus and call beforehand with any questions about what is vegan and what can be made vegan.
That said, you should never hesitate to ask your server for clarifications, but you may find everything goes a little smoother if you come prepared.
A little preparation before you go might be a little less awkward for you, particularly if you are new to veganism and eating out with friends or family who are not vegan.
Choose cruelty-free entertainment, clothing, furniture, and sundries.
After making progress on food, it's time to consider your purchases in other areas of animal exploitation. With a little research, you will find that zoos, aquariums, rodeos, and circuses are not as innocuous as you may have thought.
If you haven't already, you will also learn that leather, wool, and silk are products of cruelty and exploitation. Some adopt the strategy of using existing non-vegan furniture, clothing, and shoes until they wear out before replacing them. Sometimes this is for financial reasons. Others donate them to a charity to avoid the waste that comes from trashing them. And others argue we should trash these items to avoid continuing to participate in any way to the exploitation these items represent.
Soaps, cosmetics, sundries, and various home products often contain animal products or are tested on animals. If you haven't looked into this already, you might be shocked at the horrors done in the name of product testing. Several online guides are available to help you purchase vegan and cruelty-free products. One such guide that does a good job of elucidating the topic is Redfin Real Estate's The Ultimate Guide to Make Your Home 100% Cruelty-Free and Vegan"
It's not unusual for those new to veganism to feel a little isolated from family and friends during mealtime. You will experience various degrees of understanding and acceptance from those you care about.
As time moves forward and they see how important your commitment is to you, most everyone will accept your choices. Many will admire your conviction.
You need to keep in mind the reasons you became vegan, remember what it was like to not be vegan, and give others time to accept and embrace your compassionate way of living.
Here's one thing that will be very gratifying: it's very likely that some of your family and friends will eventually become vegan because of the example you set and your conviction. With this in mind, it's helpful to think of others as pre-vegans.
Bring a vegan dish when asked over for dinner.
There is no need to panic when you're asked over for dinner by friends, acquaintances, or family. If your hosts don't know you're vegan, you should mention it to them as nonchalantly as possible. Then you should offer to bring a delicious vegan dish that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Keep educating yourself.
As you have no doubt discovered, there is a wealth of information available on veganism. Our Helpful Resources page lists sites, videos, articles, and books that will be helpful to you on your journey of discovery.
A link on the Helpful Resources page does not mean that we are in total agreement with everything that is presented on the linked page—or that we agree with everything the author or organization has ever said or written. But we think these links are generally good sources of information and, where applicable, scientifically sound.
Think of going vegan as the adventure it is.
Many have found leaving animals off the plate to be an adventure, discovering new foods, recipes, and tastes they have never before experienced. Like many changes, being vegan will soon be second nature.
- History | Vegan Society.” The Vegan Society. Accessed October 13, 2017. https://www.vegansociety.com/about-us/history
- “A Vegan’s Guide to Reading Food Labels.” Vegan Food & Living, February 23, 2018. www.veganfoodandliving.com/a-vegans-guide-to-reading-food-labels/
- “The Ultimate Vegan and Cruelty-Free Guide for Your Home.” Redfin Real-Time, January 2016. https://www.redfin.com/blog/vegan-cruelty-free-home-guide
This article was originally authored by Greg Fuller and copyedited by Isaac Nickerson. The contents may have been edited since that time by others.