Before I decided to turn to veganism, I was a vegetarian for ten years. At the time, it was really easy for me to drop eating meat from all animals. I didn't need to transition from dropping one type of meat at a time. But turning to veganism, I found the transition to be more difficult. I thought I would be able to drop all animal byproducts but I found it very difficult to get rid of eggs and cheese from my diet. Then I learned that it's beyond getting rid of dairy products; I needed to stop eating honey and become aware of which sugars I was using as well. But with time, I found that following these steps helped me achieve my vegan goal.
1. Goodbye Cow's Milk, Hello Plant Milk
I find that the easiest first step is to stop drinking cow's milk or goat milk (whichever you are used to drinking). Why? There are SO many milk alternatives. Almond, Soy, Coconut, Hemp, Rice, Oat, and Cashew. I feel like every year there is a new milk alternative. I haven't even tasted oat milk yet. Take the time to find which plant milk is best for you. Each plant milk suits certain uses better than others. Maybe you'll find that you enjoy cashew milk for all of your daily needs and that's great. Or maybe you'd prefer rice milk for your cereal and almond milk as your coffee creamer, that's okay too. Plant milk is versatile and delicious. My personal favorite is coconut milk for my cereal and smoothies, and coconut creamer for my coffee. So much better than half & half!
Once you have your plant milk in your refrigerator, take the opportunity to avoid milk outside your home. If you're at a coffee shop, don't be afraid to ask your barista for alternative milk options.
Note: Non-dairy creamers may not necessarily mean they are vegan. It's best to learn to avoid them now. Look for specifically labeled plant milk.
2. Get Educated and Find a Reason
As a vegetarian, I assume that you have your reasoning for abstaining from animal meat. It was for that reason that has kept you strong and dedicated to your vegetarianism. Further along, you have probably learned more about vegetarianism and it's benefits to your body and the environment. With education, one can discover more reasons to stay vegetarian. When I was a vegetarian, I knew my reasons but I stopped at "I just can't give up cheese." I didn't even bother to look up the process of making cheese and how it affects my body. Instead, I decided to give up milk one day and found that I enjoyed how my body felt without it. This encouraged me to look up more information on other dairy and animal byproducts, giving me more reasons to go vegan. It is important to find a reason to be a vegan because I believe it is a top motivator. We already know that the process to raise livestock for meat or dairy is simply cruel and inhumane. Our motivations begins there but don't stop educating yourself. Learn about the nutritional facts and how these products affect your health and how the process of raising livestock affects the environments and certain towns. Personally, I did not let the warnings of vitamin deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans scare me because with more education I learned that there are other ways to keep those vitamins in my body.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Grocery Store Vegan Alternatives
Begin looking at your local grocery store vegan options. When I began looking to purchase vegan alternatives for my food at home, I learned that some stores are more vegan-friendly than others. I had to change the store I would normally go to but that's okay with me. I feel it's important to support these vegan products and stores that offer them so that more options are provided for vegans. It is also important to begin familiarizing yourself with your vegan options so that your taste buds adjust. Though the vegan options are impressive and tasty, they aren't going to taste exactly like cheese or eggs. At this point, I am not suggesting to give up cheese or eggs altogether when you go out to eat. These are steps to ease your body and mind into veganism so it is okay to find yourself eating the parmesan cheese on top of your Cesar salad at the Cheesecake Factory. It actually makes you more aware of what you are eating and that's good.
4. Stop Eating Cheese or Eggs
The next step I took to transition into veganism as a vegetarian was giving up cheese. I thought it was going to be the hardest thing to give up because of how much I loved eating it. But after I gave up milk and began purchasing vegan alternatives in my home, I found that I wasn't craving cheese as much anymore. Once you give up one of these options, with time you will be able to give up the latter.
5. Study the Menu and Ask Questions
My final step towards veganism as a vegetarian is to not be afraid to ask your server questions about what ingredients are in your food and to remove certain animal products from being cooked with your meal. Just because you have decided to become vegan does not mean that there aren't options for vegans at restaurants. Learn to study ingredients listed on the menu, and if they are not listed then ask. Also look to see if there are vegan restaurants in your area so that you can support them. In the Los Angeles area, my favorite vegan restaurants are Veggie Grill and Ramen Hood LA (check out my earlier post about Ramen Hood LA here).