Easy Way To Transition To Plant-Based Diet [Plus Cheap Food Options]

Easy Steps To Go Vegan And Stick With It

So you’ve decided to start eating plant-based.

You may think it is as simple as deciding but it’s easy to hit road bumps along the way. These following tips will make going plant-based easy and less stressful.

Thankfully the plant-based diet is gaining traction so it’s easier than ever to find food that fits your new lifestyle.

Currently, 6% of the American population identifies as plant-based. The number is even higher if you count the people who are doing “Meat-free Mondays” and dairy-free milk alternatives. Plant-based foods are an exciting area of growth!

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white kitchen with vegan produce spread on countertop for juicing and healthy smoothies

1. Plant-Based Diet vs Vegan: Do Your Research

What are you hoping to accomplish?

Knowing what your goals are for changing your diet is the key to being able to stick with it. Not having a clearly defined goal makes it easy for you to lose sight of the reason you switched in the first place.

Usually, when someone is overhauling their diet to veganism it’s because:

  • Ethics/Politics of being a vegan
  • Environmental footprint/ Social convictions.
  • A friend recently switched their diet and changed for the better.
  • A health issue: long term or recent.
  • Weight loss benefits.
  • Wanting to “feel light” or mental clarity.

These are all great reasons to go plant-based! Narrowing down your specific motivator allows you to keep that focus during times that you’re tired, overwhelmed, or stressed.

What Does Plant-Based Mean: Clarifying Terminology

As you’re researching veganism and plant-based diets, you’re likely to come across the following terminology. Here are quick definitions to cut through all the confusion:

Pescatarian

Someone who does not eat poultry or red meat. They will eat fish and seafood though. It’s a confusing term since they’re not technically vegetarians since fish are animals. They also consume dairy, eggs, and honey.

Vegetarian

Usually, when someone says they’re a vegetarian they mean lacto-ovo-vegetarian. This means they don’t eat any seafood, poultry, or red meat but DO consume eggs, dairy, and honey. Basically they don’t eat animals but are fine with products from them.

Vegan

Followers don’t consume ANY animals or animal products whatsoever. They often don’t use other goods that come from animals such as leather and wool due to their ethical stance.

Whole Food Plant-Based

Like the vegan diet, they don’t consume any animal products. They also focus on eating as healthy and least processed foods that they can. WFPB tries to stay away from packaged convenience foods and junk food even if they are vegan. This diet has gained traction in the health field so followers may wear wool and leather.

Plant-Based

A more encompassing term. A mix of vegan and whole-food plant-based. I call it vegan-lite. You eat a vegan diet but without the ethical stance. You aren’t as focused on whole unprocessed foods as WFPB.

Raw Vegan

Vegans who eat only raw plant-based foods that haven’t been heated over 108 degrees Fahrenheit. They believe alkaline raw foods contain beneficial enzymes that cooking destroys.

These terms are not all-encompassing. There are many variations and crossover terminology. I’ve even met people who called themselves vegetarian but clarified that they just don’t eat mammals.

When I’m eating out I’ve found it’s easier to say I eat vegan food than try to explain what whole food plant-based is. Decide for yourself what is most important.

2. Look Into Proper Vegan Nutrition

With any change in your diet, it’s important to make sure all your bases are covered as far as nutrients and vitamins are concerned. Vegan nutrition isn’t any more difficult than what you did in the past; the sources for the nutrients may not be the same.

Overwhelmed by nutrition? ✅ This plant-based meal plan course was created by a nutritionist and takes all the guesswork out of it. So simple!

B12 And Vegans

This is the one vitamin that is necessary to supplement if you’re on a vegan diet. Our ancestors got their B12 by eating produce that still had dirt on it. Nowadays we’re likely to rinse our food before eating.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency include anemia, nervous system damage, heart disease, and pregnancy complications. Serious stuff!

The reason you didn’t hear much about this before is that the feed that farmed animals are given is supplemented with B12 which would pass onto you second hand.

Some vegan foods are fortified with B12. A daily multivitamin or B12 spray will make sure you get enough of this essential vitamin. I use this B12 spray by Garden of Life.

Just remember, there aren’t vitamin B12 rich fruits and vegetables with today’s clean grocery store produce.

fresh cut basil on a wooden cutting board

More Vegan Nutrition Tips

  • Vary your protein sources. Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens contain protein too!
  • Fermented soy products are nutritious (tempeh, miso, natto) but watch out for soy fillers like textured vegetable protein. TVP is very processed. Learn where to find tempeh here.
  • Seitan is a convincing mock meat but should be eaten sparingly. Learn where to find seitan here.
  • Watch out for filling up on simple carbs. They taste good but you’ll be hungry soon after.
  • “Vegan” doesn’t mean nutritious. Oreos and other junk food are vegan.
  • Limit oil intake. Oil is fat and fat has the most concentrated calories per gram.

Eat More Vegetables To Lose Weight

Don’t be alarmed if you eat more while on a vegan diet. Vegetables and fruits are a lot less calorie-dense than meat and dairy.

Your body will need for you to eat more to get all it’s nutrients so make sure you don’t try to keep portions tiny. Just make sure your cooking is limiting oil amounts.

One of the most common complaints about going vegan is that you feel hungry. These tips will help you stay full on a vegan diet.

Cheap Plant-Based Groceries To Save You Money

One of the common pervasive myths is that eating healthy plant-based foods makes your grocery budget increase.

While this can be true if you’re getting only convenience foods, you can seriously save money on a vegan diet if you purchase the following groceries:

  • Beans/ Lentils – you’ll save the most by purchasing dried in the bulk bins but canned versions can be budget-friendly
  • Rice – This grain is a staple in the diet of many parts of the world. It’s cheap and can be bought in bulk to save even more. I suggest checking out your local warehouse store for a huge bag that lasts months. When combined with beans, it forms a complete protein profile.
  • Bananas – Probably the cheapest fruit you can find. You’re paying cents per pound. If you have too many, bananas freeze great to be used later in smoothies.
  • Oatmeal – A good source of iron and a filling breakfast food. Combine with bananas for an inexpensive daily breakfast.
produce and vegetables lying on marble counter of white kitchen for vegan transition
  • Pasta – Stick to whole-grain versions for the additional fiber and prevent spikes in your blood glucose. There are so many varieties that you can make numerous meals from pad Thai to Italian to ramen.
  • Potatoes – These vegetables get a bad rap since many put extremely unhealthy toppings on them and call it a meal. Potatoes are full of vitamins and are budget-friendly. They’ve sustained people through famines and prevented scurvy in sailors.
  • Seasonal Produce – For all other vegetables, fruits, and greens, eat seasonally! Seasonal produce is so much cheaper than off-season. The nutrition content is higher since the produce hasn’t been picked long and traveled long distances.
  • Frozen Produce – Frozen produce doesn’t have to be boiled into a soggy mush. Frozen fruit can be blended into a smoothie or baked. Frozen bananas can create an ice cream alternative. Vegetables can be flash stirfried in a wok or used in lasagna.
    • Frozen produce typically costs less than out of season produce and the vitamin levels are higher since they’re flash-frozen soon after being harvested.

3. Remove All Non-Vegan Food Temptations

It’s easiest to start fresh and go full throttle.

Take 10 minutes to rummage through your kitchen pantry and fridge to remove any animal products. Donate them to a food pantry or give them away to a friend so the food isn’t wasted.

I don’t know about you, but if I have a bag of cheese lying around it may be too tempting in the beginning. Remove the temptation from the get-go and you’re setting yourself up for success.

You’ll be glad you did after a long day at work and you want that pint of ice cream from the freezer. Those comfort food associations will sneak up on you and take a little time to break.

Check For Hidden Animal Products In Food

At the grocery store, check ingredient labels. You want the ingredients list to be short, filled with natural ingredients, and whole foods.

You also need to be on the lookout for hidden animal products. They can be things like whey, carmine, red 4, gelatin, and confectioner’s glaze.

Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of checking quickly. Many companies are even indicating “vegan” or “vegetarian” at the start of the ingredients list.

4. Don’t Forget To Indulge In Vegan Alternatives

Transitioning over to a vegan diet isn’t about martyrdom.

Ever hear about those people with super strict diets 6 days of the week and then 1 cheat day? Ever been one yourself? Usually, the cheat day is a free-for-all calorie bomb. That’s not a healthy way to live.

In order for change to become sustainable, you have to be happy and not constantly feeling deprived. Your mental state shouldn’t be so closely tied to food.

After you’ve purged your pantry, fill it with items that fit your new lifestyle. Snack lovers will benefit from having carrots and hummus ready in the fridge or air-popped popcorn to fill that niche.

If there’s a food item that you are obsessed with, such as ice cream, I suggest finding a plant-based version that you enjoy. There are so many dairy-free ice cream options now.

Better to have the occasional indulgence than to deny yourself completely. Denying isn’t sustainable and can make the transition more mentally taxing.

woman indulging in vegan chocolate cake at a restaurant while on a tablet

5. Eating Out When Vegan

How does a vegan eat at a restaurant without causing a scene?

The easiest way to not be surprised is to check out the restaurant’s online menu. I’ve seen restaurants post a vegan menu on their website but not show it in the menu they give you at the restaurant. Why are they keeping their vegan menu a secret?

Happy Cow is a third party site that vegans can post how vegan-friendly a restaurant is. I’ve found off-menu items that way.

If you don’t have luck checking online, try calling the restaurant ahead of time to ask specific questions about meals. Do them a favor and choose a downtime between meal rushes to call.

6. Eating Vegan While Traveling

Many of the same strategies above can be used while traveling. I was in the middle of the Scottish Highlands at 7 PM and used Yelp to find a tiny lodge 2 miles down a dirt road that served the best vegan haggis.

Bringing your own food is a great option for travel, especially snacks. Making your own trail mix or bringing snack bars is low effort but tasty. If you’re really desperate you should be able to scrounge up a can of beans and some fruit somewhere.

7. Find Vegan Support Groups

As with any huge changes in your life, you’ll want to share them with your friends and family. Now if your friends and family aren’t supportive, it can be difficult to stick to your new diet.

Perhaps you need new friends? I joke…

Contrary to what some say, the vegan community is very accepting. Check for a vegan festival in your area or a meetup group. They’ll be some of the most fun people from all walks of life.

If there’s nothing local to you, social media is a great way to find the support you need. There are many plant-based specific groups on Facebook and a huge vegan Instagram community.

With your local friends, go out for non-food activities if you can no longer agree on places to eat. Indoor trampoline park anyone?

friends drinking coffee holding blue and orange coffee cups

8. Create A Vegan Vision Board

I know, it sounds hokey but hear me out. Creating a vision board gets you to hash out what is important to you.

Once you identify your goals, you can change your thoughts which will lead to a lifestyle change. A constant visual reminder keeps you on track.

Place your vision board on the side of your fridge where you’ll see it every time you go to get food.

For the digitally inclined, make your vision board into the wallpaper on your computer or tablet. We spend so many hours on our electronics it only makes sense to have an electronic vision board you bring everywhere.

9. Plant-Based Meal Planning Saves Time

When you’re starting out, having a rotation of a few easy recipes is key. To find recipes, I recommend Pinterest or vegan cookbooks.

If there’s a dish that you use to love, try a “veganized” version. As you become more comfortable with the changes, you can try experimenting with more adventurous ingredients like nutritional yeast or marmite.

Knowing what meals you’re eating this week and having the ingredients in your house already will save you a lot of stress. There’s no room to wonder what’s for dinner and reverting back to past comfort foods.

Don’t have time to look for recipes? ✅ This meal planning bootcamp course will have you preparing 21 meals in under 2 hours!

10. Curate A Stash Of Vegan Freezer Meals

This will save you when you’re hangry!

When I first decided to go vegan, I cooked up a bunch of dishes, portioned them out, and froze them. Having a freezer meal stash is absolutely essential for when you’re exhausted and feeling lazy.

Takeout sounds really good but heating up a meal from your freezer is actually quicker, healthier, and free since you already paid for the food.

Confession: I feel lazy a lot and love grabbing a burrito, veggie burger, or lasagna from the freezer.

The secret to an amazing freezer stash is to fill it with items that you want more than takeout.

I started filling my freezer with cabbage soups and other food I thought sounded “vegany.” I felt so proud of myself. The problem is that when it comes time to use my freezer stash, cabbage soup doesn’t win out over pizza or greasy Chinese takeout.

So for me, my freezer is full of individually wrapped burritos, black bean beet burgers, tempeh lasagna, taco filling, curries, and stews.

Find the foods you’re most likely to turn to and find a plant-based recipe for it.

frozen plant based freezer meals in containers

11. Remember: No One Is Perfect

If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your new diet, that’s normal. It’s also normal to not be 100% perfect from the get-go.

Does that mean you should give up because you caved and ordered a pizza with extra cheese and bacon?

No. All that means is that you should think about what happened around the time that you made the decision to order the pizza.

Where you out of food to make at home? Short on time from running the kids to practices? Hanging out in the mall food court with pizza smell wafting towards you when you hadn’t eaten all day?

Whatever the situation surrounding that slip-up, try to set up your life so that you aren’t in that scenario again. This may mean carrying snacks with you, grocery shopping a day earlier, or keeping an extra freezer meal around.

You got this!

stephanie mantilla mommysaurus headshot
Stephanie Mantilla

Vegan & Plant-Based Living Expert

Stephanie is the founder behind Mommysaurus, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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