When I’m giving cooking classes, people often ask me what steps they should take to eliminate animal products, so here are some tips to help you get started. You can choose your own pace of change – you can start with just one meal or you can jump right in. I encourage you to be willing to experiment and learn as you go. Enjoy the adventure!
Some initial steps to take to cut back on meat and fish:
- Acquire a vegan cookbook, or find a website with interesting vegan recipes – vegetariantimes.com is a good place to start.
- Find some new vegan recipes that sound appealing, and buy the ingredients.
- Try replacing meat and fish with a plant-based alternative in some of your regular meals.
- Look for vegan options on the menu at your favorite restaurant and try one next time you go.
- Try a new restaurant – ethnic restaurants such as Mexican, Thai or Indian usually have plenty of good options to choose from.
Once you have a selection of about 10 delicious vegan meals you enjoy, you can rotate through them on a regular basis for the majority of your meals, adding new meals from time to time to increase the variety.
Steps to reduce other animal products in your diet:
- Find one or more plant-based milks that you like and replace dairy milk with them.
- Try some of the many plant-based yogurts and cheeses, and find some favorite brands.
- If you’re a coffee drinker, find a non-dairy creamer that you like.
- If you like eggs for breakfast, try a tofu scramble instead.
- Explore the “natural” section of your regular grocery store if it has one, or explore a new grocery store near you that has a good selection of natural foods.
- Check the ingredients of the packaged foods you commonly buy, and start to seek out vegan alternatives.
Speed of transition – How quickly to make the transition is really up to you. If you’re ready to make the change right away, you can change your diet in just a few weeks. If you have a health concern you’re hoping to alleviate, remember that while a plant-based diet is helpful for several diseases it could take a few months to see significant results. If you’re changing out of caring about the animals, you start saving them from the first bite.
On the other hand, if you feel like it’s the right thing to do, but you want to proceed at your own pace and just do the best you can, you could try one new meal or ingredient each week and assess how it goes over a year or so.
Consider other family members – If you have other family members to consider when making meals, you may want to have a family meeting to explain your wishes, and ask for their help in making your transition. Get them on your team! It will be a lot easier for you if the refrigerator and the pantry are only stocked with healthy vegan foods for you to enjoy. If, however, others sharing your kitchen are not open to change, you’ll need to work out a plan based on who’s doing the shopping, who’s doing the cooking, and how much storage space you have available. Offering to cook for others is a great way to introduce them to new recipes.
Learn to cook – It’s fun, healthier and more affordable than the alternatives. Using frozen precut vegetables and fruit, and jars of sauces for flavoring can save time and effort. If you’re not used to doing the cooking, consider choosing some individual frozen vegan meals you can easily microwave to get you started.
Whatever path you choose is up to you. Don’t feel pressured by others to go slower or faster than you can handle. Vegetarians of Washington is here to help. You may find some of our books helpful in making the change. Say No to Meat answers many questions about why and how to make the transition. In Pursuit of Great Food – A plant-based shopping guide is handy to plan what to buy and choose the best brands and freshest foods. The Veg-Feasting Cookbook provides lots of recipes for every possible meal. If you’re based in the Seattle area, come to our monthly dining events and classes to get ideas and support for your transition, and don’t miss our annual Vegfest.