First Steps on Your Vegan Journey: Where to Start, What to Expect, and How to Stick with It

When my vegan journey started in 2013, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do first. A lot of blogs and YouTube channels sharing tips for going vegan didn’t exist back then. So I did my best researching the subject of how to go vegan, making a few mistakes along the way and learning from them.

I’ve learned so much from my experience of going vegan that today I’d like to share what I’ve learned, and give you the exact step-by-step tips on how to become a vegan and stick with it long-term.

First steps of your vegan journey: where to start, what to expect, and how to stick with it

While there are lots of benefits of being vegan, too often I see that people who decided to go vegan experience a number of difficulties, especially at first.

Regardless what brought you on the vegan path – compassion for animals, environmental concerns, search for better health – you should know that you’ve made a noble choice, and starting on a journey towards going vegan will only get easier with time.

It’s easy to get confused in your initial research about the vegan diet and lifestyle. Internet is full of contradicting information.

The reaction of friends and family might be less than approving. Settling into a new shopping and cooking routine can challenge even the most determined types.

However, your transition will go more smoothly if you keep your eyes on the big picture.

A SIDE NOTE: While I love guiding people towards a vegan lifestyle, I acknowledge that I’m not a trained nutrition professional.

If you’d like to have a real vegan nutritionist to “show you the ropes” of going vegan in a healthy and sustainable way, check out the Vegan Starter Kit created by a certified vegan nutritionist.

Vegan Starter Kit Layout

This starter kit is chock-full of information you’ll need to successfully transition towards a vegan lifestyle. Plus, it comes with an e-cookbook with 40+ delicious plant-based recipes, a dietician-approved 14-day meal plan, a restaurant guide, printable cheat sheets, and much more!

WANT TO SEE IT FOR YOURSELF? Check it out and sign up over here.

What You Need to Know Before Going Vegan

1. There is a difference between the notions of ‘vegan’ and ‘plant-based’. Vegans aim to ‘do no harm’, or as little harm as possible, to all living beings. Diet-wise, they’ll eat anything that doesn’t contain animal products, no matter how healthy or unhealthy.

Plant-based folks may or may not care about animal welfare, but they definitely care about how the food they eat impacts their health. The goal is to eat as much whole, minimally processed plant-based foods as possible.

You may have heard all kinds of miraculous stories about people going vegan and becoming healthier, losing weight, etc. This is a bit of a misnomer – people in those stories go plant-based, not vegan.

It’s possible for a person to be both plant-based AND vegan though if they care about their health and the animals.

Learn about other mistakes people make when going vegan, and see what you can do to avoid them.

2. Vegan food goes beyond boring salads, fake meats, and veganized versions of animal-based foods from Standard American Diet. With so much whole foods available at any grocery store, you can plan your diet without having to resort to processed vegan foods from the store.

New horizons will open to you as you discover delicious cuisines from all over the world. I’ve never been to an Indian restaurant before I went vegan, and now I’m a huge fan of Indian food!

3. There will be challenges on your vegan journey, especially when going out to eat, traveling, visiting family, etc.

(Going out to eat with your vegan kids? Check out my vegan parents’ guide for eating out with kids.)

The good thing to expect: it gets easier. The best thing to do: make a plan. Call the restaurant ahead of time (don’t just check their menu online) and ask them if they can accommodate you.

Easy chickpea salad sandwich recipe with only 5 ingredients

Bring vegan snacks with you when traveling – fruit, nuts, vegan granola bars, or my chickpea salad sandwich recipe (pictured above) that’s become my husband’s favorite sandwich to bring with us when we travel.

See more tips on how to travel as a vegan, both domestically and internationally.

When visiting family, tell your relatives that you’re OK with cooking something quick for yourself in their kitchen – that will take some stress off of you and the host.

4. If you’re a parent, you’ll need to decide: Do you want to go on your vegan journey by yourself, or would you like your kids (and your significant other) to join you?

Of course, that decision will ultimately be up to them. Please avoid forcing anyone into veganism – that never ends well.

(I sometimes suspect that all the angry anti-vegan commenters on the internet have gone through that.)

Here’s what to do if you end up being the only vegan adult in your family.

Now comes the part aimed at people who are thinking about how to go vegan RIGHT NOW, and are wondering about where to start.

Below are the tips I wish someone had given me when I first switched to a plant-based/vegan diet – they would have saved me a lot of missteps and confusion. Luckily for you, I’ve learned from those missteps, and now you have my blog to help you on your vegan journey 🙂

First Steps on Your Vegan Journey

1. Watch a few lectures on YouTube

YouTube can be a great resource to find more info on how (and why) to go vegan and to avoid making mistakes. From fighting for animal rights and environment to living an everyday life as a vegan, everyone can find a vegan or plant-based YouTuber to their taste.

You can find great lectures on YouTube by renowned plant-based diet researchers and doctors, such as John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, Michael Greger, Milton Mills and others (just enter one of the names in the search field).

Early on in my vegan journey, I found their lectures very helpful to get answers and rebuttals to all those health-related questions and theories every vegan is too familiar with. Humans are carnivores! Where do you get your protein as a vegan?! But what about vitamin B12?!

Yep, all that stuff.

One note: beware people without any scientific credentials who talk about important health-related subjects!

Useful tips for going vegan: what you need to know when starting your vegan journey

Off YouTube: check out Michael Greger’s informative site, NutritionFacts.org, where he puts up a short video about various aspects of nutrition almost every day, and you can do a convenient search of his past videos using a very helpful system of tags.

Here’s what I found out about my health after six years of being vegan.

2. Go to Pinterest

Our diet is the biggest part of your day to day life that will need to change when you decide to go vegan. Immediately after making the switch, you may find yourself wondering, “Okay… What do I make for dinner TONIGHT?!”

In the near future you will discover lots of amazing vegan recipes, but today, Pinterest can be a great place to start searching for them.

This website is the best place to find tons of vegan and plant-based recipes, discover amazing vegan food blogs, and see a picture of every recipe you find.

It’s true that Pinterest has more pins in English than any other language, but other languages are represented too. I’ve searched for recipes in Russian (my first language) and found quite a few.

Pinterest proved to be incredibly helpful to me when I first went vegan – in fact, so helpful that for the first month of our plant-based vegan journey I made a new recipe EVERY DAY, only repeating once or twice!

I’m still making a few dishes from those days every now and then (see my Pinterest picks here). Verdict: Pinterest is a great way to discover new, delicious dishes when you’re just starting out.

3. Try it out for a week.

If you want to see what your day-to-day diet is going to look like as a vegan, try using a pre-made vegan meal plan for a week.

This free one-week meal plan has been developed by a vegan nutritionist. It’s based around simple and healthy plant-based bowls that make great lunches and dinners.

What I like about it: this meal plan teaches us how to make a variety of simple plant-based meal components, and put them together to create different meals with entirely new flavor combinations.

Besides the recipes, this meal plan includes nutritional information, ideas for leftover lunches, a grocery shopping list, vegan transition tips, and a Sunday meal prep guide.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s free? Go over here to download your copy.

4. Go to a nearby bookstore and look for vegan cookbooks

The abundance of vegan cookbooks on the market today is enough to make your head spin. But I find that some of them are more user-friendly than others.

Here are a few of my tips for finding a cookbook that you’ll surely use over and over.

Look at the layout of each book and the common ingredients in a few recipes. Is the layout convenient enough (the way the recipes are grouped, clear marking of breakfast-lunch-dinner recipes, allergy information, etc.) ? Can the ingredients be found easily in your local grocery store?

If you answer ‘no’ to both of these questions, move on to the next book. You aren’t likely to be using books that confuse you with their layout, or make you run around your town in search of exotic ingredients.

Here’s my post about 5 user-friendly vegan cookbooks that I’ve had in heavy rotation in my own kitchen for years.

Top 5 most useful vegan cookbooks

When it comes to purchasing vegan cookbooks, I’m all for buying them at small, independently owned book stores. But if you aren’t comfortable with book store prices, find them for less on Amazon, in used book stores, or even at TJMaxx,

5. Stock your pantry right

Okay, you don’t have to undertake an epic, one-time grocery shopping spree to buy lots of healthy, plant-based foods and fill up every drawer in your kitchen – it’s no problem if you take your time with that.

What exactly do you need to buy? See my list of 10 plant-based pantry staples that will help you make countless delicious and healthy vegan meals.

6. Find your vegan community

In case you begin feeling lonely on your vegan journey, look for vegan groups, both online and offline. Internet is now available almost anywhere – so is Facebook, MeetUp.com, etc.

Facebook has lots of groups and pages dedicated to various aspects of vegan diet and lifestyle ( I update Vegan Runner Eats’ Facebook page with interesting info I find all over the web, as well as link recipes and posts from this blog).

MeetUp.com and other sites may help you find a local group of like-minded people – who wouldn’t like a chance to make new friends?

If you’re looking for additional tips for going vegan, see Leo Babauta’s even more detailed Loving Guide to Going Vegan.

And now, a message that might be the most important at the beginning of your vegan journey:

If you slip up, please don’t think that everything is ruined forever. It’s not. Just get up and keep going in the right direction.

In fact, a lot of people go through a transition period on their path to being fully vegan, and it’s OK as long as you remember the exact reason that led you to start your vegan journey (your health, compassion for animals, reducing your carbon footprint, etc.).

Let’s strive to be the best versions of ourselves – ditching animal-based foods and going vegan can be a good start!

Photo credits: image #4 – Christin Hume, image #5 – Samuel Ferrara on Unsplash.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, share it with your friends on social media! And stick around for more awesomeness – subscribe to Vegan Runner Eats to receive the latest posts (I’ll send you a free one-week vegan dinner meal plan as a thank you), or follow the blog on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

15 thoughts on “First Steps on Your Vegan Journey: Where to Start, What to Expect, and How to Stick with It”

  1. We went vegan two months ago for health reasons only. Although, watching “What the Health” on Netflix made the decision easier. Luckily my husband is an amazing cook, so it hasn’t been difficult. I don’t even have cravings.

    Our problem is that we are going on a Mexican cruise in two weeks. PLZ HELP. We both love the way we feel and don’t want to screw it up after eating things our bodies won’t like. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Michelle! I’ve heard great things about most cruise ship companies lately – a lot of them are willing to accommodate vegans with either vegan-friendly menu items or will cook you vegan dishes off the menu on request. Which cruise company are you going with? It might make sense to call them in advance and ask them about their menu, or if that doesn’t work out, make sure to tell your waiter about your vegan needs right away. Good luck!

  2. I love your post, it’s useful and very practical! I’ve been a vegan for a long time now and my transition was full of ups and downs. Agree with you that there is no need to be harsh on yourself if you don’t succeed at first try, many don’t. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo this compassionate lifestyle (I wrote about going vegan here: https://vegancookbook.com/going-vegan/). There is a persistent misconception about veganism as restrictive lifestyle – veganism isn’t about depriving yourself, it’s about opening up to a new, better way of living

  3. Hello, I’m trying to go vegan and so far I’ve been messing up, mainly because of school and my parents don’t know that I’m trying to become vegan. One way I know I can keep myself from eating meat for an entire day is watching those horrifying videos on YouTube about how they treat animals in slaughter factories. But I don’t want to do that every day. Is there a way you can help me find a way to stick with being vegan? Thanks.

    1. Hi Celia! First of all, establish good comnunication with your parents – they’re not going to know you’re trying to go vegan unless you tell them. Second, research your vegan options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and plan them out beforehand – when you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Do some of your own cooking if needed. And definitely ask yourself why exactly you want to go vegan. Good luck!

  4. Thankyou for writing this blog. I feel like it will help me a lot (: I decided to start my vegan path February 2014. And the past 6 months I’ve had many slip ups, eating cream cheese, cuz it’s available, tuna cuz it’s tasty, and pizza slices cuz it’s easier than ordering a whole vegan pizza I have to be forced to eat alone. I used to always prepare my meals before work (I work in a hairsalon in Walmart) when I don’t prepare meals before work the Walmart selection can be hard to choose food. But it’s definately possible, you’ve inspired me to stick to my goals. Veganism would be easier if I had more support. But I can find support from my instagram friends. And my boyfriend, even though I wish he would go vegan with me, I can’t expect him to make such a drastic life decision for me.
    Thankyou so much love <3

    1. Molly, everybody’s path to being vegan is different, so don’t punish yourself for not being a 100% perfect vegan! I was very tempted by cheese and non-vegan desserts in my first months of making a switch. It’s not the case anymore because a) I know how to get/make vegan alternatives to those, and b) I know of the animal suffering that goes on in animal agriculture. As for falling off the wagon when you don’t have vegan options, planning ahead is always the way to go! If you can’t make a full vegan dinner every night and have leftovers for the next day, take one night a week to make something big to last you a few days, like a casserole or a pot of chili. This way you’ll always have food to bring to work!

  5. It takes discipline for me, but with all the books, “You tube” videos, events, new products, your blog… it is getting easier.

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