10 Tips for Vegan Newbies

1. You may need to go to more than one grocery store.

When I first started out on a vegan diet, I automatically assumed that anything that wasn’t from Whole Foods wasn’t vegan. After spending wayyyy too much money on groceries for a few weeks, I finally realized that most grocery stores actually have a good variety of vegan options. I typically buy staple items such as rice, pasta, and produce at cheaper stores like Walmart or Wegmans and go to Whole Foods for all of my vegan cheeses, pizza, or any premade food I may like. Believe it or not, Walmart tends to have more dairy free ice cream options than Whole Foods. Grocery shopping is already the absolute worst and it’s totally a drag to go to two different grocery stores, but this method saves me roughly $100 a trip.


2. Watch out for soy!

Just because it's vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Make sure you're checking your ingredients to make sure you’re not exceeding your soy intake. Soy is put into a lot of vegan alternatives and has been linked to health problems such as breast cancer and infertility. Going vegan is supposed to help your health, not hurt it, so make sure you're still paying attention to food labels. It’s also important to note that not everything that isn’t advertised as vegan is off limits. A lot of snacks like Triscuits, hummus, and oatmeal are vegan friendly.


3. Vegan cheese is your friend.

Before I went vegan, I used to think it would be impossible because of how much I love cheese, so finding vegan cheese alternatives saved my life. However, I will warn you that not all plant-based cheeses are that great. My favorite brands are Daiya and Whole Foods 365 for sliced and shredded cheeses. For pizza, I usually go with Amy’s or American Flatbread. Finding a plant-based cheese (and butter) that I actually liked was key to transitioning into a vegan diet. These items make it easy to prepare meals the same way I have in the past.


4. You may or may not lose weight.

It depends on what your diet was like prior to going plant based. I personally did not lose weight when I changed my diet but I was already a pescatarian and only had to cut out dairy and seafood. If you’re currently a meat eater and go cold turkey, you will most likely experience a smaller waistline along with a number of other health benefits.


5. Your workouts will be even more beneficial.

Most people worry about losing muscle mass when cutting out traditional protein sources, but this is very rarely the case. As long as you’re still implementing the right amount of protein throughout your plant-based diet you may actually find that you gain more muscle from your workouts. I personally have felt stronger since going vegan and have found that I have more endurance during my workouts.


6. Take a multivitamin if needed.

If you find that you have a hard time hitting all of your nutrient goals, take a daily multivitamin. It’s not unusual for vegans (and vegetarians) to be low in iron and B12, two vital nutrients for energy levels. A multivitamin can keep your levels normal and your energy high.


7. You’ll need to plan ahead for dining out.

Thankfully most metropolitan areas have introduced quite a lot of vegan restaurants but if you’re going out somewhere less populated, it's helpful to look up the menu beforehand. It can be confuing trying to find options last minute when dining out with friends and family. Planning ahead can take that stress away or help you decide if you’d rather pick a different place. Luckily most chains and restaurants are catching on to the amount of people changing their diet and are offering plant-based eaters options beyond salad.


8. People will be really fricking annoying.

Regardless of the fact that I do not try to force plant-based living onto others, I can’t tell you how many people have teased me or asked endless questions about my diet. Even after answering all their questions with credible answers, I still get disapproving looks and comments. If anyone really won’t let it go, just ask them this: “How does my diet effect you?" The bottom line is that it doesn’t. Changing to a plant-based lifestyle is something to be proud of -- don’t let the opinions of others change your mind. You’re creating positive change for animal rights, our environment, and your own health.


9. Holidays will be tough, but with the right planning, you’ll survive.

I’ll be honest and say that I have been craving hot cocoa, brownies, and all of the other yummy treats that come along with the holiday season. This is my first year being vegan and at first, I was pretty put out. Thankfully I found a number of equally tasty plant-based treats on Pinterest. Finding substitutes for the holiday season will keep your holidays merry and bright all season long.


10. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake!

This is by far the most important one on this list. In reality, veganism is an extreme diet and you won’t perfect it overnight. If you’re trying your best but you accidently eat something with dairy don’t beat yourself up. It can be hard at first to figure what is right and wrong to eat. It’s better to be imperfectly making positive changes than to not be making them at all.