How to Transition to a Vegan Lifestyle as Smoothly as Possible


The question is put before you. “Do you want to switch to a vegetarian lifestyle?” The next question is which is healthier a plant-based diet or diet that is meat-based and will have more proteins in it? Then there is the usual debate as to which one is healthier. But what it really comes down to is an individual choice. The bottom line is that the person has to make the choice for themselves. This is a life-changing decision that will affect your loved ones and friends and the biggest impact will be on you. You are not trying to decide what pair of shoes to buy or do you like this shirt or that pair of pants enough to buy them. But you are asking yourself to change a very big part of life. Your diet is a big part of your existence and changing the way you eat is a major change. You are changing your eating habits, the way you perceive food. You don’t go to the same restaurants anymore and you will cook radically different. You will have new recipes to use and you will definitely think different about food. Would it be a cost-effective change? Would an all vegan diet change my health? If you decide you want to change to an all vegetarian diet there is a certain way to do this. Let’s find out how?

 “ I will never Eat Meat Again”

This is the by-line of the person trying to switch from a meat diet to a pure vegetarian diet. They vow they will never eat meat again and they charge into their new diet. After about a week they can’t resist the pull of meat calling them back home. They give in and then they feel so guilty for breaking their vow never to eat meat again. The first mistake was to try and completely stop eating meat all together right out of the starting gates. Some people can just stop eating meat overnight and never look back. But some people just don’t have the willpower and discipline to make that drastic of a diet change so quickly. So what do you do? Try easing into the dietary change. Set date goals for yourself. Maybe for two weeks you will cut back to eating meat three days a week instead of everyday. Try that cutback for two weeks and see how it’s progressing and see how you feel. If you find that the new diet is fitting well with your lifestyle than set more timetables to reach your goal of totally switching over to a plant-based diet.

Try eating only fish for 30 days with vegetables. Now, you are a little further away from eating meat and closer to just eating all vegetables. The 30 days is up so now completely transfer over to eating just vegetables with no meat in the new diet. One person claimed taking this approach they didn’t want to eat meat anymore after the 30 days had gone by. They supposedly felt better and lost 5 or 10 pounds. They also said they either didn’t want to eat meat anymore or adjusted to a meatless diet.

Progress at a Comfortable Rate

You know another key is you have to progress at a rate you feel comfortable with not too slow or too fast just right. For example, one year has passed by and you haven’t eaten red meat or pork. Now, you may stop and think about cutting out all poultry, fish and any remaining meats over the second year. The second year has gone by and now you are completely retired from eating meat. You may find that you don’t even miss eating meat because you gradually cut it out of the diet over the last two years. You need to set a definite and reasonable goal then set another one after that. Each goal builds upon the other goal or one small step follows another small step. Until to reach the main goal of changing over to a pure vegan diet. If you find yourself slipping into the old diet habits just break the trend and carry on with changing your diet.

Plan for each New Phase

Let’s say you are going to cut out pork from your diet. Get rid of all the pork in the house and cook different meals that don’t include pork. Or get rid of all the existing pork in the house. Shop and plan meals for a week ahead of time that don’t include pork. In the mix of new recipes throw in a couple vegetarian diets to phase into the ultimate goal. On another practical level if you are going to a party that doesn’t have the type of food you are eating eat a few snacks or a small meal before you attend the party.

Take a Reasonable Break    

What is meant here is take a break occasionally from the new diet. Eat some meat maybe a hamburger or a piece of chicken along the way just to make the change more enjoyable. Eventually you will get to the point where you will stick to to your new diet all the time. Have some fun in the midst of the change. This will also alleviate some of the shock for you and your body as you are transitioning into a new and radical diet. In this way you will not be tempted to quit and go back to your old ways of eating. You really need to ease into such a dramatic life change. Also, look to see if you are losing weight and feeling more energetic when just eating vegetables. If you feel like you are getting sick on this new diet then please reconsider switching to an all vegan diet. Your system may not be able to take such a drastic change. If your body adjusts well to the change then move forward with the diet change.

Eat New Foods

You know now you can eat those different foods you have been wondering about for years. You know while you were eating meat and gravy you wanted to try those vegetables with cheese sauce. Now, that you have changed your diet you can try those new foods you have been thinking about trying. Maybe you can expand your horizons and try some new vegetables or try some Indian ot Thai cuisine. The point is trying new foods and textures will get your mind off all that you are missing when you switched diets. Also, you may find excitement in your new adventure of exploring new foods.

Make a trip to the local convenience store or supermarket

Cut that Cooking Time 

Make a trip to the local convenience store or supermarket. Natural food stores stock a large array of soups and main-dish vegetarian foods. Many canned soups, such as minestrone, black bean, or vegetable, are vegetarian. Flavored rice or other grain mixes, like curried rice or tabouli salad, can be stretched into an entrée with a can of beans. Try finding some international inspired vegetarian frozen entrees like corn, bean enchiladas, lentil curry, or vegetarian pad thai. Or you can eat vegetarian baked beans, refried beans, sloppy joe sauce, and meatless spaghetti sauce from the canned goods aisle. You can take flavored rice or other grain mixes and stretch them into an entree with soup.

Be Bold and ask for it

If you are going out to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t offer vegetarian options ask them to cook you one. They can easily whip up a vegetarian meal for you. Like a meatless pasta or a vegetable plate. You are attending a catered affair then catch the waiter ahead of time and ask him to remove the chicken breast or meat. Tell him to throw in a baked potato or some extra lettuce instead. If you are traveling by air some airlines will offer vegetarian menus but some won’t. If you book a flight on one that doesn’t offer vegetarian meals bring your own.

Some Hidden Options

  • Order pizza without meat toppings and get a mountain of vegetable toppings instead
  • Visit the local library and check out some vegetarian dishes in their contents and have fun experimenting with new recipes and meals
  • Try some international restaurants like Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish, Thai, Japanese, and Indian restaurants all offer a wide variety of vegetarian dishes.
  • Texturized vegetable protein (TVP) is fat free has a texture like ground beef, and is wonderful in tacos, chili, and sloppy joes. You can find it in the bulk section of the grocery store.
  • This is weird but you can have summer barbeques with meatless hamburgers and hot dogs. You can even grill grill thick slices of marinated vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, or tomatoes.
  • Cook simple dishes such as brown rice, gently seasoned with herbs and lemon and sprinkled with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, with a perfect dish.
  • While traveling pack plenty of vegetarian snacks like instant instant soups, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, trail mix, granola bars, and homemade oatmeal cookies. Fill a cooler with sandwiches and individual containers of juice and soymilk.

Here are some Vegetarian Menus

Breakfast

3 oatmeal pancakes with applesauce topping, calcium-fortified orange juice, fresh fruit

Lunch

Black bean burritos

Dinner

Chinese stir-fry over brown rice: tofu chunks, broccoli, pea pods, water chestnuts, and Chinese cabbage (bok choy), cantaloupe chunks drizzled with fresh lime juice

Snack

Dried figs

Breakfast

1 cup oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, 1/2 cup fortified soymilk, 1 slice toast with 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1/2 grapefruit

Lunch

Whole wheat pita stuffed with hummus, sliced tomatoes, and lettuce, carrot sticks

Dinner

1 cup baked beans, baked sweet potato, 1 cup steamed collard greens drizzled with lemon juice, baked apple

Snack

Banana soymilk shake

Lessons learned from a Real Life

This is brief history of one man’s journey transitioning from a meat diet to a vegetarian diet. This man changed his diet to vegetables after after eating meat for 22 years. He just stopped eating meat for health reasons and his way of thinking concerning food changed. At the time of this writing he had been on an organic vegetarian diet for one year. In these five lessons he shares what he learned about his body, himself, and the food he consumes.

Lesson 1

Nutrition the Heartbeat of Life

He was so involved in his vegetarian diet the first few months that he began to neglect some of the nutritional essentials. His lack of these nutrients began to take its toll on his body in the form of fatigue, tiredness, and depression to the point he lost the zest for life. He found he had an iron deficiency and all the resources he had save up (before he went green) had dried out. Sources of food that contained iron which he really needed. Through a number of life events he figured out he had an iron deficiency and once he resolved this issue. He started back on the road to recovery and feeling normal again. What is to be learned if you transition to a vegetarian diet you need to pay attention to the nutrition values the food you are eating contains. You will also find in your transition that there is plenty of healthy food that contains iron that you can eat.

Lesson 2

Supplement and supplement some More

He states in this lesson that vegetarians struggle with these nutrients, B12, calcium, and iron. In other words they don’t get enough of them in a strictly plant-based diet. So what do you do? You eat supplements where you have to to take up the lack of these nutrients. Some parts of the world it may be difficult to get enough of these nutrients so the supplements become more  critical. You need to be aware of how many nutrients you are taking in every meal and really you need to track this intake every day. This is another way to make the transition easier.

Lesson 3

Water is Wonderful

Water makes up about 60% of the human body. This man found that when he was eating meats his primary drink was juice. All that changed when he became a vegetarian. He claims water became a food source itself. He now drinks 2 liters of water a day but he tries to drink 3 or 4 liters of water a day. He drinks to big glasses of water in the morning and then goes on a 4 mile run without hardly breaking a sweat. He claims that water revitalizes him. It supposedly gives him energy until breakfast time. So, his point is to start drinking a lot of water if you switch to a plant-based diet. He implies the process of change will be easier. He drank a lot more water once he changed over to a vegetarian diet.

Lesson 4

Real vs Fake

What is really meant here is organic vs non-organic. He talks about the great debate between what is better to consume organic or non-organic food. People say organic is healthier because it’s grown with organic ingredients. Non-organic food is not as healthy because it’s grown with all types of chemicals and artificial compounds to make it grow faster. He points out that organic foods are more expensive than non-organic foods. This is the price you pay for switching to a vegetarian diet. To make it easier he buys organic food where he can and he doesn’t live near an organic farm. So he can’t always buy locally but he does buy locally grown organic food whenever he can. He also will not rule out buying non-organic food because it’s cheaper or because it’s grown differently. His point is he will not make a decision not to buy a food just because it’s not grown locally. So if you switch to a vegetarian diet make it easy on yourself. Look for healthy foods that are made from natural sources.

Lesson 5  

Choices,Choices and Choices

He says he has discovered a whole new world of food choices that most people don’t even know about. He says it’s easier just throw a burger on the grill than to investigate all the new food sources that are available. Once he became a vegetarian he discovered superfoods. Superfoods nutrient-rich foods thought to help one’s well-being and health. Some of these superfoods are chlorella which is a genus of a single-celled algae plant belonging to the phylum Chlorophyta family. They are green and spherical in shape. Then there is spirulina which is a represents a biomass of cyanobacteria that can be consumed by humans and other animals. Chia seeds was the third superfood he mentioned. These superfoods will blend in well in a smoothie or you can sprinkle them over some lettuce leaves. His point is if you become a vegetarian expand your horizons and experience all the new sources of food available.

We have discussed several ways to transfer from a conventional meat diet

Time to Go Home

We have discussed several ways to transfer from a conventional meat diet to an all vegetarian diet. The final choice is yours we have simply laid down some guidelines for you to follow. If you think you would like to change to a plant-based or vegetarian diet. You should consider how it will impact your life, loved ones and your overall health. So we hope we have given you some good transitional tools if you decide to make a radical change in your lifestyle and become a vegetarian.


Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.