Beginners Guide to Going Vegan
step by step guide for a smooth vegan transition

Beginners Guide to Going Vegan

Dining around table
Ease Into a Vegan Diet

Where Do I start When Going Vegan?

Are you a junkie for all things green? Does a steak on the plate leave your psyche and stomach a little less than satisfied?  If so- these simple goal ideas for going plant based that will fit you just right! 

Whether you’re planning to jump into a full fledged vegan lifestyle or simply taste the waters, I’ve got your back!

1. Take Time to Ease Into Your Vegan Diet

Let’s face it, the majority of our food infastructure is littered with convenience products that offer food fast and heart ache later. We likely spent 20, 30, 40 years devoted to developing dietary habits that bend to the conspiracy theory that we had insufficient time to cook. That plants required too much time and financial resources. I’m here to tell you to be gracious with yourself! If you’ve got 40 years of mainstream dietary habits tucked under your belt, it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to unravel them all in one shining veganuary! Nutrition experts offer this advice-  “Ease into it. Set a deadline for yourself and try a new vegan recipe at least once a week to build up your repertoire until you have enough, trusted, uncomplicatedgo-to recipes”. Jean LaMantia, RD New recipes rock! Especially as you build that vegan foundation.  You don’t have to go big or go home right away.  Some other weekly goal ideas that can help you ease into the vegan groove include:
  • Practicing proper storage of veggies and herbs to prevent food waste.  You can prolong the shelf life and taste by storing properly.
  • Learn to grow your own! Build an herb garden in your kitchen so you’re never left lacking.  And leave that damn packaged junk that always leaves you lacking where it belongs at the grocery for someone else!
  • Buy one new crazy plant or products at the grocery and USE IT each week.  This could be anything from cactus to amaranth.  Let’s unlock the gates of your tiny food jail and learn to explore!
mix of veggies
Properly Store Veggies to Prolong Life
grocery list
Make a Vegan Grocery List

2. Make A Vegan Shopping List

Pro tip- going vegan without a plan is a plan to fail. I truly believe the reason most people toss in the towel after a few weeks of veganism. 

The number one thing every new vegan needs to understand is that time seems to move a little faster in plant planet.  

Veggies perish fast.  If we’re moving on snail scale like we can conveniently do with frozen meats and cheese blocks we’re going to strike out fast. 

Fresh produce should be the bulk of your meal.  A trip to the grocery usually occurs a bit more frequently for vegans (about 2x a week).  

  • Shop often
  • Choose mindfully
  • Have a plan for your choice
  • Divest from your standard shopping trail

If you’re not sure where to start with your plant based diet shopping list, I’ve got your back!

2. Focus on Whole Foods

Most beginning vegans are instantly wow’d by the surplus of faux meat products calling their name.  

While faux meat products can be the “gateway food”  for transformation, they’re more standard for a novice vegan or time crunched meal ideas.  

Before you jump feet first into vegan, practice what it’s like to have a plate based on fresh produce, plant based proteins and grains.  

Start your Whole Foods journey with these simple goal ideas: 

  • Choose at least 4 different colors of fruits and veggies each day 
  • Choose the foods with the fewest ingredients on the label (or better yet, in the produce and bulk sections with no labels!)
  • Fortified foods are okay (especially for micronutrients like iron and b12) but strive to get most daily requirements from foods in their organic state. 
  • Try for minimal processing.  Strive for whole grains. Choose foods with less added sodium. sugars, and preservatives. 
Two pears on cement
Focus on Whole Foods
Cereal Falling
Cereal can be b12 and Iron Fortified

3. Pump Up the Iron and B12 in Your Vegan Transition

Iron and B12 are some of the nutrients to consider in the vegan transition.  

While both iron and B12 can be found with the right combination of vegan foods or supplement, they do require a little extra attention.  

B12 is important for neurological function and red blood cell formation. Best sources for vegans include

  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Cremeni mushrooms 
  • Tempeh

4. Spice Up Your Life

One of the main reasons I think I could never return to my former carnivorous lifestyle is the food is just so dang flavorless! 

Vegans know how to spice it up! I always say to my meat loving friends-make sure it tastes great vegan first, then add the meat! 

Get those spices in the pantry and learn to use them! 

One thing I also like to mention about spices is to ditch those STUPID VARIETY SHAPED pre packed spice bottles.  

Try choosing your spices In bulk. You don’t need a shaker top on them either! I use little mason jar style type container. A purchase in the box “spice rack” is also a pretty terrible way to get things done!

  • Mustard Seed-Lends a deep earthy flavor 
  • Coriander- subtle sweet and sour flavor. Often found in Ethiopian or Southeast asian cuisine.  Use whole seed or powder. 
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cumin-rich and earthy. Typically used in taco seasonings and chili powders.
  • Tumeric-Earthy, bitter spice. Popular in Indiana dishes such as curries and Dahl. 
  • Nutritional Yeast: Cheesy flavor. Great as seasoning, in soups or as a sauce. 
  • Rosemary-powerful sharp flavor. Used in soups, salads, casseroles. 
  • Sage- a powerfully flavored herb. Add to bean dishes, infuse honey with sage, or add to polenta. 
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
Colorful Spices in Spoons
Spices are Key for Vegan Food

5. Pack the Pantry

Every seasoned vegan knows all about a packed pantry.  Once we have our fresh produce lined up, next comes the dried and canned goods.  

Some excellent pantry staples include: 

  • Beans-dried and canned
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Spelt
  • Millet
  • Bulger
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Tempeh
  • Nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachio’s, walnuts)
  • Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds)
  • Dried Fruits
  • Tahini
  • Peanut & Almond Butter

Basically, you never want to be left vegan without a plan.  If you didn’t have time to hit the grocery this week, the freezer and pantry should always have you covered.  

6. Save Your Scraps for Vegan Stock

Making your own veggie stock is economical, sustainable, and user friendly. 

Keep your veggies separate in the freezer based on flavor profile.  

Sweet Veggies For Stock: Parsnips, golden beets, corn cobs, pea pods, carrots, and previously cooked veggies. 

Savory Veggies for Stock: Onions, spinach, chard, leek tops, carrot tops.  

Combine veggies based on desired veggie stock flavor! Be careful for richly colored vegetables such as beets if this is a concern. 

Foods such as potatoes may change the consistency of your stock.  

Veggies should be chopped into 1″ chunks prior to freezing.  


Grocery Shopping
Save Scraps for Veggie Stock
Veggies in Storage Container
Pre Prep Meals

7. Become a Batch Cooking Ninja

The real key to a good vegan lifestyle is coming to each meal prepared.  

There are many ways to make your vegan meals faster and effortless.  

  • Make your meals bigger! This way you can use an entree again and again throughout the week. Try it again in its original form, or combine with other choices. 
  • Make vegan sauces, gravies, salsa’s, and hummus in advance.  Set aside a little time on the weekend or each day to prep. This way your meals are always exciting!
  • Create freezer meals such as soups, chilis, and breakfast wraps. 
  • Roast veggies in bulk. Then simply toss into a meal. 
  • Batch cook dried goods and combine with many meals.  This can include quinoa, rice, oats, beans, or lentils.  The sky is the limit. 
  • Prep the food when you’re not hungry! This makes it a mindless effort 
“Having plant-based/plant-forward food prepared ahead of time can be a huge time saver and help balanced meals come together in a snap” reminds Lexi Endicott, RD, LD.   Lexi lends even more insight on her plant based meal prep guide.

8. It's Cool to Keep It Simple

I always challenge my newly vegan clients to finding snacks they can prep that are “easier than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” Here’s my starter list:
  • Veggies & Hummus
  • Mixed nuts and dried fruit
  • Bean & Quinoa wrap with cashew sauce
  • Rice cakes with nut butter and seeds
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Mixed greens with garbanzo beans, tahini, balsamic and oil
  • Overnight oats
With regular pre prepping, this “less work than a PB  & a list can quickly expand exponentially! Lazy is the best vegan way to be. I have also created this comprehensive plant based snacking guide for some cheap tricks on vegan eats.
Popcorn in Dish
Keep Vegan Snacking Simple
Vegan Cooking Oils Chart
Vegan Cooking Oils Chart

9. Learn To Use Oils

I feel like this is a weird one in vegan world that is critical for success but rarely ever discussed. 

Since we are now consuming more plants in every way shape and form, learning to cook and flavor them is critical! Oils are a key element in this sphere. 

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Light Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Sesame Oil 
  • Walnut Oil
  • Almond Oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Avocado Oil

Oils with the highest smoke points will withstand best under high heats.  Making sure you don’t go above an oils intended smoke point will help keep nutrients and flavor in check. 

Oils with lower smoke points are best used with cold dishes like salads. 

Infused oils are also an excellent easy way to add flavor to foods! 

10. Let your Taste Buds Evolve

Keep in mind not all good tasting foods have to taste like they have meat in them! The notion that a meal has to have meat to matter is a standard American cuisine farce!

As you grow in your vegan journey, your taste buds and preferences will change! Don’t fight it, embrace it!

As you experiment with new spices, food choices, ethnic cuisine, and cooking variations you’ll start to notice how restricted your pallet was in your past non-vegan life.  

We can make 99.9% of meat products vegan (and actually mimic the taste pretty damn well with the right ingredients).  My question to you would be- why would you want to on a regular basis?  

Ways to explore foods include: 

  • Learn to use tofu (properly!) Tofu actually doesn’t taste like anything, so if you don’t like it you’re probably making it wrong!
  • Experiment with different cooking methods (bake, grill, roast, fresh). Changing the cooking method changes the taste and texture. 
  • Try to build things without a recipe!  This will become easier the more versed you become with vegan foods. 
“Give yourself time to adjust and start with foods you actually enjoy eating, and slowly start incorporating from there.” Advises Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH. of Fad Free Nutrition.
Colorful dish of fruits and veggies
Let Your Taste Buds Evolve

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!

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