7 Tips to Transition to a Dairy Free & Meatless Diet

BY SHARON KLINGEMANN

“I could never be vegan…” said every vegan before going vegan.  Last week I shared with you all about my journey to becoming vegan, and this week I am sharing some tips that I have learned in my transition.

1) Use up what you have. It might sound redundant, but the first step is to stop buying meat and dairy. Use up what you have left in your fridge and freezer. As you run out of your staples replace them with vegan alternatives. Instead of milk, buy almond or soy milk. Instead of buying ice cream buy popsicles or a non-dairy ice cream. Instead of butter start using olive oil. And for cheese? In my opinion, you’re just gonna have to give that one up. Store bought non-dairy cheese is the worst. I know this is devastating, but it is not even worth your time. Other than cheese, you will find that there is a vegan alternative for everything. 

2) Connect with other like minded people. I do not have any vegan friends that I see face to face regularly. I don’t live in a town that caters to vegans. So I have made a ton of vegan friends online! There is a plethora of vegan Facebook groups, and even more vegan instagrammers. Instagram is my favorite way to connect with other vegans and people who are interested in the vegan lifestyle. You can find me at @sharonklingz to connect with me! Browse through vegan hashtags to find some more vegans and follow their journey! 

3) Start implementing 100% vegan meals. I know it is really tempting to sprinkle some cheese on your vegan chili, or use regular milk instead of almond milk, or just have a small side of chicken. BUT try making 100% vegan meals. Even if it is just one meal a week that is totally vegan. Once you start doing this you will prove to yourself that eating vegan is totally possible, and more delicious than you expected. One meal a week will turn into 2, which will turn into 4… so on and so forth. 

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4) Educate yourself about the vegan lifestyle. Watch documentaries. Read pamphlets & articles. Listen to podcasts. Whatever it is, learn more about the vegan lifestyle. Learn about the environmental impact that the dairy and meat have. Discover how the human body digests animal products. Educate yourself about the cruelty of industrialized meat and dairy factories.

5) Rice & beans. Most of the world live off of rice and beans. It is very nutrient dense, filling, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. It is so versatile! You can add greens or veggies to it to add more flavor and nutrients. You can add different spices to it. So many options! At the beginning of each week I make a large pot of dried beans and then store them in mason jar, giving me easy assess to already prepared beans. I have easy on the go meals, or I can easily add beans to any meal I might be making. Canned beans are an option too, but dried beans are significantly cheaper, better for the environment and taste better, so it is dried beans for me!

6) Switch up your go-to meals. Spaghetti and tacos were pretty much all I knew how to cook when I moved out of the dorms, so thats what we ate allll the time. When switching to a vegan diet I just switched up these classic go-to meals to be vegan. Instead of making a meat sauce for spaghetti, I make a veggie sauce. I sauté some squash, and zucchini then add my sauce to it and serve on noodles. For tacos I switched out the meat for a quinoa and black bean base. I cook the beans and quinoa then season it like I would season tacos. With enough creativity, you can make a few small switches to make your staples vegan friendly. 

7) Don’t give up. This is just for those who want to become vegan. I promise, if you avoid it long enough, you will eventually stop craving cheese. At one point I even texted a vegan friend and asked her when I was gonna stop craving cheese - for me it was about 4 months. More likely than not, you will have slip ups. You will definitely have nights where dinner is a total flop. This does not mean you are incapable of this lifestyle. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Never ever compare your beginning to someone else’s end. Give yourself time and patience. Celebrate victories along the way! Remember you are doing to best you can and that you are doing a great job! You only fail when you give up!

- Sharon Klingemann