How to Go and Stay Veg in the New Year

So you’ve made the decision to go veg. What an amazing step! You are on a mission to diminishing animal cruelty, helping the planet and getting healthier than ever! This mission, however won’t always be easy, little grasshopper. While the treasures of better health and a clean conscience await you at the end, the first steps might be challenging at times since you’ve been eating meat for so long. But do not fret! We asked long time vegetarians and vegans to guide your way. They’ve made the switch, they’ve been there and done that, and now they’ll be your Yoda, your yellow brick road, your Mr. Miyagi — and before you know it, you’ll be the one giving out advice.

Dr. Neal Barnard, Founder and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

“Focus on four food groups—vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes—that are the most powerful for health. What really counts is what works for you, whether it’s a bean-based chili or leafy green salad for lunch. Give it 21 days. When you see the numbers dropping on the scale, when people remark about how great you look, and when you feel your health getting better and better day by day, you’ll really want to keep going. And there is an extra benefit: A wonderful rebound of energy.”

“Keep the focus on the short term—that is, three weeks—so there is never any pressure or long-term commitment. Once you’ve experienced the power of healthful foods, you’ll never want to let it go.”

Additional tips from Dr. Barnard can be found on his website.

Stephen Neabore, M.D., Physician at Barnard Medical Center

“Learn a new recipe! Try to eat as much fiber as you can since it is found only in plants and will leave you feeling full.” (Dr. Barnard recommends aiming for 35 to 40 grams of fiber a day. His research shows those who follow a high-fiber vegetarian diet weigh 10 pounds less, on average, than omnivores.)”

“Decreasing medication requirements—or even stopping them all together—is extremely rewarding.”

Elaine Hendrix, Actress “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” and Animal Activist

“I find people move towards this diet for various reasons: health, animals, environment, experiment, all/other… So maybe that’s my answer, to be clear about why you’re adopting a vegetarian diet and regularly remind yourself of that reason. The more important the reason and more personal it is, the stronger it will take hold—and it will likely shift.”

“For me, I became a vegetarian in 1995 because my boyfriend and I were really into Kundalini Yoga and eating vegetarian was part of that. Then I became an animal activist and my reason became about saving lives. Now that I’m vegan I can’t do anything without thinking of animals first. It’s become not just a lifestyle, but my whole life. It’s been an evolutionary process, one baby step at a time.”

“Sticking with vegetarianism: plan ahead, get support (don’t go at it alone) and don’t worry about being perfect.”

Mike Wolf, Investigations Manager at Compassion Over Killing

“I went vegan 10 years ago. I’ve worked undercover inside factory farms, and now I manage Investigations for Compassion Over Killing. It’s hard to think of the vast number of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses as individuals. But I’ve been there, I’ve looked into the eyes of those individuals, and I’ve seen the suffering and despair behind their eyes. Know that you’ve taken that pain away from countless animals by not eating them because every vegan meal directly translates to less animal suffering. It’s never been easier or tastier to be vegan—and it’s also never been more impactful—because the number of animals being slaughtered every year is going down—thanks to you.”

K.D. Traegner, Founder of Your Daily Vegan

“For transitioning or going vegan: always be prepared! Keeping vegan snacks with you wherever you go will ensure that you will never be caught without something vegan to eat. Place snacks in the car, in your desk, in a locker, or in a bag so that you never go hungry! Find a few vegan options that you really like and buy them in bulk so you’re never without something to keep you going until your next meal.”

“Speaking of meals, don’t start out trying to make all of your food from scratch. Most of us live very busy lives, and cooking a meal that takes more than an hour to make after a long work day isn’t always possible. Don’t set yourself up to fail. If your regular meal routine included burgers and fries, find vegan burgers and fries. If your children love fish sticks, offer them Gardein’s Fishless Fillets instead. Yes, these analogues are processed foods and so they should be eaten in the same manner as any processed food—in moderation. But they can help you transition into a healthy vegan diet designed around whole food, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Plus, they taste good too.”

“For staying vegan: Try as many new foods as possible, and as often as possible. Pick a vegetable or vegan recipe to try and make it a weekly event with friends or family. Involving friends and family can be a fun way to try new products and swap recipes. Remembering the reason that you decided to live vegan can also help you stay on course. For myself, I am vegan for the animals and remembering them makes it easy to not be tempted by non-vegan food or products. With so many vegan alternatives in available, I don’t miss the non-vegan versions.”

Ryan Strandjord, Vice President at The Herbivorous Butcher

“There are a ton of great resources that exist today either on Facebook or through various websites that people can check out to learn more about recipes and what foods to eat. Naturally we recommend they check out what we’re doing [a meatless meat shop] because our model is setup to help people transition to a more plant-based diet by providing direct replacements for the meats they currently eat. There are other companies too (Field Roast, Gardein, etc.) that also make some decent products that people can check out.”

“Finding others who are already vegan/vegetarian is a great resource as well. Depending on where people live there are often Meetup groups that they can attend to learn more about what kinds of foods to make and to get suggestions from others about how they can adapt their diets.”

Matt Frazier, Vegan Ultra Marathoner and Founder and Author of “No Meat Athlete”

“It’s tempting to try to make a massive change, all at once, but most often that leads to failure. Far better is to take gradual steps: commit to just removing four-legged animals from your diet for 10 days, working in fully vegetarian or vegan meals only when you feel like it. If that goes well — and you’ll probably be surprised at how easy it is and how great you feel — then cut out two-legged animals, then fish, and finally all animal products, if you wish.”

“Setting a 10-day goal for each phase, rather than going all-in, lets you learn over time how to plan and prepare meatless meals, as well as how to deal with restaurants or other social situations. It also prevents sudden realizations like ‘I can never eat a cheeseburger again.’ Instead, you can tell yourself that you’ve only got to make it to the end of your 10-day challenge, at which point you can decide whether or not to keep going. And hopefully when that time comes, you’ll be able to make a better decision than you would have when you were craving the cheeseburger!”

Katie Arth, Media Assistant Manager at PETA

“The most important thing is to make it easy. When you first start eating a plant based diet, there’s no need to change everything. If you really love burritos, you don’t have to give up burritos and go gluten free, you can have your burritos without cheese and sour cream. If you can make these small changes to begin with and then you start seeing how you feel and look better, it gets easier.”

Claire Crowley, Marine Scientist

“Explore foods that you wouldn’t normally think to eat and expand your horizons. Find some hearty go-to recipes for days you don’t want to be creative and remember you don’t just have to eat salad! However, don’t get stuck on eating pasta and bread. Sure, it’s vegetarian, but it is heavy and you won’t feel great if that’s your staple.”

Corina Angelova, Wellness Consultant and Author of “Slim-Down Healthy Sandwiches Under 400 Calories That Keep You Full and Help You Lose Weight”

“I’ve been vegetarian for 10+ years. Firstly it’s not about giving up something but about gaining a new way to eat and often a way to cleanse your body. (That helps a lot with sticking to it). It gives color to your plate, makes you creative with your food and, if done right, makes you healthier and more energetic.”

Tracy Lewin, Artist

‘Watching movies like Food Inc. and Cowspiracy help. If you are serious about making the change, watch those. The way animals are treated is HORRIFIC and as an animal lover I can’t support that. So anytime I have thought of giving in, I think of that and don’t do it.”

Anthony D’Amico, Nonprofit Treasurer

“Research many many meals! Plan them out ahead of time. Cook them in large quantities. Freeze them for near future meals. Check out Also, switch to almond or soy milk. Maybe get some vitamins and enjoy feeling like you have never felt in your entire life! Full of energy, never tiring, always happy!!”

Natalia Lima, Writer (and yours truly)

“When I first made the switch to a vegan diet the cravings were strong. I had been an avid meat eater all my life and after watching Food, Inc. (and crying for two hours because of the animal cruelty) I decided to quit all meat products cold turkey. What helped me get through that initial phase (which lasted about two months) was to always keep a snack close by. Hummus with crackers, toasted sunflower seeds, peanuts or cashews or even a cereal bar. That way, when I got home starving, I would have a snack and then I would have the energy to make a meal with vegetables, which was brand new to me. After those cravings faded, I grew disgusted with meat, by the way. My body started recognizing it as ‘bad’ and things got so much easier.”

“In the beginning it’s so important to get informed. Don’t become a pizza and fries vegetarian. Do your homework by reading books like The Kind Diet and Breaking The Food Seduction, which will teach you about what vegetables and legumes have what vitamins. If you’re diligent about that you’ll feel amazing in just a couple short weeks.”

“Finally, don’t pay attention to the haters. Whether it is your family, friends or strangers who are suddenly concerned about your protein intake, saying it’s an unhealthy way to live or how they could never do it, be confident in the fact that you did your homework and that you are doing the right thing. Once you stick to it they’ll go from making fun of you and calling it your ‘weird phase’ to respecting it and even asking you for advice on how to do it, you’ll see.”

Photo Credit: ThinkStock Photos


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