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From Vegetarian to Vegan: The Ultimate Guide for Transitioning

by tamarajune
Published: Last Updated on

Are you a vegetarian and now want to make the switch to vegan? That’s awesome 😃.

I, too, was vegetarian for about a year before I went vegan and felt that it made the transition a lot easier. 

As a vegetarian, you already chose not to eat meat and meat products and learned how to replace these foods with vegetarian/vegan options.

Moreover, you already know what it is like to eat different foods than others in social situations. So, you developed skills that will make eating vegan a lot easier. 

Plus, this step by step guide will support you through your transition from vegetarian to vegan and will make your journey simple, pleasurable, and successful.  

So, are you ready to get started? Let’s go! 

Preparation phase:

Before you actively start transitioning to a vegan diet, it will be beneficial to start experimenting with vegan alternatives to the foods you are currently eating.

This way, you will learn what you like and don’t like, and you’ll discover all the options available to you.

It will also encourage you to try new recipes and start getting your taste buds accustomed to these foods and ingredients. 

This is a fun phase because you get to try out so many delicious new products and recipes.  

Here are a few things I recommend you try vegan versions of:

Eggs

Vegan pastry on a black table as an example of what to eat after you transition from vegetarian to vegan

One of the first things I recommend you do is learn how to replace eggs with vegan alternatives.

So, if you enjoy scrambled eggs for breakfast, for example, you can try scrambled tofu instead.

Or, if you enjoy egg salad for lunch, you can try a veganized recipe for that.

If you enjoy baking, you don’t have to give that just because you are vegan. You can bake cakes, pies, muffins, cookies, and almost everything else your heart desires without eggs.

You can search for vegan recipes or simply substitute the eggs in a recipe with a vegan alternative. 

Check out this excellent guide to vegan egg substitutes.

Tip: If you miss the egg flavor in some recipes (like scrambled tofu or egg salad), simply add a small amount of Kala namak to the recipe.

Kala namak is a black salt that tastes and smells remarkably similar to real eggs. Seriously, you won’t believe how well this works until you try it!

Dairy

Oat milk in a glass container

Next, I recommend you start experimenting with vegan dairy alternatives.

Non-dairy milk

You can begin by testing out non-dairy milk, for example. Most stores offer a wide range of options nowadays, which is fantastic and makes this step super easy.

Next time you head to the store, pick up a few plant drinks and do a little taste test. Which one do you like best in your breakfast oats? Which do you prefer in your coffee? Which one do you enjoy in a smoothie?

Which one do you prefer for cooking? Which for baking? Try a lot of different varieties, and you’ll be sure to find some gems. 

Dairy-free yogurt

Next, you could try different vegan yogurt alternatives. Many stores offer soy yogurt, coconut yogurt, or almond yogurt.

Try them out and see which one you like best. Also, find out if your store carries vegan fruit yogurts if that is something you enjoy.  

Dairy-free butter

Further, you can try vegan butter alternatives. Test out which kind you prefer on toast, which one you think works best for baking, and which you like for cooking.

I am not picky, so I use the same for everything, but I know some people have one kind that they prefer on toast and a different type for cooking and baking. 

Dairy-free ice cream

Next up, vegan ice cream. Check out what brands and flavors your store carries.

Many stores have vegan ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, and the flavors are a dream come true. But it’s very pricey, so see if your store offers more affordable vegan options too.

Moreover, if you enjoy getting ice cream from ice cream parlors, go and see which vegan flavors they have available. 

Cheese alternatives

Last but not least, try vegan cheese alternatives. Cheese is one of the hardest things to give up for most. So testing out vegan options is a crucial step.

Nowadays, vegan cheese alternatives are available in most larger stores, but not every brand or product is great.

That’s why I recommend you try many different kinds to find the ones you enjoy most.

You may also have to be a bit patient with your taste buds and give them some time to adjust. 

As mentioned before, cheese can be tough to give up, so don’t beat yourself up if you struggle. What helped me was to break my cheese “addiction.”

Instead of eating cheese every day, I only ate it every other day, then only once or twice a week and eventually, only every once in a while.

Additionally, I focused on replacing cheese with more wholesome options, which was better for my health and budget. 

Veganize your favorite meals 

Vegan beetroot burger with lettuce and red onion as an example of what to eat after you transition from vegetarian to vegan

During the preparation phase, it will also be helpful to veganize your favorite meals.

You may have already done so in the previous steps, but if there are some recipes you haven’t tried to veganize yet, I recommend you do.

Of course, throughout this transition and your life as a vegan, you will discover plenty of amazing vegan recipes.

But especially in the beginning, it can be very nice and comforting to enjoy your “old” favorite meals in a vegan version.

This will be particularly handy when you experience cravings or just don’t know what to cook. 

Plan for your budget

Person planning their budget

Cooking with vegan meat, cheese, and dairy alternatives is very tasty and makes transitioning to a vegan diet lot easier.

But a big downside to these products is that they are often quite pricey.

So, if you want to eat vegan on a budget, I recommend you enjoy these products only in small quantities and, for the most part, choose whole food products. These are much cheaper and healthier, as well.

So, if you are veganizing Mac and Cheese, for example, instead of purchasing vegan cheese sauce, you make your own sauce from pumpkin or cashews.

You can also read this article about eating vegan on a budget for more tips.

Action phase: Transition from vegetarian to vegan

Alright, you just complete the preparation phase, and now it is time to start your transition from vegetarian to vegan. How EXCITING! 🥳

The transition is split into four easy steps that you can go through at your own pace.

If you like to plan, I recommend setting yourself specific timeframes for each step (for example, after four weeks, you move on to the next step).

Of course, if you rather let your intuition guide you on when it’s time to take the next step, you can absolutely do that as well. 

Alright, are you ready? Let’s do this!

Step 1: Veganize one meal a day

Vegan breakfast oats topped with berries and nuts as an example of what to eat after you transition from vegetarian to vegan

As a first step, you pick one meal of the day and decide that this one meal will always be vegan from now on. It’s totally up to you which meal you choose.

Many people find breakfast to be the easiest meal to veganize entirely, so that’s what I use in the example below, but select the meal of the day that you think will work best for you.

Here are some examples of how you could veganize your breakfast:

  • Choose plant milk instead of dairy milk for your oatmeal, smoothie, and coffee
  • Choose plant yogurt instead of dairy yogurt 
  • Make scrambled tofu instead of scrambled eggs
  • Make vegan pancakes/waffles instead of regular ones
  • Use vegan butter on your toast

For more vegan breakfast ideas, you can check out this article for inspiration on what to eat for breakfast as a vegan. You’ll see how truly versatile eating vegan can be. 

Once you’ve been eating vegan for one meal a day for a while, it is time to move to the next step.

Step 2: Veganize a second meal every day

Vegan lunch bowl with chickpeas, avocado, cucmber and tomatoes as an example of what to eat after you transition from vegetarian to vegan

Alright, it’s time to make a second meal vegan every day. So, from now on, two out of your three main meals will be vegan. How cool is that!

A lot of people find that veganizing their lunch works best for them at this stage, so that’s what I’m using in the example below.

Still, as before, pick a meal that will be easiest for you. 

Eating vegan for lunch may sound intimidating at first. But you’ll find that it’s an easy switch because there are tons of amazing vegan lunch recipes out there.

Just a quick google search will provide you with so many delicious lunch ideas that you are set for the next six months.

Plus, there are also a lot of meal-prep friendly recipes, so if you don’t have time to cook every day, no problem!

Here are a few examples of what I like to enjoy for lunch: 

  • Sandwich or wrap with hummus, fresh veggies, and sprouts. 
  • Mason jar salad. 
  • Buddha bowl with falafel or roasted chickpeas
  • Vegan no-tuna salad
  • Various pasta dishes such as pasta salad or spaghetti with pesto or spaghetti bolognese
  • Vegan chili sin carne.

Alright, once you are comfortable eating two vegan meals a day, you are ready for the next step.

Step 3: Veganize all your snacks, candies, and desserts

Vegan candy on a dark wooden table as an example of what to eat after you transition from vegetarian to vegan

I know, I know, you can’t wait to go fully vegan, but before you take that final step, it is helpful to veganize all your snacks, candy, and desserts.

Don’t worry; this step is easy because there are so many vegan options nowadays.

You can find vegan chocolates, vegan candy bars, vegan cookies, vegan gummy bears, vegan granola bars, and pretty much anything else your heart desires in most supermarkets, drug stores, and health food stores.

In addition to all the new deliciousness you get to try, some popular snacks are vegan, although they are not labeled as such.

These include Oreos, chips, pretzel sticks, unfrosted PopTarts, popcorn without butter, and many more.

Moreover, even when it comes to desserts, you do not have to miss out on anything. 

Most cakes, cookies, muffins, and pie recipes can easily be veganized. Also, many stores and bakeries offer vegan options if you are not a fan of baking yourself.  

Additionally, you can find a good selection of vegan ice creams in stores and ice cream parlors.

All in all, this step is super fun because you get to try out so many yummy new snacks, candies, chocolates, and desserts. 

So go out and explore all the options that are available to you. You may be surprised to find many more items than you had expected.

Step 4: Go vegan

Vegan dinner with roasted vegetables and bread as an example of what to eat after you transition from vegetarian to vegan

Alright, the time has finally come; it is time to GO VEGAN. Yes, how awesome is that? Very much so, I think! 😁

From now on, every meal, lunch, dinner, breakfast, snacks, dessert, candy, and everything else you eat will be vegan.

I’m so proud of you for deciding to go vegan and going through with it, and you should be super proud of yourself as well!

Go on and celebrate and enjoy your new life as a vegan to the fullest! You are going to love it!

A few quick tips for new vegans

Supplementing

Various supplements in a wooden spoon

Now that you are vegan, it is essential that you start taking a Vitamin B12 supplement regularly. The minimum weekly intake requirement is 2500 µg.

Vitamin D is another supplement that you need to take in the winter months and in the summer if you don’t spend a lot of time outside. 

Moreover, although a vegan diet is generally very rich in nutrients, some nutrients are more difficult to get for vegans.

That’s why I recommend you check out this article on the most critical nutrients for vegans, where you’ll learn what they are and how you can reliably meet the need.

Healthy eating

When you first go vegan, you don’t need to focus on eating super healthy.

Have fun and try out vegan meat and cheese alternatives, vegan lunch meats, vegan sausages, vegan burgers, vegan ice cream, vegan pizza, vegan fast food, ready-made vegan meals, etc. 

These products will make eating vegan easier because you can still eat a lot of the same foods as before. Plus, it’s good to know and test out the options available to you. 

Of course, you shouldn’t eat like crap all the time either, but there is no need to stress too much about eating healthy initially. 

Once you are used to your vegan lifestyle, you can start improving your diet. This will allow you to experience all the benefits eating vegan offers and ensures you get all the nutrients you need.

When you are ready, here are some articles that will help you to implement a healthy(ier) vegan diet

Label reading skills

There are a lot of products that are vegan but aren’t labeled as such, and a lot of products that should and appear to be vegan but are not.

That is why, down the road, it will be very helpful for you to develop some basic label reading skills.

But again, I don’t think this is something you need to stress about as a new vegan; it is a skill you can work on once you’ve been vegan for a while.

Eating out as a vegan

People sitting in a restaurant outdoors at night

Depending on where you live, it can be very easy to eat vegan when you go out or very difficult.

If the latter is true for you, don’t let that stop you from going out with your friends/family.

A lot of the time, if you ask kindly, the cook can prepare a vegan dish for you even at a non-vegan restaurant.

Your chances are even better if you call ahead to let them know and give them time to prepare.

Another option is to build your own meal from the sides. You could get some rice, beans, potatoes, and steamed veggies, for example. 

Connect with your local vegan community or vegans online

Connecting with fellow vegans is one of the best parts of being vegan. So much fun!

Plus, you will receive so many incredible tips and make awesome new friends who will keep you accountable and provide support. 

I’ve found Facebook to be the easiest way to meet other vegans. Search for “vegan + name of your town,” and likely, a group or page will come up that you can join/like.

Many of these groups regularly do in-person meetings where you can connect. Additionally, you can join conversations or ask questions in the Facebook group.

Dealing with criticism

When you decide to go vegan, your friends, family, and colleagues probably will have a lot of questions and sometimes say not so nice things.

But don’t let the fear of being criticized stop you from living the life you want to live. 

For specific tips on dealing with criticism for being vegan, I encourage you to read this article. You will learn a lot of valuable information that will surely come in handy.

Don’t be preachy

When I went vegan, I was definitely the preachy kind; I just wanted people to know everything I learned and point out inconsistencies between their values and actions.

However, eventually, I realized that instead of planting seeds and encouraging people to rethink their dietary habits, I was moving them further away from veganism.

Moreover, I realized that if I wanted someone to respect my dietary choices, I had to respect theirs as well. 

Vegan lifestyle

Clothes for women hanging in a store

A lot of vegans avoid all animal products in their diet and also in their lifestyle.

So they choose not to purchase any products made with or from animals like leather, down, or cosmetics that contain animal ingredients or are tested on animals.

 If you decide that you want your whole lifestyle to be vegan as well, AWESOME!

Still, you don’t need to change your entire lifestyle right away; it can feel very overwhelming.

Thus, instead of transforming both your diet and lifestyle at once, focus on your diet now and change your lifestyle as you go. 

Alright, we covered a lot in this post, so here is a quick summary:

Infographic summarizing the most important of how to transition from vegetarian to vegan

Moreover, I’d be so happy if you reached out to me and let me know how this transition from vegetarian to vegan went for you!

What was easy for you? What did you struggle with? What inspired you to make that transition? 

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