Converting to a plant-based diet can be slightly intimidating, just like any lifestyle change. The most important key to success is to remember why you want to make the switch: preventing disease, losing weight, having more energy, reducing environmental impact, or safeguarding animal welfare. Transitioning to a plant-based diet shouldn’t be a deprivation diet–it should be a time to focus on what you’re now including instead of what you’re eliminating. Write down why you’re doing this: scribble a post-it note and stick it somewhere you’ll see often. This will help you stay focused on the important reason you want to make a change.  

Start Small

When you begin to eliminate meat, chicken, seafood, dairy, eggs, and refined flours, sugars, and oils—let’s be frank—slip-ups are inevitable. Start gradually. It will be more successful in the long run than a drastic change. For example, you could focus on only eating four-legged animals once a week, then once bi-weekly, then monthly, until you eliminate it altogether. Then, move on to two-legged animals, seafood, and so on. Also, concentrate on what you’re adding to your plate instead of what you’re taking away: a healthful variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, tubers, and other minimally processed foods that will make you feel like a million bucks. 

Join the Veg Community Online

You can also take advantage of the myriad resources online to find recipes, forums, and meal plans. Here are some great places to start:

Planning ahead will be key in making the change to a plant-based diet. If you have a week’s worth of meals planned, falling back into old habits and slipping up will be much less likely. Online resources will also be helpful in converting your favorite meat-based recipes into their vegetarian counterparts. In the beginning, you may want to use meat substitutes, but you may consider phasing that out at some point, as they are also processed foods. Do a pantry cleanse: get rid of any of the tempting processed snacks and ingredients you use as a quick fall-back and replace them with healthier alternatives and fresh fruits and veggies.  

See also Protein and the Plant-Based Diet.

That said, there’s no need to get obsessed and go crazy over a bunch of pricey, unusual ingredients; take baby steps to reach your goals and find smart switches that work for you. Even planning quick meals or snacks will have lasting benefits, since it will help to avoid impatience and potential slip ups in your plan. Grab a quality vitamin supplement and try one new recipe a week, and soon, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthful, plant-based lifestyle.