Even if you are not looking to go fully vegan, doing it a few days a week will not only improve your health—it will also make a huge environmental impact. If we all did this, even on a gradient, we would greatly change our environment. For example, replacing a burger with an alternative saves about 660 gallons of water, according to environmental documentary Cowspiracy. That’s a lot of water. So how do you start? I did it cold turkey, but most people I know like to cut things out little by little.
First, make your pantry vegan-friendly by replacing dairy butter with an alternative. You may choose to use fatty oils or commercial non-dairy butters on the market. Replace dairy milks with nut-based ones. Different kinds of milks are good for different things, so start with cashew, soy and almond and see what you like the best. Making your own nut milk by soaking and processing nuts is easy and cheap.
Don’t compare the new foods you are eating to their animal protein counterparts. Nut cheese is delicious but it is not cow’s cheese. For cheese addicts, though, it certainly satiates that craving. You are essentially retraining your taste buds. They will wake up and start experiencing food in a whole new way. Changing any routine takes time.
Try a large variety of food but don’t get addicted to carb-heavy food— or worse yet, become a junk food vegan who only eats fake meat products. Try to incorporate whole grains, loads of fresh vegetables and plant-based protein into your diet.
Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon and eat a steak. Pay attention to your cravings and figure out other ways to fulfill them before you go into panic mode and just eat anything. Don’t get hangry!
By reading vegan recipes and following some blogs, you’ll see that anything you can make from animal proteins you can also make with vegetables. I make a sashimi with dehydrated watermelon, a shepherd’s pie with imitation meat crumbles, pizzas with cashew mozzarella, and chocolate chip cookies with coconut butter. It’s food that even meat eaters love.
When you have plans to go out to eat, consider calling ahead and seeing if they will accommodate your diet. Most places absolutely will. Download apps that tell you where to shop, what ingredients are not vegan-friendly and offer lists of restaurants to try in various cities. Join some vegan meetups and Facebook pages and see the abundance of interesting discussions and events.
If you need more advice, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Think of me as your vegan guru goddess. Try going vegan for a month and tell me what happens. One thing’s for sure: Your energy will soar and your skin will glow.
Angela Lowe is a Brooklyn-based vegan chef and cheese-maker. She is working on a new series about sustainable vegan living launching soon. She lives with her many rescue animals. Visit her website at chefangelalowe.com.
This column is not a consultation with a medical professional or a licensed nutritionist and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with questions or concerns should seek the advice of a certified professional.