Thinking of going vegan? These tips will make the transition easier

Not everything vegan is good for you. Use these tips and recipes to reap the benefits of this heart-healthy diet.
Different sorts of green vegetable on blue background
On a vegan diet, you'll load up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy (like tofu, edamame and tempeh).Westend61 / Getty Images

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By Joy Bauer

You've probably heard a lot about a vegan diet, a way of eating popular among celebrities like Lizzo and Alicia Silverstone. Despite all the Hollywood buzz, just 2% of Americans surveyed said they're vegans, but nearly 1 in 4 Americans reported cutting back on meat according to two recent Gallup polls.

If you're considering switching to a vegan diet — or just want to eat less meat and more plants — these tips and recipe ideas can make the transition even easier.

How to go vegan

Following a vegan diet means omitting all animal products including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs — and even honey — while loading up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy (like tofu, edamame and tempeh).

The benefits of going vegan

The benefits of adopting a vegan diet are numerous: vegan foods tend to be heart-healthy, low in saturated fat and high in zinc and fiber and vegans typically eat fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body mass index.

Pros of a vegan diet

  • High in fiber and antioxidants
  • Low in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Vegans tend to weigh less
  • May help protect your heart

The challenges, however, are also numerous: Just because it’s vegan doesn’t make it healthy. French fries, white bread and jelly beans are vegan, so you can pile on calories and gain weight. Strict vegans may need to supplement vitamin B12, a nutrient found only in animal sources. Other nutrients such as vitamin D (best sources are fatty fish and fortified milk) and iron may be difficult to get enough of on a vegan diet, so you may need to couple your plant-based iron sources with foods rich in vitamin C to increase iron absorption.

And adhering to a vegan diet may be tough in social scenarios such as dinner parties.

Cons of a vegan diet

  • Must focus on consuming adequate protein
  • Can cause vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Requires planning ahead
  • Can difficult socially

If you’re up for giving it a try, try these sample day and recipes:

Sample meal plan on a vegan diet

Breakfast:

Oatmeal made with water or unsweetened vanilla almond milk plus berries and chopped walnuts.

Lunch:

Lentil soup with a side salad and a peach.

Snack:

Veggies and hummus

Dinner:

Tofu stir-fry with peppers, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, and brown rice.

Dessert:

Diced mango sprinkled with unsweetened coconut flakes.

If you love to kick off your day with eggs at breakfast, a tofu scramble is the perfect swap. Shutterstock

8 healthy vegan recipes to get you started

  1. Tofu Scramble: If you love to kick off your day with eggs at breakfast, this tofu scramble is perfect — it’s protein packed and totally delicious.

  2. Bean Cheese: Top a toasted bagel or toast with this cream cheese alternative — it’s delicious, spreadable and offers up a dose of protein.
  3. Mac and Cashew Cheese: This tasty side dish is big on creamy cheesy flavor without any dairy.
  4. Chocolate Banana Custard: This simple dessert is pure goodness — you won’t even know it’s vegan!
  5. Cauliflower “Buffalo” Wings: If you love hot and spicy “Buffalo” sauce flavor, you’re in for a treat with this slimming vegan rendition.
  6. Lentil Sloppy Joes: Here’s a meatless version of the classic comfort food we all know and love.
  7. Three Bean Chili: Hearty and filling, this vegan chili is delicious on its own or served over a baked potato.
  8. Sweet and Sour Tofu: Give the delivery guy a night off with this easy to cook up veggie stir-fry.

>> Get dozens more vegan recipe ideas

For health tips and tasty recipes, follow Joy Bauer on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.