11 things that helped me transition to a vegan diet
It's not as daunting as it sounds.
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Three major things contributed to my transition towards a vegan diet: My two cats who I would jump in front of a train for, a very sobering and graphic YouTube video by animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky, and a recent certificate I completed in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University that advocated for a whole food plant-based diet to promote heart health and reduce cancer risk. My reasons for making the switch are clearly a mix of both ethical and health reasons.
Keeping my “reasons” in mind makes sticking to veganism more second nature than a chore. If you don’t yet have your “reasons” but are looking to make the switch, no worries. These 11 handy items helped me—and can help you!—turn Meatless Mondays into Meatless Every Day.
1. A quality knife set
Before I invested in this proper knife set made of high-carbon stainless steel, I was cutting tomatoes with butter knives and splashing my walls with tomato juice and seeds. It was an actual crime scene. Since veganism requires you plan ahead more than you’re typically used to, you’ll want to meal prep. That's easier when you have chopped produce and plant-based proteins ready to go to mix and match with fun starches and grains (why eat brown rice every day when you can experiment with millet and farro and amaranth?). This self-sharpening knife set with over 1,600 reviews not only looks stunning against my marble countertops, but features a great balance of bread knives, all-purpose kitchen knives, a paring knife, and baking essentials like spatulas and measuring spoons.
2. These reusable snack bags
Meal prepping doesn't only require you to think about each meal, but snacks, too. I can't tell you the number of times I was starving at a party or while out running errands because I forgot to come prepared with vegan-friendly snack options. These BPA-free reusable bags with 1,700 Amazon reviews help you make a habit of bringing snacks with you wherever you go. You have the option of selecting a 10-pack that comes with five sandwich-sized bags and five snack-sized bags, or two gallon-sized bags and four sandwich and snack bags each. They're leak-proof and freezer-safe making them perfect for storing leftovers as well. Best of all, they're so eco-friendly the brand claims that one reusable bags can save the environment from at least 350 plastic bags.
3. This powerful Vitamix blender
The secret to being a healthy vegan is eating whole plant foods—which is easy and delicious to do with smoothies. Of all the high-end blenders out there, our experts found this best-selling Vitamix blender to be the best value. It has stainless steel blades and a powerful motor that blend exceptionally well to give you that perfect texture each time. Even though it’s dishwasher safe, it can also self-clean by blending water with a drop of soap. Pro tip: Buy it through the Vitamix Certified Reconditioned blender program to get it for a fraction of the original price.
4. A smart water bottle
We all know fiber helps regulate our bowels, but what many of us don’t realize is that a sudden increase in fiber consumption thanks to your new vegan lifestyle can lead to constipation. Your best line of defense against bathroom difficulties (besides slowly increasing your fiber intake) is to drink enough water to help move things along. The Hidrate Spark 2.0 stands out as one of the most game-changing products I’ve purchased in the last year. It’s a Bluetooth-connected smart water bottle that syncs my water intake to an app every time I place it down. It then sends push notifications to my phone when it detects I haven’t drank in a while, so it basically acts as the little angel over my shoulder. I like that the cap snaps on and off so I don’t need to waste time twisting it mid-workout. The narrow mouth provides a mess-free stream. My hands are small, so I’m able to the loop the string attached to its back through my fingers, like a coin purse.
5. Bulk foods
I used to think Costco memberships were for families of four who need economy-sized packages of food at all times. The best way to smooth your transition into veganism is to give yourself many options to choose from. Nuts.com is a bit of a misnomer because it’s basically a gold mine for bulk vegan staples of all kinds—from soup mix to energy squares. VeganEssentials.com allows you to shop by category, be it mock ground beef or vegan home cleaning and beauty products. Target is also a great place to throw some vegan essentials into your cart while you’re stocking up on household items since you can narrow down by brand, from Beyond Meat to Blue Diamond and Daiya to Dang. I personally subsist off Sabra hummus, it is my blood type, it is my oxygen.
- Get Organic Raw Cocoa Energy Squares on Nuts.com for $7.99
- Get Sweet BBQ Noble Jerky at Vegan Essentials for $5.59
- Get Sabra Classic Hummus Singles (6-Pack) at Target for $5.19
6. Our experts' favorite slow-cooker
Granted, I don’t dust off my Black and Decker 6-Quart 11-in-1pressure cooker with slow cooker functionalities nearly as often as I should because I accidentally stowed it away in a very inconvenient area to reach, but I imagine if I did make more of a habit of using it, cooking big batches of healthy and delicious one-pot vegan meals would be a breeze. Our experts put several slow cookers through the ringer and concluded that the Cuisinart 3-in-1 6-Quart Multicooker is the best slow cooker you can buy because of how easy it is to use, how well it keeps food warm at a safe temperature, and how its rectangular shape opens you up to all kinds of culinary possibilities like lasagna—not just chili or stew.
7. A spice rack
Oh, the flavors you will discover once you go vegan! If you’re shaking up your diet for the first time, now is the perfect opportunity to experiment with new herbs and spices that spice up any dish while offering tons of health benefits. This top-selling spice rack includes three slatted shelves of 13 inches long each, and it’s free-standing so you can place it anywhere in a pinch, from your counter to your pantry. A few game-changing seasonings I recommend stocking up on: Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, Watkins Gourmet Organic Chili Powder, and McCormick Himalayan Pink Salt with Black Pepper and Garlic All Purpose Seasoning.
8. Nutritional yeast
Also known as "nooch," nutritional yeast is the ultimate topping, flavoring or ingredient in a vegan diet. A serving of one teaspoon is packed with 100 percent of your recommended daily value of nutrients like thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, and most importantly, vitamin B12. Vegan diets are notoriously deficient in vitamin B12 because it’s a nutrient found in the soil that we wash off when we clean our produce. It tastes a little like Parmesan cheese and works perfectly on everything from popcorn to salad. I love using Trader Joe’s nutritional yeast out of the bag if I need to scoop out specific measurements, and Bragg’s shaker top if I’m sprinkling it on a dish as a garnish.
- Get Trader Joe’s Nutritional Yeast on Amazon for $8.99
- Get Bragg Premium Nutritional Yeast Seasoning Shaker Top (2-Pack) on Amazon for $14.45
9. Vegan alternatives
Meat and cheese alternatives are a great way to segue into an animal-free diet without sacrificing the taste of all your favorite foods like pizza and burgers. A few products blew my mind/took my breath away/tickled my taste buds and generally made it a breeze to eat my favorite “vegan junk foods” (I’d like to clarify that there is room for delicious “junk foods” in any balanced diet—vegan and non-vegan, and any nutritionist will tell you the same). In no particular order, Daiya Pizza is better than delivery. Gardein is even more succulent than a burger from the grill. Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda belongs at your next wine and cheese event (their Vegenaise is also next-level) and Beanfields pork rinds made of navy beans and chickpea protein are perfect for a mid-day snack.
- Get Daiya Dairy-Free Pizza Pepperoni Style at Target for $6.49
- Get Gardein Frozen Ultimate Burger at Target for $4.19
- Get Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda Slices at Vegan Essentials for $6.59
- Get Follow Your Heart Vegenaise at Target for $6.49
- Get Beanfields Korean BBQ Vegan Cracklins (6-Pack) on Amazon for $27.99
10. Protein powder
Protein is crucial for staying full, which can be a challenge for some folks beginning their vegan journey. I’m not a firm believer in protein powder because it’s totally possible to get adequate protein intake by eating a well-balanced diet. However, I’ve found protein powders are great blended with plant-based milk or water for a post-workout recovery snack, or blended with bananas, greens, and any of your favorite produce for breakfast. I’ve been around the block when it comes to testing protein powders, and I can say it’s hard to go wrong these days. My favorite brands like Vega and Ripple offer non-chalky and blendable protein powder with minimal additives, and of course, no animal byproducts like casein or whey.
- Get Vega Protein and Greens Vanilla on Amazon for $29.99
- Get Ripple Chocolate Vegan Protein Powder on Amazon for $24.99
11. Mason jars
Since going vegan, my mason jar usage has increased tenfold. They are a perfect eco-friendly solution to Tupperware or Rubbermaid containers, and have so many other uses besides flower vases (contrary to what Pinterest might lead you to believe). I use them as glass dishes for my gargantuan power bowls and overnight oats, water glasses, homemade dressing containers, and more. This Ball variety is super easy to clean and doesn't leave nasty streaks, making them also lovely to display. They're complete with air-tight lids, meaning you never have to worry about a sauce or dressing leak in your lunch bag when you're eating on the go.
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