Four Simple Steps for Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
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Carol Morgan Cox, VLCE, as posted on Main Street Vegan
January 2015

Change can be hard: there are new things to learn, old habits to break, unfamiliar patterns to establish. Be open to new ideas and new ways of looking at yourself and the world. If resistance comes up, sit with it and ask why it’s there. There are no right or wrong answers; this is your unique journey of discovery.

I stood in my kitchen looking at my now almost-empty fridge and had no idea what I was going to eat or cook. It was the morning after I had watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and thrown away all of the meat, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and eggs in my refrigerator. This was a huge change for me, as I had been eating some kind of animal food at every meal.

I have to admit that the next few months were rocky, as I wandered the grocery store aisles searching for plant-based options and carefully reading ingredients, experimented with new foods, and struggled to find recipes that were easy to make. (Fortunately, my husband was very supportive, even on the nights when the meals did not turn out quite like I had hoped.)

vegan transition

To help you on your transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle, here are four simple steps I learned during mine.

1. Set your intention and be mindful of your choices.

Take a few minutes today and think about why you’ve decided to take this journey. You can write it down in a journal or create a note on your computer or phone.

Setting an intention and making a commitment to yourself early on can make the difference between continuing down the path versus stopping and turning around after only a few steps.

Change can be hard: there are new things to learn, old habits to break, unfamiliar patterns to establish. Be open to new ideas and new ways of looking at yourself and the world. If resistance comes up, sit with it and ask why it’s there. There are no right or wrong answers; this is your unique journey of discovery.

2. Swap out common animal-based foods for plant-based options.

There are so many delicious alternatives nowadays, so on your next few trips to the grocery store pick up some of the following plant-based foods:

  • Milk = Rice, almond, soy, hemp, or flax milk
  • Butter = Earth Balance plant-based butter
  • Mayonnaise = Veganaise or Beyond Mayo
  • Cheeses, ice creams, and yogurts = Look for brands like Daiya, So Delicious, and Tofutti
  • Eggs = Ener-G egg replacer
  • Meat = Check out Beyond Meat’s chicken-like strips, sausages from Field Roast and Tofurky, and veggie burgers from Sunshine Burgers and Dr. Praeger’s

3. Select trigger points.

Trigger points are behavioral actions that can help you stay on track with your intentions. For example:

  • Plan your meals for the week and create your grocery list. (Below is one of my favorite go-to recipes because it’s familiar and quick and easy to make.)
  • Wash and store your fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home from the grocery store.
  • Make your lunch the night before (I like to take leftovers from dinner).
  • If you know you’re not going to have much time to make dinner on a particular night, use a slow cooker or make large batches of rice or quinoa ahead of time so you can easily add beans or lentils to it for a quick meal.
  • If you’re going to a lunch or dinner event, look up the restaurant on or to see what vegan options they have (you can also call ahead and ask).

4. Set improvement goals.

I named my site “Vegan Transitions” for a reason, because most people need a period of time to adjust to new ways of shopping, cooking, and eating. However, you also want to set goals with dates so you know that you’re moving forward and not staying stuck in one place for too long.

For example, your improvement goals could be:

  • Prepare a different vegan dinner for “Meatless Mondays” for the next month (this will give you an opportunity to try new recipes).
  • Have a vegan breakfast every day this week (such as cereal with rice or almond milk, oatmeal, tofu scramble, or a smoothie).
  • Eat vegan for 2 meals a day by 2 weeks from now (this will give you time to start with one meal a day and then work up to 2 meals a day and so on).

Remember that change is a process and resistance is normal. At various points, you may find yourself thinking “This isn’t for me” or “This doesn’t feel right.” Changing an activity and mindset as habitual as what you eat 3+ times a day (and what you’ve been doing for the past 20, 30, 40+ years) is not easy, but the benefits are nothing short of life-changing for yourself, your family, the animals, and the planet.

Spaghetti Primavera

Time: 30 minutes; Serves: 6


1-8 oz. package whole wheat or brown rice spaghetti (or whatever pasta you like)
1-24 oz. jar marinara spaghetti sauce
1 package tofu crumbles (optional)
˝ red, white, or yellow onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, diced
˝ zucchini, diced
˝ yellow squash, diced
1 cup mushrooms, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
˝ cup peas (fresh, canned, or frozen)
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Ľ cup red wine (optional)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp. basil (fresh or dried)
1 tbsp. oregano (fresh or dried)
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: You can substitute vegetables you like, are seasonal, and have on hand, such as eggplant, red bell peppers, carrots, etc. Include as many veggies as possible to get the nutritional benefits.


  1. Prepare spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, add the onion and garlic and sauté a few minutes until translucent. Add the zucchini and squash and sauté a few more minutes. Add the mushrooms and green pepper and continue to sauté the vegetables, stirring regularly. Add the peas.
  3. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add the spaghetti sauce, tofu crumbles (if using), balsamic vinegar, red wine, and spices to the sauté pan and stir. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve the sauce with the spaghetti.

Carol Morgan CoxCarol Morgan Cox, VLCE is the creator of, where you can sign up for a free email course to help you on your vegan journey. In addition to her vegan activism, Carol is a university teacher and founder of a web technology company. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, running, yoga, travel, history, and reading. You can follow Carol on Twitter at @CarolMorganCox. 

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