Each year I make a New Years resolution to improve myself either physically or mentally in some way. And 6 years ago, I made the resolution to go vegan. I wanted to do this for my own health, yes, but also for all the other reasons – to help animals and have less of an environmental footprint being major factors. Making this commitment to myself helped keep me accountable. And I wasn’t perfect… But I wouldn’t be super hard on myself either when I slipped up. I would simply continue to make the conscious effort to keep my resolution (because I didn’t want to let myself – or the animals – down!).

So today I’d like to share some tips for keeping your New Years resolution to go vegan!

1. Be honest with yourself

More and more people are choosing a resolution to try vegan or at least cut back on their animal product consumption. Many people these days are cutting out dairy or trying Meatless Mondays…and these steps are perfectly valid (even if your end goal is veganism). Knowing ourselves is key to any kind of personal change we want to make. So if there are certain circumstances that are preventing you from feeling like you’ll be successful in going completely vegan right away (for example you still live at home and don’t do the shopping) then focus on what you CAN change for now. Maybe start with Meatless Mondays or vegan for one meal a day! Once you see how easy it can be it will seem like less of a chore and more of an exciting journey!

2. Identify your motivation

Knowing WHY you are doing this and remembering that when faced with non-vegan pizza at parties or the box of donuts at the office will help you stick to your resolution. If you’re doing this for health reasons you can watch the many health-related videos at nutritionfacts.org or follow all the healthy vegan Instagramers like @veganfatkid or @rawvana. (Don’t forget to follow us, too, at @loveveg_us). You’ll also want to check out documentaries like Forks Over Knives. If you’re main motivation is to help animals, there are so many ways to find inspiration – through our organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages, by watching documentaries such as Dominion, Earthlings, and The Ghosts in our Machine, and maybe even attending a slaughterhouse vigil if they happen in your area. For a lighter film, check out Vegucated. And watching cute animal videos doesn’t hurt either… It also would help to find volunteer opportunities with animal rights organizations. Is your main goal to help the planet? You gotta see Cowspiracy and the many facts on their site about animal agriculture’s impact on the environment.

3. Stick to foods you already know and love

Many people think that when you go vegan you have to ditch fun, familiar foods and start eating just salad and tofu. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Almost any dish you can think of can be veganized. From classic tacos, to heavenly chili cheese fries, to mouth-watering pizza, to indulgent ice cream, it’s all possible! Go step by step and replace any meat, egg, or dairy containing ingredients with your favorite alternatives. There are a lot to choose from these days!

4. Find your favorite meat, egg, and dairy alternatives  

It’s important to discover the awesome vegan products out there so you never feel like you’re missing out. There is a great substitute for everything – chicken strips and tenders, bacon, beef, cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, crab cakes – you name it! Keep trying until you find your perfect match. It’ll be worth it! Some of my favorite brands are Gardein, Follow Your Heart, Beyond Meat, Field Roast and Tofurky.

5. Discover the accidentally vegan products

You may be surprised to know how many already vegan products there are on supermarket shelves. When I found out that Oreos were vegan… well, I won’t tell you what I did then. Some other vegan snacks I like are the Sweet Spicy Chili flavored Doritos, Nutter Butters, Sour Patch Kids, and Cracker Jacks. (These aren’t everyday foods for me, I swear). Once you realize how many options are out there you’ll know you can do this! And remember, just because it doesn’t say it’s vegan doesn’t mean it isn’t. Just look under the ingredients and at the bottom under “Contains” it should list the common allergens, which include dairy and eggs.

6. Eat enough calories and colors

One of the most common problems I hear from people who are making the switch to vegan is that they are hungry all the time or feel tired. Not getting enough calories is almost always the culprit. When cutting things out of your diet you need to make sure you are replacing them with enough of the right things. Make sure you’re getting a variety of foods and make sure you stock your fridge with lots of red, yellow, and other brightly colored foods for optimum health. You can usually eat more as a vegan as well since many vegan foods have less calories. You can’t beat that! Keep snacks on hand so you never go hungry.

7. Don’t stress over perfection

Being vegan doesn’t mean you do everything right, and it’s unrealistic to expect that from yourself. You aren’t always going to know what’s in the bread on the table when you’re out to eat or if the chips at a party have milk in them (a lot do by the way), so give yourself a break when it comes to the small stuff. And don’t worry if you’re friends make comments or ask “is that vegan?” Just tell them you’re not perfect and neither are they. Being vegan means striving to cause the least amount of harm to the animals, the planet, and to your own health, so know that you’re already doing amazing things!

8. Discover the vegan options at chain restaurants

With veganism on the rise, some of the biggest chains and fast food restaurants are taking notice and adding plant-based options to their menus. Some of my favorites are Chipotle’s Sofritas – organic tofu braised with peppers and spices – that you can add to any bowl, burrito or salad. Denny’s is even accommodating with their oatmeal and the Fit Fare® Veggie Skillet (without egg whites). Johnny Rockets has the Boca Burger they call “The Streamliner” with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mustard. Did you know that Olive Garden’s breadsticks are vegan? They also have angel hair, cavatappi, fettuccine, gluten-free rotini, rigatoni, small shells, spaghetti, and whole-wheat linguine that can all be topped with their vegan marinara sauce. Taco Bell is even jumping on the vegan train as you can now order anything on the menu “fresco style” which means they’ll leave off the dairy. Swap out the meat for potatoes and you’re good to go!

9. Find support in your community or create your own group

One of the best things you can do for yourself when you go vegan is to find support within your community. Surrounding yourself with others who understand you cannot be underestimated. Look for a Facebook group by searching “vegan” and the name of your city in the Facebook search bar to see if a group exists. The group you may be looking for may also be on MeetUp.com. If there isn’t a veg meetup in your area think about starting one yourself. You may be surprised to find out just how many other vegans there are nearby. And you will find a lot of support right here with Love Veg! We’ve created our Love Veg Meal Planner to help you take the guesswork out of what to make! Check it out! 🙂