Veganism isn’t new to me.

I was exposed to vegan food during college as my favorite spot on campus, a student-run intentional community with a focus on ecological sustainability, grew and served only vegan meals. Two of my good friends were also vegan and would cook us vegan meals occasionally, although I’ve never grown to like hummus. I took a philosophy class in college about the ethics of eating animals and had the pleasure of briefly meeting Peter Singer.

I have dined at vegan restaurants (the image above is a meal I had at a raw vegan restaurant a couple years ago). I’ve eaten vegan ice cream (delicious) and cooked up many of my own unintentionally vegan meals. I read about veganism nearly every day and I’m aware of how our world’s treatment of animals effects our food and environment although I’m always learning more. I became a vegetarian last summer to challenge myself and stuck with it, despite a few hot dogs.

So why have I been thinking for a long time about becoming vegan?

  • protest animal cruelty
  • environmental benefits
  • a healthier, sustainable diet
  • save money
  • explore new foods
  • learn more about the world
  • connect with other people

But the one main reason I haven’t made the switch over to veganism?

I love cheese.

Cheese pizza, Parmesan cheese on pastas, feta cheese on salads, cheese and crackers, the list goes on.  Cheese trays make me drool. I didn’t know how in the world I would be able to live without cheese in a majority of my meals. Cheese pizza is my weakness. OK, technically, cupcakes are my weakness, but cheese pizza tops the list too.

I was also concerned how veganism would affect others in my life. Would my meat-eating fiance fight with me over the fact that we have to eat different things most of the time? Would my family find it inconvenient that the only thing I would be able to find in restaurants are salads? Would my friends be wary about inviting me to a BBQ? Would anyone support me?

So, I did a little research. I had some conversations with people. I read some books. I found vegan food options at chain restaurants and tons of recipes online for quick, easy meals. When I felt ready, I decided to challenge myself to try it for 30 days. 30 days, and I can decide whether to stick with it or go back to eating eggs and cheese again.

If I don’t try it, I will never know if I’m able to do it.

I started my challenge last Monday.

How is it going so far? It’s delicious! I’ve been drinking almond milk, water, and tea for awhile so there was no concerns about my drinking habits. I already enjoy eating oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar for breakfast. Scrambled tofu has been a favorite of mine for the past year. And the cheese?

Well, I don’t have any cheese in our apartment now, so it’s not there to tempt me. When I went out yesterday, I asked that the cheese be removed from my Greek salad and it was still amazing (and filling). I ate the Japanese Pan Noodles (something I’d never had before) at Noodles & Co. instead of my usual Italian plate. It was great. Already being a conscious vegetarian created a smooth transition to veganism.

I did mess up a few times. I put honey in my tea one morning and realized shortly after that I can’t do that anymore. I ate a Tootsie Roll and realized there was milk in it. I also finished off a macaroni salad I made last week with mayonnaise in it; but I allowed myself to eat it so it wouldn’t wind up in the garbage! I’ve also been reading that sugar may not always be vegan, and will be focusing on that next.

I’m aware that it’s still early in the challenge, and I still have nearly a month left, but I have a feeling I will be primarily vegan when it’s over. I’m excited to finally push myself into doing this. It’s also something I can cross of my life list when 30 days is over.

Thinking about challenging yourself with your food choices and not sure how to start?

7 Things You Can Do To Prepare Yourself For A Diet Change

1. Do your research ahead of time. I’m not saying you have to borrow a dozen thick books from the library and spend hours browsing websites. Just read or skim through a couple books, quickly browse websites, and bookmark some interesting, helpful sites you can refer to during your challenge. Go to the grocery store and see what alternatives are offered. Many big-name chain grocery stores are starting to offer soy-based alternatives and mock meats. Explore other place to buy your food – farmer’s markets, food co-ops, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), international markets, etc. You will be surprised to find there are so many options.

2. Start by modifying or finding replacements for a few of your favorite meals. Being able to eat some of your favorite meals will keep the transition enjoyable. Have a favorite salad that is loaded with cheese and cream-based dressings? Remove the cheese and swap the dressing with oil & vinegar. Love ice cream? Try sorbets or ices instead. Love meat? Give mock meats a try. Can’t go a day without drinking a can of soda? Try a variety of flavored lemonades, smoothies, fruit juices, sparkling water with lime, or adding your favorite fruit slices to a glass of water.

3. Test out a few new recipes. If you’re unsure where to start and whether or not you will like something, don’t wait until the challenge to dive right in. Prepare a recipe or two the week before to test the waters and see if you like something. If you don’t, try something else. If you do, then you’ve got something to start with during the challenge and something to fall back on if nothing else appeals to you.

4. Have a few staples on hand. Keeping some pasta, rice, spices, and olive oil on hand will always ensure you have items to make a meal if you can’t think of anything else or run out of food. The great thing about pasta and rice is that it can be cooked in so many ways.

5. Talk to others in your household about your intended eating habits. Gently explain to others in your home what you are doing and why, in a couple sentences. It’s important for them to be aware of what you are doing so there are no surprises. There is no need to go in-depth on anything unless they ask you questions. If they don’t ask any questions, or seem doubtful, leave it and just show them during the challenge. You might be surprised and learn they are very interested and supportive of what you are doing!

6. Don’t force your habits on anyone else. No one likes being told what they can’t eat, or being lectured about their food choices during a meal. Don’t preach to anyone else about your food habits or they will be even more put off by what you’re doing. Be just as accommodating of their diet as you want them to be accommodating of yours.

7. Go slow. If you jump in too fast, you’ll feel overwhelmed and burn out quickly. Take small steps and change one meal at a time or eliminate one item at a time. Want to become a vegetarian? Start by eliminating red meat and sticking with only chicken and fish. Then keep transitioning. The journey will be much easier and manageable.

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