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KateTheGreat's avatar

How hard is it to go from vegetarian to vegan?

Asked by KateTheGreat (13610 points ) April 3rd, 2011

Right now, I’m a vegetarian. I’m contemplating turning vegan, but I don’t know how hard it would be for me. I really love cheese, yogurt, and other delicious dairy products. How hard would it be for me to make the big change? Do you have any advice? What are some really great options for food?

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19 Answers

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I went from someone who ate everything to vegan, cold turkey. It wasn’t hard for me, but that just depends how committed you are to it. There are some great dairy-free icre creams, sour creams, yoogurts, etc. Just sample a few until you find one you like. For me the hardest part was giving up my leather purses and shoes that I already had in my closet, but eventually that wasn’t too hard either after I bought replacements.

jerv's avatar

I would say it really depends on you. Some people find it easy to alter their diet whereas others can’t deal with certain restrictions. My wife, for instance, tried going from veggie to vegan but was bummed by the fact that there were no decent vegan cheesecakes. For some, that isn’t an issue; for others, it’s a deal-breaker.

Personally, I could never give up cheese myself I have yet to see any non-dairy alternatives that taste even tolerable, let alone anything like cheese, nor could I tolerate scanning the ingredients of damn near everything to make sure there are no eggs either. I may swap out my beef patties for Gardenburgers™ but leave my Brie and Colby-Jack alone!

Coloma's avatar

Healthy eating and healthy thinking means not being obsessive about anything, period.

Never say never.

I was vegetarian/vegan for quite a few years in my younger days, (1970’s/1980’s ) as there is nothing new about idealism, and while I eat very little meat of any kind, I have learned that going to extremes is rarely a suitable choice in any situation.

When attempting big changes one should always begin with small changes, and incorporate them gradually.

Don’t get obsessive, and listen to your body.

I agree with @jerv I could never give up my cheese! lol

Mikewlf337's avatar

I wouldn’t recommend it. A vegan diet is a dangerous diet. I learned this from a doctor. A vegetarian diet is safe. I am not a vegetarian. I am an omnivore who eats almost everything that moves and grows out of the ground. Whatever decision you arrive to. Good luck! :)

everephebe's avatar

Maybe what you could do is dip your toes in the water so to speak. Try it out, for a week. And if that’s too hard just try limit your dairy products, and be a not so strict vegan. A naughty vegan if you will. Just a thought. And hey good luck @KatetheGreat, there are plenty of vegan resources out there for support, recipes and such.

I’ll message one of my vegan friends this thread.

Personally, I would kill myself if I had to be vegan… Vegetarian is much more manageable, for me at least. What’s life without cheese, eggs and butter? Meaningless. But, I’m what you call a bad vegetarian, I used to be strict, now I’m not so much. I like meat, but I don’t like the meat industry. I like dairy, but I don’t like the industry behind it. So, I do the best I can to avoid supporting those industries. The simple fix for me, is to buy local. The retrovore diet or the locavore diet fit best the for me and the planet.

nicobanks's avatar

I suggest you get in the habit of eating vegan before you make the commitment. Stuff like, start cooking vegan meals now, finding recipes you like, trying out different vegan substitutes, locating convenience-type vegan options available to you, etc. That will make it a lot easier on you when you commit to veganism, because you won’t find yourself hungry and out of ideas and desperate. Also think about how just vegan you want to be – make those big decisions beforehand, like will you eat honey? gelatin? wear wool? etc. I think the more you take your time and plan ahead, the easier it will be for you, the less stressful.

As for loving dairy, I don’t know if anything can replace cheese, but I’m a BIG fan of ice cream, but I’ve found two great vegan substitutes: coconut ice cream (seriously amazing – I’m not vegan, but I love this stuff, sometimes I choose it over real ice cream), and for ice cream sandwich bars, there are a few brands of soy ice cream versions out there (like “Cuties”) that are really good (although I wouldn’t eat a bowl of soy ice cream)

theninth's avatar

If you can tolerate the non-dairy versions of yogurt, milk, ice cream, and cheese, then it’s not hard at all. But like @nicobanks suggested, make it a gradual change to see if it’s something you can really commit to.

I have to reccommend the cookbooks “Veganomincon” and “Appetite for Reduction”. There’s some amazing food in there.

There’s nothing wrong with being vegetarian but eating mostly vegan, either. That way you can still have the occasional ice cream or real cheese on your pizza.

I could never go vegan—I’m allergic to soy, so all the soy-based dairy replacers are impossible for me.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Go ahead and give it a try. Just be very aware of nutrition and getting everything you need. Supplementing is a good idea. Keep track of how you feel all the way through. It’s not healthy for everyone, but many have no problem with it. I went from being vegetarian to being vegan a long time ago, I researched it well and did everything right and I didn’t thrive. After six months I was weak and shaky, and reintroducing eggs and dairy had me better in just a few days. Other people that went through the switch at the same time did very well and are still vegan. You know your body the best. If it works, great, if you don’t adjust, then go back. You can use cruelty free egg and dairy products if you need to.

missafantastico's avatar

The extent of how difficult your transition from vegetarianism to veganism depends on multiple factors. However, your cooking capabilities and culinary genius will be most thoroughly tested. If you want to be a lazy vegan that just purchases pre-made dairy/meat substitutes you’re going to be really limitted in your choices.
However, if you are a true food champion and get excited about creating unique vegan dishes then you can make the transition as tasty as you like.
I myself am vegetarian chef and dietitian, so my wife was fairly well equiped by having her own personal chef. But even with my help it was difficult for her to give up her un-holy love for cheese. Going out to eat is crazy hard (depending on where you live), you’re always going to be asked about why you’re vegan (and no answer is going to be good enough), and imitation cheese is gross. Flat out gross.

You are master of your food journey, and if you ever get depressed about what you can’t have I recommend you’re first cook book purchase be “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

lifeflame's avatar

There’s a good TED talk about being a weekday vegetarian. It seems as if you could give it a test-run by being a weekday vegan (or if you are not ready for that, start by being a weekend vegan.)

I have a friend who loved meat but was persuaded by this video to be a weekday vegetarian; last time I heard, it was working out for her and her husband quite well.

SvetlanatheGreat's avatar

@KatetheGreat It’s not safe to be vegan, I’ve told you this many times. You won’t get enough nutrients and your body will break down on you.

Mikewlf337's avatar

I have to agree with @SvetlanatheGreat.

jballzz's avatar

I wouldn’t go vegan if I was you. It really isn’t good for you.

SvetlanatheGreat's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Thank you for agreeing with me. I raised her to be healthy.

dabbler's avatar

..Disappointing to see warnings that a vegan diet is unsafe as a blanket conclusion and no reasons why..
You can kill yourself with any class of diet done badly as some giant (literally) proportion of our US population proves.
Being vegan does require attention to making sure you Do get the kinds of things that are rare in vegetarian foods e.g. B12 but it can definitely be done and done well with attention. And you’ll want to be even more careful with your protein completeness.
Jack Lalane was a vegan for most of his life and you’ll have a hard time convincing me it was bad for him. But he was a scientist about it and approached it with the kind of attitude we should all have about what we shove in our mouths, make sure you get what you need and minimize the stuff you don’t. Men and women have some distinct nutritional requirements pay attention to them (green leafy veggies for more iron ladies!).
I’ve been a vegetarian (usually not vegan, mostly lacto-ovo) for nearly 30 years and people have been telling me that about being vegetarian for 30 years and they are just plain wrong. They tell me I “have to” have meat or I’ll get myself sick. I calmly just disagree and at some point they might get around to asking how long I’ve been vegetarian and the multi-decade answer makes ‘em think. I’ve taken maybe two sick days in the past ten years. The periods in the past few decades when I was vegan are the same times I was most fit, alert and ailment free. The absolute best was when eating raw foods only, juicing and salads. yum yum !

Mikewlf337's avatar

@dabbler I’ll believe a doctor over you.

dabbler's avatar

@Mikewlf337 “I’ll believe a doctor over you” no prob. You should and I respect that.
I’m talking about my own experience. it is certainly an excellent idea to discus with your doctor whether or not your individual physique will deal with the change. A lot of us who are vegetarian &/or considerring vegan diet have long ago realized that most of our medical practitioners have through no fault of their own nearly zero training in nutrition and even less idea of the impact of a vegetarian diet. They have to tell you not to do it because they don’t know what will happen, it’s the safe answer and correct for them in the circumstance. US medicine excels at diagnostics and orthopedics but is feeble at wholistic health maintenance. They know a lot but not about food.
So I come back to a general point that anyone considerring vegan diet inform themselves thoroughly. There is an empowering aspect to owning your physiology that results from knowledge combined with intentional action – hey a diet is a diet whether for weight loss or enabling invigoration.

nicobanks's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Great, I’ll believe a doctor too. Mine’s vegan!

@dabbler is right to advise against making blanket statements. Not only does it generally lead you to explore the world on your own terms, and to research thoroughly and widely so as to understand all the different variables and implications; but it also helps prevent you from looking like an ass…

Okay I admit it’s not actually my doctor – I don’t even have a regular doctor. But my mom’s best friend has been a general practitioner my whole life and a vegan for the last 15 years or so… a little white lie to make a point. After all, he could be my doctor, we just don’t live in the same city.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@nicobanks I know many doctors who all told me that a vegan diet is an unsafe diet. There always is a difference of opinion though.

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