Vegan Starter Guide for Beginners (How To Go Vegan)

Going vegan? Great choice. Our starter guide will help make the transition as easy as possible.

We’ve helped countless people go vegan during the last 6 years. But we can still remember what it was like starting out. 

All the questions and uncertainties… B12? Protein? Alcohol…?

It feels like a big lifestyle change at first.

Especially when you’ve grown up eating animal products your entire life. 

But fear not. 

Because you’re about to learn the most powerful yet often overlooked tip when going vegan…

And everything else in between.

Read on and we’ll get right into it – a new you awaits!

When You Know Your ‘Why’, The How Becomes EASY 

Before we go rushing into what to eat, it’s very important that you know why you’re going vegan. 

This is because having a strong why will make everything else easy. 

If you’re anything like us, you’ve watched some Earthlings, Dominion or similar. And you’ve found yourself feeling sickened when consuming animal products.

And rightly so! 

But if that isn’t you, and you want to go vegan for health or even environmental reasons, you’ll have a MUCH harder time sticking to it. 

Veganism is an animal rights movement. Yes, of course there are (huge) health and environmental benefits too. But they’re secondary.  

If you’re just wanting to go plant-based, this guide will still be useful for you. But it wasn’t written with you in mind. We recommend educating yourself first by watching Dominion on YouTube

After that, everything else will be almost effortless. 

Now, onto some “practical” advice…

What Do You Eat The Least? 

Have a quick brainstorm of the animal products you don’t eat often. Naturally, these will be the easiest to cut out. 

For example, you might rarely eat seafood but find yourself binging on cheese.

Of course, the former is easier to change than your cheese habit. 

So start by keeping things simple. 

Whatever you eat the least, remove it completely. Then work your way onto the next product and cut that out. 

Check Out These Simple Substitutes 

When you know how to replace your favorite ingredients, veganizing your old favorite meals is easy. 

Cow’s milk —–> Your favorite plant milk 

Mayo —–> Vegan mayo 

Parmesan cheese —–> Nutritional yeast (Nooch) 

Dairy cheese —–> Vegan cheese 

Eggs (baking) —–> Mashed banana, flax egg, vegan yogurt 

Scrambled egg —–>  Scrambled tofu (cooked properly)  

Butter —–> Vegan butter

Heavy cream —–>  Coconut Cream 

Ice cream —–> Vegan ice cream or nice cream (frozen bananas) 

Honey —–> Maple syrup or agave syrup 

Ground beef —–> Soy mince / TVP (textured vegetable protein) 

Pulled pork —–> Jackfruit 

Chicken and beef —–> Seitan and tempeh 

Be Prepared to Check Food Labels, Milk Is In EVERYTHING! 

This is mainly done when you’re first starting out. 

You WILL be screaming “Why is there goddamn milk in THIS!?”. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

After some time reading labels, you’ll have a good idea of the products to avoid.

You’ll also discover products that you didn’t think were vegan but actually are (We’ll list some of those shortly). 

And don’t forget to check clothes labels too. 

Clean Out Your Kitchen 

Clear out any animal products from your kitchen if you can. Scour your fridge, cupboards, pantry and have at it.

This will give you a huge head start because naturally, you’ll have to replace the old items. 

If you feel bad about tossing it, consider having a BBQ and feeding your friends. 

And if you’re unable to do this, fear not. There’s no harm in consuming your leftovers because the damage is already done after purchase.  

Once you invest in some staple ingredients, you’ll be able to follow any vegan recipe or adapt your typical recipes. 

Or chow down on pre-packaged vegan pizza and Oreos, if that’s your style. Don’t worry, we don’t judge. 

Nine Quick Important Tips

  1. It doesn’t matter how you start. Your journey along the way carries much more weight. 
  2. VERY IMPORTANT: It’s NOT all about “fruit and veg”. You need grains, legumes, starches, nuts, and seeds to feel full. 
  3. Tofu is actually delicious, you just don’t know how to cook it properly yet!
  4. Don’t take something out of your diet without adding something in. 
  5. Your taste buds evolve (you’ll soon notice this)! Be open to trying new foods more than once. 
  6. Don’t beat yourself up for accidentally failing. Remember how we said milk is in EVERYTHING? Yeah. Everyone slips up. Just make sure you set things straight.
  7. If you don’t like the first alternative you try, that’s okay. Almond milk might not be your jam, but there are plenty of others. 
  8. Success isn’t about the right recipes. It’s about the right habits. You shouldn’t be turning every meal into hours of food prep. Nor should you be replacing pasta with spiralized zucchini (see #2). 
  9. K.I.S.S: Keep it simple, stupid. 

So What Should I Eat? 

First things first. 


That’s vegan slang for nutritional yeast in case you didn’t know. 

Nooch is awesome. Most vegans find themselves eventually putting it on just about everything (we mean it).

Traditionally, it works well as a replacement for parmesan cheese.

It’s also very healthy because it’s fortified. 

For general foods, here’s a quick list: 

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Legumes 
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Plant-based milks
  • Cheese alternatives
  • Meat alternatives
  • Any other packaged items that are vegan

We’ll dive into more specifics in a minute. 

The Foundation of Your Daily Eating (AKA Dr. Gregers Daily Dozen) 

Public health speaker and “How To Not Die” author Dr. Michal Greger put together a ‘Daily Dozen’ app. 

It makes consuming all the foods we should be eating everyday simple. 

You check off the relevant box throughout the day as you eat.

It’s easy, and feels motivating seeing those boxes fill up! 

Download here: Apple | Android

Bonus: We also highly recommend Dr. Greger’s book “How To Not Die”. 

The Big P (Protein) 

Did you know that all plants contain protein? 

That’s right. Even a banana has a gram of protein. 

Which isn’t much.  But it adds up over the day. 

You may be thinking “but what about complete amino acid profiles?” …

Of course, it’s true that certain plants are higher in some amino acids, and lower in others. 

This [1] study found that “amounts and proportions of amino acids are typically more than sufficient to meet and exceed individual daily requirements, provided a reasonable variety of foods are consumed and energy intake needs are met”. 

In simple terms, that means don’t just eat Oreos all day and make sure you’re getting enough calories! 

You’ll have all the amino acids and protein you need.

Even if you’re a bodybuilder.

Tasty vegan protein sources: 

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Seitan
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Vegan protein powders 
  • Clif builder bars 
  • Fake meats (Often high in sodium but don’t worry about this when you’re just starting out)

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Meal Ideas

Here are some simple meals to get you started:


Oatmeal Delight: Make a delicious bowl of oatmeal with your favorite toppings mixed in. 

Quick oats, water, raspberries, chia seeds, walnuts. topped with banana, crushed oreo and chocolate sauce. Yum!

Cereal: your favorite (vegan) cereal with your favorite plant-based milk. We recommend soy milk for an easy extra 10g protein. tons of cereals are vegan, check ingredients and avoid chocolatey ones. add walnuts or berries for a nutrient boost.

Toast: with vegan butter, avocado, blueberries & jam or nut butter & bananas


Vegan meatball spaghetti bolognese sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

Chickpea curry jacket potatoes.

Falafel wraps!


Burrito bowl with seasoned tofu and black beans served over rice, fajita veggies, salsa and chipotle avocado sauce.

Lentil shepherd’s pie with peas, carrots, and green beans. Top with mashed potatoes and a side salad. 

Seitan strips with hummus, kale, tomato, and a non-dairy yogurt sauce with lemon and cucumber. 

Bonus: If you’re feeling a cheat meal, why not order some Chinese or throw a vegan pizza in the oven? 


Vegan ice cream! (Delicious) 

Vegan pancakes with vegan choc chips, blueberries, banana slices and maple syrup.

Plant-based yogurt. Check out our guide on the 7 best non-dairy yogurt substitute brands.

You can also always get creative and bake some muffins or brownies. 

What to Eat In Between Meals 

We know you love snacking as much as us. 

Go nuts on:

  • Nuts and seeds (Excuse the pun). Or trail mix 
  • Fruit (Banana with peanut butter is our go-to. Especially post-workout)
  • Rice cakes 
  • Carrots and hummus 
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast
  • Whole-grain crackers with guacamole 
  • Clif bars on the go (Note: MOST flavors are vegan) 
  • OREOS! 

What to Avoid

Vegans don’t consume: 

  • Honey
  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Gelatin
  • Dairy milk
  • Dairy butter
  • Eggs
  • Egg-based mayonnaise 
  • Dairy ice cream
  • Dairy yogurt
  • Dairy cheese
  • Fish/seafood
  • Meat (duh) 

Note: There are a few obscure non-vegan ingredients. Carmine (crushed up bugs), for example, is sometimes found in candy or make-up products. You can avoid these by Googling the product with “vegan” at the end when you’re unsure. 

Remember, there are vegan replacements for everything. No sweat, amigo. 

Non-Vegan Alcohol?!

Some alcohol (mainly wine, but also some beers and spirits) gets filtered through isinglass which is fish bladder. Other non-vegan alcohol contains dairy such as cream liqueurs or certain hazy IPA beers. 

But most alcohol is vegan, you just have to check or do a little research if you’re a big wine lover. 

Barnivore makes this process quick and easy. We recommend bookmarking it so next time you’re getting drunk, you can be sure you’re not drinking alcohol filtered through a fish’s bladder. 

If you’re a beer lover, you can check out our “Is Beer Vegan?” article here.

Self Care and Beauty 

Most large companies (Think L’Oréal, Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson etc) aren’t cruelty-free for the simple fact that they sell to China.

To sell to China, mandatory animal testing is required under Chinese law. 

The Bunny Free app (Android | Apple) makes it easy to see whether a company is vegan or not. 

Simply search and you’ll find out whether a company tests on animals or not. 

Side note: Some big companies claim to be “cruelty-free”, despite doing business with China. Beware! 



  • Suede
  • Leather
  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Down 
  • Feathers
  • Fur
  • Cashmere 

If you already own clothes or other items like pillows made from these, don’t sweat it. The damage has already been done upon purchase. Use them as you normally would if you’re okay with it. Just be mindful of this list when you’re replacing them. 

Avoid Zoos (But NOT Sanctuaries) 

A zoo’s priority is taking your money rather than looking after animals. 

But by all means, don’t be afraid to visit sanctuaries and shelters! These are a great way to have contact with animals without paying for their exploitation. 

Search your local area for any rescues that may be nearby. 

Supplements Are Your Friend, But Not Always… 

Supplements are a fantastic way to get otherwise hard-to-obtain nutrients into our diet. 

But which ones are a must-have, and which ones are unnecessary? 


B12 is naturally found in soils and water. But because of modern farming practices, that’s no longer enough to rely on. 

It’s for that reason that livestock gets their B12 from the same place as us – supplements. 

Supplementing B12 means you’re actually getting it directly from the source. Rather than through an animal. 

B12 supplementation is essential. You do not want to experience the side effects of B12 deficiency. Everyone should supplement B12 regardless of diet. 

Pop a B12 tablet daily or weekly (depending on dosage) and you’re good to go. 

You can also get B12 from fortified foods such as nooch, cereal and plant milk. But the simplest (and cheapest) way to ensure adequate B12 is with a supplement.


We recommend supplementing Vitamin D3 if you live somewhere less sunny. Shoot for 2,000 IU a day. Again, this recommendation applies regardless of diet. 

EPA and DHA (Omega-3 fatty acids) 

Naturally, we aren’t eating seafood. While we do get omega 3 acids from plant sources like walnuts, chia seeds and brussel sprouts, we suggest supplementing Omega 3 to be on the safe side. Use a good algae-based supplement. 

Iron and Calcium 

We don’t recommend supplementing iron or calcium because it’s unnecessary as long as you’re eating a balanced diet. 

Iron is easily found in fortified cereals, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, various seeds, kale, and quinoa. 

Calcium can be had from fortified plant milk, soy foods like tofu or tempeh, as well as green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and okra.


Completely unnecessary, but if you’re a gym rat like us we suggest taking creatine for the performance benefits. Monohydrate is fine. 

Create Your Shopping List 

It’s time to create your shopping list. 

Remember  K.I.S.S – Keep it simple, stupid! 

So whatever you normally eat, veganize it.

If spaghetti bolognese is a staple meal for you, buy vegan mince.

The golden rule: Don’t take something out without adding something in!

Onto the pantry… 

Prep Your Pantry

A well-stocked pantry is key to making things super easy. 

Here are some ingredients to add to your shopping list: 

Legumes – Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, red lentils, green lentils, chickpeas, split peas 

Grains – Quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, white rice, pasta 

Veggies – Butternut squash, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, leafy greens, potato, sweet potato, cucumber, mushrooms, onion, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes

Fruits – Banana, berries, apples, avocados, dates, melons… You already know your favorite fruit, pick it! 

Nuts and seeds – Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, peanut butter, almond butter

Seasonings – Herbs, Himalayan salt, pepper, paprika, curry powder, cayenne, red chili flakes, turmeric, cinnamon, NOOCH, oregano, garlic/onion powder 

Sweeteners – Maple syrup, agave syrup

Fridge – Tempeh, tofu, plant milk, vegan butter, vegan cheese, meat replacements, hummus 

Don’t forget frozen foods like vegan pizza and frozen fruit. 

And plant-based canned soups. 

Go Shopping! 

Depending on what you buy (duh), you may be in for a surprise at the store when you check out…

Why? Fruit and veg are amongst the cheapest foods in the grocery store. 

Of course, if you’re loading your cart with meat alternatives and premium brands it’ll be a different story. 

Take your new shopping list to the store and get your kitchen stocked up!

Bonus Top Tips (SUPER Useful)

  • Get a cookbook or two.  
  • Frozen veg doesn’t have preservatives and can be healthier than fresh. Its nutrients are flash-frozen at the time of harvest. 
  • Farmers’ markets are great if you have access to one. Oftentimes these won’t be USDA certified but you can ask them ‘is this grown with pesticides’ etc. 
  • Drink enough water. Often times our bodies can’t distinguish between hunger and thirst. 
  • Track your calories at the start of your journey to make sure you’re eating enough. Myfitnesspal or chronometer works well for this. 
  • Plan your meals and you’ll stay one step ahead. 
  • Buy premade sauces to keep in the fridge 
  • Read up on plant-based nutrition. is our go-to.
  • Keep a documentary handy in case you go off track. We aren’t perfect, but if you go back to your ‘why’ it’s much easier. After watching a quick snippet of Dominion you’ll think twice about eating that chicken breast. 
  • There’s true power in numbers. Join a vegan Facebook group, subreddit or other community. 

How to Eat Vegan Anywhere 

Ten years ago, eating out as a vegan often meant settling for a salad. 

Today? Not so much. 

We’re now spoilt for choice. 

So how do you do it?

Look out for the ‘V’ or plant symbol on restaurant menus. 

If you’re unsure, double-check with staff to make sure it’s not just vegetarian 

Want to see the vegan and vegan-friendly places near you? Then get the HappyCow app! (Android | Apple) It’s especially useful when traveling. 

TripAdvisor can also be useful for finding vegan-friendly restaurants. 

Oldschool Tip: If you call ahead of eating out,  a chef will often make you a vegan meal – you never know if you don’t ask! Of course, this is less necessary today but still comes in handy. 

It’s useful to remember the foods that are typically vegan regardless of setting. Think burritos, Chinese spring rolls, veggie sushi, falafel and hummus. 

Eating On The Road 

When on the road, subway, taco bell, chipotle and grocery stores are solid choices. Make sure they don’t mess your order up. 

Eating at Work 

Meal prep is your best friend here. Bring snacks. If your work has a cafe then have a word with the manager. 

Eating at Parties 

Reach out in advance to hosts if they don’t know you’re vegan. You can also make a delicious party dish to bring. Go win everyone over, you’ll be the hero of the party. 

Eating on the Holidays 

Scrumptious vegan substitutes for traditional holiday favorites? 

You bet. 

Specifics are important here, but if you simply Google the holiday recipe you’re looking for with “vegan” at the front you’ll be good to go. 

Eating in the Sky 

Most airlines offer vegan options. Some are great, others are disastrous. 

That said, opt for the vegan meal. Then pack snacks that easily pass security. 

Think fresh fruit and hummus on pita. 

Vegan With Kids 

It’s no secret that kids can be some of the pickiest eaters on the planet. Here are some tips to make your life a tad easier. 

  • Make the food look cute! 
  • Be sneaky – hide the veggies. 
  • Make or buy snacks and keep them handy. 
  • Get them to help out in the kitchen. 
  • Adopt a pet if you have the means. 

Other Recommended Resources 

Vegan Cheat Sheet – This quick-glance sheet has all the information you could ever need. 

Challenge 22 – Designed for new vegans (that’s you!). You’ll receive your own personal mentor, plus daily recipes and tips to kickstart your new journey. Perfect. 

30 Non-Vegan Excuses & How To Respond to Them by Earthling Ed – Feel confident in any social situation when questioned by family or friends. (Or enemies!) – Dr. Greger’s website full of scientific research on your favorite foods 

What’s next? 

As a new vegan, your first time cooking seitan is almost a rite of passage. Check out our simple protein-packed seitan recipe here. 

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