Congratulations on considering a switch to a vegan diet. If you have gotten this far in your conversion, you already understand the benefits of the vegan / vegetarian diet, so I will leave that discussion for another article. While many are able to simply flip a switch and assume a new life, following are some simple guidelines to assist the rest of us.
1. Write a list of the benefits that you expect to accomplish with your new diet. Many convert to vegan / vegetarian diets for health or weight loss reasons. Others do so to reduce their impact on the environment or to detach themselves from the unethical slaughtering of animals that is implicit in the meat industry. Yet others, like myself, convert due to philosophical reasons or because they simply feel more "right with the world" as a vegan / vegetarian. Whatever your reason, get in touch with the new you.
2. Recognize that some compromises will have to be made. The food you eat will likely be different from the food that many of your family, friends and close colleagues will eat. Prepare yourself to explain that your conversion is important to you and that you will not judge them, nor do you expect to be judged by them.
3. Many find that getting comfortable on a lacto-ovo (including dairy and egg food items) vegetarian diet for a few months helps before the full conversion to a vegan diet is helpful. Be prepared to lose a few pounds of bodyweight while you experiment with new foods. If you have already gotten used to tofu and other soy products such as temperature and textured vegetable protein (TVP), you are ahead of the game. If not, do not fear; you will find that these products (they are readily available in health food and large grocery stores) can be made to nearly similar and taste like their meat counterparts, reducing the change you will have to experience.
4. Search the Internet for vegan / vegetarian recipes. Although restaurants are becoming increasingly accommodating of vegan / vegetarian diets, one of the benefits for me in the early years was the necessity of preparing many of my own meals made me a better cook and I saved money compared to eating out. There are also many vegan cookbooks that are readily available.
5. If improved health was one of your motivations for your conversion to a vegan / vegetarian diet, recognize that you still must be mindful of the quality of the ingredients in your food. Try to utilize whole grains and pastas; use cooking oils high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as hemp, olive or flax oils; avoid sugars and glucose (yes, including honey) and other simple carbohydrates like processed grains as much as possible; Ensure you get enough protein from beans, legumes, nuts and related products (consider a plant-based protein supplement if your diet is calorie-restricted).
6. Cast a shining light of health and happiness. You are making the world a better place. Your food choices protect the spirit of life.