1. Don’t expect overnight change

Every day, introduce a food you haven’t tried before; this emphasizes new experiences rather than foods you eliminate. At the same time, phase out animal products, such as cheese and eggs, starting one meal at a time. The New York Times’ food writer Mark Bittman eats vegan during the day and indulges in whatever he wants for dinner. Or devote one day per week to meat-free meals. “You don’t need to eliminate too many foods, go raw, or cut out oils,” says Ginny Messina, MPH, RD.

2. Demystify the decision

“Vegan foods are not a separate food group,” says vegan author and chef Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. “You don’t say, ‘I’m having a vegan apple or vegan marinara sauce.’ It’s not that different from what you’re already familiar with.” Removing stigmas about what vegan is or isn’t makes the choice less daunting. “Think of it the same way as switching from Italian to Indian food,” she says.

3. Tap into resources

“Most of us are first-generation vegans,” says Messina. “We don’t have family habits and wisdom to fall back on.” The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) offers recipes and menu plans to help you shift to plant-based eating at pcrm.org/kickstarthome. Or, for a monthly fee, join Patrick-Goudreau’s online vegan community, The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (the30dayveganchallenge.com).

4. Focus on variety

“Eat a lot of colorful foods,” says PCRM’s Susan Levin, RD. “With the exception of onions and garlic, the darker the vegetable, the more nutrient dense it is.” Explore new recipes that employ beans and new-to-you foods. “The bean needs a better lobbying group,” Levin says, adding that it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods around. Patrick-Goudreau also suggests experimenting with seasonings; spices, herbs, and most condiments are naturally vegan.

5. Make time to cook

If you have time to drive to a restaurant, order food, and wait for it to come to your table, chances are you have time to prepare a meal at home. Patrick-Goudreau recommends taking 15 minutes a day to chop whatever vegetables are in your fridge. On Sundays, make a week’s worth of oatmeal, lentils, and rice. All cook in just 30 minutes and can be refrigerated for up to five days.

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