How To Go Vegan For Beginners
You may have heard about a concept called veganism, or perhaps you have a friend or family member who is vegan.
You’re curious about it, and maybe even a little hesitant, because you’re not sure how to go about living a vegan lifestyle.
Whether you’re ready to dive right into the vegan lifestyle or you just want to lean in to see what it’s like, we’re here to help. As a beauty box company that was founded by three thriving vegans who are also long-time animal activists, Kinder Beauty is driven by kindness and compassion for animals—and we want to be able to share our knowledge so that you, too, can live your very best plant-based life.
Here’s the thing, Kinder Beauties: Going vegan can be a piece of (egg-free) cake once you make the decision to do it. That’s the most important first step on your journey. Going vegan means doing your best to avoid the use or consumption of animal products (because we all love animals and don’t want to harm them, right?), and this intention usually starts with your diet.
What is a vegan diet?
Simply put, vegans don’t eat animals—but they eat everything else. Animal foods like beef, chicken, other poultry, pork, seafood, eggs, dairy, and honey (because we love bees, too) are replaced with vegetables of all kinds, fruit, beans, nuts, and grains. Your protein sources become plant-based foods like legumes, tofu, tempeh (fermented soybeans), seitan (made from the protein in wheat), quinoa, nuts, and seeds—plus all the Beyond burgers or Gardein chicken nuggets your heart desires, if that’s your jam.
All of the above are good sources of protein for vegan and vegetarian dishes. Butter is replaced with plant-based oils like coconut, avocado, or olive, or vegan butter made by brands like Earth Balance, Califia Farms, or Melt Organic. Eggs are replaced with tofu scramble or JUST Egg (or flaxseeds if you’re baking). Dairy milk is replaced with dairy alternatives—plant-based milks like almond, cashew, coconut, or oat milk. Cheese is replaced with vegan cheeses from brands like Miyoko’s Creamery, Violife, Kite Hill, Field Roast, or Treeline. And honey is replaced with sweeteners like maple syrup or agave.
If there are particular animal-based products you love most and feel like you can’t live without, trust us when we say that someone has made a vegan version of it.
Let’s break it down a little further.
When it comes to vegan food, vegans often stock their pantry with foods like:
- Fresh and frozen leafy greens (plus other veggies) and fruit
- Beans and legumes like chickpeas, black beans, lentils, and bean-based products like hummus and black bean burgers
- Soy products like tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and vegan meats
- Whole grains and breads like oats, rice, quinoa, bread, bagels, pita, and pasta
- Healthy fats like avocados, coconut milk, olive oil, and sesame oil
- Nuts and seeds, including nut butter and tahini
- Plant milks made from almonds, cashews, coconut, or oats
- Vegan cheese, animal-free butter, and non-dairy yogurt
- Condiments like salsa, tamari, sriracha, and vegan mayo
- Snacks like potato chips, popcorn kernels, and crackers
Why go vegan?
You may have already heard about the common reasons why people adopt a vegan lifestyle. These include animal welfare and the decision to no longer support factory farming or exploiting animals for our own purposes—this is what motivated Kinder Beauty co-founders and actresses Daniella Monet and Evanna Lynch, along with Andrew Bernstein, to go vegan in the first place.
Once you make the connection between individual animals, who think and feel and have social circles, and what’s on your plate, that shocking truth can be difficult to comprehend.
Environmental concerns are another reason people go vegan—once you learn that animal agriculture is the top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the leading cause of deforestation, and is directly associated with often-devastating contaminated water events because of manure runoff into local water supplies.
And lastly, people go vegan for health benefits, because research has linked vegan diets with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers. Your overall health (and, more specifically, your heart health) can be greatly improved by introducing a well-planned vegan diet.
One of these reasons might speak to you more than the others, or it’s possible that all of them combined are important to you and inspire you to make positive change (oh, and let us reiterate—vegans do indeed get enough protein through plant sources!).
Before you start your transition to a vegan lifestyle, remember that going vegan is a learning curve. Living a vegan lifestyle in a non-vegan world takes courage, so keep reminding yourself of the reasons you chose this lifestyle (see above) and pat yourself on the back for the progress you make along the way.
You don't need to be a dietician to be a healthy vegan, nor do you need to be a rocket scientist. Replacing animal meat, eggs, and dairy products is easy as long as you know what to do and have access to some delicious vegan recipes to help you on your path.
How should you make the transition to veganism?
Once you make the decision to go vegan, find an approach that works best for you. Don’t feel like you have to go all-in on Day 1 if you don’t think you’re ready. Instead of just jumping into uncharted territory with hemp smoothies and kale salads, make the transition smoother by finding vegan ways to recreate your favorite meals.
Make mac and cheese with cashew-based cheese sauce, or try a Beyond burger with a side of fries (yes, they’re vegan!). Ease into this new lifestyle gradually, patiently, and sensibly so it doesn’t feel overwhelming and you can stick to it long term.
Take one step at a time if you need to by swapping out one animal product at a time—try a week with almond milk instead of cow's milk, and then when you’re ready, swap your favorite yogurt for a coconut-based version, then start incorporating more vegan meals, and so on. Focus on adding new foods and vegan alternatives to your repertoire instead of just subtracting, and stock your pantry with vegan-friendly products so you always have them on hand and don’t feel deprived.
It’s often easier to stick to as many whole plant foods as you can (fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains) as well as popular vegan brands so you don’t have to worry about reading labels. You’ll notice that many unsuspecting products that line the shelves of the grocery store can contain hidden animal ingredients.
Be aware of words that refer to additives derived from animals, such as casein (the protein in cows’ milk), rennet (an enzyme from cows’ stomachs), lactose (also from cows), shellac (secretions from crushed beetles), whey (a byproduct of dairy cheesemaking), and gelatin (from the skin and bones of animals)—ew, right? The thought of trying to decipher these unfamiliar ingredients might feel overwhelming and annoying (we get it), but don’t let it deter you.
If you accidentally eat or purchase something with a byproduct you didn’t know about, it’s OK. (It really is!) You’ll learn the lingo over time, and buying vegan products will become a habit. Once you learn what ingredients to look for, you can quickly scan the ingredients lists and leave the products with these ingredients behind for better options. Because of the rise in veganism in recent years, many products are now labeled vegan if they are, so keep an eye out for labels that say “vegan-friendly” or “suitable for vegans” or have a “certified vegan” logo.
In addition to consuming lots of fruit and veggies, lean on accessible vegan brands to help make the transition easier and more convenient. Here are a few we love:
Vegan ice cream:
Take your time and stay open-minded when exploring and trying out new vegan options in the grocery store. If you buy a vegan cream cheese and you don’t like the taste, try another brand. After a little trial and error, you’ll quickly learn which vegan products you love most and want to keep stocked in your kitchen.
How can you give your body a boost?
At some point, or maybe even right away, you’ll likely feel and see the benefits of eating a diet filled with nutrient-dense plants, including higher energy levels, improved blood pressure, and clearer skin. If you’re feeling less than stellar at the start, read up a bit on nutrition and be sure you’re eating a balanced diet and enough calories for your age and activity level.
Eating plants means you often have to eat more, since they are usually lower in calories and more filling. Be sure you’re loading up on high-protein foods like lentils, hemp seeds, and smoothies made with plant-based protein powder, along with good fats like avocados and nut butters. Transitional side effects like digestive issues (eating more fiber does that to you) and cravings will go away over time, we promise. You will absolutely be getting your essential nutrients by eating this way.
Despite the misconception, you can meet all your nutritional needs, including protein, iron, and calcium, while following a well-balanced vegan diet that will improve your health. With that said, it’s important to include reliable sources of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can be more difficult to obtain. These can be obtained by eating the right mix of fortified foods and supplements, or you can choose to take a vegan multivitamin if you’re worried you might be lacking.
Pro-tip: At the very least, take a B12 supplement, and let nutritional yeast (cheese-flavored flakes or powder that are often fortified with B12) be your best friend. Eat something that contains omega fatty acids daily, like flax, hemp, or chia seeds or oil, and for Vitamin D opt for fortified plant milk and be sure to get out in the sun for at least 15 minutes a day (after slathering on vegan sunscreen, of course) to help increase your body’s natural vitamin D production.
Should you extend veganism beyond food?
Once you feel confident in your vegan diet, the principles of avoiding products that involve animal cruelty can be applied to other aspects of your life, including clothes, makeup, personal care products, and entertainment. While it is virtually impossible to avoid all animal products everywhere, there are some things you’ll want to consider being intentional about avoiding:
- Products that are tested on animals
- Animal-derived fabrics such as leather, suede, wool, silk, down filling, and fur
- Personal care products that contain animal ingredients, such as beeswax, lanolin, honey, and keratin
- Animals used as entertainment in zoos, circuses, aquariums, and rodeos
When extending veganism beyond food and into a lifestyle, it can feel like you’re cutting yourself off from so many options in so many aspects of your life. This is when you need to remind yourself of your reasons for being vegan, knowing that veganism isn’t about being perfect. You can go as far as possible and practical.
Is it easy to avoid products that are tested on animals?
The use of animals for scientific testing and experiments is a big concern for us at Kinder Beauty, and that’s why we always look for products that are not tested on animals. We want to be sure the beauty products we recommend and are included in our curated monthly beauty boxes are 100-percent cruelty-free and vegan.
Animal testing that is involved in the development of products such as cosmetics, skincare, and personal care products, and cleaning supplies—or for any reason—is cruel and unnecessary and not even required by law, and most people would agree that it’s not okay.
Unfortunately, animal testing is one of those things that happens on many products before they are sold in stores, and without us even knowing about it. But how can you tell if the products you’re buying are not tested on animals? The easiest way to find them is to scan the product packaging for a logo or labeling that says it is cruelty-free or not tested on animals.
The leaping bunny logo from Cruelty-Free International and the cruelty-free logo from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are internationally recognized symbols guaranteeing that no new animal tests were performed in the development of the product. You can also do your own research before you go shopping by utilizing online resources such as PETA, Cruelty Free International, and the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, which provide searchable databases of companies and brands that do not test on animals.
What is the difference between cruelty-free and vegan?
Keep in mind that cruelty-free and vegan are not mutually exclusive. While a product might be labeled “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” it may still contain animal-derived ingredients like beeswax or goat’s milk. Similarly, a vegan product contains no animal ingredients but could still be tested on animals.
It’s tricky and slightly misleading, but the distinction is an important one for the discerning consumer. Be sure to search for products that are marked as both vegan and cruelty-free. That might seem limiting, but vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics, self-care products, cleaning supplies, and other products are available everywhere, including your local drugstore and supermarket—you just have to look out for them.
What is vegan beauty?
When it comes to beauty products, those who live a vegan lifestyle usually opt for products that are vegan and cruelty-free, since they both mean making purchasing choices that don’t harm animals. Choosing cosmetics and other personal-care items that are vegan is not difficult, but it can involve a little research.
The ingredient lists on makeup products can be downright confusing—even more so than food labels—and can include animal-derived ingredients such as beeswax (produced by honey bees to construct their hives), tallow (fat from cows), lanolin (a byproduct of the wool industry), carmine (secretions from crushed beetles), keratin (from animal hair, feathers, horns, and hoofs), and collagen (the protein from animal hair, skin, bones, and nails).
To be fair, even long-time vegans might not know what every single ingredient is in the products they are using. Some ingredients have multiple names, other ingredients can be derived from plants or animals, and then there are the ingredients that are nearly impossible to pronounce. But we do what is practical and possible (because, again, being vegan does not mean being perfect). In other words, if there are two beauty product options, we always choose the most compassionate one.
Products that are labeled “vegan,” “vegan-friendly,” or “100% vegan” do not contain animal products or byproducts, including beeswax and honey. At any drugstore or beauty store chain, you’re likely to come across all-vegan and cruelty-free beauty brands such as KVD Vegan Beauty and Milk Makeup. As well, some brands don’t test on animals but only offer some products that are vegan, such as Anastasia Beverly Hills and Urban Decay.
To decipher which brands are both vegan and cruelty-free, look for products that include a certified vegan logo on their packaging. These third-party certifications come from organizations such as Vegan Action, Vegan Society, or PETA (note that PETA offers two logos: one that certifies products that don’t test on animals, and one that shows a product is both vegan and cruelty-free). You can also try reading the ingredients list for any obvious animal-derived ingredients such as those mentioned above.
Alternatively, you can do your homework ahead of time by researching brands you love. Some might be transparent about their processes and explain it all on their website. You can also use online resources such as Logical Harmony and PETA, both of which share updated information about beauty brands. Note that Leaping Bunny, Cruelty-Free International, and Choose Cruelty-Free only certify brands that don’t test on animals, but they don’t necessarily have to be vegan to obtain the cruelty-free logo. And, of course, all products you'll find in Kinder Beauty boxes are totally vegan and cruelty-free. We do the hard work for you so that you don't have to.
An easy way to make the transition to vegan beauty is by purchasing a vegan and cruelty-free brand when you’re due for a new mascara or you’re out of lip balm. You can also try vegan brands that are new to you by signing up for all-vegan beauty subscription boxes like Kinder Beauty, which sends vegan, cruelty-free, and clean beauty products right to your door once a month.
What is vegan fashion?
Similar to vegan beauty, vegan fashion is clothing and accessories that were made without using or containing animals. Animal materials used in fashion include fur (most often taken from fox and mink), angora (fur from rabbits), wool (from sheep), silk (from silkworms), down (feathers from geese or ducks), leather (animal skin), and suede (more animal skin). Vegans avoid these conventional materials and instead opt for more compassionate options that don’t require harming animals—and to think we once considered wearing animal’s skin trendy and desirable? Ew.
The good news is that the fashion industry has seen some major shifts towards a more compassionate approach in recent years. Brands’ use of terms such as “vegan” and “cruelty-free” on fashion labels has been gaining prominence, thanks to conscious consumers who are keen on extending their vegan principles to the clothing and accessories they wear.
Today, major fashion brands are leaning into vegan fashion with high-quality textiles and other materials that are made without exploiting animals. Hemp, linen, cotton, polyester, nylon, and denim are all vegan, and materials such as wool-free knitwear, silk-like vegan fabrics, synthetic felt, artificial feathers, and faux leather are also available, and it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference when used in clothing, bags, shoes, belts, and other fashion items.
As well, many companies are developing more sustainable plant-based leather materials made from pineapple fibers, apple peels, cacti, and mushrooms.
When it comes to sourcing vegan fashion items, the easiest thing to do is check the label for animal materials such as those above. Many fashion brands label their items as vegan or cruelty-free—note that these words are interchangeable in the fashion world because apparel and accessories don’t carry out animal testing. If a jacket looks like leather, check the label before passing it over, because you might be surprised to find that it is vegan.
A final word
At Kinder Beauty, we can surely attest to the fact that a vegan lifestyle is glorious, and we believe it’s the single best thing you can do for the planet, the animals, and yourself. If you’re ready to dive in, do it your way and in your own time, knowing that you’re making a difference—every little bit counts and is a step in the right direction. Most importantly, though, remember that veganism is all about compassion, and that includes being kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself and this new lifestyle.
You got this.