This article is dedicated to my partner in life, Jason, who after much consideration has chosen that 2013 is the year to go vegan. Jason is not the kind of person to take decisions lightly and I know in this decision is a strong commitment.

But going vegan is not initially easy and so with him, and many of you in mind, I compiled this list:

13 tips for going vegan in 2013 

1. Stock up the kitchen. Fill up that pantry. Pack the refrigerator and cupboards. Arm yourself with all the vegan staples as well as easy-to-make snacks and meals. Salsa, tortillas, soy yogurt, Diaya cheese…have it all on hand.  Here is my original guide to stocking the vegan pantry. Check it out, but more importantly find what foods are necessities in your kitchen and fill it full.

2. Buy a cookbook. Investing in a cookbook can remind you that a plant-based diet is filled with delicious recipes and exciting culinary adventures. When I made the commitment to go vegan, I bought Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson. I spent hours flipping through that book finding amazing recipes, then making meal plans and grocery lists, thrilled that my new diet allowed me to try it all.

3. Engage with the online vegan community. Vegan websites and forums can be a great support to new vegans, especially for those who lack a vegan community at home. The Kind Life is a great vegan website with wonderful forums and discussion boards for novice and veteran vegans alike.  Post Punk Kitchen and VegSource are two other vegan communities I visit and are worth checking out.

4. Find your nearest health food store. Whether it’s Whole Foods Market or a local co-op, find your closest health food store and peruse their vegan offerings. You may be surprised to find that there is a vegan version of almost everything. From chicken cutlets to ice cream to spreadable cheese, vegan companies have been expanding nationwide and offer some incredible plant-based substitutions. Don’t have a health food store nearby? Find your vegan gourmet foods online at Vegan Essentials or Vegan Store.

5. Learn how to make your comfort foods. Whether it’s French Toast or Chocolate Chip Cookies there is always a delicious vegan version. Finding and mastering the right recipe that veganizes your favorite foods is key to success. Contrary to popular believe, going vegan doesn’t mean “I’ll never be able to have this again.” Rather, “I can’t wait to tell my friends this is vegan!” Check out Vegan Comfort Food and Vegan Diner for great comfort food classics.

6. Check out the vegan blogosphere. There are many amazing vegan chefs writing amazing vegan blogs creating amazing vegan recipes every single day. Keeping up with a few of these blogs will definitely fill you up with good, creative food tips. Some of my favorite vegan bloggers are: Oh She Glows, have cake, will travel, Oh My Veggies (vegetarian blog FILLED with vegan recipes), BitterSweet, & My New Roots.

7. Bring food EVERYWHERE. When I first made the transition to the vegan diet I experienced what I dubbed “food insecurity” which basically meant hunger anxiety whenever I left home. The problem was eventually solved when I made the brilliant discovery to always travel with food. Protein rich snacks, sweet treats, and convenience foods helped me regain confidence that I would not go hungry.

8. Try new things. Make an effort to fit a new meal into the weekly rotation. Don’t think you like tofu? Try using it in a different recipe.  Don’t think for a minute that you are committing to a life of bland tofu, lentils, and seeds. Having a good variety of foods and recipes will help keep veganism exciting and fresh.

9. Be kind to your body. The last thing you want to happen when transitioning to a vegan diet is to feel sick. The idea that vegans are skinny, weak, and unhealthy is outdated, and more and more research points to incredible health benefits of a vegan diet. But if you aren’t getting your B-12, eating enough plant-based protein, iron, and calcium, you will feel it. Take your supplements, adjust to your bodies needs, and then you will begin to understand your cravings.

10. Know the local restaurants. If eating out is an activity you enjoy with friends and families, it is very important to find the restaurants that serve vegan options. Portland, Oregon is a vegan’s wonderland but sadly not everyone can live in this incredible city.  Call around to your favorite restaurants and establish a handful that will cater to your dietary restrictions. If you’re traveling make sure to check out Happy Cow, a website devoted entirely to vegetarian/vegan dining.

11. Find your substitutions. Like I said earlier, there is now a vegan substitution for everything. But not all will satisfy your palet. So try them all. Start by finding your milk of choice. There are so many different milk options: soy, hazelnut, oat, hemp, rice, almond, coconut, etc. Test out different non-dairy cheeses (I suggest searching for the brands Diaya or Sheese). And read about how to replace eggs in baking, so that you can know how to make all your favorite non-vegan baked goods.

12. Get your fix. You may be surprised to learn how many junk foods are unintentionally vegan. Check out this list of vegan junk food and get to know it well. It is always comforting to know you can stop for gas in the middle of nowhere and pick up a bag of oreos. Or my personal favorite: Nutter Butters.

13. Email me. Dont hesitate to contact me with any questions. I am here to help!

Happy New Year! I believe 2013 is going to be GREAT.

Check out some of the things I have planed for The Sweet Life in 2013