A love for animals is one of the most common reasons people decide to go vegan. Though many vegans do maintain their diets as a larger part of animal rights activism, they often also cite the environment as a reason for adopting a vegan diet. The environmental impacts of meat consumption are certainly significant.

Producing animal products requires huge amounts of land, water and food resources. Beef productions is especially resource-draining, requiring 15,000 liters of water to make just one kilogram of meat. Water resources are used not only to keep animals hydrated but also to grow the immense amount of feed they require, which can create competition between humans and cattle for food and agricultural land.

One study found that vegan and vegetarian diets might provide a solution — individual ovo-lacto vegetarian and vegan diets were found to be associated with reduced carbon, water and ecological footprints than diets that included meat.

It’s clear that switching to a diet less reliant on animal products could be a good way to help the environment if you so choose. However, many people who would otherwise be interested in this way of life are hesitant to make the switch due to perceived challenges, such as restriction and nutritional deficiencies. Indeed, veganism is a big lifestyle change, and it’s very important to make sure you’re getting your protein and various vitamins and minerals from other sources.

Going vegan is a big lifestyle change, but it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be difficult. Here are a few ways you can make a smooth, safe and healthy transition to a vegan lifestyle.

Transition Gradually

The thought of transitioning to a vegan diet overnight prevents some people from taking the plunge. Though some do successfully change their lives overnight, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so.

Being vegan is a big change, and it takes time to execute. In order to make your transition as easy as possible, consider implementing gradual changes instead of sudden ones. Remove animal products you won’t miss first, then gradually get rid of others as you become comfortable.

As you slowly eliminate animal products from your diet, you’ll find nutritious alternative sources of protein and vitamins, discover meals that you love and become more comfortable with vegan cooking. By making your changes gradually, you’ll be more likely to stick with your new lifestyle. Even if you are unable to eliminate 100 percent of animal products from your life, doing as much as you can is worth the effort if you’re interested in the benefits that can come from this lifestyle.

Do Your Research

Another big part of successfully transitioning to veganism is getting informed. A vegan lifestyle can be really healthy, but you need to be intentional about your food choices. Before you make changes, do your research and find some plant-based sources for protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B-12.

The good news is it’s a great time to be a vegan! Advances in technology and the food industry mean there are many great alternative sources of protein available. Food items like plant-based pasta and quinoa make great bases for your meals. Top them with lots of veggies, herbs and sauces! And if you’re truly concerned about your ability to meet your nutritional needs, you can consult a nutritionist or doctor for advice.

In addition, you should consider researching the companies and restaurants you support. Though many companies now place “ethically sourced,” “sustainable practices” or “local” labels on their food products and menu options, these labels don’t always tell the whole story. Some restaurants and food chains have even used these claims fraudulently to boost sales and cash in on the green movement that is gaining popularity nowadays. Do your research, shop produce locally and ask restaurants specifics about their ingredients.

Discover Healthy Alternatives

If you’re worried about specific food cravings after going vegan, you shouldn’t let it deter you. Though cheese and some favorite meats can be barriers for some people, there are vegan alternatives that can satisfy cravings for animal products without guilt or negative environmental impact. Vegan cheeses and meat alternatives can all be good options.

Though going vegan can be challenging, many people find that it is worth the effort. Individuals can make an environmental impact by making conscious dietary choices, and a reduction of animal products in your diet has been shown to help individuals with a variety of health issues. If you’re considering a vegan diet, give it a try — just make sure you do it right! Almost anyone can adopt a more sustainable diet with the right knowledge and determination.

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