In my last post about the Lunar New Year, I proposed we celebrate love and life every day of the year by embracing a nonviolent lifestyle — a worthwhile resolution for the new year. It seems like the most common New Year’s resolution that people make is to lose weight. In my opinion, a more sustainable and worthwhile goal would be to resolve to be healthier in general. But you don’t have to start cold turkey — no pun intended. Getting started as a vegan can begin with a commitment to a couple days a week or one meal a day, and you can build up from there once you get the hang of it. I shouldn’t have left you hanging with my last post. Here are some tips on how to get started as a vegan.

1. Get a vegan starter kit.

After consulting your doctor, because with any diet change it is wise to consult a professional, I highly suggest ordering/downloading a vegan starter kit. A vegan starter kit is a valuable resource that will help answer all of the initial questions you may have about becoming vegan and the sample meal plans will definitely be helpful. It includes information about where to get protein, calcium and iron, as well as tips on making the switch easier. You can download a free kit from the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine. PCRM.org also has a 21 Day Vegan Kick-Start plan, complete with recipes and grocery lists.

2. Pack your own study snacks.

Sadly, most of the time, the vending machines at school only offer pretzels or greasy potato chips for vegan snacking needs. It is a challenge to find a tasty healthy snack on campus, vegan or otherwise. Try to pack tasty items such as fresh fruits and nuts for yourself, so that you don’t have to succumb to the call of the junk food during your study sessions. Your body and your brain will thank you for the fiber and energy! My favorite snacks include apples, clementines, almonds and cashews.

3. Follow vegan blogs for inspiration.

Looking at vegan blogs and recipes online will give you ideas about what to eat, and most of the time the beautiful pictures alone will motivate you to cook something healthy for yourself. We are surrounded by advertisements for fattening and high-cholesterol foods from the fast food industry everyday — it’s time we look at what is good for us and follow through with our goals of being healthy. Some great vegan blogs to follow are The Post Punk Kitchen, Lunch Box Bunch and, my favorite as of late, findingvegan.com — it’s like foodgawker for vegans! On that last note, there is a vegan section on foodgawker that I also enjoy browsing.

4. Find like-minded people.

As with anything, it can be difficult to stick to a vegan lifestyle if you feel alone. Find people who have similar goals as you — this will make it easier because you will be able to share your experiences and receive encouragement from friends who are on the same path. You may be surprised to know that North Texas actually has a growing and vibrant vegan scene; check out the DallasVegan website for events and news related to veganism in the area. UT-Arlington even has a vegan club on campus that is open to all vegans, vegetarians, and the veg-curious. I strongly encourage you to join our constructive community so you can ask us questions, come to our events, taste the food at our potlucks — you won’t regret it! We can be contacted via Facebook , Tumblr , or Gmail.

5. Don’t beat yourself up.

Having an “all or nothing” mindset is what makes most New Year’s resolutions fail. We all make mistakes. We just need to get back up and continue. If you find yourself surrendering to a craving once or twice, or if you accidentally eat something that has animal products in it, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. There is no reason to quit just because of a small blunder. Veganism is not about perfectionism.

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