How to Go Vegan Cold Turkey: 14 Steps to Take Overnight

It’s common advice to transition to a vegan diet gradually. But while that works for many, it’s not what I did. Thirteen years ago, I decided to go vegan in a single instant—and I haven’t looked back.

If you wanna go vegan cold turkey, I say all the better. Take action while you’re motivated! This post is your guide to going vegan overnight. We’ll cover 14 steps every new vegan should take in those first few hours and days for maximum success.

My Story of Going Vegan Overnight

I still remember the moment I decided to go vegan. I made the decision in a single instant—and, not counting accidental slips, I’ve been vegan for almost 13 years since that moment.

I had been considering going vegan for a while. I had seen a few videos about the way animals were treated on factory farms. I had flirted with vegetarianism.

But one morning, after seeing another video about factory farms the previous night, I decided I just didn’t want to eat the eggs I had planned on the menu. I decided enough was enough.

That first day, I just ate the vegan foods I already had in the house: A banana, some carrots, some saltine crackers and peanut butter. Not a great diet!

But I made a decision, and I used the emotional momentum to just GO with it.

In the next few days, I looked up resources online about how to be vegan. I drove two hours to the nearest natural foods store (since I lived in a small town without one). I bought some “vegan cheese,” which was pretty bad back then (it’s gotten better in the past 13 years), and other supplies.

For me, it was the right decision to just commit to this and DO IT already. Other people like to transition gradually, and that can work, but it wasn’t my style. Once I decided to do it, I wanted to leave my past diet behind and get on with it!

14 Steps to Go Vegan Cold Turkey

If going vegan overnight sounds right for you, here are my tips—one for each year that I’ve been vegan myself.

The first two steps are kinda about goal-setting. All the others are a bit more “practical,” but these first ones will give you a solid foundation to actually go vegan for the long-term.

1. Get Absolutely Clear on Why You’re Doing This.

Going vegan can be amazing, but it can also be challenging, confusing, or awkward at times. So you need to know why you’re doing this.

As someone who has made it 13 years, trust me. I’ve seen a lot of my friends quit. Why? Because they forgot their reasons.

A lot of people get emotionally inspired to go vegan after watching a documentary or something. But then, a few weeks later, they forget about their reasons, lose motivation, and give it up.

Here are two important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Imagine a future where you’ve been a vegan for a year and things are going perfectly. What does it look like? What kinds of foods are you eating? Has it impacted your health or body at all? Has it changed the people/places you hang around? Do you feel good about it? Why? What is so good about it? What are you able to do, have, or be now? What’s changed in this dream scenario that matters most to you?
  2. Identify the strongest impulse urging you away from animal foods. Imagine a cheeseburger on a plate in front of you. Now—what’s the strongest emotional reason you feel NOT to eat it? Are you thinking of the cows who suffered, maybe even a specific detail or video you saw? Are you thinking of how it’s causing disease in your body, and how that could cut short your time with loved ones? Or how it’s made you overweight and embarrassed about your body? Or how the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed by this industry? Connect with your deepest, most emotional reason for doing this.

Knowing both of these things—what’s pulling you toward veganism and away from animal foods—will make it much easier to stay vegan. But you have to know them on a real, emotional level. Not just logical.

So spend some time on this reflection: Why do you even care enough to go vegan? Some days, it will be inconvenient. You need a why.

Another thing: It’s okay for your reasons to evolve. When I first went vegan, it was completely for animal ethics. But now, 13 years later, I eat a specific kind of healthier vegan diet to keep my skin clear and to help keep my abs. (I have a whole post on “How to Get Six-Pack Abs with a Vegan Diet.”)

So get clear on your current motivations. They’re your foundation. If you feel strongly about them, they’re unlikely to change soon.

2. Just Decide You’re Doing This.

If you’re doing this, then do it. Don’t just say “I might try veganism.” Commit while you feel connected to your reasons.

I remember listening to a Tony Robbins talk once where he pointed out the power of our decisions.

Tony emphasized that the word “decide” comes from the Latin word decidere, which is a combination of de- (“off”) and caedere (“cut”). Deciding is the act of cutting off other possibilities.

Tony emphasized that it’s in our moments of decision that our life is really shaped. This was a powerful realization for me.

If being vegan is a direction you want to take in life, then just decide. Cut off the possibility of not doing it.

You don’t necessarily need to commit to doing it forever. But commit to trying 30 days, 90 days, a year, or whatever feels right to you. But commit. Then you can reassess after a certain point how it’s going, whether it’s made your life better, and if you want to keep going.

Side Note: If you’re interested in the Tony Robbins talk, it was part of his audiobook Awaken the Giant Within (Amazon link).

3. Identify Vegan Foods You Already Like.

Mangos!

As a new vegan, you will be exploring a ton of new food. It’s potentially a very exciting time! But to make the transition even easier, you should start with a list of plant-based foods you already know and love.

Some of these will be obvious:

  • What fruits and vegetables do you like?
  • Do you like any nuts or seeds?
  • What about beans?
  • When it comes to grains and starches, do you like rice? Pasta? Corn? Potatoes? Quinoa or couscous?

In a later step, you’ll be going through your pantry and identifying what is vegan and what is not. So in that process, you’ll probably find more packaged foods that are vegan, too.

There are also great resources online for seeing what foods are “Accidentally Vegan.” If you’re okay with eating processed foods, you should look through at least one of these lists! They may surprise you! Here’s one from PETA.

Just be aware that many of the “accidentally vegan” foods are still very unhealthy (like Nutter Butters and Oreos, for example). Don’t assume everything “vegan” is healthy! For the healthiest vegan diet, stick to whole plant foods.

4. Look into “Veganizing” a Few of Your Favorite Meals.

Everything can be veganized. Everything.

If you love cheesecake and you’re worried you can’t “give it up,” just search for “vegan cheesecake recipes” online. If you’re worried you can’t live without mac and cheese or pizza: Just type the food plus “vegan recipe” or “vegan alternative” into Google.

Sometimes, you can just veganize a meal by quickly replacing the animal-based component with a “mock meat” or a plant milk. Other times you’ll have to make it all from scratch.

But this can be a very fun process. I still remember my first attempt at making vegan cake. Honestly, it turned out pretty bad! But it was fun, and I got better over time. (This is the recipe you need if you’re doing chocolate cake, FYI.)

I live in a vegan household today, and one of my roommates is constantly eating cereal. His favorites are Rice Krispies, Cheerios, and Corn Flakes. He just uses soymilk instead of cow’s milk. This is one of the simplest forms of “veganizing” a meal.

Check if your own favorite cereals are vegan, or if there are vegan alternatives! (You’ll find some controversy about the fortified vitamin D in cereal—here’s my response to that.)

Some people like soymilk, while others prefer almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk. Try them and see what you like. Once you have your go-to plant milk, you can plug it into any recipe that calls for “milk,” and it should work fine.

One more quick thing you should know about: You can make vegan “ice cream” from frozen bananas. And it’s SO GOOD. Here’s a guide on how to do it.

5. Try to Convince a Friend to Try Vegan With You.

Going vegan is more fun with others.

For some people, going vegan is easy, and for others, it’s quite hard. What’s the #1 factor that affects whether it’s easy or hard for you? In my opinion, it’s your social environment.

If you can find a vegan buddy, or a few—or at least someone willing to try some vegan foods with you—that will make this transition so much more fun.

You want to find the people in your family, friend group, or larger community who will support you in this and join in. If you’re only eating vegan food alone, and if your veganism is a wedge between you and your loved ones, that may be hard.

You at least want someone who’s willing to come over and bake some vegan food with you (or at least try the food you make)! Someone who will come along to some vegetarian restaurants in your city. That kind of thing!

Start reaching out to some of your friends. Send a text right now, and say: “Hey, I decided I’m going vegan cold turkey. Want to do it with me? Or at least share some meals?”

If they’re not convinced, maybe show them the same information that convinced you. Show them a vegan documentary. Show them health transformations other people have had on the diet. Talk to them about why you believe in making the switch, and see if you can get them on board.

Note: Sometimes, you may convince a friend to try vegan for a week or two, but then they’ll give it up. They may end up being less committed than you. Even in those cases, it’ll still help you to have a vegan buddy for a while, and someone who understands it and can chat about it.

6. Sign Up for Nutriciously’s Free Vegan Transition Course.

Sign up for Nutriciously’s free 6-part vegan transition course.

Nutriciously is one of my favorite vegan blogs. They have a number of e-books and free courses that are great for getting started on a plant-based diet.

If you’re going vegan cold turkey, I’d highly recommend their free vegan transition email course. You can sign up in 10 seconds now, and then you’ll get more high-quality vegan guidance sent out to you over the next 10 days.

The course includes specific meal plans along with more general advice, and it busts some of the most common myths about veganism.

If you’re going vegan for weight loss, you could also check out Nutriciously’s free weight-loss challenge. Along with some vegan basics, they also teach you about calorie density, too, so you can make sure you lose weight. Learn more about their healthy weight loss challenge here.

7. Get Rid of Any Animal-Based Foods You Have.

This would be optional if you were transitioning gradually… But if you’re doing this cold turkey, there’s no reason to hold onto non-vegan foods you have around. They’ll just go to waste or, worse, derail you.

The easiest and quickest option is just throwing them in the trash.

But if you have non-vegan friends or family who want them, you could give them a donation. Getting them out of your house and out of your sight will help cement the fact that you’re doing this.

When it comes to non-food animal products, like leather boots or coats, it’s really up to you. Some vegans are grossed out by them and go donate them to a thrift store. Other vegans keep the leather they already have but just stop buying new leather.

So anyway, go through your pantry and start checking what’s vegan. Which brings me to the next point:

8. Learn How to Check If Things Are Vegan.

An image from my 3-step guide to vegan label reading.

There are several ways to check if foods and other products are vegan. The one I recommend most is outlined in my blog post called “How to Check If Any Food Is Vegan: 3 Easy Steps (with Pics).

That post shares the 3 steps I go through when looking at any food label. It might seem tedious at first, but it quickly gets faster. Often, you can stop at step 1 or step 2. You’ll be surprised how fast you get.

Another way to check the vegan status of a product is with an app. There are at least a few—Vegan Pocket and Is It Vegan are two apps I personally have tried. They both work by scanning the barcode of each product. They’re okay. I reviewed them both in the label reading post.

Another option for checking the vegan status of things is just Googling “Is _______ vegan?” Several blogs specialize in answering these questions. In fact, I’ve answered a few myself. (See my posts on BBQ sauce and liquid smoke.)

It’s possible to find huge lists of animal ingredients online—PETA has an old one that I remember printing off when I first went vegan. It was 21 pages long. But is that necessary?

I would say no.

Don’t worry about the animal by-products that just occasionally get used in small quantities. Especially when you first go vegan! Just avoid the main ones. I covered the ingredients I avoid in my label reading post.

9. Order a Good Vegan Multivitamin.

There’s potentially a lot you can learn about vegan nutrition. But one simple step you can take right now is ordering a good multivitamin.

Along with my multivitamin recommendation, I want to cover the nutrients you’re most at risk of being low in, as a vegan.

The best vegan multivitamin by far. Read why in my review.

The biggest one is vitamin B12. It’s not necessarily an urgent problem—your body can recycle its supply for a while. But if you’re going to stay vegan, you NEED to supplement with B12. The only typical food source is meat. Yes, it’s fortified in some vegan foods, but due to absorption issues, it’s better to supplement.

Another one is vitamin D. Most people are low in vitamin D, especially during the winter, and vegans are a bit lower yet, on average. It’s not found in many vegan foods. Try to supplement with around 2,000 IU of vegan vitamin D3 on days when you’re not getting sunlight. (source)

You may also want to take DHA/EPA (omega 3). Most people get their omega-3 fats from fish or fish oil. As a vegan, you can get omega-3s from flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts, but those only give you a precursor of the forms your body needs (DHA/EPA). So it’s best to supplement with vegan DHA/EPA made from algae.

There are a few other nutrients that some vegans run low on, which I’ll cover in a later point. However, these 3 are the only nutrients recommended to take in supplement form by Dr. Michael Greger, one of the leading voices in plant-based nutrition. (source)

And this is why, in my opinion, the best vegan multivitamin by far is the Future Kind Essential Multivitamin. It only contains those 3 nutrients and no other junk. This is important because some nutrients can actually be harmful when you get too much. Read my full review of the Future Kind multivitamin here.

10. Find the Veg-Friendly Restaurants in Your Area.

A map showing vegan-friendly spots in Scranton, PA. From the Happy Cow app.

If you’re in a big city, you may already know of some vegan restaurants near you. But even in a small town, there are bound to be some vegan options at restaurants near you.

There’s an app I highly recommend for finding veggie restaurants in your area. It’s called Happy Cow. It’s like Yelp for vegans.

Happy Cow shows vegan restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, health food stores, and restaurants that serve meat but also have good vegan options.

The website version of Happy Cow is free. The iPhone app was $3 last I check. It is easily worth it, especially if you travel. You can open up the app anytime and see a map of the veg-friendly restaurants near you.

Happy Cow will absolutely save you while traveling. You’ll be hanging out with some non-vegans, and they’ll be trying to make dinner plans. You can quickly pull up a list of the places nearby with good vegan options, with little reviews, pictures, and more.

Types of Restaurants to Look For

Anyway—besides the app recommendation, I also wanted to give you a more general sense of what to look for. Here’s a list of the options at many common kinds of restaurants:

  • Indian restaurants, Thai restaurants, Ethiopian restaurants, and Middle Eastern restaurants have lots of vegan options—I couldn’t even list them all here. But it should be easy for you to find options.
  • Most Chinese restaurants will offer tofu and vegetables that you can substitute into any dish. Just ask about “fish sauce,” as it’s sometimes contained in some asian sauces.
  • Most Mexican restaurants have bean burritos that can be made vegan, and the typical tortilla chips are definitely vegan, too.
  • Most Japanese restaurants offer at least a few vegan maki rolls—avocado rolls are most common. The miso soup and spring rolls are often vegan, too—and don’t forget about edamame (it’s just soybeans!).
  • Italian restaurants offer pasta with meatless marinara sauce. The breadsticks usually contain butter—but you can ask for “dry sticks without dairy,” and they’ll usually make them vegan for you.
  • More and more pizzerias are offering vegan cheese nowadays. But even if not, the dough is almost always vegan—so you can order a cheese-free pizza, and just load it up with veggies.
  • Some American diners are a bit more barren for vegans, but sometimes there’s a vegan burger. If nothing else, there’s always french fries and other sides! (Vegans can eat most french fries. This post has the details.)

So find a few places near you. Plan to go visit them in the coming week, if possible. And take a friend who’s down to try some vegan food with you!

11. Get Some Vegan Reading Material.

Many people quit veganism because they lose touch with their reasons. But reading a vegan book or two will expand and deepen your reasons.

There are different types of books worth listing here. Choose the one(s) that spark your interest the most. And if books are not your thing at all, you can skip to the next step (Internet resources).

If you’re going vegan for weight loss, you may want a book on a specific plant-based diet program (I also wrote longer reviews for each of these in my post on “The Best Vegan Nutrition Books“):

  • The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall. This program works for most people who are overweight, and it’s a bit easier to follow than others. It includes a lot of comfort foods like mashed potatoes, corn, pasta, and rice. Check price on Amazon.
  • How Not to Diet is the weight-loss book from Dr. Michael Greger. This is a book for true science and fat-loss optimization nerds. You won’t just get a basic guide—you’ll get all the science to back it up, shared by an enthusiastic host. Check price on Amazon.

If you’re going vegan for ethical reasons, you may want a book that helps you develop your philosophy on these issues. (You’ll probably get a lot of people asking why you’re vegan, so it’s nice to have an answer!)

  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. This is one of the most popular and engaging books about the ethics of eating animals. Many people talk about how this book made them go vegan. Check price on Amazon.
  • Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. It’s the most influential animal rights book ever. It uses utilitarian ethics to argue why animal suffering shouldn’t be ignored. I find it 9/10 convincing. If you’re interested in philosophy, this book could change your life. Check price on Amazon.
  • I share more about the morality of veganism in my mega-post on vegan ethics.

If you’re going vegan for disease prevention or overall health, you should check these out:

  • The China Study by T. Colin Campbell shares his amazing research on how a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer. It also shares research on how a plant-based diet impacts heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and more. This book changed the world and even influenced Bill Clinton to go vegan. Check price on Amazon.
  • How Not to Die—this is a different book than How Not to Diet (above). Both are by Dr. Greger, but this one covers how a plant-based diet affects all 15 of the most common causes of death. It’s full of exciting research on how plants will basically make you superhuman. I listed it last, but it’s actually my favorite vegan book! Check price on Amazon.

Oh wait—actually, I’ll mention one last book: Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis. It’s the one I personally read right after going vegan.

Becoming Vegan gives a nice overview of which nutrients you need to make sure you’re getting on a vegan diet, and how to get them. It’ll raise your vegan nutrition confidence, without prescribing an exact diet. That said, I like the books above more for emotional impact.

12. Follow Vegan Channels, Accounts, and Groups Online.

The exact vegan sources you follow online will depend on your personal style, goals, and tastes—but I’ll share some you may want to check out.

Following these vegan resources can give you inspiration, ideas, and a feeling of community. They tend to be especially important for new vegans who don’t know other vegans in person.

Vegan YouTube Channels:

  • Plant Based News: Great channel to start with—includes nutrition, ethics, documentaries, and more. Watch.
  • Nutrition Facts: Nutrition videos from the Internet’s most enthusiastic vegan doc, Michael Greger, MD. Watch.
  • Earthling Ed: Vegan guy who debates non-vegans and gives compelling talks on why vegan. Watch.
  • High-Carb Hannah: Weight loss channel by a woman who got slim eating low-fat vegan. Watch.
  • Simnett Nutrition: Healthy vegan food ideas and fitness (calisthenics and weight lifting). Watch.
  • Sweet Potato Soul: Tons of great vegan recipes and tips from a friendly vegan mom. Watch.

Vegan Podcasts:

  • Food for Thought: Vegan philosophy and practical tips from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Listen.
  • No Meat Athlete: A great resource for vegan athletes (especially runners). Listen.
  • Nutrition Facts: The podcast version of Dr. Greger’s deep-dives into plant-based nutrition. Listen.
  • The Vegan Vanguard: Radical left politics and veganism—not for everyone, but some will love this. Listen.

Vegan Forums and Groups:

13. Order a Vegan Cookbook.

My favorite vegan cookbook. (Check current price on Amazon.)

There are tons of vegan cookbooks for all different culinary styles and sub-types of vegans. Even if you don’t cook much, it can be nice to have ONE to flip through for ideas. Here is a sampling of good ones:

  • How Not to Die Cookbook: Healthy vegan recipes from Dr. Greger—no refined oils or sugars at all. This is the cookbook I personally use most! Check price on Amazon.
  • The Veganomicon: The classic, famous vegan cookbook from Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Check price on Amazon.
  • Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: Another from Isa. But this one is ALL vegan cupcakes. Check price on Amazon.
  • The Vegan Stoner Cookbook: This one is great because the recipes are EASY. Check price on Amazon.
  • Thug Kitchen: Another very popular vegan cookbook with a splash of humor in the presentation. Check price on Amazon.
  • The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook: Instant pots are pretty amazing—they let you cook staples like rice and beans FAST. This cookbook will help you get even more out of yours. Check price on Amazon.

There are also websites where you can find tons of vegan recipes. And nowadays you can search for anything like “vegan breakfast ideas,” “vegan low carb recipes,” or anything else and find it quickly!

14. One Last Thing to Be Careful About.

This is more a word of caution than a step to take—but try to be mindful of your fiber intake. Specifically: Don’t add tons of beans to your diet immediately.

Many people experience extra gas in the first ~month of being vegan. The reason is that they are suddenly eating way more fiber. The fiber is food for your gut bacteria, which is healthy long-term—but it can also create extra gas in your colon.

Here’s my advice: Even if you’re going vegan overnight, be gradual about introducing beans. Beans are the #1 source of trouble for most vegans with gas. Start with small servings of beans if you’re not used to eating them.

I actually have a full blog post with 17 tips for farting less on a vegan diet, so you may want to bookmark that page in case. But for now, just take the beans gradually!

If you liked these vegan transition tips and don’t want to forget them, save the Pin below to your Pinterest “plant-based diet” or “vegan transition” board!

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