9 Tips On How To Transition Into A Vegan Diet

This morning, I vowed to myself that these would be my last few days indulging in unhealthy foods before I start my vegan diet. "It's just a grilled cheese sandwich," I said to myself as I prepared to eat my meal.

Tuh! Let's just say that I enjoyed my grilled cheese sandwich, but my body didn't. It tasted like bull crap and shame, and the whole morning I was plagued with an upset stomach, unclear thoughts, and a headache-- a reminder that it's definitely time to change up my diet.

As I started making my grocery list, I wondered how I was going to maintain my vegan diet. Last week when I talked to Karen Civil about going vegan, what I didn't mention was that I had actually gone vegan for several months back in 2012. While I would love to proclaim the greatness of going vegan, I must admit that the last time I tried it, I focused so much on the next meal and how I would maintain my diet that I wasn't mindful of how I felt after eating clean. Not to mention that it seemed expensive. At least that's the biggest complaint that I told myself. But after some calculations, the cost of eliminating dairy, eggs, and meat had actually cut my food budget in half.

Attempting to be a vegan again has been on my mind heavy lately, and this time I wanted to start my journey with a fresh perspective, which is why I'm happy that I had the pleasure of interviewing a chef on how exactly I could maintain a vegan diet.

I spoke to Chef Ahki, a celebrity vegan chef and author of Electric: A Modern Guide to Non-hybrid & Wild Foods, and the woman knows her stuff. Chef Ahki has been praised by Bradley Cooper, Lee Daniels, and Waka Flaka Flame for her insane cooking skills, and she gave me a lot to think about when maintaining a vegan diet that will carry me through for many years. Here are some tips that she shared with me during our interview.

You Have To Dedicate Time & Commitment To Your Vegan Journey

"It will be difficult in the beginning. It was the first couple months for me, but I was able to attach to a support group which helped. My family was not of support. My family ate traditional southern food.

I was also a good cook, and I enjoyed cooking. I was passionate about making this new food taste as good as what I was used to. That is hard to do! I was frying up tofu with cornmeal and Lowrys [seasoned salt]. It was fish fry with the tofu, and a lot of soy products was a major part of my transition before I knew how awful that soy could be. I was eating soy hot dogs, soy chicken nuggets, soy shrimp, soy steak, everything soy. But like I said, having a support group is what made the transition easier.

It took me about three to four years to fully transition. It wasn't some cold turkey, overnight kind of thing, and I know lots of people would like to think that it's that way, or they imagine it that way, and for some people they can just do that. But not for me. I slowly took out the pork, then the chicken, then the fish, you know? I went slow."

Spices From Meat-Based Dishes Can Make Your Meals Delicious

Chef Ahki's Vegetarian Lasagna

"It's hard to really make something that mimics the exact texture [of meat], but...you can do it through seasoning...[say] if you wanted to do greens and cabbage and black eyed peas, you can use smoked sea salt or smoked paprika. If I cook barbecued tofu, I use liquid smoke, [or] lots of black pepper, onion powder like that to give it that flavor.

[When cooking most of my dishes,] I use a lot of onion powder. I don't really use a lot of garlic, or any really...I love Dulse, which is like a sea vegetable seasoning. I like herbal seasonings like trocomare or herbamare. And I really like coriander. Coriander is like a spice that I think a lot of people sleep on. It's incredible flavor.

Oh, and paprika is wonderful, and I love smoked paprika."

Quinoa, Berries, & Hummus Will Become Staples Of Your Grocery List


"Try chayote...some people call it a Mexican squash. It looks like a pear, it cuts like a potato, it's almost flavorless, honestly. It takes on the flavor of anything you cook it with, so it's just amazing for vegan/vegetarian diets, because it gives you that good texture, like a very filling texture but it's not heavy. And you can put it in anything from salads to stir frys to casseroles...it's just the best vegetable ever.

And vegans love quinoa. I prefer red quinoa. I also have to have berries of every sort. I go out of my way to get blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, I get berries always. I could go on and on with this because my grocery list honestly looks the same every single time...It never gets old, and it's what I eat in various combinations.

Use avocados for your fat. [It] makes you feel full. I [also] keep my hempseeds for protein, I always have sea vegetables as well.

I can tell you some items that are surprisingly vegan, or when I became vegan I was like, "Thank God I can eat something similar to this," and that was hummus. Hummus for vegans is like crack. All vegans eat hummus until they get tired of it. That's what happens."

Try Having Potluck Dinner With Vegan Friends

Via Instagram

"I was in Dallas, Texas when I made my transition, and fortunately I attracted a group of girlfriends who were eating that way. And we would potluck, and it was a really nice support group where we could learn from each other on how we could make it tasty for us.

Of course, finding vegan restaurants or places to go to was great, and once we started it kind of took off. So definitely the moment you make that decision, you start shopping at those places, you start frequenting those stores and restaurants, you will attract other people who eats the way you do, and you'll get that support."

Upgrade Your Kitchen

Via Instagram

"Definitely upgrade your kitchen first. Because that kitchen will destroy you. If your kitchen is working against you, you're assed out. Because if you walk in there, and there's a microwave on one side, there's a loaf of bread over here, then there's frozen chicken nuggets over there, and cookies...You know, you're going to crash.

Go and just do a sweep of the kitchen, and then make that kitchen absolutely inviting. Pull out the cutting board, pull out that chef's knife, pull out that blender and that food processor, get your freezer bags ready, because you'll need plenty of those for all the veggies and freezer goods, and fruits. Get some Pyrex, get some glass tupperware with lids, cause you're gonna totally need that to store [your foods], and lay all the beautiful foods out so you can see it.

Most foods don't need to be refrigerated, and a lot of people don't know that until they stuff their freezers. But a lot of fresh foods can be left out, and should be left out, like your tomatoes, your onions, your winter squashes, even zucchini and squash to leave a lot of foods out so it makes it inviting..."

Blow Your Whole Grocery Budget At The Store

Via Instagram

"Take your grocery budget, find out what that is, go to the market and spend it all. Go to farmer's markets and spend it all so you don't have any options...And you go home and you just crank it out. Get on some blogs, like gochefahki.com, grab a cookbook, like Electric!...and get yourself motivated and inspired by food. That way, you'll be excited."

Meal Prep Is Key For Larger Families

"Meal preparation is important. Can it make or break you? If you have a family of four, it absolutely can. If it's just you, you may be able to wing it depending on where you live. You can hit up a lot of places and eat meat free. There are a lot of [restaurants], even traditional Italian restaurants [where you can] and simply say, "Hey, I love this dish, I love this sauce, but don't add meat. Just cut up a bunch of vegetables, and thank you kindly. You can kind of wing it at restaurants and things like that."

Remind Yourself Of The Health Benefits

"It's really based on principles, and it's based on a lot of self care and preventative care. You got to remind yourself what food is, and what it isn't. And that's what's going to come down to. You've got to remind yourself that you are eating this way so that you do not have to suffer later on. So whether or not you feel like it's taxing on your time and energy, it's expensive, all these things.

You want to pass on health to your children, you don't want to pass on disease. When you're putting food in your mouth, ask yourself, "Is it dead or alive? Is this giving me energy, or is it going to take away my energy? You have to remind yourself of that every time. And keep it fun. Visit some blogs, check out some Pinterest pages, get inspired, check out some new vegetarian restaurants, go to some farmers markets, you have to keep inspired and motivated. It can get boring after awhile![laughs] "

Chef Ahki has some delicious recipes on her Instagram page that will keep your mouth watering. Check out her page for some ideas that can help you get a head start on your vegan journey.

“Chef Ahki", is a celebrity chef, natural foods activist and nutritional counselor. Raised by four generations of medicine women in her native Oklahoma, Ahki uses seasonal, organic, fresh (non-hybrid) fruits and vegetables to create living, healthy recipes designed to heal bodies and enhance lives. From vegans to health nuts and budget moms to foodies, her message of non-hybrid and electric foods is a way of life.

Check out her cookbook “Electric!, A Modern Guide to Non-Hybrid and Wild Foods" on Amazon, visit her website at gochefahki.com, or follow her on Instagram and Pinterest

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In 2011 -- a year following my divorce, I met a young man who I felt could mend my heart.

He was tall, dark, handsome, well spoken and well liked -- everything a girl could dream of on paper. In the beginning there was light, a light of hope for a new love. But as time went by, the relationship spun into darkness. Whether it was the dish I cooked, shirt I picked out, or the way I answered him, it was as if nothing I did was good enough. In fact, his dissatisfaction only made me want to work harder and do more to please.

I recall times when he'd squeeze my wrist a little too hard in public as a warning, leaving bruises -- but it was my fault because I was fragile or bruised "easily." Or the time he dislocated my shoulder and I had to lie to my child because I didn't want her to worry. Each time letting him come back because he appeared to be remorseful and willing to change. But that was only the beginning.

In 2012, I faced an unplanned pregnancy. I had just lost my job and I was struggling to pay the rent. To top it off, the father of my child had given me an ultimatum (as he was "not ready" to be a father)... it was "him or the baby." So, as you can imagine, I was struggling with the decision of bringing a beautiful new babe into my chaotic world. After all, I was already a single mother with one divorce under my belt, living check to check -- now couch surfing, all the while awaiting the big day. I felt as if the weight of the world was sitting on my shoulders -- better yet, my chest!

Although I told my ex where he could put his ultimatum, he came back around to see our child's birth. And while my gut told me to "RUN" in the other direction, I took him back out of fear. Fear of what I thought would be failing yet another child. "You can't do this alone," he said. "You need me," he said. I believed him. For a few months, things appeared to be different. Until the pressure of fatherhood began to sink in. Then the drinking, cheating, lying, and abuse began to resurface.

Oddly enough, it took one fight (like so many before) to get me to LOOK UP. "You don't do sh*t for your kids," he said. "I don't even want to be here but now we have this baby." -- "I gave you an ultimatum but I'm still here. So why wouldn't you want to make it work?" he continued. As if he was doing me a favor.

Holding my baby close, I quickly scanned the room at the home I had built for "us." It was MY blood, sweat, and tears that went into making this home, I thought to myself. At that moment, I knew I'd be damned if I allowed this to continue. I would never want this for my daughters, so why am I endorsing it for myself?

As he proceeded to punch the wall, it was as if the three years preceeding the fight flashed before my eyes. I pictured myself laying on the ground in shock like years before... but this time, it was my child crying beside me. "He's got to go," I whispered to myself. With tears streaming down my face, my hands shaking, and my body quivering in fear, I opened the front door and with everything in me yelled, "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!"

A few insults later, he managed to make it out the front door and I hit the floor... in prayer. I was ashamed. Not just because I saw this coming. But because I had been here too many times before. Although I am a different person today. There are still some days where I wish I could go back an avoid all of the pain.. much of which I am still working through today.

So, as part of the healing process, I've created a list of dating advice I'd give my younger self:

Fall in love with yourself first.

Don't spend your days in search of a partner to "complete" you. Discover what makes you SPIRITUALLY, emotionally, intellectually, and physically whole first and foremost. Then, when you do meet someone special, ask yourself, "Is this person adding or subtracting from my life" -- "Do they build me up or break me down?" I think Oprah said it best. Don't spend your life searching for the perfect person. Work to make yourself the perfect person for YOU, and then... only then, will "the right person be drawn to you based upon the work that you put out."

[Tweet "First, discover what makes you spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically whole."]

If someone tells you're they're not good for you, believe them and RUN.

You cannot save everyone! While mending the brokenhearted is practically embedded in your DNA, people are who they are. Some people are going to destroy themselves, no matter how much you try to "help" them. If someone says that they are "no good" for you, or "trouble," take that at face value and run the other way. Just because you are open and capable of love does not mean the one you "want" is ready for love. You will deplete yourself by trying to "heal" this person -- which in the end, will do you more harm than good.

Trust your intuition.

It's trying to protect you! Never stop sharing your love; that's why you were put on this Earth. But sometimes real love means saying goodbye. It takes much more courage to let something go than it does to hold tight -- or try to "fix" it. Letting go doesn't mean you're ignoring the situation. It simply means you're accepting what is, exactly as it is, without fear, opposition, or desire for control.

[Tweet "Trust your intuition. It's trying to protect you."]

Talk it out!

As difficult as this may be sometimes, do NOT keep your feelings bottled up! People are not mind readers. They should not have to jump through hoops to uncover when and how they have wronged you. Pass on the fit of tears over dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and open the floor to a grown-up discussion at an appropriate time in private. Learn how to separate the person from the issue. Be soft on the person but firm on the issue. If you want to find long-term relationship success, you're going to have to learn how to communicate.

Forgive yourself.

Life didn't come with instructions. You are not your mistakes. You are not your struggles. You are here NOW with the power to shape your tomorrow. Take all the time you need to heal. The key to breaking free from your broken self, is baby steps -- taking it one day at a time. Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life. Just because today is painful doesn't mean tomorrow won't be great. You WILL get there.

What advice would you give your younger self? Do share!

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