Undoubtedly you have been hearing the words “plant-based” and “vegan” flooding the media as more and more people are becoming more and more plant-curious. With evidence building in the scientific database on the extraordinary health benefits of eating more plants; with rapid growth of vegan restaurant (chains) and vegan options on menus; and with exploding recipe sources and plant-based ingredients on the shelves, it’s a sign of positive growth, indeed. Of course, this brings me great joy and I am happily answering an increasingly voluminous influx of questions via email and social media. Bring them on! The more plants people eat, the more healthy bodies, happier planet Earth, and fewer animals bred for harm.

Whether by delving in wholeheartedly or simply starting by dipping your toes, you will help improve your life in myriad ways…

Here are six steps you can take to kick off the process:

1. Focus on the positive. Instead of thinking about what you will be crowing out (animal products and processed foods), think about ways to incorporate new and exciting whole plant ingredients and recipes. For example, check out the wall of plant milks and the dozens of different whole grain varieties you may never have noticed sitting on the shelves at the supermarket. Visit the tables and tables of vibrant, fascinating vegetables and fruits at your local farmer’s market. Try something new each week or – heck, why not – each day? Broadening your culinary horizons makes your world more delicious and interesting. Here is my recent post with a bunch of ideas on what a day in the vegan life looks like for some inspiration.

2. Seek support. Anytime you venture out into unknown turf, it helps to have some peeps on standby that have been there, done that, and can help offer guidance, direction, or even just a boost of reassurance. Unite with people at conferences, talks, events, local meet up groups or online via social networking. There are many plant-friendly groups and individuals that are more than happy to open their arms and welcome you in with loving arms, share their favorite recipes, tips, and help you strategize. Follow groups like PCRM and Mercy for Animals for inspiration. PCRM has a 21 day kickstart program here to get you underway and Mercy for Animals has a great starter kit here.

3. Stock up your kitchen. If you are well stocked with healthful ingredients and options in your pantry, fridge, and freezer, you will have no choice but to choose well. Plan a day to shop for food once a week so you will have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to use throughout the week. A weekly trip to the local farmer’s market ensures longer-lasting, as fresh as can be produce that will inspire you. Here is a how-to-stock-your-pantry list I recently wrote for Parenting.com. Here is one from Brendan Brazier on US News Health. This is a great list by Nava Atlas on what to keep in your fridge and this is a list of freezer staples. In addition, play with batch cooking in order to simplify food prep and then store leftovers in your fridge or freezer so there are healthy meals ready to eat when you don’t feel like cooking or are in a rush.

4. Try out vegan restaurants and vegan products. There has never been a better time to go veg, as there are new restaurants popping up across America at lightening speeds and most non-veg restaurants are serving up veg-friendly menus to accommodate their customers’ demands. Find these restaurants near you and wherever you may be traveling by using an app or website like HappyCow.net. Further, the list of companies making vegan ingredients, foods, and meals are spreading like wildfire across supermarket shelves everywhere. Experiment when you hit the stores with one of the dozens of plant-based milks, yogurts, and frozen veggie burgers. It’s helpful to have your recipes planned out ahead of time and then to shop with a prepared list (see here for my Do’s and Don’ts of Food Shopping on Veria).

5. Fill up with information. Study. Read books, blogposts, and articles. Watch documentaries and videos. Take classes or go to seminars, if possible. Knowledge is power and inspiration and the more you know, the better you can explore with confidence and enthusiasm. Start here with my favorite books, films, and resources. Please add your suggestions below in the comments section.

6. Have fun. This may be the most important step of all. Nothing about eating healthfully should be stressful, discomforting, or mopey. This is an adventure and it is pure goodness, as it will restore your body’s inner glow physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. Enjoy every moment, every bite, and every success. If you mess up a meal or veer off the wagon, assess what you can learn from the experience and hop back up. Travel your journey and embrace the ride.