Contrary to popular belief being vegan doesn't mean grass-grazing, but on the other hand it doesn't necessarily mean a diet that's free from chemicals, refined sugars, etc. - the onus is on the consumer to be informed (i.e. reading nutritional labels) about his food choices.
The delicious alternatives are plentiful and readily available these days whereas twenty years ago becoming vegan was an arduous process. You can easily find soy or tofu burgers and hot dogs, veggie ground beef, and many other meat substitutes at local health food stores and even many mainstream grocery stores, as well as online. Soy, rice, and almond milks are easy to find in a variety of flavours and can take the place of regular milk or cream in any recipe.
Some alternatives may seem costly in contrast to the "real thing" but as being vegan has become more mainstream (as people become more conscious of the health benefits, environmental upside, and animal-friendly aspects) this is rapidly changing. As mentioned above, products can be found at your local grocer and competition is driving down costs. It is easier and cheaper to be vegan than ever before.
Though meat and dairy substitutes are also considered to be processed foodstuffs, they're still healthier options in many ways. However, if you're looking to become vegan as part of a healthier lifestyle, you may want to go one step further and create your own alternatives using whole, natural foods. Don't worry that you'll be stuck eating only salads. If you decide to take on the challenge of creating your own culinary vegan marvels, the possibilities are endless. In many cases homemade vegan fare will wow even the most hard-core meat lover. There is no reason you should feel deprived.
Before you dive in however, there are a few things to keep in mind to help make the transition to veganism a smooth one. For starters, you'll need to get accustomed to reading the ingredients in everything you buy, at least in the beginning until you become familiar with which products are vegan-friendly and which ones you'll need to find replacements for. You may also want to go online and search for an exhaustive list or guide of non-vegan ingredients commonly found in many foods. Things like milk products may be obvious but there are numerous items you may come across that aren't obviously non-vegan or that you may not even recognize. Once again, don't be discouraged - it will simply take you some time to get adjusted.
One last concern that all new vegans share is "will I ever be able to eat out again?!". This is particularly important to those who want to be able to go to dinner with their non-vegan friends or family without necessarily having to go to a vegan restaurant or settle for a salad for their meal. No worries - simply make a list of all of the places you and your loved ones frequent and email the restaurants asking for a list of ingredients or, better yet, what their vegan-friendly options are. You'll find that these days many restaurants cater to everyone's dietary preferences and food sensitivities, and are happy to do so. You may find that you have more variety to choose from than you thought, and your social life will be none the worse for wear.