There are now over half a million vegans in the UK according to a 2016 survey, a number that is quickly increasing – It’s gone up 300% in the last year.
The world has finally embraced veganism and it shows, with supermarkets competing for the best own brand vegan products. Restaurant chains creating their own vegan menus (with some even offering their very own brand of vegan cheese!), vegan magazines aplenty on sale in shops, vegan recipes being demonstrated on TV, and celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth and Ariana Grande speaking out about veganism passionately….need I go on?
If you’re considering becoming vegan, like I did, you’re definitely in good company and you’re definitely doing it at an amazing time. The idea of ‘thinking vegan’ is about planning and research. The only thing is, now you have to do it, and although easy for some, it can be difficult for others, it is a very personal journey. For that reason, this quick guide has been written just for you. With lots of easy to understand tips, you’re hopefully going to feel a lot more confident about your new way of eating after reading.
First Things First
First things first it is good to clarify what the vegan diet entails. If you are vegan you avoid meat, dairy, eggs and honey in your diet but you also live an animal-friendly lifestyle avoiding fur, leather, products tested on animals etc. If you only eat a vegan diet and don’t follow the lifestyle, by the definition of vegan, you are considered ‘plant-based’ rather than a vegan.
The two terms are often used interchangeably but there is a big different between eating vegan (plant-based) and being vegan.
If you’re considering going vegan, it is important in yourself to know why you are choosing this path, especially for the times when it might be tough to stick to new ways of eating. Why did I go vegan? There are so many benefits, but the key benefit categories are:
Health – eating plant based means you avoid all potential negative aspects of meat and dairy, and you get a lot more of the nutritional benefits of fruit and vegetables. It makes it easier to avoid obesity, boosts your energy levels, gives your skin a glow, makes your immune system stronger – the list really is endless and there are new studies being published all the time to support the health claims of veganism. Netflix has a documentary that covers health on a vegan diet – Veducated.
Animals – Industrial farming has no positives when it comes to compassion. There’s no need to go into the details, but well-known documentaries like Earthlings give a true insight into the industry, which turns a lot of people against meat and dairy.
Environment – Kip Anderson highlighted the truths of animal agriculture and the environment with well known documentary Cowspiracy, which Leonardo Dicaprio took under his wing, executively produced it and landed it on Netflix. It exposed truths such as the fact 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, more than all the combined transport exhaust fumes. You can read more amazing facts from the documentary on their facts page. Going vegan does more for the environment than taking a shorter shower, which is why a lot of environmentalists are now going vegan.
How To Go Vegan
Now you know what and why, it’s time for the fun bit – how? Before you do anything, it is important to be honest with yourself and never too hard on yourself. You’re doing a great thing, but your body, lifestyle, habits, thoughts, opinions, friends, family and budget will all have an effect on your transition to veganism. It is a different journey for everyone, just remember it is your journey and nobody elses. Now that pep talk is over, let’s help you figure out how you’re going to get happy with the herbivore lifestyle.
If there is one thing that will make this experience so much easier for you, it is learning. I would say that this is the most important part of the transition. We are all constantly learning about new products on the market and any products that we may be able to eat that we hadn’t realised were vegan. Most instant noodles and ‘meat’ flavoured foods are actually vegan – do your homework! There’s more on the menu than you think!
Learn more about why you are doing this, read about the diet, read about nutrition. Try to make sure you read all sides of any information so you are never influenced by anything entirely biased. If you read one compelling argument, read a compelling argument against it, so you can make up your own mind. There is a lot of information out there, and it is constantly changing so you always have to be up to date if you want to be an informed vegan: this applies to animal rights, nutrition, law and new products. Be educated.
Vitamins & Minerals Matter
If you want optimum health, don’t assume you can just eat anything and be healthy. Check out this Vegan Society information on nutrients needed on a vegan diet and how to get them. Supplements are clearly something you might want to consider, some vegans swear by them, some say they aren’t needed, others have them just in case. It is your decision, but in the beginning, most would recommend supplements to help ensure you’re getting everything you need. Personally I found myself lacking in Vitamin B and D – something a few new vegans struggle with so make sure you get a balanced diet.
Eating out is so much fun as a new vegan because you’re going to discover different sides to places you ate as a meat eater or vegetarian before. You will also be visiting these amazing places you never knew existed. In London you have Fed By Water, Mildred’s, Cookies & Scream and of course the new Temple Of Hackney vegan chicken shop – to name just a few. Then there are top high street chains like Pizza Express who have a vegan pizza, Zizzi who does an entirely vegan menu including pizza with their own special vegan cheese, even Wetherspoons has a vegan menu now. They have noodle dishes and lasagnes! You have tons of choices.
Just do your research ahead of your journey if you can, and try to make vegan friends in your area so they can take you to all the best spots.
In the beginning it is easiest to make small changes whilst you acclimatise to shopping in new areas of the supermarket, explore new vegan versions of foods you liked before, and learn to cook in a different way. It is definitely a great idea to get used to cooking and enjoying food. There are tons of convenient vegan versions of everything you love, but if you want to keep things healthy you’ll need to do some cooking as well. Easy transitionary changes you could make could be:-
- Make one new vegan meal a week, or a day depending on how much free time you have. There are endless resources online, such as amazing accounts like @veganpug on Instagram who shares quick and easy recipe videos, and vegan recipe libraries like this one from My Great Recipes.
- Switch to one vegan ingredient in your meal at a time, maybe try a soya latte instead of a dairy latte, or have vegan cheese on your jacket potato instead of dairy cheese. Why not have a Tofurky roast instead of chicken or beef on your roast dinner this Sunday?
- If chopping up veggies is laborious for you, try cooking in batches with a slow cooker or on the hob, then freeze healthy vegan lunches and dinners ahead of time.
- Plan your food ahead to avoid temptation. Take vegan snacks and food to work with you, or have several options around you to buy lunch so you never feel the temptation to eat food you’ve been phasing out.
- Get used to veganism. You can veganise pretty much any food, from Yorkshire puddings to vegan tuna mayo sandwiches. Dairy-free milk alternatives. There’s a way to eat all of your favourite dishes as a vegan.
- Search hashtags – #vegansofinstagram, #veganrecipes – search vegan hashtags on Instagram and you will find your entire vegan world open up.
Chat To Other Vegans
Avoid militant vegans at first as they may not communicate in a way you appreciate. Instead, reach out to other vegans on food-focused accounts, forums and social media. Many vegans love hearing from other vegans, to share advice and offer support. It can be tough getting weird questions from friends and family, and figuring out how to do this whole vegan thing well, so reach out to others in the same boat, you’ll feel much less alone.
Not only that – you’ll learn so many things from them. Follow them on twitter, Instagram and Youtube. Learn of new foods you can eat, food festivals and community get-togethers. It’s such a positive community to join and they’re very friendly! I’ve learnt a lot from my transition so I can inform others.
Last but not least, enjoy your journey to a vegan diet. As long as you stay open-minded, you’re going to have a fun time trying out all the incredible vegan products on the market, like cooking new food, and eating out in new places, plus your health, the animals and the planet will be all the better for it.