With Veganuary upon us I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips on going vegan. I have been vegetarian for over three years and vegan for almost two and although this is not a great length of time in comparison to others, it is long enough for me to be able to share what I have learnt so far.
Going vegan can be overwhelming initially, especially if you have other dietary requirements to take into account, however it does get easier. Annoyingly all animal products are naturally gluten free so to start with it can feel like you are really restricting yourself, however, it is important to remember there are so many naturally gluten free starchy carbohydrates, legumes, vegetables and fruits you can fill up on. In fact, already having dietary requirements may actually work in your favour as you will be used to checking labels and asking questions about ingredients.
I have compiled a list of my top ten tips on going vegan that have really helped me adapt to a vegan lifestyle. Whether you are a vegetarian wanting to take the leap into veganism or someone on a gluten free diet simply wanting to introduce a couple of meat free meals, (or anywhere in between), hopefully my tips on going vegan will help.
1. Make easy vegan swaps. We all know that completely overhauling your lifestyle is not easily maintainable when it comes to making changes and this is no different when it comes to going vegan. Rather than completely trying to change how you eat, simply ‘veganise’ your weekly staples in order to make the adjustment to veganism easier. You will be far more likely to succeed by making simple swaps like opting for tofu over chicken, subbing beef for a soya based substitute and buying dairy free versions of your favourite cheeses and cream whilst keeping the kind of meals you eat the same.
2. Stock up on vegan versions of your favourite foods. With veganism gaining popularity the amount of products available are increasing by the week. This means that vegan versions of popular foods like ice cream, chocolate, burgers etc are rife so there is really no need to miss out. During your food shops just stock up on vegan versions of your favourite products so you don’t feel like you are depriving yourself.
3. PLAN PLAN PLAN! I have found it really helpful to create a weekly meal plan that I then base my shopping list on. I find that getting organised and planning your meals in advance will stop you from going off track and eating something that isn’t vegan out of inconvenience.
4. Research which restaurants offer vegan options. It is really important to plan ahead when it comes to eating out at restaurants and knowing where you can pick up vegan snacks and lunches on the go. So many mainstream restaurants are now adding vegan options, if not full menus, meaning that the amount of choices you have when dining out are extensive. Having said that, it is really important to do some research in advance and look up menus online to ensure that you can be catered for before you go, and it may be worth sending an email or two to double check. It is even more important to do this if you have other dietary requirements as the menu will be more restrictive and a lot of the vegan options will not be gluten or soy free, etc.
5. Do not forget about drinks! You can easily get caught out by forgetting about that splash of milk in your coffee at the hairdressers, (yes that did happen to me), or the alcoholic drinks that you are consuming. If you are gluten free it is important to remember that a lot of vegan drinks are made with oat milk so check these are gluten free oats.
6. Experiment with some new recipes. In addition to researching restaurants you can dine out at, why not do a little bit of research and discover some new recipes to make dining in more interesting. There are so many recipes available online, (I am going to use this as an opportunity to shamelessly plug my own), that demonstrate vegan cooking does not have to consist solely of plain vegetables. Why not use this as an excuse to experiment with some new recipes and get creative in the kitchen?
7. Explore new products. There are an incredible amount of vegan meat, fish and dairy substitutes out there now with the majority of large supermarkets having their own range in addition to other popular brands and online stores. The abundance of products means that even those with allergies or intolerances to ingredients commonly used in vegan substitutes, such as wheat, pea, soy etc, will be able to find products that are suitable for them. Try to shop around and discover as many new products as possible rather than just sticking with the same things you will soon get bored of.
8. Don’t expect to like everything. Following on from my last point, try not to get discouraged if you try a new product and don’t enjoy it. Not all meat or dairy substitutes were created equally and some are much better than others. If you do have a bad experience with a new product, try not to write all vegan food off by labelling it as being all the same. Keep trying new things and you will discover products that you love, I promise.
9. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. My most important point is that you do not need to be perfect. Holding yourself to this impeccable standard of veganism is unrealistic and simply contributes to those feelings of guilt and shame when we mess up. After the debacle with the coffee at the hairdressers I mentioned earlier, what do you think I did? Do you think I threw in the towel because I made one small mistake or do you think I simply swore under my breath and then vowed to be more careful in future? Remember that we all slip up sometimes and we cannot be too hard on ourselves if and when we make mistakes. After all, it is the small steps that lead to big progress.
10. Remember why you are doing this. Keep in mind why you want to reduce your consumption of animal byproducts. Whether it is for the animals, the planet, your health or a little bit of all three just remember your why and stay strong when things get tough.
Hopefully these tips on going vegan will make life easier for you if you decide to reduce the amount of meat that you eat. It all comes down to planning ahead, trying new products and not expecting miracles overnight. As long as you are simply trying to do better you are on the right path.
If you have any other tips on going vegan you think others would benefit from I would love to hear them in the comment section below! If you found this post helpful and want to show some support please visit my Ko-Fi account to donate! x