Did you give Veganuary a go, or have you been thinking about going vegan/plant-based but you are not sure where to start? Or perhaps you are just looking to reduce the number of animal products that you consume?
If that sounds like you then keep reading. I decided to go vegetarian in 2016 purely out of curiosity. I had a solo week away planned and I used that as an opportunity to challenge myself to a week of meat-free eating. The result was that I loved it, I didn’t miss meat and I really enjoyed trying new meals and alternative ingredients. Fast forward another two years, during which my partner had also become a vegetarian, we decided to challenge ourselves to do Veganuary. Guess what? We loved it and have not looked back since.
So I thought that now would be a great time to share some advice and tips that really helped us in our early days of veganism, in fact, they still help us to keep going now!
1. Be Kind to yourself!
This is so important in any big change you take on. Please do not put too much pressure on yourself. Going vegan is a journey so be patient with yourself. You might slip up by accidentally eating something that contains animal products, or you might really crave something and give in. That’s ok, we are all human and none of us are perfect. Just keep learning and it will get easier.
2. Stay focused
Decide what your motivation is. Do you want to go vegan for the animals, for your health, for the environment, or all of those reasons and more? Find your motivating factor and focus on that. Perhaps write this down somewhere so that you can read it in moments of doubt or struggle.
3. Recreate your favourite meals
The really fun thing about eating vegan is that you can actually find ways to recreate the meals you loved as a meat-eater or vegetarian. One of our regular meals was chicken fajitas and nachos, one day we just eliminated the chicken and the cheese and it was still pretty tasty. Over the years we have developed our vegan version and it’s now tastier than it ever was with meat and dairy in it! Whether your comfort food is bolognese, curry, burgers, or fry ups, all of them can be veganised!
4. Find your tribe
Vegans have long had a reputation for being preachy, judgemental, and confronting. Whilst there will always be some vegans who carry those traits, for the most part, I have found the vegan world to be really friendly and inclusive. It’s all about finding your people. Do this by your focus or motivation. If your focus is health and nutrition then find some books, blogs, and recipe creators that focus on that. If animals are your passion then maybe look for some activism groups. There are so many resources, influencers, youtube channels, and books to choose from, so just have a look around and find the tribe that appeals most to you for inspiration and guidance.
Veganuary is great because the supermarkets and major retailers have really seen it as an opportunity to launch exciting new products. Whether it’s a ready meal, a new cheese, or a decadent dessert, the shops are full of options through January. However, you will find that these options dwindle again for the rest of the year, so it is really important to get used to cooking tasty vegan food with regular ingredients. This is where vegan cookbooks can save the day! The ‘Another Dinner Is Possible’ book is the one that we have used most throughout our vegan journey. It is full of basic recipes including sauces, soups, mains, and desserts and it has a really simple layout without any daunting pictures! There are so many great books now, if you are a baker, a snacker, or a BBQ lover there will be a book for you!
In our case we found going vegan pretty easy, perhaps it was because we had already been vegetarian. But after a few weeks of eating vegan, I was really curious to learn more about health and nutrition as we had already noticed changes in our bodies such as increased energy and clearer heads. I delved deep and watched loads of documentaries and I found these to be really inspiring and educational. Some recommendations to get you started are GameChangers and Forks over Knives, both are available on Netflix.
Remember that I said going vegan is a journey? Not only is it a journey for your stomach, but also for your mind. It is a great learning opportunity. I see many new vegans becoming really confused about whether a food product is vegan or not. My top tip is to look at the ingredients list and see if anything is listed in bold text. This will often mean it’s an animal based ingredient and it will be highlighted as an allergen warning. If there does not seem to be anything highlighted, and the product is not obviously a meat or dairy product then it should be vegan. It is also really important to do some research on nutrition as some vitamins such as B12 are very difficult to find in vegan food sources so it’s recommended to take these in supplement form. I found the staff in my local health food shop to be really knowledgeable about vitamins and minerals, so perhaps pop into your local health food store for a chat.
8. Have fun!
My final piece of advice is simply to have fun with veganism. Experiment with new foods and recipes. Get your friends and family involved by challenging them to a vegan cook-off! Treat yourself to vegan doughnuts or junk food style takeaway every now and then. Celebrate your milestones with vegan foodie treats. Honestly, I am really passionate about being vegan because I feel better in myself than I ever did as a meat and dairy eater, and I have had so much fun learning and discovering a new way of life!