10 things I wish I'd known about when transitioning to a vegan diet!
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
It fast approaches to that time of year.....Veganuary! I didn't even know it was a thing until last January. I was already veggie, and had toyed with the idea of being Vegan, but it took Veganuary last year to give me the final nudge I needed. Even transitioning from vegetarian to vegan was quite a daunting prospect, so hats off to all the meat eaters who are considering the move from an omni to a plant based diet. I have jotted down some thoughts that I would tell my past self if I was taking the plunge again....
What has driven you to try being vegan? I don't think there can ever be a poor reason to be giving it a whirl, but in moments of temptation, what is it that has motivated you to try a plant based diet? For me, first and foremost, it is animal welfare. I believe that no animal should suffer for the food on my plate, be that meat, eggs or dairy, and reminding myself of this whilst everyone else has gone bonkers for the Christmas cheese and chocolate, is what kept me off it. Don't get me wrong, I've bloody missed it, but I haven't gone short of tasty titbits, believe you me! Environmental issues are a biggie too, if that is what drives you to try a vegan lifestyle, and then there are the health benefits. Don't get me wrong, just because it is plant based, you can still consume a fully junk laden diet, but it is a lot easier to be healthier being vegan. Whatever factor or combination of factors keeps you motivated, keep them to mind
Lots of fake news pro and against a plant based diet. I just try and apply a bit of common sense when sifting through the propaganda. The internet is a marvellous tool for finding out the information you need. I haven't gone bonkers with the documentaries and suchlike, but found a few choice items useful. The BBC documentary, Meat: A threat to our planet was a good watch. Admittedly, looks at farming to the extreme but still very interesting. Gamechangers focuses on the health aspect of the lifestyle change. A must watch if you are male and interested in having longer, harder stiffies :-). There are so many documentaries available if animal welfare is your motivator, most are really quite distressing and I haven't felt the need to watch, but one that did engage me, and was part of my turning point was Carnage - a tongue in cheek mockumentary narrated by Simon Amstell
Knowledge is power as are a good range of apps and social media groups! If you are on facebook, take a look at Accidentally Vegan, Vegan Food UK Club, and Vegan Food Finds UK....in fact just enter Vegan into the search bar and you will find social, dating and sports groups galore!
3 Veganise Your Favourites
If kale and quinoa wasn't your bag as an omnivore, then turning to a plant based diet won't change that! So many of your family favourite meals can be so easily turned into a vegan dish without much effort, Google is your best friend here, there are so many recipes out there whilst you are just learning. Even if cooking isn't your thing, the plant based range in supermarkets now is immense, and not just the stuff that is labelled as vegan. Which leads me quite nicely to my next point.....
4 Know your Accidentally Vegan products
Some people are under the impression that a vegan diet is expensive, which may be true if you have a penchant for lotus flower springs rolls, rolled on the thighs of virgins, but I have actually slashed our family spend since cutting out meat, and then dairy. There are lots and lots of vegan specific items, but many of your everyday items are vegan friendly, quite unintentionally. Some will contain palm oil thought, and that is a whole other ball game. Don't be scared of declaring an item vegan even if it only says vegetarian on the packaging. Vegetarian is a good place to start, but look at the ingredients. Allergens will be listed in bold, so egg and milk, but look for whey too. A lot of products will say "may contain" this is a bit of a distraction, but means that the product is made in a factory that also processes milk or egg, so isn't suitable for very sensitive dairy/egg allergy sufferers. Don't beat yourself over any slip ups - I had a cake with gelatine in over Christmas - I was so busy looking for dairy and eggs I missed the massive indication of boiled bones in the ingredients!
Some surprising items that are accidentally vegan are, original Bisto, Asda chicken gravy, oreos, and some supermarket own bakery doughnuts as examples. I was a bit confused about pasta initially as I always thought it had egg in it, the fresh stuff does, but more often than not the dried pasta is just made of durum wheat
A pearl of wisdom that I was a bit late to the party for, was that not all Quorn is vegan, some contains egg white. The vegan Quorn is clearly labelled though as a heads up!
5 Vegan Cheese
Vegan cheese is the work of the devil! Cheese is still the one item I miss, and although I do miss cheese badly still, my tastebuds are definitely changing, and finding vegan cheese slightly less Satan like. I have made my own, and tried all manner of shop bought but it still doesn't hit the spot. My advice would be to cold turkey the cheese situation and revisit it after a few months!
6 Plan Ahead
As a working mum of a busy family, planning meals ahead has always been a priority, but since being vegan I have always made sure to think ahead and plan meals in advance. If you have a look at my blog, you can get a feel to the sort of thing we enjoy, much of which can be prepared in advance, frozen and reheated.
I don't deal with Hanger very well. I have a snack tin at work full of vegan goodies, make sure you always have munchies to hand. I also have a little tin of herbal teabags in my bag in case we are out and about and plant based milk isn't an option
Some alcohol isn't vegan. It isn't even vegetarian. Some of the filtering process includes the use of fish appendages and egg shells. Not all are labelled accordingly, but there is a website called Barnivore that gives a comprehensive list of what's vegan and what's not. Alternatively, most producers are really responsive to a direct email if you are unsure. My tipples are, Thatchers Cider (Vegan) Aspull Cider (Vegan) and prosecco which is mainly vegan. Most spirits are Vegan, so hurrah to gin and tonic, and I have developed a recipe for vegan Baileys which is lovely and my waistline can confirm this....
8 Vitamin Supplements?
Depends what you read is the answer to this. Vitamin B12 is the one that keeps cropping up in articles as being deficient in a vegan diet. Ironically, the farmed animals are also deficient in this as it is derived from soil, so are injected with a supplement themselves. I use soy milk which is enriched with Vitamin B12, and looking at the daily amounts on the packet, I am getting over half my recommended daily amount from that alone, so I won't be losing too much sleep over that.
Iron is the other hot potato, but a good range of dark vegetable, lentils and leafy greens should prevent deficiency. Pretty much all nutrients can be derived from a good range of foods including seeds, nuts, pulses, fruit, vegetables and legumes
Protein. That old chestnut. Meat eaters get half their protein from plants as it is, and the average vegan gets around 70% more protein than they need. Big beefy cows get all their muscle from grass, let's just cut out the middle man #justsayin'!
10 Treat yourself!
Just because you are vegan, doesn't mean to say you can't eat out, can't eat cake, biscuits, crisps etc. Most chain restaurants have vegan options, even a separate vegan menu, and some of the smaller concerns. There is a great app called Happy Cow, which will direct you to shops and eateries with vegan options in your area.
In short any change is good, even if it's just the milk in your brew or meat free Monday. There is so much information out there, but if you have a question ask, ask me, if I can help I will, ask the vegan society or pose it to a social media group, but don't stress about it, to quote Tesco, "Every little helps!"