Why Go Vegan?
Going vegan (or plant-based, which is probably more accurate!) has been one of the best things I’ve done.
Towards the start of 2018, Mat & I were both struggling with our meat consumption. We knew it wasn’t great for our health or the environment, so decided to cut down and eat mostly vegetarian, with meat/fish once or twice a week.
As we educated ourselves more, we were then shocked and disgusted to see the reality of how meat, dairy and eggs were actually produced. Even the so-called ‘free-range’ or ‘organic’ produce.
We made the decision to go plant-based overnight after watching the ‘Dominion’ documentary (you can watch for free here) and now we’re thriving.
I regularly share the best vegan meals & restaurants in Manchester (& beyond!) but I also get a lot of questions about how easy it is to go vegan. So I’m going to share some useful tips to get you started.
1 – Sign up to ‘take the pledge’ with Veganuary
Head to the Veganuary website, where you can sign up to daily emails to help you discover recipes, meal plans and useful tips about nutrition. They even have their own recipe book that you can download for free!
You’re joining hundreds of thousands of people who are doing exactly the same so it definitely feels a lot less daunting than going it alone.
2 – Find vegan versions of your favourite recipes
Vegan food is definitely not all about a rabbit food diet. Some of my favourite recipes to make are the same as before but with a vegan twist. I think it’s key to nail down some staple meals that you can whip up fairly easily.
Some of my favourites are a red lentil dahl, squash & chickpea curry, veggie & bean chilli, tofu stir fry and burrito bake. I find my recipes from the Bosh cookbook (affiliate link) or their Instagram, Tania’s blog & Instagram story highlights, the Minimalist Baker’s blog and sometimes just by simply searching ‘Vegan _____ recipe’ and seeing which recipes look good or adapting vegetarian recipes with dairy alternatives.
Also follow @accidentallyveganuk on Instagram for new vegan product releases in all the UK supermarkets and anything that is accidentally vegan i.e. not labelled vegan but contains no animal products. My favourite discovery was Doritos Chilli Heatwave crisps, which were my go-to crisps before going vegan and still are now.
3 – Don’t burn all of your money on vegan junk food
Now that vegan food is becoming a lot more mainstream, there’s so much more choice when it comes to convenience food. This is great, as I definitely don’t cook from scratch every single day of the week and it’s always nice to have an easy-to-find vegan ready meal or pizza as a treat.
However, you can easily find yourself overspending on your food shop when these ranges & products are so pricey. It will also make you feel a bit rubbish to be eating so much processed food, in the same way it would if you were eating non-vegan ready meals, processed burgers etc.
Remember, just because it’s labelled vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good for you. Everything in moderation and make sure you’re getting plenty of fruit & veg.
4 – Listen to the Plant Proof podcast
Although going from meat-eater to vegan was technically an overnight thing for us, that doesn’t mean it was a sudden change. There’s lots of steps in the journey before you decide to go vegan and part of that for us was learning more about what it meant to be plant-based and listening to different peoples’ experiences.
I highly recommend everyone listen to the Plant Proof podcast (available on all your usual podcastin’ places), which is hosted by Simon Hill. He’s a qualified health professional and interviews a number of people from all kinds of backgrounds and delves into how a plant-based diet has worked for them.
I’ve learned so much from his podcasts and they really do answer a lot of questions you might have about eating a plant-based diet.
5 – Educate yourself on nutrition
The Plant Proof podcast is a great place to do this, but it’s also useful to learn more about nutrition in general to make sure you’re getting all the right foods to fuel your body.
Check out Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen checklist, which you can read here. It’s a good visual representation of the types of foods you should be eating and how many servings.
I find it hard to get a lot of these into my diet but a sneaky way is by blending them up into a smoothie (banana, berries, flaxseed, chia seeds, baby spinach or kale, plant milk & water).
But of course, listen to the advice of qualified nutritionists and healthcare professionals – not random people on the internet (including me!)
6 – Find out where you can eat out
Everyone thinks this will be hard or awkward but it’s honestly so easy these days! Of course there are amazing restaurants that are solely plant-based, like Allotment or V-Rev in Manchester, but there are many more places that cater for all dietary requirements these days.
My favourite chain restaurants with tasty vegan options (& sometimes whole menus!) are Wagamama, Pizza Express, Zizzi, Pret and LEON. The Veganuary website does a great job of listing all the big chain restaurants and what options (however great or pathetic!) they have for vegans.
I also use the Happy Cow app on my phone to search vegan-friendly restaurants, especially if I’m heading to a new area that I’m not familiar with.
7 – Don’t worry if you make some mistakes
Going vegan is such a big change to your diet that it’s easy to slip up and make some mistakes when you’re not used to having to think about what you’re consuming.
For me, my ‘oops’ moment was heading to my usual Monday morning coffee spot at the train station and asking for a ‘flat white’ without mentioning oat/almond/soya milk. I was completely on auto-pilot and forgot, which was a little disappointing for me but I got over it! Sh*t happens.
I’ve also bought things without realising they weren’t vegan – honey is an especially sneaky ingredient in products as it isn’t bolded as an allergen. You soon learn to skim-read ingredients like a boss though.
8 – If you need to do it gradually – that’s OK too!
I know Veganuary is becoming a really big thing lately, which I love, but if you need to take smaller steps for it to work for you, then that’s totally fine.
The first few weeks of eating a plant-based diet are an adjustment period for your body and particularly your gut, so doing it more gradually can make this feel much smoother.
It also makes me so so happy to just see people who are simply becoming more conscious of eating animal products and how it might be impacting the animals’ lives, their own health and the environment.
Educate yourself with documentaries such as Cowspiracy, Before The Flood, Dominion, Land of Hope & Glory and What The Health. Then see how you can make changes to your diet – cutting out or eating less red meat is the best place to start as eating it contributes the most to climate change.
For me, those small and gradual changes actually turned out to be quite huge and they can be for you too.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my top tips and do let me know if you have any more q’s around going vegan!