If you've already decided to go vegan, well done. Whether it's for the animals, the environment, or perhaps both, you're doing a great thing. If you're considering it, but wanting to know more, I hope this post will help a little.
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
The first thing I'd like to say is that it's not always easy being vegan, sometimes your food will catch you out with a sneaky ingredient you didn't realise wasn't vegan, you may slip up from time to time, or use a product that turned out to contain animal ingredients.
It's ok, nobody is perfect, making a mistake now and then doesn't mean you're not a good enough vegan. It happens, and when it does there's no need to beat yourself up, chalk it up to experience and move on.
Now that you've made the decision you probably have lots of questions? Where will you get your nutrients from? What will you eat? What about chocolate and cheese? Do you need to throw away every non vegan product in your house?
Let's start with nutrition. Of course it's essential that you are responsible and ensure that you get your necessary nutrients, but it is possible to eat a healthy nourishing vegan diet, I would definitely suggest reading up on what your body needs and where to get it from.
It's a good idea to talk to your GP before making a big change to your diet, they may be able to advise you and check your levels of iron and vitamin D before you take the plunge.
This webpage from the Vegan society site has lots of useful information on nutrition.
And this page on the Alpro website has a useful slider tool to help you find out how much protein you need every day. You might be surprised that it's not actually that much, and it's definitely achievable!
This website shows you which foods you should be eating.
You'll need to take vitamin b12 which is quite easy to source in tablet form. I take this one. It's also useful to take iron and vitamin D.
As for what you will eat, being vegan is becoming easier all the time, the big supermarkets stock an increasing range of vegan meat substitutes and most of them have their own range.
You'll find everything from burgers, to bacon, to shredded duck.
Some of my favourite ranges are Linda McCartney (many of their products are vegan) Quorn (they have a new vegan range) VBites and Frys family.
The bacon from VBites makes a really good bacon sandwich, especially good if you add fried tomatoes and spinach!
Most supermarkets stock vegan cheese, I know Sainsburys and Tesco have their own brand.
There is also an abundance of vegan yoghurts on the shelves. My favourites are the Go On yoghurts from Alpro.
Flora do a very good non dairy spread, which I think tastes very much like the original. Vitalite is vegan, and very nice, there's also a brand called Pure who make lovely non dairy spreads.
It's easier than ever to find plant based milks, in so many varieties, there's coconut, almond, oat, rice and hemp. You can even buy flavoured milks, Alpro do particularly good chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla milks.
My favourite plant based milk is Go Coconuts by Califia Farms which has 50% more calcium than cows milk.
It may take some trial and error to find the right milk for you, but with so many available I'm confident that there's a plant milk for everyone.
Almond milk works well in tea, if you warm it up a little first it doesn't curdle.
There's a very useful app called Is it vegan? Which enables you to scan barcodes, I often use the app as I'm going around the supermarket. It takes the guess work out of buying vegan.
A vegan diet needn't be expensive, potatoes,pasta, fruit, veg, grains, pulses, beans, and rice can all be bought quite cheaply and often in bulk.
Since going vegan 9 months ago I've discovered that my tastes have changed, now that I'm eating less processed foods and much more fruit and veg, my food seems to taste better, I'm appreciating flavours more. I've even come to like mango which has always been in my top five of foods I will not eat.
Let's talk about chocolate and cheese! Lots of people say that what puts them off going vegan is that they'll miss chocolate and cheese. I felt the same. However, 8 months in, I have barely craved them at all.
If I do have a sweet craving it's easily remedied with some dried fruit.
Did you know that just 3 prunes count as 1 of your 5 a day.
I'll be honest, I haven't found a vegan cheese that I enjoy, but I really don't miss it. Cheese is addictive but after a few days those cravings vanish.
If you really do need a cheese fix, Sainsburys do their own vegan macaroni and cheese.
Even Pizza Express now have vegan cheese for their pizzas. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll be getting myself to my local branch very soon.
These are my top ten vegan food and drinks
- Go Coconuts – from Califia farms
- Alpro almond milk
- Alpro Go On yoghurt
- Koko yoghurts
- VBites bacon
- VBites beef style pasties
- Quorn spicy vegan burgers
- Linda McCartney sausage rolls
- Sainsburys veggie mince
- Goodlife carrot, sweet parsnip, and nut burgers.
Special mention for Trek bars the Banana Bread, and the Cocoa coconut bars are my new favourite thing, and an excellent protein source.
How about household products and things like shampoo and shower gel?
Many supermarkets stock vegan friendly household products, the Co-op do a particularly good washing up liquid, and there's a range called Astonish which I've found in Ocado, and Poundland. They have everything from washing detergent to hob cleaner.
Superdrug is my go to place for shampoo, shower gels etc. They have their own brand which is vegan and very reasonably priced. There are often offers on the products too. The shampoo, conditioner, shower gels, deodorants, and body sprays are very good. I buy them weekly.
Since writing the first draft of this I've bought the Superdrug Micellar water and the Hydrating mist from their vitamin E range and I am seriously impressed.
I buy handsoap, which I use on my hands and face, from Ocado. The range is called Faith in nature.
Lush also have a large vegan range but they are quite pricey.
So, now that you're vegan, do you need to throw away every non vegan product in your house?
I'm sure that different vegans will have different opinions on this, however, as far as I'm concerned, it's not necessary. If you've already bought the product it will be very wasteful to throw it away. I would say use it up, but don't buy it again.
You may have a leather sofa, a leather handbag, or leather shoes, again, personally I would say it would be wasteful to throw them away, and ridiculously expensive to replace everything in one go. When they do need replacing try to find a vegan option.
Something that is definitely useful to anyone whether a new vegan or a long time one, is support. The internet can be a great resource for support, however, there are pitfalls.
As with in any walk of life, there are vegans who are just not very nice.
On some vegan support groups and pages, particularly Facebook and Reddit, you often, unfortunately, will find exceptionally judgey vegans. Whatever you do or say is just not vegan enough for them.
Join some groups, follow some pages, and weed out the judgey ones, don't be disheartened by them, by making the decision to go vegan you are already doing a good thing.
There is support out there.
I have found Twitter and Instagram very good for finding helpful, friendly vegans. I follow lots of vegan Instagram pages and they are full of meal inspiration.
Speaking of Twitter, the #accidentallyvegan hashtag is a great place to find foods that you might be surprised to discover are vegan.
These documentaries on Netflix are all very good, and full of information on how to go vegan, the health implications of a meat based diet, and the impact of animal agriculture on our planet.
I definitely recommend watching them.
- Knives over forks
I hope you've found this useful, and I wish you good luck!
I'll leave some links below to websites that I find useful.
The Vegan Society have launched a new campaign called Plate up for the planet. You can sign up for their Go vegan for 7 days challenge here.