Last week I wrote about my experience of going Vegan 6 years ago – I tried to answer a few common questions and clear up some of the misconceptions too. I wanted to follow it up this week with another post where I share some of my thoughts on how to make the change if that’s what you want to do. It’s a really positive thing to try, and even if you don’t manage to stick with it I’m certain you’ll discover some delicious new food!
If you want to read my introduction to being vegan check it out here, otherwise let’s take a look my top tips for getting started.
Make a Gradual Change
If you want to go vegan I think doing it gradually is the best approach. Changing the way you eat is no small thing and you may find yourself going back to the familiar if things get hard. Some people may be able to just quit meat and dairy and get by for a few months, but it will be a lot harder to stick to in the long run. Start gradually eating less meat, changing your meals here and there and get used to new ways of shopping and cooking. You’re going to be eating a lot more fruit and veg and exploring new healthier food, and if you’re not used to that then it’s best to go slow. You can’t think of eating meat and dairy as being normal and vegan or veggie as being a diet, your new way of eating has to feel normal and that just takes time. It might also take a week or two for your stomach to get used to it, but don’t worry it will!
Know Your Food
If you’re going to go vegan you need to understand what contains dairy. It might surprise you at first, but once you know you can start gradually swapping things out of your diet. That doesn’t mean finding a vegan or veggie substitute for everything you currently eat because they don’t always exist. Explore new food and dare to try new things. I’m constantly finding new things and I kick myself for not finding them sooner!
Change Your Milk
One of the easiest things you can do is to swap out your bottle of semi-skimmed for a milk alternative. The supermarkets are full of them nowadays, so get stuck in.
Almond milk is a great place to start, or if you’re feeling adventurous it’s worth checking out coconut or oat milk. Personally I like coconut milk on cereal or in a smoothie, it goes quite well with sweeter tastes. Oat milk on the other hand is a bit more earthy, so is great in a protein shake, hot chocolate or a flat white. Oatly is a good brand that makes some milks specifically for coffee too. Soya milk is another option, and a great one for women as soya naturally helps your body produce oestrogen, however it’s not great for you in large amounts and personally I don’t think it tastes very exciting.
Let’s talk about tea – milk alternatives don’t always play nice, and they will change the way it tastes, so you’re going to need to experiment until you find the one that suits you and your tastebuds. Also, if your milk alternative is cold it will often curdle when you pour it into your tea, and this instantly puts a lot of people off. Just heat it up slightly in the microwave or on the hob before you pour it in and you’ll be just fine. If you like PG Tips they’ve just released a Dairy Free range that goes well with plant-based milks, so make sure you give that a try!
When you first make a change it can be hard to know what to cook, and you might find yourself making a lot of the same meals over and over which can get boring. A great way to explore new things to eat is to have someone else make them for you! Go to an all vegan/veggie cafe or restaurant and find new things you like then recreate them at home. I’m constantly doing this – and I’ll ask people for the ingredients or the recipe. They’re aways happy to share, it’s a compliment!
There are a few different apps that are great for finding vegan eateries. The main one is Happy Cow, which is specially made for finding vegan places to eat no matter where you are. It’s not free, but it’s is worth getting if you’re in this for the long term. A good free alternative is Foursquare, which is a travel guide but works well anywhere and has a vegan/veggie filter. It also has great customer-written reviews and photos, so definitely worth a download.
Start Buying Quorn and Tofu
The first time I ever tried Quorn was at a friend’s house long before I stopped eating meat. She invited us over for dinner and made a bean chilli, and it was a delicious. Little did I know it was made using Quorn, which she told us once we’d finished. I was pleasantly surprised, it tasted the same, and changed view of it from being this weird thing that I didn’t understand to a legitimate alternative to meat.
Replacing some of your meat meals with Quorn is a fantastic way to transition away from meat, so if you want to become vegan or even just cut down then get a few bags of it in your freezer. If you’re making a chilli or spaghetti then try some Quorn mince, and if you’re having fajitas or stir fry then throw in the Quorn pieces instead of chicken. Quorn sausages are great too, especially if you’re having a fry up.
It’s worth noting that not all Quorn products are vegan, in fact most aren’t. So they’re great for helping you cut down on meat, but if you’re going vegan then tofu is the way to go. I recommend a new brand called ToFoo, which comes pre-seasoned and is easy to make great meals with. I buy blocks of the smoked Tofoo, which you just cut up and cook the same way as Quorn. One pack makes a couple of meals and tastes amazing in a stir fry or with some steamed veggies. Tofu soaks in the flavour of whatever you cook it with, so I sizzle it for a couple of minutes with some green or red pesto and it’s absolutely dreamy, as well as being full of protein and low in calories.
Make Your Own Rules
People often say to me “oh, you can’t eat that it’s got milk in it” and my response is always the same – I can eat it, I can eat whatever I want, I just choose not to. You make your own rules. If you’re vegan, it’s because that’s what you want to do, not because you committed to it and now you have to follow the definition of being vegan in order to keep calling yourself that. It’s your choice, and if you fancy a hamburger one day and you really want it then have it. It’s your call. But if you’re doing this for positive reasons and you believe in them then you won’t. Just make sure you’re following your rules and doing it for you, not because of what someone else might say. That’s my most important piece of advice!
Are you vegan or veggie, and if so what are your tips? If you’ve tried it but didn’t stick with it, what was your experience like? Hop on Twitter and let me know!