When I first stopped eating red meat back in 2015 I told myself I could never give up chicken, it was too delicious. 3 years later, I became a vegetarian, but I could never give up cheese and chocolate, it was just too good. Yet, here I am, almost a year after I gave up meat, unable to imagine ever going back on the decision I made in February of this year, to commit and become a fully fledged vegan. The transition can seem really daunting and limiting, so in honour of World Vegan Day, here are some tips on how you can make the change as easily as possible.
This might sound a bit redundant on a day meant for veganism, but if you’re currently a meat eater, I’d always recommend starting as a vegetarian, even if only for a month or so. You will get cravings, and if you cut out too many food groups at once, keeping those cravings at bay will be even more difficult. The cravings will subside, but making the transition gradual will increase the likelihood of you sticking to it.
Identify Why You’re Doing This
Most people are vegan for one of two reasons. There’s ethical veganism, whether due to animal welfare or environmental reasons, and dietary veganism, a choice based on one’s own health. Either reason is equally valid, but it can determine the choices you make. Personally, being vegan is an ethical choice, and therefore I don’t really care if my maccies fries were cooked in the same oil as their nuggets because it’s not contributing to any further animal suffering. If you want to become vegan for environmental reasons, you might want to also avoid foods such as quinoa that, while being vegan, cause a lot of suffering to the farmers that grow it. On the other hand, if your choices are dietary based, it’s worth considering cutting out certain meat replacements. A Quorn sausage is still a sausage even if there’s no pork in it.
Find Your Favourites
To me, almond milk tastes like absolute trash and I wouldn’t touch soy based cheese with a stick. On the other hand, I live for oat milk (Oatly being my favourite brand), and believe coconut cheese has the most authentic taste and best melting abilities (it can, however, be difficult to find – look out for Daiya, aka the best brand of vegan cheese in this world). There are so many options these days that you are bound to find the one you like. Even supermarkets’ own brand ranges now include many different milk alternatives at reasonable prices. One of my favourite things about being a vegan is that it has enabled me to try so many foods I never before thought I would like, because it does force you to step out of your comfort zone. So give it a go, try as many new vegetables, dairy alternatives and meat substitutes as you want.
Be prepared that you will come across some that, to be brutally honest with you, are disgusting, but you’ll also find ones that are absolutely heavenly. I’m lucky to come from one of the most vegan friendly countries in the world, offering things such as the McVegan and the initial release of the vegan Magnums. However, I am happy to say that the brand of vegan mince I’ve been loving even since before I went veggie, that I had to smuggle on the plane across the pond after every holiday, has now finally launched in the UK. Head over to Sainsbury’s to try Garden Gourmet’s Simply Mince – you can thank me later.
Get Yourself a Guru
Like I said before, going vegan can seem daunting. What brands should you get, what recipes can I make and how the hell do I find comfort foods?! Fear not, us vegans, if I do say so myself, are a friendly bunch and often more than happy to help. It’s certainly worth finding yourself a friend to come on the journey with you. If none of your pals are vegan, there are plenty of influencers who promote veganism and share some great recipes, some of my faves including Bosh and LetsCookVegan. But if you do have a vegan friend, let them know and they’ll be happy to help. Heck, I’ll be your vegan friend! Biggest shoutout ever to my bae Morwenna for teaching me that Cadbury’s Bournville is vegan and as late as yesterday informing me that tofu scramble tastes just as good with firm as it does with silken.
Be Kind To Yourself
Most importantly, recognise that this is a journey and nobody is perfect. You will probably muck up, but do try to not beat yourself up about it too much. A couple of months into being vegan, I was sat, off my face in maccies and decided that you know what, I was going to have mozzarella sticks, ‘f*ck the cows’. While I’m not proud of that moment, I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve drunkenly cheated once or twice more since. I always regret it, yes, but I also recognise that I am human, and I still do more than most. I’m not saying I encourage it, but if you do fall off the band wagon know that you’re still just as welcome to jump back on it, I doubt you’ll find a single vegan who’s never had a cheeky bit of dairy at some point.