Veganism is on the rise. With many people wanting to switch to a meat-free plant-based diet for environmental reasons, many big companies have started to wake up to the demand. There has never been such a great time to go vegan. Supermarkets and restaurants have really upped their game in the last couple of years and have started to offer a much better range for vegans.
It’s hard to gauge an accurate statistic of how many vegans there are out there. Figures in the UK range from between 1% and 7% of the population, with a much greater percentage reducing their meat and dairy intake. But what is certain is that these numbers are rapidly increasing. And, with access to vegan-friendly food becoming better by the day, there are more people coming on board with the lifestyle.
I’ve been a vegan since early summer 2018. Having attempted and failed at undertaking Veganuary a few years previously, I found it much easier the second time around. For anyone that is considering a switch to a plant-based diet, here are my top tips.
Phase-In Your New Diet
If you just stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs all of a sudden one day, this is a dramatic change to make. Your body will struggle to adjust, and it will be even harder to adapt to new eating habits without slowly making changes.
Instead, think about going vegan gradually. Reduce the amount of meat that you are eating. If you’re someone that eats meat on every meal, think about having it every other meal. And then drop to every other day. And eventually, drop to once a week.
Eat through the food that you have in your home. There is no point in throwing away the food that you have already bought. But as you use this food, replace it with vegan alternatives.
Phase-out things like milk, cheese, and eggs gradually. If you reduce these over a period of a few weeks, then it will be less of a culture shock when you stop altogether.
Cutting down before quitting will not mean that you are a bad vegan.
Get Used To Reading Labels
While some manufacturers and stores will label their food as vegan, others are not so hot on it. Get used to checking the ingredients lists. But be aware, there are many ingredients such as E numbers that are derived from animals. It is always worth Googling any ingredients that are not immediately apparent.
There are lots of groups on Facebook that are a great help, especially when you are switching to a vegan diet. Accidentally Vegan groups are a great place to start as they will let you know about all of the products that are not specifically designed for or marketed towards vegans that you can eat. There are many groups that will highlight new products that are coming onto the market too. That way, you can get to try out all of the best new vegan food as soon as it hits the shelves.
Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
Occasionally, you may accidentally eat something that is not suitable for vegans. You may miss an ingredient in a product, or you may accidentally buy something and eat it out of habit. Don’t be too hard on yourself for this.
Remember that any effort that you are making will have a positive effect. If you are moving from an omnivore diet, there are lots of big changes, and you are only human.
Decide On Your Own Morality
It’s worth mentioning that your morality is your own. The reasons for you moving towards veganism may not be the same as for another person. Some people take a very hard line with any products that may impact the lives of animals. For example, some people will completely remove palm oil from their diets because of the effect it has on animals such as Orangutans. Other people may just use sustainable palm oil, or this may not be something that is central to their veganism.
Honey is a product that some people will eat if they know the hive it has come from. Whereas, other vegans will completely avoid it. Read up on the issues that affect vegans and make up your own mind. You don’t have to live a raw vegetable diet if that is not something that you want to do.
There is a debate that rages around buying food made by big companies. KFC has recently launched its first vegan burger. Some people may not want to buy from KFC as they see this as supporting a company that has a track record of mistreating animals. The other side of the coin is that by opening up to vegan demand, they will slowly start to change. As more fast-food chains and restaurants make it easier for people to make the switch, it will ultimately lessen the demand for their meat products. Again, it should not be for anyone else to tell you that you are a ‘bad vegan’ if you occasionally enjoy these products. It is entirely up to you.
Getting The Right Nutrients In On A Vegan Diet
There are lots of commonly held false narratives about switching to a vegan diet. Not getting enough protein is a very popular argument thrown against the plant-based lifestyle. But there are plenty of vegetables that are very high in protein. Some vegetables even offer higher protein per gram than the equivalent in meat. Beans, lentils, kale, and broccoli are just a few examples of high-protein vegetables. Animals derive all of their protein from vegetables, one argument for a vegan diet that is often used is that you are getting your protein second hand.
Again, Iron is often touted as a nutrient that a vegan diet may not provide. Eating plenty of green vegetables is a great way of ensuring you are not deficient in iron.
Vitamin B12 is the only thing that you cannot easily get from a meat-free diet. B12 is a vitamin that you don’t need a lot of, but a deficiency can leave you feeling lethargic. One of the best ways of getting B12 in your diet is through eating yeast. Marmite is an option, which you will either love or hate, but a more convenient and arguably tasty way of enjoying B12 is to sprinkle nutritional yeast flakes on your food. This works great on dishes like pasta, nutritional yeast has a cheesy sort of taste that makes for a good alternative to Parmesan.
Checking Out The Sources
Farming is complicated. In the production of vegetables, there are some obvious challenges. Land clearance and management often affect animals, and there is always the potential of indirect animal deaths as a result.
Having an understanding of the farming practices in your food can be a challenge and many vegans will look at where and how their food is grown. This is from the standpoint of carbon footprint related to the shipping, as well as the amount of water used in the farming process, the way that the land is used, the use of pesticides, and how farming that produces will affect any animals.
There is no system that is entirely perfect, and sometimes tracing back the origin of your food can be almost impossible. Many people will try and eat locally produced foods that are organic in an attempt to further minimise the effect their diet has on the environment.
Are you a vegan? What are your top tips? Have you ever considered switching to a plant-based diet? If you have, what holds you back?