So you’re thinking of going vegan? It’s not an easy decision to make, but the fact that you’ve made it to this page means you must be giving it some serious thought. Some of the questions you might be asking are:
- How will I make sure I get proper nutrition on a vegan diet?
- Where can I buy vegan products without breaking the bank?
- How do I replace the ingredients in my favourite meals with vegan ones?
We’ll have a look at how to solve these problems and show you how you can build healthy, life-long vegan eating habits. Here are 10 tips on how to go vegan:
- Go slowly. Don’t go cold turkey off meat on day one – it’s just about as difficult as quitting smoking! It can be especially difficult if most of your friends and family eat meat. Don’t feel bad if you go out with your buddies and end up chowing down on a McChicken at 3am – it happens to everyone. Just remember your reasons for wanting to become a vegan, and follow these steps on how to go vegan to slowly phase meat and animal products out of your lifestyle.
- Pick a cheating day. Now, this isn’t always an option for some people, especially if you’re dead set on becoming a vegan from day one. However, knowing that you have one day to eat something like fish or free range eggs in a week will make you less likely to indulge when you’re presented with a meaty feast. Slowly phase it down to once every ten days, then every two weeks, and then down to once a month until you’re ready to drop meat altogether.
- Learn your meat replacement products. Soy burgers and sausages are a great way to replace meat in your diet when you’re first trying to go vegan. If you don’t like them at first, try a different brand or try cooking them a different way. Vegetarian burgers and other soy meat products generally aren’t best cooked in the microwave – try grilling them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, or soaking them overnight in your favourite vegetarian marinade.Soy meat products are generally not very good on their own, so stock up on a variety of different sauces and toppings to spice things up a little. As a vegan you should have a spice rack that is the envy of the neighbourhood, and sauces in your cupboard that most people have never heard of!
- Do some research. Go out to vegan restaurants and see what they cook. Make a note of the ingredients for things that you like, or even go and speak to the chef. They’ll usually be more than happy to show you how something is done, or which ingredients were used – they’ll often also help point you towards somewhere you can buy similar ingredients. Most people who try to become vegans don’t know about the amazing variety of cruelty-free foods that are available.
- Give tofu a chance! – Tofu is often written off because it doesn’t seem to taste like much, and its texture puts some people off. But the beauty of tofu is that it absorbs whatever flavours it is cooked with. Try marinating it in sesame seed oil before frying it lightly in olive oil with some mushrooms. Add it to a salad, and you have a healthy, protein-rich snack!
- Buy a good vegan cookbook. Without fresh ideas you’ll quickly get bored with a vegan diet. Make it a point to try out new dishes at least once a week, and experiment with new ingredients, spices, and ways of cooking things. This might mean you need to go out and get some more kit for your kitchen, but don’t worry – things like steamers are usually very inexpensive, and you can often pick up a good rice cooker on eBay for next to nothing. Mark out a few new meals to try each week, write down the ingredients for them, and make sure that you shop specifically for those meals. Don’t be put off if you’ve never heard of a certain ingredient – that’s the beauty of trying new vegan foods! Just talk to someone at a health store, or even a large grocery store, to see if they stock it or know where you can find it.
- Talk to other vegans. If someone has been a vegan for a long time, they’ll definitely know a lot about staying healthy and keeping your diet varied and interesting. Ask them how they deal with things like snacking, cooking for a family that eats meat and grabbing food on the go when you’re busy. They’ll also probably know loads of great vegan restaurants in the area that are good places to go out for meals.
- Buy something new every week. Grocery stores often carry once-off produce and exotic fruits. Keep a look out for these – they can sometimes be a bit more expensive, but they’re usually worth a try. If you stock a new ingredient in your fridge every week, and you find an interesting way to cook it, you’ll quickly build up a repertoire of great vegan recipes that use interesting and unusual ingredients.
- Know where you get your protein. One of the most common criticisms levelled at a vegan diet is the lack of protein, but it doesn’t have to be this way! You can get just as much protein in your diet – and protein of a better quality – by maintaining a healthy and balanced vegan diet. Make sure you eat plenty of legumes, lentils and beans, nuts, seeds, cereals and whole grains, soya products, vegetables such as turnips and spinach and seitan.There are also loads of different fruits and vegetables that provide a lot of essential amino acids and proteins that are great to use as replacements for meat proteins. Oily vegetables such as olives and fruits like avocado pears contain loads of essential oils and proteins, and these proteins tend to be much more readily used by the human body.
- Try turning Japanese! A Japanese diet has loads of options for maintaining a strict vegan diet, as there is a lot of emphasis on rice, vegetables, beans, noodles and soy products. A typical vegan Japanese meal will be high in protein and carbohydrates, but also have loads of vegetables, legumes and beans that provide vitamins, minerals and essential oils.
Investing in a rice cooker is a great way to eat more Japanese food. Go down to your local market and see if there is a Japanese or Asian food store. Ask the owners if they can help you put together a few vegan or vegetarian meals. It might take a little bit of time getting used to some of the strong flavours of Japanese cuisine, but it’s a great way to put one or two healthy, high protein vegan meals into your diet each week.