Where to begin: our tips for going vegan!

It’s that time of year again! Nope, not Halloween, and it’s certainly not Christmas yet. On November 1st every year it’s World Vegan Day, and the whole month of November is World Vegan Month! So to celebrate, we thought we’d give our favourite tips and tricks to anyone who may be considering becoming vegan.

Why become a vegan, you ask? There are so many great reasons, but here are just a few of our favourites!

For the animals. Billions of animals are killed each year for human consumption. The conditions they are kept in along with the process of slaughtering them causes a huge amount of suffering for these wonderful creatures.

For the environment. Animal farming is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and pollution as well as deforestation around the globe.

For your health. A well-planned vegan diet, sometimes with the help of some supplements, can provide you with all the nutrients you need to live a healthy and happy life. Studies have also shown that vegans can have lower risks of diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer. [source]

[pic source: happycow]

There are plenty of other benefits, but these three are the biggies. If this sounds good to you, but you’re not sure where to start, here are some of our tips to help make it a smoother transition for you.

Be prepared

Firstly, do some research before you commit to veganism. Find out more information about how the animals are treated and the impact the meat and dairy industries have on the planet. The more you know, the more likely you’ll be to stick to it. I’d also advise looking up some recipes you might want to try so you don’t go into your first day blindly. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what you can or can’t eat, so perhaps make yourself a bit of a meal plan. This will make your food shop much easier too!

This also goes for eating out. If you are going out for a meal (maybe unlikely at the moment…) and you know which restaurant you are going to, it’s probably best to look up the menu online before you go. This way you know what your options are at that restaurant, and there won’t be so much of a panic looking for the vegan dishes when you get to the table. If you’re in a new city or country, and you’re unsure of where you can eat, a quick search on the internet will give you some great options. There’s also a few apps which do the leg work for you, so it really couldn’t be easier.

Take your time

Don’t feel like you need to do it all at once, and cut everything out overnight. If that works for you, then absolutely steam ahead! But if you need a little bit more time, even starting with just one vegan day a week is fantastic. It can be really overwhelming to change a lot all at once, so many people will start by cutting out meat first, then moo-ving onto dairy and eggs at a later date.

If you don’t want to fully commit straight away, why not start with a 30 day challenge (like Veganuary) and see how you feel after a month.

The same goes for your clothing and cosmetics too. Rather than being wasteful and throwing away all your current non-vegan or non-cruelty-free stuff, just use it all up and then replace it with something that aligns with your new beliefs. If you’re uncomfortable wearing them, then you could always donate your unwanted leather or wool to charity shops. Cleansing your wardrobe and doing your bit for a cause you care about… win-win!

So, don’t rush, take it one day at a time, and don’t beat yourself up. Just do what you can, as anything you can contribute makes such a difference.

Veganise the foods you already love

If you’re brand new to vegan food, then you may be under the impression that we eat salad and not much else. A few years ago, you may have been right, but here in 2020 we can have everything a non-vegan can have. Burgers, mac & cheese, pizza, even steak… you name it, there’s a vegan alternative!

I think one of the main reasons people don’t want to try veganism is that they are worried they’ll miss too many foods. So why not bring those foods along on your journey? Just replace the meat and dairy with something plant-based. Some good examples to try would be lentil bolognese rather than beef, or a chickpea curry instead of chicken. I’m sure you’ll find they taste just as good (if not better)!

[pic source]

Read the labels

If reading labels on food products was an Olympic sport, I’m fairly sure the medal winners would all be vegan!

We’re pretty lucky these days, as many food products have that little “suitable for vegans” stamp on the packaging. If you see that, then get it straight in your basket! Another tip for you – even if it only says “suitable for vegetarians”, it may be okay for you to eat, you’ll just have to check the allergens in the ingredient section for dairy or egg products. It seems some brands just haven’t started using the word “vegan” yet.

In the UK, the allergens in a product are usually highlighted in bold. This makes it really easy for you to skim the ingredients and make sure there’s no milk hiding in there. You’d be surprised how many seemingly plant-based foods contains an animal product – why some crisps need milk powder is beyond me!

It gets a little more complicated now as we come on to E numbers. In case you weren’t sure, E numbers are basically additives put in to food. The “E” stands for Europe, and the number corresponds to some rules set in place by the European Union about which foods can contain them, and how much humans are allowed to consume [source]. Any 90s kids reading this might remember the blue skittle/E number fiasco!

The reason I’ve mentioned these additives is that some are non-vegan, and you may need to look out for these on your food labels too. Now, there are many vegans who don’t worry too much about them, but here is a list of some you may want to avoid [source]:

E NumberNameCategoryDetails
120Cochineal; Carminic acid; CarmineColourA red pigment obtained from cochineal insects.
441GelatineEmulsifierObtained from the collagen of animal bones or skin, mainly pigs and cattle.
542Bone PhosphateAnti-caking agentCreated by crushing the bones of animals – not approved in the EU.
901BeeswaxGlazing agentComes from bees.
904ShellacGlazing agentA resin that is secreted by a species of lac insects in Asia.
913LanolinGlazing agentA grease derived from the wool of sheep – not approved in the EU.
966LactitolSweetnerThis sugar alcohol is generally derived from milk.
1105LysosymePreservativeGenerally obtained from chicken eggs.

There’s a lot to think about here, but as we said earlier, just take your time and do what you can.

If you’re on a budget, limit your meat substitutes

One of the biggest excuses people give not to try veganism is “it’s too expensive”. I won’t lie to you, it can be expensive, but only if you buy lots of fake meats and junk food. If you want to keep to a tight budget then vegetables, beans and legumes are your best friend.

Meat substitutes are great, they really are! They have helped many people (including myself!) to transition from meat-eating to plant-powered. Generally they taste really good, and some are so realistic you have to double check you aren’t chomping on some poor animal!

That being said – the price tag on these items tends to be very high. For some of the most popular burgers you’re looking around £5 for a pack of 2. Just to put that into perspective, you could get 10 tins of chickpeas for the same price.

So whilst these products are well worth a try, your bank balance may not thank you if you plan to use them in every meal. In order to bring that weekly shop down, you could try a supermarkets own brand of plant-based meats instead, or just use them as a treat every now and then.

Mistakes happen!

I know it’s not fun to think about, but there might be a time in your journey where you slip up. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll share mine with you! After KFC brought out their vegan burger, I just HAD to try one. It was delicious, and I scoffed it all up with some KFC chips. I found out a few days later that these chips aren’t vegan as they are fried in the same oil as their chicken. But hey, does it matter? I was disappointed, but it doesn’t mean I’m not vegan anymore, it just means I’ll never buy those chips again.

So if you accidently buy something with an animal product in it, or you’re served something at a restaurant with butter on it and you don’t realise, I’m here to tell you… it’s okay! Sure, do everything you can to eliminate the risk, but some things are out of your hands.

If you do slip up, just accept it and move on. Don’t give up, or say mean things to yourself. It’s better to have 1000 people doing this imperfectly, than just 1 person doing it perfectly.

Remember why you started

Last, but certainly not least is this little nugget (of knowledge, not chicken). Find your reasons why you want to take on this journey. Is it for the animals, the environment, or health reasons? It could be all three, or something completely different. Whatever your “why” is, it’s so important to remind yourself of it every now and then.

If things get hard, and you feel like you want to throw in the towel, that’s when your “why” comes in handy. So if there’s an environmental quote that really resonates with you, or a picutre of a calf that just makes you melt, you may want to keep it handy for a little boost when you need it.

[pic source: unsplash]

If you speak to any vegan, they’ll tell you that adopting this lifestyle is one of the best things they have ever done, and I’m confident you’ll feel the same. We hope these tips will help you to get started, but please reach out to us here at Vegums if you have any other questions. Good luck on your vegan journey!

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