Top 10 Tips For Going Vegan
It's certainly a phrase which is becoming a lot more common today, and is certainly a phrase which can seem daunting to the average meat eater (even to some vegetarians perhaps). Over two years ago now, I remember expressing (rather passionately), that I could NEVER go vegan. Who would do such a thing? One person going vegan would never make a difference to overall meat consumption, so what's the point? Wow so much has changed since then, including my mind-set (thankfully).
Today, vegan lifestyles are becoming so much more relevant and accessible to the public domain. Especially within the past year, where there has been a massive amount of growth within the vegan movement, with veganism spreading fast and far world wide. (Fun fact: veganism is the fastest growing social movement in history, with veganism increasing in the UK by 360% within the past decade).
I can remember how much of a pain it was to get a decent meal (other than a garden salad or a few sides of green veg) at a restaurant. Now however, vegan options are springing up from left, right and center; with websites like 'Happy Cow' making things easier, in terms of knowing where you can eat with vegan options. Even large global brands like Dominos, Ben & Jerry’s and McDonald’s are introducing vegan options (not that I endorse regularly eating these junk foods, just highlighting a point that veganism is entering mainstream life).
Even compared to my first experiences of travelling as a vegan, I can see so much progress in the recent years. It used to be a nightmare taking flights, as they barely catered for vegetarian, never mind vegan. Recently however, I have been able to select vegan options on international flights (which is great even though plane food is pretty yucky). Even the supermarkets are waking up to the growing demand for plant based products. Most stores are now even beginning to offer entire vegan product ranges, including a selection of mock meats, cheeses, ice cream, yogurt, milk and much more. And this is just the beginning. I look forward to the day where the vegan aisle is larger than that of the aisle for dead animal flesh. (Did you know that Sainsbury's has their own dairy free cheese range offering over 10 different vegan cheeses? Now that's something worth checking out!)
So what’s all the hype about?
Some would say that veganism is a trend, one that will most likely fizzle dimly out into the background of our hyper materialistic society. I however, would disagree with this. I would say that on this planet, we are experiencing a massive global shift in consciousness. People are beginning to wake up to the reality of the state of our delicate planet. (We're experiencing regular freak weather, storms, hurricanes, record temperature highs and lows and other bizarre weather events).
People are also beginning to see through the lies, which we've been literally fed by the meat and dairy industry. Similarly to the tobacco industry, the meat and dairy industry have tricked us into believing that these products are good for our health (such as through these very industries having a say in what makes up a good diet through government 'eat well' schemes). Still think milk is good for your bones? A large seven year study following over 1000 women, found that those who consumed diets high in animal protein and low in plants, had almost 4x higher rates of bone loss, and 3.7x higher rates of bone fracture, compared to women who consumed the least animal protein (Sellmeyer, 2001).
Meanwhile, our top killers: heart disease, stroke and cancer are claiming the lives of victims who simply didn't know any better. People are also beginning to acknowledge the link between the food on their plates, and where this food actually came from. Thanks to online platforms like social media, the truth and brutality of these industries are becoming a lot harder to hide.
Now if you’re reading this blog, I’m sure that you’re already well informed of the copious amounts of positive benefits that going vegan will bring (improved health and wellbeing, saving the environment and innocent animals lives, as well as positively contributing to the global food supply). So I don’t need to go into too much detail here (perhaps I’ll save it for another blog post). However if you are keen to check out the recent research then click here.
But I will mention a few of the positive benefits that a vegan life will bring:
- Reduced risks (and even reversal) of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (Dod et al, 2010)
- Lower rates of (and protection against) some cancers including prostate, colon & breast cancer (Ferrari et al, 2013)
- Increased energy levels and high quality of life
- Increased recovery time and supply of accessible energy (which may be why so many elite athletes are beginning to adopt vegan diets)
- Longer life expectancy (Huang et a, 2012)
- Reduced body weight, blood pressure, cholestoral and improved blood sugar control (Tuso et al, 2013)
- Lowered risk of cognitive decline and neuro-degenerative diseases, with those eating healthy plants diets reducing their risk of dementia by 86%-92% and Alzheimer's disease by 90%-92% (Eskelinen et al, 2011)
For further information about the health benefits of a vegan diet, be sure to read “How Not To Die” by Michael Gregor MD, which is filled with thousands of studies supporting the health benefits for a plant based lifestyle.
Also don’t miss out on checking out “What The Health” (2017). WTH is a groundbreaking documentary which unpicks the incessant problems with meat/eggs/dairy on our health, and how these industries are trying to hide the truth from our very eyes (in the same way in which the tobacco industry used to try and trick us into believing smoking was not bad for our health). WTH reveals shocking discoveries about the very “charities” which claim to help support research preventing such diseases they fight against, when in fact, they’ve been supporting these diseases all along (through dietary recommendations).
If you’re more interested in the Athletic side of things, then watch out for “The Game Changers” (produced by James Cameron): A documentary soon to be released, which covers why elite athletes are switching plant based to increase their power, performance and stamina; Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Patrik Baboumian (world record strong man), Tia Blanco (2-time world surfing champion), Kendrick Farris (American record holding weight lifter) and many, many more brilliant athletes.
Top vegan starter tips-
1. Ease yourself into it
Going vegan isn’t something that has to happen overnight. For me this is actually how it happened, however I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone and if I could do it over again, I would definitely make it a smoother transition. I went vegan the day after Christmas in 2015. After a full Christmas Day spent of gorging on meat and dairy products (which actually makes me cringe now), enough was enough. I already had been researching veganism, and was going to make it my New Years resolution to make the change.
However on the night of the 26th, I watched an online lecture recommended by a friend. It was a lecture (which now has over 4 million views) given by a vegan activist called Gary Yourofsky. Watching this made me push all of my excuses to not to be vegan behind, and I couldn't bare to wait until the 1st of January to make the change. I knew in my heart and mind that consuming animal products was not the right thing to be doing (for the environment, my health or the animals) and so it all came to an end (and I haven't looked back since).
Unfortunately though, as I mentioned that this was not something which I transitioned into, which meant that my body had to work even harder to adjust to the complete change of diet. Due to the sudden increase fiber, I was bloated for approximately 2-3 weeks (however after this time, my body readjusted and I lost the water weight). Therefore I would strongly recommend to take your time with veganism. Transitioning is not a race, as it is a really important journey that you don’t want to rush and end up spoiling.
If you are a heavy meat eater, then I would recommend first beginning with a pescitarian or vegetarian diet. Therefore removing land animal meat and gradually fish from your diet. You can do this by trying out things like ‘Meatless Monday’ or only eating meat/fish on the weekends. During this time you can experiment with cooking vegetarian/vegan meals and once you feel comfortable getting creative in the kitchen, you can allow the meat/fish days to decrease to zero.
You might like to try cooking ‘meaty’ dishes like lentils, which can tend to be quite dense in texture. I would also recommend giving tofu and tempeh a go, which can be made in a variety of ways (marinated in teriyaki and garlic is my favourite). If you already don't eat too much meat, then you should be fine switching straight to vegetarian, and you may even like to try out the mock meats which are available in practically every supermarket today.
2. Be Vegan as Possible
The thing is with veganism, it really doesn’t have to be an all or nothing way of life. Being vegan as possible, is definitely a (psychologically) healthier way to approach veganism. Last year when I was living in Melbourne, I attended a vegan advocacy course with an organisation called ‘Animals Australia’, which was basically about how not to be a pushy vegan (but it was great to say the least). The majority of the course was held by Harvard-educated social psychologist, Melanie Joy, Ph.D., Ed.M. (author of ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows). Have a listen to her eye-opening Ted Talk, on how we can make more rational and authentic food choices.
I remember that during the course, Melanie recited a story about being sat on a plane, next to a man who had previously been vegan. When she asked him why he wasn’t vegan anymore, his response was that he had slipped up once and ate some meat and so after that he thought he had failed and therefore went back to eating meat permanently. What he didn’t recognise however, was that the true failure was thinking that he had failed. In reality, nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect. The best you can do is to try each day to do the best you can, and if you slip up then you can always start fresh again tomorrow.
3. Play swapsies
So what are your most consumed non vegan products? For most people I would probably say it would be milk. So why not play some swapsies in the kitchen? There are an abundance of alternative plant based milks out there. You just need to experiment with which one works best for you. My personal favourites are unsweetened almond and coconut milks. (When purchasing plant milk just be mindful not to purchase milk with high sugar levels for health purposes).
Before I went vegan, my staple breakfast was eggs and avocado. Since I’ve switched to a plant only diet, I now tend to eat a variety of different breakfast’s instead of the same old boring routine. I swapped my eggs for scrambled tofu with turmeric (which was super yum). I also regularly eat avocado on rice cakes with Marmite (which is a great source of B12-but you either love it or you hate it), and I sometimes have delicious smoothie and oat bowels, topped with chia seeds, nuts, berries and delicious goodness.
Also if you’re into baking, a few great egg replacements (to make the ingredients stick together) are apple cider vinegar, apple sauce, chia seeds or flaxseed (mixed with water). If you have a recipe, there is ALWAYS a vegan alternative, all you have to do is play a little swapsies.
4. Get creative
You think it’ll be hard to give up your favourite meals? Oh wait, you don’t even have to! The great thing about veganism going mainstream, is that more often than not, you don’t need to buy vegan ingredients from fancy (and expensive) health food stores. Especially with supermarkets like Aldi, Asda and Lidl, who offer cheap vegan friendly ingredients
Struggling for ideas? No worries! The internet is absolutely littered with vegan recipes and meal ideas. All you have to do is type in #veganrecipes on insta and you’ll be met with an an inconceivable amount of new and funky recipe ideas. My current favourite insta account to keep up to date with, is @AvantGardeVegan (Gaz a vegan chef from Cardiff), who makes mind blowing dishes. He has also recently come out with an amazing recipe book 'Vegan 100', filled with your favourite dishes.
Before I went vegan I quite literally ate the same meals everyday. It was usually eggs for breakfast, chicken and sweet potato for lunch and some salmon and salad for dinner. When I went vegan, I realised that the same repetitive shit just doesn’t cut it anymore. I started getting super creative in the kitchen and would cook up amazing healthy and delicious meals. A few of my favourite dishes I have previously veganised are moussaka, banana pancakes, cheese cake and paella. (And the cruelty free versions were even more tasty than the originals).
5. Be wholesome.
Don’t worry, I’m not preaching any religious or culty views on you here. The simple message is: Keep your foods whole! Being vegan doesn’t automatically mean that you are healthier. You can be seriously unhealthy and malnourished, if you don’t eat correctly (the same goes for meat eaters). This means that you must, must, must include whole foods in your diet. A whole food is a plant food, which has been unprocessed and unrefined (with no preservatives or additives). A sweet potato is a whole food. A bag of sweet potato fries is not. Get the jist?
I’m not saying you can’t ever eat fries again (because you definitely should now and then). I’m saying, just don’t make fries or breads your staple diet (that’s when malnourishment can occur). Our bodies need the wonderful nutrients that whole fruits and vegetables so kindly provide. I don’t need to state the obvious as to why we need to keep our bodies fit and healthy, so make sure you eat more plants!
But whilst we’re on this matter, lets talk protein. You’re vegan are you going to get enough of it? The answer is YES! So long as you’re regularly incorporating whole foods into your diet, you are undoubtedly going to get enough protein. Protein is present in all plants and it’s even in rice, peas, chickpeas and nuts. You'll also be glad to know that unless you're a fruititarian, it is impossible to eat a diet low in protein. Researchers attempted to test the effects of a low protein diet on health, however because there is protein present in all vegetables, they found it impossible to create such a diet and therefore had to call off the study.
6. Lettuce be friends.
What is it worth being vegan if you don’t have a VGang? Vegan friends really are the best friends (maybe I’m biased). But seriously, nothing beats having friends who share the same passions and values as you. Not to mention you get to share the excitement when you both discover a new vegan restaurant or dish in the local area. You get to cook delicious food, engage in vegan activism and attend all vegan food festivals together, what could be greater than that?
I’m super lucky to have a global gang of vegan pals, which I’ve happened to accumulate throughout my worldly travels. It really does making a difference having a support network of like minded individuals, who you can talk over your daily struggles with. Such as sharing advice of how to react when you stumble across those who (will inevitably) militantly challenge your views. It’s also a great way to discuss ideas of how to be more effective in promoting veganism without shaming others. (Its seriously important that meat eaters are not deemed evil or murders, as we were all non vegan once and it’s a journey that is unique for each individual).
7. Keep yourself well informed
Many people choose many different reasons for going vegan, but ultimately we’re all working towards a cause greater than ourselves. Whether it be for the environment, for the animals, for health or for those starving, we are all collectively striving together for a better world. Veganism is the fastest growing social movement in the whole history of human kind. Do you realise how powerful that is? The changes that will be implemented in this world because of this movement? Well if you don’t, then make sure you keep yourself informed and up to date with the successes of the vegan movement.
I used to have the mindset (before vegan life), that going vegan wouldn’t make a difference, so why bother? Oh I couldn’t had been more wrong. In fact it DOES make a difference and it already has. The meat and dairy industry is already under threat and we’ve only just entered 2018. Imagine the situation another 10 years ahead! More and more companies are investing in plant based products, veganism seriously is the future so don’t lose hope!
If you are interested in keeping up with plant based news, then check out Veg News, Plant Based News & The Vegan Society.
8. Spread the message
So I’ve talked a little about my course on (basically) how not to be a pushy vegan (ran by Animals Australia), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be spreading the word. The word needs to be spread, just not in a way in which will cause harm to others (physically, mentally or emotionally). When we spread the word of veganism we want to do so in a positive manner, and not in a way which will reinforce others in “hating on vegans”. This therefore means (I emphasise again) not shaming other people.
The victims (the animals) are voiceless and therefore we must act on their behalf. Why not get involved with your local vegan community and share the message with others. Perhaps you can help out or take part in arranged some positive vegan activism. In March last year, I attended a ‘March to end all slaughter houses’ in Melbourne. Another time, my vegan gal pals and I attended a silent protest, holding up signs to the public. There are lots of fun and creative ways you can get involved, so why not have a little research and see for yourself?
9. Break the stereotype
Vegans have been typically dubbed as pushy, weak, malnourished and self-righteous. I would imagine that the cause of this stereotype has something to do with the meat and dairy industries, who want to demonize veganism as much as possible in order to protect their blood stained profits. So lets work to break that stereotype and show veganism for what it really is: healthy, compassionate and considerate. This means being compassionate to more than just animals, and showing compassion to those who don't understand our lifestyle choices. No one will be won over by being made to feel small or stupid, so let's talk openly about our choices in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Your family makes jokes about your veganism? Go ahead and laugh with them (when its not harming you), and embrace that you're on a unique pathway which only few will understand.
10. Don't lose hope
With all that goes on in this world, it's too easy to be pessimistic. Especially in terms of the environment, wars and the current state of our planet. However its so important not to lose hope in your journey and to continue to fight for a cause worth fighting for. If your vegan for health and may not have so many environmental concerns, then don't lose faith that a plant based diet can help to restore you back to good health. As I've already mentioned, there are numerous pieces of scientific research showing the power of plants and their ability to fight and reverse our most deadly diseases.
A particularly inspiring story however, is one of my best friend's dad called Ollie. Ollie was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late stages and his chemotherapy had not worked. The doctors had estimated him a further six months to live until his cancer consumed his body. Ollie decided to take his fate into his own hands, and began researching alternative treatments for cancer. He soon came across the healing benefits of a vegan diet and immediately switched to plant based only. Several years later, Ollie is not only still alive, but also fitter and healthier than ever before. He has huge amounts of energy and is even running not one, but TWO marathons within two months at the age of 60 to raise money for prostate cancer research. Now that is something worth being vegan for.
Ollie is working towards raising £3000 to support prostate cancer research in his marathons. Ollie and his family and friends, have been engaged in a number of fundraising activities, such as bag packing at supermarkets, hosting a curry night, a music gig (and I helped out by teaching a donation based yoga class for the cause). Ollie has raised 54% of his target, however he still has some way to go. If you would like to help support Ollie's cause then any donations, big or small would be very much appreciated. To donate, please click here.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it some what useful for new time vegans!
If you'd like to keep up with my vegan food adventures, then check out my vegan food only instagram @VeganForVitality (with over 2 years worth of vegan food from all over the world).
To follow my personal adventures on Instagram, feel free to check out @TheVeganYogiTraveller
Maddie holds a strong place in her heart for holistic health and well-being. She is a psychology graduate, yoga instructor, reiki practitioner, vegan nutrition adviser and world traveller. Maddie loves reading, writing and exploring new places, meeting new and interesting people and enjoying the wonders of everyday life.
If enjoy reading my work and would like to help support this blog (which helps me to cover the monthly website costs and compensates my writing time), any donations are always really greatly appreciated (but of course not essential).