From the point of view of help and support on your road to veganism, there is a plethora of information and like-minded chat sites on the internet to ensure your success. Also, as veganism is constantly growing and becoming a more popular choice, it is likely that you may know someone who can offer you advice.
I would like to share with you a few ideas that I found along the way. It is by no means a comprehensive guide but I think everyone will relate to at least one idea.
Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. Perhaps not the best saying for a vegan but it is a metaphor for saying that a slow, gradual approach is more likely to end in success. As I stated in my last blog post, I stopped with meat and ate just fish. This was for about 3 or 4 months. I then became vegetarian. This was for a longer period. Eventually I decided that I may as well be Vegan as I was already a veggie with an aversion to milk so, from a dairy point of view, I was only giving up cheese and eggs.
Planning is crucial. You can’t have a fridge full of bacon, eggs, milk etc. and then suddenly decide ‘right, I’m going vegan!’. You’d starve!!! Many people find it helpful to make a list of vegan alternatives to each meal they have in a week. To be honest, as I am chef in my home, I’d already got alternatives sorted in my head so it was just a case of starting to shop vegan. A big issue for me was snacking. I was sorted for meals but my quick snacks used to be ham sandwiches, fried egg on toast, scrambled egg on toast….you get the idea.
In the vegan world, alternatives to sliced meat tend to be quite expensive when you consider that they are just for snacking. If your budget does stretch to them, there are lots of options. In the UK, Quorn do about 3 or 4 ‘cold meat alternative’ slices. I believe VBites also have a range, most of which are available at your local Holland and Barrett. However, if you are like me and would prefer the bulk of your budget to go to meals, there are loads of cheap snacking ideas. My favourites are stuffing sandwiches, Vegemite on bread or toast, tomatoes on toast and mushrooms on toast. I personally don’t eat fruit but I’m sure bananas are a great bridge to your next meal.
Apologies for readers overseas as the food and stores quoted are all UK-based but I’m sure there will be similar options wherever you may be.
It can be tough, especially for young people who live with family and are not responsible for buying or cooking food. The best thing I can say is that you should discuss your aims and needs with the people you live with and see if you can come up with a plan that will allow you to make your lifestyle change. At one time, I used to cook two separate meals in a sitting as my wife was vegetarian and, to my shame, I ate meat but we made it work and quite easily, I should add.
There are many reasons why people choose to become vegan. I would guess (as I have done absolutely no research) that the most common reason is so that the price of their food is not another life. This was certainly my reason and my opinion on this grows stronger with every second that passes. Whatever your reason may be, you will certainly benefit from a less toxic diet. It is my belief that a poor diet is a much larger player in the illnesses that we see today than people are generally led to believe. Since becoming vegan, I have not had a cold, my skin looks vibrant and healthy and I generally feel more healthy.
Meat substitutes are not good substitutes for meat. This is an opinion but I’m willing to bet that many will agree. The texture and taste of meat substitutes like quorn, tofu or seitan will only disappoint if you are expecting it to directly take the place of meat. It doesn’t but it is enjoyable if you accept it for what it is. Remember, you are totally transforming your diet so you have to get used to new tastes that probably won’t light your fire for a while. It does get better and you can enjoy your food. You have to appreciate that the foods we have been previously conditioned to eat are strong in taste, particularly processed foods. They are designed to compliment your taste buds but, in many cases to an extreme level so that when you suddenly go to a plant based diet, many things taste bland. My advice is get creative with seasoning. Experiment.
To a non-vegan reading this, it probably doesn’t sound that appealing. In truth, from a food enjoyment point of view, there is some adjusting to do. For a long time, I ate to survive and I’ve only just got to a point where I now enjoy my food again. Once you have decided to face the realities of the meat and dairy industry and you have decided that it is no longer acceptable to take a life for your food or to be part of the cruelty, you won’t want to go back. It really is an awakening and, even if I never got to the point of enjoying food again, I would be happy just to eat to survive as long as I was not part of this abhorrent activity.
If you feel you are not getting enough of a certain vitamin, take supplements alongside your diet. I believe B12 is a common vitamin that is lacking for many vegans. I take a daily supplement for this but I am led to believe that there are natural vegan foods that can provide this (again, I have been lazy and done no research whatsoever!!!).
A quick blood test at the doctors can give you an indication of whether or not you are deficient in any vitamins. I’m not trying to advise you to ignore getting the right amounts of vitamins but you don’t need to obsess over it. The stress will probably be more harmful than the slight deficiency you are stressing over!
I hope this has given you some good pointers. It is based on my own experiences and opinions so please go ahead and get a wide range of opinions from others to build a more general picture and above all, use common sense, listen to your body and eat sensibly.
Wishing you every success in your new lifestyle. Go VEGAN – because every life matters.