This new year is set to be the biggest for participation in Veganuary (a challenge to try the vegan lifestyle for the month of January). Living a vegan lifestyle has become and is becoming increasingly easier, with a wide range of products landing in shops around the world, but as with any lifestyle and diet change, it is not without its challenges.
As a “new” vegan (I transitioned late September 2018), I thought I’d share my favourite tips, tricks, and words of advice regarding the journey into veganism. Best of luck to everyone participating in Veganuary, or otherwise beginning their vegan transition in 2019!
- Educate yo’self!!! There are a number of reasons why people participate in Veganuary/are interested in trying veganism, but three main reasons people stay vegan are 1) for the animals, 2) for the planet, and 3) for their own health (or any combination of these reasons). Whether you are only planning on staying vegan for a month or for the foreseeable future, I recommend reading into both the pros and cons of a vegan lifestyle and its impact on the world we live in. If you have the time, try to watch some videos and documentaries about animal agriculture. Video evidence is the hardest to argue against, and while not necessarily applicable to all farms/slaughterhouses/practices etc, it is happening somewhere. Understanding the reasons behind the cause are definitely one of the most important steps into the world of veganism.
- Remove “temptation” If possible, try to cleanse your kitchen from any animal-based products. If they’re not there to use, chances are you can get buy without using them, and won’t be tempted to do so either! This doesn’t necessarily mean wasting the products though; if possible, try to donate to either a homeless shelter or to local homeless folk. Alternatively, you could pass your animal products on to friends or family (ask them to look after them for you until you’ve finished Veganuary, or just give the products to them to use instead). If you have the time, use up the animal products before starting out with veganism, or if freezable, stick them in the freezer for use after Veganuary. Basically, try to make any animal products you already have as inaccessible as possible to reduce the risk of using them!
- Stock up on vegan essentials Make sure you have plenty of food in your house that you CAN eat – fresh fruit and vegetables are a must, as these are great sources of nutrition and in many savoury dishes, meat can easily be swapped out for extra veg. I use a lot of mushrooms, courgettes (zucchinis), and aubergines (eggplant) as these are pretty chunky and fairly bland, absorbing other flavours well. Beans and pulses are also fabulous to use instead of meat, and again are great for your health (maybe not so much for flatulence but hey). I’d also advise stocking up on cous cous, rice, pasta, and noodles, as all can be used to make easy, quick and tasty meals. Readymade vegan soup is pretty handy to have too. Bread is always good to have in (freeze it if needs be!), and jam on toast makes for a nice easy sweet treat. I’d also advise getting some herbal teas – dairy-free milk can take a while to adjust to, so having a herbal tea satisfies those hot drink cravings. Make sure you have your everyday cooking ingredients (for me, GARLIC and chillis are absolute MUSTS), and get some vegan veggie stock too!
- Treat yo’self!! Buy some unhealthy stuff. People often think of vegans as “can’t eat this, can’t eat that”, and it can be easy to get bogged down to begin with with the amount of products that are not vegan. BUT there are plenty that are, including (praise the lord) Walker’s Prawn Cocktail crisps. Lots of crisps are vegan (watch out for sneaky buttermilk and milk powder though), and there are a fair few vegan treats such as popcorn and biscuits knocking about too. Make sure to pick some up so you can treat yourself during the month – you’re doing a great job!
- Plan ahead Vegan cooking is different to normal cooking – depending on what you normally eat, of course. Make sure you have some good vegan recipes to hand – my staples in our household are spicy cous cous with veggies, Mexican-style chilli in wraps, stir-fry, and noodles. This kind of food can be packed with flavour (and heat, if you’re like me), and are super filling. If you need to make packed lunches, a bit of thought should be put into that – my favourite to-go option is a salad of lettuce, with ready-to-eat chickpeas (a can from Aldi is stupidly cheap), some spring onion, olives, tomato, and cucumber. Yum!
- Learn how to read ingredients lists Luckily, most shops are nice and highlight animal products (which usually are allergens) in bold making the labels nice and easy to read. Sometimes products are actually labelled as vegan, but not always!! However, there are some sneaky animal-based ingredients that can be found in certain items. Some less obvious ones include shellac, gelatin, isinglass, beeswax, and casein. This is something I definitely have learned on the go, so don’t think you need to sit down and memorise every possible animal ingredient under the sun. Bringing me onto my next tip:
- Don’t freak if you make a mistake Vegan police are not a thing. It’s ok if you make a mistake, but if you do – try to learn from it! I bought liquorice torpedos (not realising shellac was from a beetle), and ate them all. But I now know, and won’t be buying them again (unless it’s a vegan version!). We’re all human and we all make mistakes, especially when delving into something new and fairly complex. Just try your best! Also, bear in mind that in today’s world and economy, it is just about impossible to live an entirely cruelty-free lifestyle. What matters is trying to reduce the amount of animal suffering occurring on the planet, and the easiest way by far to do this is to go vegan and reject animal-based products.
Just a couple more words of advice before I end this post – if you’re not taking part in Veganuary but are looking to transition to a vegan lifestyle, amazing. Please don’t feel pressured to transition over night – what matters is the end goal, and if it takes you longer than others, then that’s just the way it is – as long as you’re trying. Veganism can be daunting, but chances are it won’t be nearly as hard as you think.
If you have any comments, feedback, or would like to share your own stories and tips, then please comment below!
Good luck, and thanks for reading.