Need support going from veggie to vegan? We have your back!
Most people who become vegan will have spent some time as a vegetarian first. This could be a few days or weeks as they fast-forward towards a fully plant-based diet, or perhaps they have been vegetarian for many years, maybe even all their lives. No matter how long you have been vegetarian, taking the step into veganism can still feel challenging, but here are our tips to help you get there happily, healthily and sustainably.
1. Veganise it
If you’re wondering what you will eat as a vegan, just think about the meals you already eat and simply veganise them. Almost every food you already make can be made vegan, even things like Yorkshire puddings and meringues that traditionally relied on eggs. In many cases, veganising meals is no more complex than swapping a dairy milk for a plant milk, or eggs in your cake recipe for flaxseed. So, don’t worry about what you’ll miss, because you don’t have to miss anything at all.
2. Climb out of the food rut
While veganising your favourite foods is a great place to start, why not use the opportunity to embrace some new foods, recipes and ingredients, and leave behind the monotony of seven-meals-on-repeat. Pizza, pasta, curry and spag bol are all delicious when made vegan but there is much more to vegan life! For inspiration, head to our recipe section to check out what’s on offer. You’ll find Brazilian Feijoada, mushroom shawarma, meatballs, jackfruit burgers and many more mouth-watering main meals. You’ll also find banoffee pie, vegan lava cake and pomegranate cheesecake if you were looking for something a bit more decadent.
3. We need to talk about cheese
For many people, cheese is the staple ingredient in a vegetarian diet. It’s what we put in sandwiches, grate over pasta and grill on toast. It also seems to be an integral part of every meal we have ever been offered in restaurants – we’ll get to that issue later. So, it’s no surprise that we think we can’t live without it. But there is life after cheese. In fact, there is cheese after cheese. Non-dairy cheeses have come a very long way and will certainly satisfy that longing for gooey stringy cheese on a Friday-night pizza. But vegan cheeses are not dairy cheese, and they don’t taste exactly the same. For that reason, some people prefer to not eat any cheese at all for their first few weeks as a vegan and then introduce vegan cheeses later on. But try a few and see what you think.
4. Take your reading glasses to the shops
As we start exploring areas of the supermarket we have never been to before, we may need to spend some time reading labels. Not everything that is vegan says so clearly on the front of the pack. In fact, there are many ‘accidentally vegan’ products out there but to find them you may have to scan the small print. Now, this can be a chore. First, you’ll realise that there is a whole heap of ingredients that you’ve been eating without knowing what they are. And second, you may be surprised at how many ingredients can be squashed into a small package. Searching for the vegan version of the product you like can be frustrating at times but ah! that eureka moment when you find it is priceless.
5. Will I ever eat out again?
Yes, you will! Just about every restaurant in the UK offers vegan options and many offer a full vegan menu. So, whether you have fast food, whole food or a gourmet tastes, you will almost certainly be catered for. You may even find that the meals on offer are tastier for vegans than for vegetarians. For too long, the lazy option has been to offer vegetarians a cheese-laden dish, and without it, chefs have to get creative and really show their skills. As a result, there are some truly delicious dishes available in the high street chains, but it is also worth checking out the dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurants in your area. HappyCow is an invaluable tool to help you find your nearest options. Restaurants serving international cuisines often have great choices too – just look out for ghee in Indian meals and fish sauce in Thai.
6. Vegucate yourself
Those who have a strong reason for wanting to be vegan often find the transition easier as their motivation keeps them going, even when temptation comes knocking. Watching some of the powerful and moving vegan documentaries can help us commit fully to this change we wish to make. Kick things off with Vegucated and we also recommend The Game Changers, Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy and Earthlings, though the latter is undoubtedly a difficult film to watch. As for vegan books, try Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals or Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs And Wear Cows. Knowing your why will make the transition so much easier.
7. Pay attention to your nutrition
It is perfectly possible to get every nutrient you need on a balanced vegan diet, but we do need to know which ones are trickier and what we need to do to get them. The three we would suggest you focus on are: vitamin B12, calcium and iodine. Dairy contains all three, and so when you cut dairy out you need to make sure you are eating something that will replace it. And it’s not as simple as just choosing plant milks, yogurts and cheeses. Some will be fortified with all these nutrients but not all. If you love Marmite, you’ll get a reasonable amount of B12. If you eat plenty of leafy green vegetables and tofu, your calcium intake will leap. But do your research, find out what you need and where to get it, and don’t be afraid to supplement, especially with B12.
8. Be kind to and about yourself
If we became vegetarian out of concern for animals, there is a good chance that we felt we were doing all that was needed to prevent them suffering. So, it can come as quite a shock to realise that not only are cows and hens sent to slaughter by the dairy and egg industries, but they endure a lifetime of torment first. We have met countless people – including most of the Veganuary staff – who were horrified that they didn’t know this information sooner and they blame themselves for it. Please be kind to yourself. If you didn’t know about these things, it was because the system is set up to keep you ill-informed. We believed the ‘happy eggs’ label and the adverts where cows graze in summer meadows. We fell for the glossy marketing. The important thing is now you do know, you are doing what you can to right this injustice. And for that we thank you.
9. More than food
Veganism often begins with our diet, but it expands outwards and before you know it, you realise your jumper is made of wool, your pillow is stuffed with feathers and your shampoo contains… well, what on earth does it contain? Becoming vegan can lead to an entire lifestyle overhaul but there is no need to take everything you own to the charity shop and start again today. When you next buy toiletries, cosmetics, household items or clothing, you can choose vegan items, but you don’t have to go from zero to perfection overnight. And actually, you should also know that there is no such thing as perfection. We’re all doing our best in an imperfect world.
10. Find your COMMUNITY
It can feel a bit isolating if there are no other vegans among your circle of friends, so connecting with others who feel like you can be hugely rewarding. You’ll find plenty of online groups dedicated to supporting new vegans, or where they are connected by their love of a sport or hobby, such as vegan runners, vegan knitters, and vegan bakers. You’ll also find local groups in every city and in many smaller towns too, where vegans meet up for a social, or organise events. Find the group that works for you, and you’ll get a warm glow from being among people who just ‘get you’ and knowing that you’ve found a place where you can truly be yourself.
Why not try our free 31-day vegan pledge to make the transition easier? We’ll send you recipes, tips and other useful information to support your plant-powered journey.