The transition to a full-time vegan diet is not difficult but it's not easy either! It takes a whole new concept to meal planning and really needs much preparation of you are to succeed.
Remember even if you only manage to eat a vegan meal once a week, you will start to see and feel healthful benefits really quickly.
The best way to start out on the road to 'veganisation' is to start trying vegan alternatives to your fave vegetarian treats; recently I was out and overheard a girl slating vegans who eat cheeze ('fake' cheese)....I don't personally like the taste of cheeze but I am totally for anyone eating products like this and facon and any other 'meat alternative'. This girl couldn't get her head around the fact that vegans would want to eat these foods....I personally can't get over why people would want the 'real' deal with so much suffering involved when there are really good alternatives available. If you find that these products help wean you off your usual meals, then I am completely up for that! The only thing I would say is that you need to be mindful of how much processed and artificial ingredients you are ingesting; better to eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods so if you're going to eat loads of alternatives, be sure to include a large salad or side of raw slaw etc.
Maybe you can change just one meal; swap your cornflakes and milk to a soya, almond or nut milk and vegan cereal. Then you can start on lunches; pack some hummus and carrot pittas with a bar of dark chocolate or homemade brownie or flapjacks, plenty of fruit and veggies and a juice or smoothie. Check out our meal plan guides and start to incorporate and increase your veggie/vegan intake.
People make me giggle when they say 'Oh you're not allowed this' or some such statement...veganism is a conscious choice. It's not that I'm not 'allowed'; it's just that I have 'chosen' to abstain from eating any food which causes harm to animals, the planet and potentially to my health. Don't think of it as one big chore where you have to 'cut out' loads of foods. Look at it more like how you can be more healthful and make sure that you are making a healthy contribution to the wellbeing of others all over the world.
Loads of mainstream snacks are vegan and people don't even know...you'll soon get used to the brands that are suitable and the snacks that you can eat.
Like all things; your perspective and intention will determine the outcome. With veganism, the 'why' is the most important motivation for actually staying vegan. Make the reason strong enough and you will never give up.
- Always read the labels. At all times! Even if you have a favourite chocolate bar that you have been eating for years, recipe changes occur at any time and your favourite once-vegan bar may now contain milk. You have to become a little obsessive over label reading in order to be a true vegan.
- Download a list of vegan friendly 'E-numbers' from Peta or the net. Also be mindful of ingredients like gelatine in sweets, mints and soygurts.
- Plan your meals on a weekly basis. If you're like me, I have devised 4 weekly menus which I rotate on a monthly basis so I don't get bored, I have dietary variety and I can plan my shopping budgets accordingly. If I buy a new cookbook and get inspired, I’ll simply change a few of the meals and my shopping list as a result.
- Online shopping is a pleasure when vegan and you can get full ingredient & allergy lists easily. Some sites such as Ocado and Abel & Cole let you do a 'vegan' search which includes items listed as 'vegan' (remember this is not an exclusive list as some products don't specifically state they are 'vegan' but it helps to start out).
- Prepare and carry snacks at all times; Nak'd bars, Bounce balls, Omega bars (recipe posting soon!), fruit, veggie croutons, bags of Pop Chips (vegan flavours), some rice cakes, dates, avocado, bread and nut butters...any sweet or savoury treat you like. Even a mylkshake, smoothie, green juice or cocnut water. Just always make sure you have something as it can be frustrating if you are hungry and everything on offer is laced with animal ingredients.
- No vegan options on the menu? Try the following. And take a tip from me; tell the staff you have a severe allergy to all dairy and eggs so as to avoid being told any lies. You'll soon be able to tell whether a restaurant can really cater for vegans or not using the allergy route.
- Most soups are vegan but always check what kind of stock has been used to check for hidden E numbers or ingredients which are non-vegan. If the stock used contains no animal based products then a small soup as a starter is always a good option. Alternatively go for a large soup with a side salad and an avocado for a main. You can always add vegan bread with olive oil to bulk it out.
- Take vegan snacks with you at all times so you won’t get stuck when abroad or on holiday; check out our recipes for tips and easy snacks to satisfy hunger pangs.
- Ordering house salads without dressings is an option. Always ask for lemon wedges and olive oil or soy sauce and sesame oil to make a fresh dressing to drizzle on.
- Check whether bread is vegan and use it to accompany a salad; most places have some hummus, avocado and general salad items for you to put together a little mezze (think olives, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, peppers etc.)
- Some pizza bases are vegan; so have a base with sauce and super amounts of veg. add some basil oil and voila; you're good to go!
- Always have a little tub of dates when eating out. As weird as it may sound, you can then order some avocado as dessert and eat a little piece with a date for a sweet treat; try it; you may be surprised! Or simply sneak some dark chocolate cubes and enjoy with a soy or almond mylk latte! Obviously most places offer some sort of fruit platter or fresh fruit, possibly even a sorbet which are nice treats.
- Jacket potato with a drizzle of oil, baked beans, avocado and salad is amazing for lunch!
- Do not assume that all Indian and Thai restaurants are vegan friendly. Not all offer freshly cooked or vegan friendly dishes. Many use ghee which contains butter and most local to where I live have had to admit that they're not freshly prepared on-site and are therefore unsuitable for me. Always ask and be certain that it is authentically vegan. Thai restaurants often use oyster sauce in their dishes. Again; just check before arriving.
- Remember 'dairy free' does not mean 'egg free'. I've a beautiful friend who is vegan and was daily eating Starbucks muffins believing them to be vegan...but they're 'dairy free' and contain eggs. So, heads up...always, always check the label. Don't believe it until you've seen it with your own eyes!
- If in doubt, ask to see any allergy information or ingredients guide. Leon, Wagamama, all large pizza restaurants (Pizza Express and Pizza Hut) and coffee houses have this information and the staff will happily assist you when you ask.