Do you want to ditch the dairy, meat and eggs? More and more people are moving to a plant-based diet due to environmental, ethical, and health reasons.
Becoming vegan has been reported to be the biggest thing that we can do to help the planet, there are huge health benefits to a vegan diet, and most people agree that factory farming is cruel to animals.
But what does it take to become vegan? Is it a huge, daunting leap – or is it about simple lifestyle changes!? This article will look at some of the steps you might need to take to ditch animal products.
Know what you need to get rid of and replacements
Generally, vegetarians eliminate meat and fish from their diet, and vegans also do not eat dairy, eggs, or honey. Some people consider themselves ‘flexitarian‘, where they eat a mainly vegan or vegetarian diet but occasionally consume non-vegan or vegetarian food. You might wish to reduce your meat and fish before cutting them out completely, and then think about going vegan.
When going vegan, it’s important to consider how you can replace the foods that you are cutting out. Most vegans get sufficient protein, but you may want to add some more protein sources to your diet or add replacements for non-vegan food that you will miss.
Here are some replacements to consider:
- Replace meat and fish for tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, or fake products (which are booming in popularity). Vegan burgers, sausages, meatballs, and breaded ‘chicken’ are all widely available.
- Eggs can be replaced by tofu of fake eggs.
- There are vegan dairy products on the market (for example, soya milk, dairy-free cheese, vegan yogurt, and dairy-free chocolate).
- Vegan cakes and biscuits are also widely available in superstores or specialist shops.
- Extra vegan protein sources include beans, pulses of nuts.
A word on vegan cheese
Vegan cheese is probably the most controversial of dairy-free products because these substitutes are quite different to the real thing. They are becoming more and more realistic, but they do still have a way to go.
If you think cheese will be the most challenging thing for you to give up, the general advice is to not switch to dairy-free replacements straight away. Instead, go without cheese for 21 days, and approach vegan cheese as a different type of food rather than a cheese replacement.
Beware of food with hidden ingredients!
Once you’ve cut out meat, dairy, fish and eggs, it’s important to be aware that many sauces, soups, snacks, and other food have hidden non-vegan ingredients. For example, Worcestershire Sauce contains anchovies, and some bags of chips contain milk powder.
The good news? More products are becoming vegan-friendly every year. Look out for a little vegan-friendly symbol, or check the ingredients for allergens. It can be a bit time-consuming initially, but you’ll quickly learn what is and isn’t vegan.
Make changes to your kitchen
You can easily become vegan with only a few simple changes, but some specific items will improve your kitchen.
- A tofu press is excellent for cooking tofu. You can make your own tofu press using weights and paper towels, but if you’re serious about cooking tofu, you may want to invest in a proper press, like this one.
- If you live with other people who still eat non-vegan food, you may want to organize your fridge to separate your food.
- You can easily take on a vegan diet without a food processor, but purchasing one will help you make lots more vegan recipes, such as falafel or burgers.
Adopt a vegan mindset
If you want to avoid using animals for their products in all aspects of your life, it goes further than your kitchen.
Vegans also avoid the following:
- Wearing leather, wool, or fur.
- Visiting animal attractions like zoos or aquariums.
- Using products that contain animal products or that are tested on animals.
If you are a vegan for ethical reasons, you may want to avoid these activities and products as well.
Start slow, and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes
Most people don’t go vegan overnight. People often go pescatarian or flexitarian first, then vegetarian, and then adopt a plant-based diet before going fully vegan. Start by making substitutes for food that you don’t feel like you’ll miss, and give up your favorite non-vegan food (for most people, this is cheese!) last.
Every vegan makes mistakes, so if you do, don’t berate yourself. Know that you are doing the best that you can do, and applaud yourself for making an effort!
The road to becoming vegan is not always straightforward, but nowadays there are many more plant-based substitutes and a stronger vegan community. If you have a good reason to become vegan and are prepared for ups and downs on the way, there’s no reason why you can’t do it!