So when did vegans stop being objects of ridicule and social pariahs? At what point did people realise that veganism makes sense? I can’t put my finger on it but it’s quite recent and it’s quite big. There are now well over half a million vegans in the UK. That’s still a small proportion of the population but there’s a distinct change in the air. People are wising up to the dire welfare, environmental and health implications of industrially farmed meat and dairy products. They’re voting with their feet.
Going vegan can seem daunting and it is a big lifestyle change. But it’s one that just keeps giving if you’ve got the courage to do it. If you are tempted, but not sure how to go about it, here are a few tips to get you started.
Decide what sort of vegan you want to be
Yup, there are different sorts of vegan. Are you just going to adopt a vegan diet or are you going to go down the full lifestyle route, avoiding all animal products including leather, wool and silk? That will depend on your motivation. If it’s the health benefits you’re after, then the diet change is probably enough. If it’s welfare or environmental concerns that drive you, then you’ll probably want to consider cutting out animal products completely.
Do your research
There’s masses of information on the internet. Find out what you can and can’t eat – you might be surprised at some of the foods that contain animal products. Download starter packs from organisations like Viva! or Peta. Consider things you haven’t eaten before. This is a great opportunity for some food discovery and adventure.
Plan your diet
Going vegan isn’t just about cutting animal products out of your diet and eating what’s left – or, worse, bulking out what’s left with bread and pasta. If you do that, you’ll get bored with your food, you’ll probably be malnourished and you’ll almost certainly give up. The good news is that you can get all the nutrients you need for a healthy life without eating animals or their secretions – you just need to do a little planning!
Do it gradually
There are no rules on how you take your first steps into veganism – you can switch from one day to the next, or you can make the change gradually. Maybe try going vegan a few days a week to start with and increase as you get more confident. Maybe you want to start by flirting with flegan – yes, apparently, that really is a thing – a flexible vegan: mostly vegan but will occasionally eat the odd animal product. The secret is to be less “fl” and more “egan”
Have fun with ingredients and recipes. Find out which foods work for you and which don’t. Watch some vegan video channels for recipe ideas. Get inspiration from Instagram. Before you know it, you’ll have some developed a handful of staples that will form the basis of your vegan repertoire.
You can find most of what you need in the supermarket. Spend time getting to know the key aisles and foods that fit with your new diet. Start scanning ingredients lists to find out what you can and can’t eat. Don’t worry, you won’t need to do this for long. Explore your local health food shops. Make use of what I call “transition foods” – the many ersatz meat and cheese products now available. They’re useful for helping you adjust to the new diet, but you’ll find you need them less and less as your vegan cooking skills improve. You’ll learn that you can get pretty well everything you need, nutritionally and gastronomically, from the basic raw materials – vegetables, nuts, pulses, fruits and the essential herbs and spices.
Join a local vegan group
There are several local vegan groups. Do an internet search to find the one that’s the best fit for you. They’re a good way to link up with like-minded people, share information and experiences and discover new vegan places.
Be patient with those who just don’t get it
Going vegan may make perfect sense to you but there will always be those who feel threatened by it or who just don’t get it. Be patient with them, answer their questions politely and just get on with your life.
Be a good guest/customer
If you’re going to a restaurant, ring a day or so ahead to let them know that you’re vegan. Most places are happy to accommodate you with a bit of notice. If you’re invited over to family or friends, offer to bring your own food. You may find you get more invitations if you’re not too challenging a guest.
Go out or order in
You won’t always feel like cooking. On those occasions, just head out to one of the many restaurants that are now able to cater for vegans. Or, if you don’t fancy that, there’s always the Miller Green team, ready to drop round a scrummy, healthy ready-to-eat supper for those times when you just can’t face the kitchen!
I hope these tips are helpful. You’re going to love being vegan – it will change your life.