How to go Vegan
One in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan, and a third of us have stopped or reduced eating meat according to a recent report. So we asked Jess (Nutrition graduate and creator of many HelloGrads Flavours of the Month recipes!) about her decision to follow a plant-based diet and to share tips for anyone who is considering becoming vegan.
Why I chose to follow a plant-based lifestyle
To me, health is the absolute most important thing in life, which is what primarily led me to becoming vegan in October 2015. After watching Earthlings, I was more educated on sources of food in our Western diets, and it was truly eye-opening! I have always been health-conscious from a young age, so found it very easy to adopt these new health behaviours.
How to start being a vegan
It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. At first, eliminating meat, fish, dairy and animal by-products all at once can seem very drastic and a little overwhelming, leaving you wondering ‘What can I eat now?!’ Easing into the process will help your mind and body adapt to the change, because there is an initial focus on your food intake, vitamins and protein (otherwise known as the biggest taboo of the vegan diet). I found it helpful to watch What I Eat In a Day: Vega Edition YouTube videos as a source of inspiration for meal times and recipes to replicate.
What are the best vegan products?
At first you may find that you miss non-vegan products, but luckily there are now so many replacements to enjoy or add to recipes. Here are a few of my personal favourites:
Eating out: what to go for & what to avoid
Nowadays it is pretty much impossible to not find a suitable vegan option, even at places you wouldn’t expect to cater for plant-based diets. Worst case scenario, if you are unable to eat any of the main courses, then make up your own meal from the available side dishes! Some of the best places to go include chains such as Wagamama, Nandos, Pizza Express, Zizzi, Franco Manca and itsu. Typically, Italian and Japanese cuisine naturally offer lots of vegan choices, so those are always great options if in doubt. Some other favourite places where I have enjoyed delicious vegan food include:
How to make sure you are eating the correct things
This can often be the biggest concern for the plant-based diet, which is fuelled by lots of misconceptions that you will become protein deficient. The China Study was the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet. Although lengthy (shortened summaries are available too), it is an easy read and could be a great resource to deal with all the inevitable questions from friends and family.
Before you begin a vegan diet, proper research is crucial, otherwise it can be followed incorrectly, meaning you may not reach the correct NHS guidelines for macronutrient and micronutrient intake, leading to a lack in energy, happiness and motivation! It is easy to get it right, it just does take some time and planning beforehand. Regarding protein, a great way to make sure you are consuming the correct amount for your body weight and exercise level, is to use this online protein calculator on-the-go via your smartphone or laptop. I personally found a happy balance just by listening to my body, understanding cravings, having regular indulgences and treats, and overall eating intuitively, which was massively inspired by Bonny Rebecca.
The issue with preachy vegans
When bringing about behaviour change, the worst thing to do is to attack others for their choices, as this will understandably make them defensive and push them in the other direction. I have found that I made a greater impact on others leading by example and explaining things, instead of projecting my views to anyone and everyone.
Vegans can at times, come across as very preachy; it can be hard when you are passionate about the issues at hand, however I found people listen more when I adopt a gentle approach of showing them the alternatives. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like it won’t make a difference or it is too challenging, but I strongly believe that a little goes a long way, and in a population of 7.7 billion, if everyone did a little bit, it would bring about change.
Where am I at now?
Although I largely follow a plant-based diet now, I have in the last 6 months incorporated chicken, fish and small amounts of dairy products back into my diet. This was due to personal reasons, and is nothing to shade the vegan diet, as research shows all the benefits, it was just not right for me. I found it very hard to start consuming animal products again after 4 years of being vegan, and I was overwhelmed with guilt as I was well aware of all the facts and statistics regarding animal products and mistreatment. At the end of the day, your health is the most important factor in your life, and if something isn’t working for you, that is ok. I still make a massive effort to live consciously through the following steps:
- Cycling almost everywhere I commute
- Getting the train instead of driving where possible
- Regularly shopping for dried goods at a bulk food store
- Cutting down on single use plastics with reusable sandwich bags, lunchboxes, transportable cutlery, and a water bottle
- Carrying my KeepCup with me
- Shopping for seasonal produce at a local farmers’ market
- Cutting down fast fashion habits, shopping second-hand through Depop, Ebay or local charity shops
You don’t have to follow every step, no-one is perfect, but in the face of the current climate crisis, it is essential that we all take responsibility and do our own little bit, and encourage each other along the way.
HelloGrads vegan recipes you may like to try
Winter Warmer Soup (vegan option)
Breads & Bars
Drinks & Ices