With each passing year, veganism grows. Veganuary attracted more than 60,000 pledges at the beginning of 2018 and this year, over 100,000 people signed up. Veganism is making tracks and there’s no way of stopping it. The word is spreading and more and more people are having their eyes opened to the meat and dairy industries. There’s just no way of denying that veganism is better for the planet, the animals and our health. And what better time to start a journey into veganism than the start of a new year, after over-indulging during the festive period. A new year brings resolutions and promises of looking after ourselves better. For a lot of people though, their veganism will end and they’ll look back and say “remember that time when I was vegan for a few weeks?”. So here are my top tips to making veganism last beyond Veganuary. Make a difference.
- Don’t beat yourself up.
Slip ups will happen, whether intentional or not. I’ll let you in on a secret… When I first became vegan, I ate halloumi while in Amsterdam. And it wasn’t accidental. I simply couldn’t resist, I saw it and I was practically drooling. But I didn’t give up. I didn’t think to myself ‘ah well, I tried’. I just continued on my journey. And although I would now never intentionally eat something that I knew not to be vegan, I sometimes eat something non-vegan by mistake. Here are a few of my vegan fails; accepting a glass of wine at my In-laws’ without thinking to check the label (use Barnivore for an easy way of checking alcoholic drinks), ordering a vegan wrap and saying “yes” to pesto, only to think later that pesto usually contains parmesan (which isn’t even vegetarian). Ordering egg noodles (doh), amongst other things. Don’t beat yourself up about it, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, because you’ll struggle to sustain it. But equally, don’t say to yourself “well I may as well just eat a cow now that I’ve just eaten that spicy rice that contains milk powder (yes, another oversight of mine while at Nando’s). I used to make a mistake and I’d instantly feel guilty and say to my husband “I haven’t been vegan today”. What a ridiculous attitude to have. Just pick yourself up and carry on and feel content in the fact that you are trying your best.
- Avoid arguments by arming yourself with knowledge.
Ignore those around you who try to belittle what you are doing. Some people won’t like what you’re doing. It’s quite an emotive topic and I’ve gotten into really awkward situations with people I’m close to when discussing it. I love when people ask questions when they’re genuinely interested, but then there are others that simply ask questions because they want to pick holes in your argument and make our that you’re a hypocrite. This is why it’s really important to either arm yourself with facts and information because saying “I’m not sure” sounds weak, even when you are sure what you are doing is correct, but you can’t quite remember exactly how eating a bacon sandwich is contributing to global warming. If you’re admittedly not great at remembering the answers to all the main anti-vegan protests, then the next best thing is to arm yourself with a response that lets someone know that you’re not prepared to defend your dietary preferences, but in a nice way. I say something like the following; “I don’t like to talk about it because people can get a bit upset because they see it as me judging them, but if you’re interested in learning more about veganism, there are some brilliant documentaries on Netflix such as Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives”. Try to remain calm and rely on facts, try not to perpetuate the angry vegan stereotype.
- Watch some documentaries.
If you’re going to direct others to watch such documentaries, make sure that you’ve watched them yourself too. There are 3 main reasons that people become vegan; health, the environment and for the animals. So depending on what your angle is, there are documentaries around each of these. The thing is, if you’re thinking of becoming vegan for health reasons, you’re looking at it as a diet alone. The problem with diets is that people can fall off the wagon. Then it’s “I’ll get back on it on Monday”. The same can be said if you’re doing this for environmental reasons, because then you’re like “one cheesy pizza won’t make a difference”. I started for health reasons. But I’m a bit of a sucker for learning about stuff and I get a little obsessed and I want to absorb as much information I can on whichever topic I’m interested in. So because I was interested in health, I watched What The Health? and Forks Over Knives first. But then I watched Cowspiracy. Then I watched Earthlings, Land of Hope and Glory and Dominion. And it’s the latter three, that are animal-based documentaries that have made me a forever vegan (and I’m not even an animal lover). So if indeed you are doing this for health reasons, watch these last three, because in the end, they’re what are going to keep you rooted firmly in the driver’s seat of the wagon and ultimately is what is going to save your health long term. Other documentaries that I’d suggest watching are Live and Let Live, Eating Animals, Blackfish, Vegucated and Food Inc.
- Be prepared for changes within the first few weeks.
People have reported different things. Mostly people find that they lose weight because you have to eat a much higher volume of food to achieve the same calories on a plant-based diet. I personally had no trouble with this part, ahem. I do like large portions! So I didn’t enjoy the weight loss that others have on transitioning to veganism. Most people report very positive side effects such as raised energy levels and mood and becoming ill less frequently. I found the opposite when I first went vegan. However, I feel it was because I wasn’t supplementing properly. I’ve always suffered with an iron deficiency (even when I used to eat meat) and once I began supplementing correctly, I noticed an improvement and for the first time in my life I found that I had excess energy that I didn’t know what to do with! I also had a few colds and even developed tonsillitis, which I’ve never suffered with before. But all these ailments seem to have plateaued, so I don’t know whether this was a mere coincidence or a settling in period or what. But also be prepared for the over-analysing that you’ll do on every tiny sniffle and blame it on your change of diet. My health is tip-top now, after a year in and I’ve stopped thinking veganism is responsible for every ailment. Be prepared for other people blaming your sniffles on veganism too. Your diet will get the blame for everything going on in your life now! But remember that non-vegans get ill too!
- Supplement Wisely.
The only thing you cannot get on a plant-based diet is vitamin b12. So make sure to get yourself a supplement, I get Veganicity from Amazon. You absolutely can get everything else you need, but only if you’re eating wisely. Don’t forget you could live off fries and call yourself vegan. I try to eat a balanced diet and aim to eat 60g of protein a day and also eat 5 fruit and vegetables a day too. However, as a safeguard, I take a vegan multivitamin, you can get these from most health stores, or online. The particular one that I take is called MultiVitality for Vegetarians (but it’s suitable for vegans) and is from Healthspan. I also take ferrous fumarate for iron. These are plant-based but I cannot confirm that they’re not tested on animals, they likely are in all honesty, but I get very poorly without them. In veganism, medication is generally exempt, you do what you have to do to be healthy, don’t make yourself ill for the sake of veganism, that’s just silly. I also have done a lot of research on calcium too. Calcium tablets appear to do a lot more harm than good, causing deposits to build up in your blood and have been known to lead to strokes. If you are eating a balanced plant-based diet, you will obtain all the calcium you need from wholefoods such as fruits and vegetables. However, as a safeguard, I also take a Boron supplement, as this is known to increase Calcium absorption. I am not a doctor or nutritionist, these are not recommendations, I’m simply letting you know what I personally take. Always seek your own medical advice and read the packaging.
- Take snacks, just in case!
Veganism has never been easier, there are vegan options everywhere, you just need to know where to find them or what to ask for. Until you feel confident, it’s a good idea to keep snacks in your bag, like a cereal bar or some fruit so that if you find yourself in a situation where you’re struggling to find anything suitable to eat, you won’t be tempted to eat something non-vegan. I mostly now leave the house without thinking about where I’m going to find something to eat because I know there’ll most likely be options wherever I find myself, but it is a good idea to be prepared and I do take something with me when I remember to. But it’s something so simple and it could throw you off and destroy your confidence. So that you don’t have to do something that goes against your values when it could be avoided so easily.
- Here’s a list of places you can find vegan options if you just want to grab a sandwich to take out and eat on the go.
- Greggs: Spicy Mexican Bean Wrap as part of a meal deal. And you must live in Piers Morgan’s butt crack if you hadn’t heard that they now have vegan sausage rolls.
- Pound bakery: vegan sausage rolls and potato cakes. Most of the bread is vegan too.
- Costa Coffee: They have a vegan and gluten free wrap, clearly labelled. They also do a couple of soups and a red Thai curry veg pot. They also have a cookie that’s clearly labelled.
- Café Nero: Falafel and avo wrap, sweet potato and falafel wrap or a pasta pot, all clearly labelled.
- Boots: They have quite a few options now, there are different ones every time I go in. The pea and mint sandwich looks disgusting but is so tasty. They also do a selection of wraps. They’re clearly labelled too, look out for the purple beet sign.
- Starbucks: Jackfruit and slaw wrap and an amazing little chocolate cake with raspberry cream sandwiched in the middle.
- Subway: Apparently they have a vegan patty in some stores, but I’ve yet to find it. The normal veggie patty contains egg, so basically you have to have a salad sandwich. Not the best but it will do if it’s your only option. The Italian and hearty itailian breads are sfv. They’ll also change their gloves if you ask.
- Tesco: They have a very limited selection in the take out sandwich bit, but you can usually find at least one wrap and they often have a giant veg samosa that’s vegan and it’s lovely.
- Morrisons have a Japanese inspired vegan wrap and large veg samosas too.
- M&S are developing a new range of sandwiches, look out for the blue Plant Kitchen logo.
- Pret: are brilliant for vegan options – if in doubt, you’ll always find something in here, they’re also good for vegan yogurts, fruit pots and sweet treats too.
- WHSmith: Look for the URBANeat logo, they’re clearly marked vegan, but they have a choice of 2 or 3 wraps, gluten free options too.
- Coop: Also a choice of 2 or 3 wraps and sandwiches as part of a meal deal.
- McDonalds: Up until now, I’ve got the spicy vegetable deluxe and just asked for it without mayo. Fries are vegan in the UK too. As of January 3rd, they’re adding red pesto veggie goujons in a sandwich or a wrap (they’re also going to be part of the Happy Meal range, yay!). Just make sure you remember to ask for the sandwich without sauce and it’s then vegan.
- Easy Swaps:
Meat: is a pretty easy one to substitute and there are plenty of meat subs on the market with more to come in 2019. You can find loads in the meat free freezer sections of most supermarkets. One place that I found surprising was Holland and Barrett. They have a refrigerator section that contains so many goodies, I feel like a kid in a sweet shop in there. They sell all speciality stuff that you can’t seem to get anywhere else, so do check them out. Also Iceland and Heron Foods are like mini vegan havens.
Mayo: Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart (found in Sainsburys) or Tesco do their own in the Free From section.
Egg: is a tough one, there isn’t a great replacement tbh although I know people who swear by this recipe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfY-GuQlsy4. Other than that, a quick alternative on toast or as part of a full English is scrambled tofu fried with salt, pepper, turmeric and I like to add a little paprika.
Butter: Pure, Flora (not all, check ingredients for milk), Vitalite, Naturali. Most that say sunflower spread or avocado oil spread are OK, but just double check the ingredients for milk.
Milk: This really is down to personal preference, I know a few vegans and each one prefers a different type of milk. My advice would be to just trial all of them until you find a winner. If you go into this hoping to find an exact match, you’ll be disappointed and won’t stick to it. If you go in hoping to find an alternative that you may at first tolerate but after a little while develop a taste for, then you’re being more realistic. My preference is oat milk in English breakfast tea, coconut milk in coffee (oat as a second favourite and almond or soya are joint third). Oat milk for everything else, on cereal, in cooking, etc. It takes the *most* like cow’s milk in my opinion.
Cheese: Another tough one. There are no exact replacements. I’ve heard time and time again that the only way that you’re going to like vegan cheese is if you go cold turkey on cheese for a while until you’ve sort of forgotten what it tastes like then try vegan cheese and you’ll like it. Honestly, loads of people have tried vegan cheese and hated it, left it alone for weeks, then gone back to it and now enjoy it. Having said that, there are still only 2 vegan cheeses that I enjoy, namely Violife slices (ASDA and Holland & Barratt) and Tesco’s own brand vegan cream cheese (in a round tub).
Yogurt: There are plenty of plant-based alternatives. Supermarkets own brand free from yogurts are a good sub or Alpro do a huge range.
Ice cream: Ben and Jerrys do a couple of dairy-free options, Halo Top, Swedish Glace (by Wall’s), Booja Booja, Alpro. You can even get vegan Magnums from some large Tesco stores.
Honey: Some vegans still eat honey. I personally don’t. I replace it with maple syrup or agave syrup (neither of which are very good for you I know, I use them sparingly).
Chocolate: This is always a deal-breaker for would-be vegans. I’m not huge on chocolate so it was never an issue for me. Most dark chocolate is vegan, just check the back. For milk chocolate, Vego is the best (but contains nuts), or you can find supermarket’s own brand alternatives in the Free From section. Apparently M&S do a really nice one. For chocolate spread, people say that Morrisons have an own brand one that rivals Nutella.
Bacon: tempeh or seitan. Check the ingredients as a lot of meat-free bacon contains egg.
Fish fingers: either quorn (a lot of Quorn products contain egg, if it’s vegan, it will say so in a big green box on the front) or Viva Vivera from Tesco.
Chicken nuggets: Quorn do vegan ones, Tesco have their own soya version, M&S do “no chicken” nugs as part of the new Plant Kitchen range.
Tuna: google recipe for chickpea tuna.
Sausages: My personal favourites are Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausages. However, I know people go absolutely crazy over Sainsbury’s Shroomdogs, but I haven’t tried them.
Pies: Tesco have a “chicken” and mushroom and Linda McCartney’s do an interesting and very realistic “meat” pie.
- How to use milk in hot drinks.
A lot of newbie vegans find that plant milks curdle/separate in coffee. There’s a trick that I discovered that is absolutely fool proof. Basically, you have to wait a few minutes until your drink has cooled a little. If you pour in the milk while it’s piping hot, it will separate. Wait a few minutes and then, add a big splash at once, not a tiny bit of milk at a time. I’ve never had a drink curdle using this method.
- Don’t forget beauty, household and clothing.
￼One mistake I made when I first went vegan was to assume that an “against animal testing” or “cruelty free” statement on the back of makeup meant that it was vegan. It doesn’t, the item may still contain animal products, so you have to do your research. Superdrug is great for vegan and cruelty free makeup. Most of their own brand stuff is clearly labelled for both. Tesco are also really good for toiletries like toothpaste, shampoo, handwash and things like that with their own brand stuff being clearly marked “suitable for vegans”. For household products, Astonish are vegan and cruelty free and are favourites with vegans. Again, Tesco are on it with cleaning products, stocking brands like Ecover and Method as well as some own brand stuff that’s really reasonably priced. Co-op also have a lot of own brand cleaning things, I love their washing powder tablets and dishwasher tablets. With regards to clothing, I have continued to wear my non-vegan wardrobe, but have vowed that I’ll never knowingly purchase non-vegan clothing again. So I always opt for faux leather, faux fur and I always check the labels on garments that appear to be wool.
Good luck with the rest of Veganuary. Hit me up if you need anything, my DMs are always open! Feel free to leave a comment below.