After doing my research, I finally went vegan on the 1st of this month – at the time of writing, that’s almost a month ago (already? shiiiiiiiiii-), so I’m hardly an expert. However, despite thinking I was completely ready for the change, I’ve certainly learnt a few unexpected lessons that I thought might be useful to anyone else starting out – so here are my tips, from one brand new vegan to another. Enjoy!
Use a food log app
This is something I never thought I’d find myself recommending to people, as calorie counting is something I’m completely against. That being said, I decided to log what I was eating on an app called My Fitness Pal to make sure I was getting the necessary amount of protein, vitamins, all the good stuff. It just so happens to also count your calories, and I was pretty shocked to see that despite eating pretty huge portions (like this – which was freaking delicious btw), I was struggling to hit the recommended amount. Therefore, I’d recommend using an app like this just for the first wee while, to get a gauge on how much you need to eat to make sure you’re getting enough, and the right kind of fuel in your bod.
Don’t run straight to the “Free From” aisle
One of the biggest myths surrounding veganism is that it’s not friendly to your bank account. One look at the Sainsbury’s Free From section and I can see why – a lot of the time, it’s the foods you’re used to eating with an extra quid or two whacked on, in bland packaging and smaller portions. But what if I told you that since going vegan, the only thing I’ve bought from the Free From aisle is vegan mayonnaise, which you shouldn’t be eating anyway because we’re healthy vegans, okay?
Honestly, the reality is that some of the cheapest foods you can buy are vegan, like rice, pastas, lentils, and vegetables. Yes, it involves a little extra effort because you’ll be cooking your own food more often rather than whacking something in the oven, but since when was that a bad thing? A quick Google and you’ll find plenty of easy and cheap recipes to try.
You’d also be surprised at how many ‘normal foods’ are vegan too! Try downloading the Spoon Guru app and scanning some bar codes – if you select the Veganuary diet it’ll tell you off for picking up non-vegan food, and let you know when something’s safe to buy (although it can be a little limited on what products it has in its system). I’d also recommend following Accidentally Vegan on Instagram.
Don’t force yourself
Kale, avocados, tofu, quinoa… foods you’ll hear a lot of vegans talk about. Now despite the image I chose for this post, I actually really love kale, but avocados I can do without (unless it’s squished up for guacamole) and I’ve yet to try a tofu recipe that I like. I guess the point is, don’t try to follow the crowds because your favourite vegan blogger or Instagrammer or whoever raves about it – you’ll enjoy veganism so much more if you find the foods that you enjoy best.
Fight the resistance
I say this as someone who doesn’t have too many vegans around them – if you’re in that position, it may feel like you’re very alone. Visiting friends or family may turn into a bit of an anxiety-fest because you have to explain that you can’t eat certain things, and then come the questions… It may cause you to start to doubt your choice and wonder if you should just eat the food they give you, because it’s polite and they didn’t mean any harm and you don’t want to be awkward.
Honestly, there’s no easy answer for this and it’s something I’m really struggling with myself. All I can say is that when I start to feel alone or doubt myself, I whack on YouTube for some inspiration. I research recipes, or watch some activism channels to remind myself why I’m doing this. It might also be a really nice idea to offer to cook for your friends & family, or offer to bring some food with you – that way you’re helping them out, and showing them that vegan food can be yummy!
Don’t take too much on at once
Finally making the choice to go vegan was an easy one, but I couldn’t have done it overnight – the process started years ago for me, doing the research first, going vegetarian, and then finally taking the plunge. Since the first of this month, I’ve cut out all animal-based foods, and when I’ve bought any household items they’ve been vegan and cruelty-free. Whilst I haven’t bought any make-up or clothes yet, if I do at any point moving on, they will also be vegan and cruelty-free.
… And then there’s the fast fashion industry, and how bad it is for workers in the Middle East. And of course, don’t forget about plastic packaging and recycling. And, shit, palm oil’s an issue too, isn’t it? And oh my god what if I’m stomping on millions of tiny bugs every time I walk down the street?!
You can’t be perfect. Yes, I would love to be an environmentally friendly goddess doing absolutely everything right, but the reality is I do still use plastic, and I do have to really stop myself from popping into Primark as I walk past. I will stop eventually, as there are so many other issues on this planet that I want to help with, but I’m getting to grips with one thing at a time – there’s no point in overwhelming ourselves completely.
Bonus tip: if you’re a good old-fashioned tea drinker…
Unsweetened soy milk from Aldi. MY TEA TASTES EXACTLY THE SAME. ☕