Whether you’re thinking about going vegan or have recently transitioned and are struggling, these are some tips and tricks to help you stick to the lifestyle, as well as ways to make it fun and enjoyable.
Going vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out! One of the most important things to do when you’ve recently become vegan is to make sure you’re still really enjoying your food. Veganism isn’t all kale salads and green smoothies. A great way to do this is to ‘veganise’ some of your old favourites so that you aren’t left craving them and wondering why you punished yourself by cutting out animal products. Whether its homely meals, sausage and mash or lasagne, or desserts that you didn’t even know could be made vegan, it’s important to make sure you’re still tucking into these whenever you want to. If you’re unsure how to make your favourite dishes vegan, try to find some recipes online, or ask a vegan friend for advice! Make cooking your new hobby and purchase a cookbook by amazing vegan chefs such as Gaz Oakley, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby (otherwise known as Bosh) or Deliciously Ella. There are also so many vegan cookbooks tailored to students as well, if you would prefer to follow quick, easy and cheap recipes.
Exploring shops that sell vegan products allows you to dive into the vegan world of delicious food! Have a look at local shops in Leeds, such as Out of This World or The Jar Tree that are both in the city centre. Explore the vegan sections in your local supermarkets – look out for ‘Free From’ labels or the big green V – or browse in your pyjamas at home on The Vegan Kind Supermarket’s website. Doing this made me realise that yes, vegan Nutella exists and yes, it is just as delicious. Also download apps like Happy Cow and Vanilla Bean to find vegan restaurants near you.
Did you know that chocolate bourbons and hobnobs are already vegan? And that there are such things as vegan advent calendars and easter eggs? Keep regularly updated with new vegan products and get to know what products are already accidentally vegan by following pages on Instagram like @accidentallyveganuk and @leedsvegandiary.
Remember it’s completely normal to have thoughts like ‘why am I doing this to myself?’ and ‘I might just give up on this whole vegan thing’. If you’re starting to feel disappointed in yourself, remind yourself of the reasons that you went vegan. Re-read those articles, speak to that person who changed your perspective, or re-watch those eye-opening documentaries.
DON’T BE TOO HARSH ON YOURSELF. In the first few months of transitioning, if missing out on that chocolate ice cream while you’re on holiday (I know this from experience) is making you annoyed at yourself, then just go for it. The vegan Gods won’t punish you. If that little cheat makes you realise ‘this tastes the same as the vegan version’ or ‘this isn’t even that amazing’, it will spur you on. After 4 or 5 months, the strong cravings for things like cheese and bacon will be replaced with the amazing vegan alternatives that you’ve found and, like me, it will become so easy and you won’t be able to imagine yourself eating any other way.
Worried about the social implications of becoming vegan? Will your friends and family think you’re just following a trend and now you’re going to preach at them? It’s important to be mentally prepared for the social stigma that unfortunately comes along with being vegan. Whether you’re choosing to make the transition for health reasons, the environment or animal welfare, these reasons can often be perceived by others as accusations that what they do or eat is wrong. Try to prepare how to explain to family and friends why you’ve chosen to become vegan so that they understand, but also to reinforce that you’re not trying to control or change what they eat, that you don’t think they’re horrible people and that being vegan doesn’t mean you’re going to be attacking them every time they pick up a chicken wing. Remember not to worry. At the end of the day it’s just food and if someone is aggressive with you because of what you choose to eat and not to eat, that’s on them.
Making some vegan friends can also be helpful to ask for advice, cook with or try out some plant-based restaurants or fast-food. Join groups like Leeds Vegans & Vegetarians on Facebook or the Vegetarian & Vegan society at LUU and also feel free to message me with any questions! (@alicia_ward on Instagram). Whatever stage you’re at in your vegan journey, don’t be too harsh on yourself, explore new products and recipes and, most importantly, enjoy it!
Header image credit: Fresh ‘n’ Lean