Welcome to the world of veganism. Whether you’re just dipping your toes in or want to make a change for the long term, here are some tips to help you get the most out of it.
What to expect:
I can’t stress enough that the hardest part is adjusting! Transitioning your lifestyle dramatically is sure to create noticeable changes in your body at the start, but you soon won’t notice a difference; it gets easier as your mind and body adjust, I promise!
- It is normal to expect A LOT more bowel movements at the start of your transition as your body detoxes and as you feed it more fibre! Ultimately a healthy and positive change, although one to get used to…
- If you have acne/spots, your skin may clear up noticeably once removing dairy from your diet – (those hormones really were meant for the baby calves, not you)
- You may feel hungry significantly more… make sure you are eating enough protein and increasing portions sizes of veggies and make sure to listen to your body! When I went vegan, I often ended up eating an extra meal when my body asked for it
- Craving non-vegan food. It is totally normal to crave what you are used to, especially products you love. Many people have cheese withdrawals, as cheese contains a high concentration of casomorphins, an addictive protein. I would recommend finding alternatives to your favourite products to make the transition easier.
- Relief knowing your diet is not exploiting animals and you have now taken the single biggest step to lower your impact on the planet. An increased consciousness and understanding of your body, health and habits. A new awareness of what is inside things and where they come from, food and non-food (get ready to become a label-checker). A paradigm shift and a new alignment of your values with your lifestyle, which will extend into other areas in your life.
In the hope of avoiding your first experience of vegan cheese being one that resembles the taste of plastic, here are some of my favourite alternatives to animal products, trialled and tested:
- Plant milks: Alpro/Oatly/Almond Breeze (around £1.50/L). ASDA own branded (85p/L).
- Butter: Vitalite (£1.20), Pure (£1.50). Both are more like margarine; if you want one that’s firmer and butter-like try Naturli (£1.99)
- Cheese: Violife Epic Mature (£2 at Sainsbury’s), Bute Island Sheese Mozzarella (£2.50), Nush Almond Cream Cheese (£2.50) – available in most supermarkets. If you are willing to spend more (£3.50 ish) for something more realistic, try anything from Follow Your Heart, Green-Vie or Mozzarisella – you’ll find them in health shops; worth it for a special treat!
- Mayo: Hellman’s Vegan Mayo, Nando’s Vegan Perinaise (both £1.50 at ASDA atm)
- Meat: I don’t eat much fake meat other than THIS chicken pieces (£2.50). Would trust anything from The Vegetarian Butcher, Moving Mountains, Beyond Meat, Meatless Farm (Leeds based), Vegideli, Linda McCartney or Squeaky. ASDA frozen vegan nuggets are a go to for after an (imaginary) night out!
- You can also try making these products yourself – try Gaz Oakley’s recipes for milks, butter, cheeses and more!
These ingredients may sound foreign to you now, but you will swear by them as you become an elite vegan! Once you have hacked cooking with these, you won’t be splurging so much on branded alternatives…
- Nutritional yeast: a deactivated yeast with a strong nutty/cheesy/creamy flavour. Essential for cheesy recipes. Very high in vitamin B12, which is vital for vegans as your body cannot produce it.
- Tofu: the most famous vegan protein, made from soya beans. Comes in firm and soft; firm is much easier to cook with. Always press the water out before cooking and make sure to marinate as it really absorbs flavour. You can also make scrambled tofu in place of scrambled egg.
- Seitan: another meat alternative made from gluten, compared to chicken and often used in Asian cooking
- Jackfruit: an extremely large fruit which grows in parts of Brazil and South East Asia but most easily available here tinned. It has a sweet, tropical flavour and is amazing in curries
- Banana blossom: the flower of the banana tree, easiest to buy in a can. You can use it to make incredible, realistic mock fried fish and chips. www.theedgyveg.com/2019/10/08/best-vegan-fish-recipe-banana-blossom/
- Flax seeds: From the flax plant, and very high in Omega-3. Use it in baking in place of an egg to bind mixture and make things rise. For one flax egg, mix a spoon of flax with 3 spoons of water, adding and mixing the water slowly. Leave for a few minutes, before adding to mixture (the longer you wait, the better).
- Aqua faba: the water in which chickpeas (or other white beans) have been stored or cooked. Can be used in place of egg. You can get it from draining a can of chickpeas. Save the chickpeas for a curry or make some ‘chickpea tuna’ – here’s Rachel Ama’s recipe https://www.rachelama.com/recipe-blog/2018/7/16/vegan-tuna-recipe
Branded products that aren’t intentionally or specifically vegan, which make amazing readily available snacks:
- Biscuits including Oreos, Lotus biscuits (and biscoff spread!), Party Rings, Bourbons
- Lots of cereals eg. Coco Pops, Rice Crispies (make sure to check for non-branded though)
- Cadbury’s Bournville chocolate, buttons and chocolate fingers
- Sweets: Starbursts, Skittles
- Most crisps (depending on flavours): Walkers, Doritos, Pringles, Kettle Chips
- Vegans get no protein: no meat, no problem. Did you know that the stalk of a broccoli actually contains more protein than chicken? Green vegetables including broccoli, spinach and peas are very protein rich, as are nuts, seeds and legumes. Some staples are black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils which contain 9g of protein per 100g. These are all delicious in salads, curries or pasta or rice dishes!
- Cost: veganism has somehow attained a reputation of being expensive… this is mainly due to the prevalence of influencers promoting perfect, organic, superfood-filled lifestyles with luxury products. In reality, like any diet, the cost depends on what foods you eat, and not what you rule out, although cutting out meat will save you a lot of money. Branded alternatives and products are the most expensive, but if you mainly buy whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, you will find this to be much more cost-effective.
- Veganism isn’t better for the environment: Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to lower your impact on the planet. By going vegan, you are no longer supporting food production that amplifies climate change, pushes wild animals towards extinction, promotes deforestation and pollutes rivers and oceans. If you want to make your diet even more sustainable, try to buy locally grown food instead of imported products which have a large carbon footprint. Also try to shop waste-free where you can; I would recommend shopping for whole grains, legumes and dried fruits at Green Action Co-Op in the student union for zero waste and amazing value products!
Immerse yourself in vegan culture!
As you plunge yourself into the world of veganism, why not veganise your online presence It’s sure to make Veganuary easier and more fun!
- ‘Cowspiracy’ – explores the environmental impact of animal culture and offers a path to sustainability
- ‘Earthlings’ – reveals our total economic dependence on and exploitation of animals for not only food, but clothes, entertainment and scientific research
- ‘The Game Changers’ – a film about meat, protein and strength; ‘a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance’, featuring elite athletes, soldiers and scientists
Instagram – Who to Follow:
- Gaz Oakley @avantgardevegan – vegan chef. Links to his recipes online and on Youtube (must try his Jamaican curry)
- BOSH @bosh.tv – vegan chefs with Youtube channel, quick, easy meals (must try their Lotus & coffee cake!)
- Rachel Ama @_rachelama – Vegan chef and Youtuber. Bubbly personality, delicious meals, immaculate vibes. Check out her blog www.rachelama.com
- Cheap Lazy Vegan @cheaplazyvegan – authentic vegan meals and insightful educational content, very real and refreshingly doesn’t try to make things look pretty, unapologetic portion sizes, delectable Korean recipes
- Radhi Devlukia @radhidevlukia – fresh ayurvedic and plant-based recipes
- Earthling Ed @earthlinged – gentle vegan and animal activist; a beacon of compassion and wisdom. Watch his TedTalk ‘Every Argument Against Veganism’
- Max La Manna @maxlamanna – vegan and low waste chef, sustainability hacks
- @accidentallyveganuk – featuring new/accidentally vegan products
- @vegansofleeds – shares photos from vegan eateries in Leeds
- Is it Vegan? – search engine which tells you if any branded product is vegan (gamechanger if you spend hours label checking)
- Happy Cow – shows you restaurants/cafes with vegan options near you
Vegan in Leeds:
If you want to treat yourself to a lockdown takeaway…
- Humpit – head to the union on Wednesdays for 2 for 1 lush pitas with salad, humous, falafel!
- JJ’s Vish and Chips – Kirkstall based mock fish and chips, made from tofu and banana blossom.
- Punk Vegan – coffee, toasties, wraps, burgers, fries in Hyde Park
- MOG’s – burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, dirty fries in Kirkstall
- Grove Cafe – Cardigan Road, amazing vegan Indian menu, also pizza + greasy food
- Friends of Food – amazing selection of burgers and mac and cheez in Hyde Park
- Wawin – fully vegan Chinese in Woodhouse
Remember that it’s ok to not be perfect. Try your best – follow your gut and listen to your body; you know your body so make sure to eat intuitively. Don’t get down if you notice yourself eating a block of Cadbury’s in a moment of seduction. Keep on going and keep your mind and body open; keep learn and try to incorporate it into your lifestyle as much as you can. Welcome to the community; you’re now part of the change.
Header image credit: Dani Abrams