I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 18 mainly due to my concern for the welfare and living standards of many animals. At that time battery and intensive farming was the norm and animal welfare was rarely talked about, so eventually, only 30 years later, I took the plunge and became a full plant based eater, and what a journey it has been, a journey of highs and lows where I had a lot to learn.
Plant based diets are fast becoming a growing trend with many sports stars and celebrities adopting the lifestyle but just in case you don’t have your own cook and dietitian but still want to change to a plant based diet, here are my top ten tips to help you on your way.
1. Do believe in yourself
The journey along the plant based road may be difficult sometimes so believe in yourself; in your will power and your ability to adapt. Understand your reasons for changing your eating habits and have confidence that you can achieve your goal, no matter what anyone else says to you.
2. Don’t go cold turkey
Going vegan can be a radical step, especially if you are coming from a diet with meat in it. Change gradually, cutting out meat, eggs and dairy slowly to allow your body to accept the changes that are happening and seek medical advice, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
3. Do your research on veganism and vegan cooking
Read books and articles, watch videos on YouTube from long term vegans for inspiration on vegan cookery. Find recipes and hacks to help you get started and then find your own style and veganise the sort of food you have always enjoyed eating – “you do you”.
4. Don’t be hard on yourself when you slip up
Everyone has a tough day sometimes and slips up. Life and stress sometimes gets in the way and we might have a day where we just cannot face contemplating what we are going to eat, or we forget and put that piece of cheese in our mouth. It’s ok. At the beginning especially, you can find it tough. If you slip up just dust yourself down and start the next day afresh.
5. Do experiment with new food and cooking techniques
One of the joys of becoming a vegan is trying new things, guilt free. Having been a vegetarian since I was 18 and having cooked for myself since then, I was under the impression that there was nothing more I could learn, how wrong I was. So when you start on your vegan journey do your cooking research, find new ways of doing things, include new ingredients and rediscover your joy of cooking again.
6. Don’t expect to like everything you make
It takes time to adjust your diet, so don’t rush it, and be prepared for the fact that you might not like all the new flavours you try. Some things you will grow to love by finding new ways of using and cooking them, but others you will never like. Just accept that and try something new. I never liked avocado until I changed to a fully plant based diet, but now I have learnt what to do with it and what flavouring to add, and now I love it. Unfortunately nothing I do to okra makes me love it, so it is off my menu.
7. Do tell the people that are important to you
There's the old joke about how you know a vegan? Because they tell you, so I would not recommend shouting from the roof tops just yet, but tell the people that love, care and do not judge you and ask for their support as you go along your vegan path. Hopefully they will fully understand and will be keen to help you in any way they can. In my own personal experience I found that people were more intrigued than any thing else and asked questions out of curiosity. A little annoying at first but you will soon become yesterday’s news and will be left alone.
8. Don’t expect everyone to understand your new lifestyle choice
Unfortunately there will always be someone who just does not get it regardless of whether you have gone vegan for health, environmental or animal welfare reasons. To them it seems too extreme. State your case and hold your ground, there will always be someone who thinks they know more about you than you do.
9. Do keep going on your journey to veganism
Changing anything in your life is difficult at the beginning, but some changes are worth the effort if you really want it. There will be difficulties along the way, but believe in yourself and why you are doing it and eventually being vegan will come naturally to you.
10. Don’t worry if you're craving cheese
The cheese thing happens to everyone going vegan in the developed world. Probably the single thing that put people of going vegan is their addiction to cheese. I really loved cheese, but something good sometimes comes with a little sacrifice. Keep going, the craving will pass and before you know it you wont even think about it. Some of the new vegan cheeses are pretty good, so find one you like and enjoy the thrill of making cruelty free meals.
All lifestyle changes can be difficult and full of challenges and becoming a vegan can be quite a dramatic step so consult your doctor first to get the go ahead, especially if previously you have been a meat eater.
Why did I go vegan? Well put simply, it was good for me, good for the environment and good for the animals.