Veganism is currently on the rise in the UK, with no sign of the trend slowing down. More and more people are researching the reasons to start a plant-based diet but aren’t sure how to do it. If you’re thinking about adopting a vegan diet, read through our helpful advice on how to become vegan. We cover how to start a plant-based diet, with typical vegan diets and alternatives to animal-based food and drink.
Go vegan at your own pace
Throwing out all the animal-based foods in your kitchen one evening isn’t just a waste; it will also make it much tougher to adapt. It’s important to do what works for you.
Perhaps eating vegan lunches or dinners for a few weeks and then adding plant-based breakfast and snacks on top will be easiest. Or, it could be having three vegan days a week and then building up from there. You will find a method that works for you; if it’s switching overnight then that’s great, but don’t worry if not as it is a big lifestyle change.
An easy way to start the transition into a plant-based diet is gradually swapping items in your diet. When you’re out of dairy milk or butter, buy the vegan alternative. If you’re a meat eater, try switching to vegetarian meals first. These small changes will make the jump easier and allow you to experiment with what you like and what you don’t. Doing everything at once may be overwhelming and leaves you wondering what to eat – transitioning gradually lets you research and plan your journey.
Plan and research your vegan diet
It’s essential that you continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet. It’s no secret that animal-based products are a source of protein, calcium and vitamins, so it’s important that you replace these nutrients with vegan alternatives. For example, pulses, brown bread and dried fruit all contain calcium and vitamin D. Wholemeal bread and nuts all include iron, whilst walnuts and soya-based foods (such as tofu) are all sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Google is your friend, and there are countless websites that outline plant-based foods and what nutrients they contain. Plan your meals and stock up on what you need for the week – big and small supermarkets alike now sell vegan products so you should be able to find what you need. If you live in an area with a big vegan population then you might be able to find independent stores that are specifically vegan. If not, superstores like Sainsburys, Asda and Waitrose are all great options that will provide the goods for cooking up a storm.
A typical vegan diet
In order to be healthy, you must take the same measures as a vegan that you would as a meat eater. For example, you still need to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg per day and avoid refined sugar and processed foods. A typical vegan diet is made up of milk alternatives, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables and protein like tofu, beans or pulses, as well as meat replacements.
For breakfast, opt for vegan yoghurt and fruit, cereal and soy milk or Mexican beans and avocado on toast. A handful of nuts works well as a mid-morning snack, with a salad or vegetable burrito serving as a fabulous lunch. Go for some fruit as a mid-afternoon snack, like raisins or blackberries, which are both high in protein. with veg and carbs for your evening meal – a chickpea and sweet potato curry with spinach is a fantastic way to gain nutrients and a delicious dinner.
Enjoy plant-based drinks
There are some drinks that unfortunately aren’t vegan due to dairy, gelatine or cochineal being on the ingredients list. Some alcoholic beverages like wine or beer can also be produced using certain animal products. An easy way to see if a drink is vegan is looking for a label - most vegan products will be labelled with the Vegan Trademark symbol.
Chaga Life is a great plant-based drink that will align with your vegan diet. Filled with antioxidants and immune-boosting nutrients, the Chaga mushroom complements plant-base lifestyles perfectly.
See veganism as an opportunity
Becoming vegan doesn’t mean that you’re saying goodbye to delicious, flavoursome meals. In fact, it’s the opposite! Between vegan cookbooks, blogs and social media, there are lots of wonderful plant-based dishes that will allow you to be adventurous.
It’s a myth that vegan meals are complicated and time-consuming; there are plenty of options that take no time at all – great for midweek dishes. Just relax and learn to enjoy cooking new recipes; your friends and family will appreciate it too!
Are vegans healthier than carnivores?
Researchers Dinu, Abbate, Gensini, Casini and Sofi collated and analysed ten studies into vegetarian and vegan health. Their analysis suggests that eating plant-based meals is associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease. However, it wasn’t clarified whether vegetarians or vegans would live longer than meat-eaters due to this.
Simply switching to a vegan diet doesn’t mean you will be healthier. There are still unhealthy alternatives – let’s face it, vegan chocolate and ice-cream are never going to be completely healthy. But, having a balanced plant-based lifestyle and exercising will ensure that you remain fit and healthy.
Let a plant-based lifestyle come naturally
Trust that your plant-based lifestyle will eventually become normal for you. As mentioned, it might take you just overnight to turn completely vegan. However, in most cases it’s a longer process that will start to feel more natural the longer you do it.
In many cases, people stop missing meat, dairy and eggs - with all the vegan alternatives to luxuries like chocolate, burgers and pizza, adopting a plant-based lifestyle comes easily after a while. With many companies bringing out vegan products and restaurants including vegan menus, you can still enjoy your favourite meals with a vegan twist.
- Dinu, Abbate, Gensini, Casini, Sofi, “Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: A systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Nov 22;57(17):3640-3649