Thinking of trying out a plant-based lifestyle? Well, you’re not alone — it’s thought that over 500,000 people in the UK are now vegan, with more joining the green revolution for many different reasons every day.
For anyone coming from a meat-and-two-veg lifestyle, the thought of ditching all animal products can feel a little daunting, but here’s some advice to make that transition a whole lot easier and super tasty too!
How to start being vegan
While it can be tempting to jump straight in with a plant-based diet, this can leave you with horrendous cravings unless you have some serious will-power. You’ll find it much easier to gradually phase out your animal products until you don’t even miss them anymore.
You could start by switching out the milk on your cereal for a plant-based alternative, or making a meal every day vegan. Eventually, you’ll be able to do full days, before transitioning to full time. This will also give your body some time to adjust to a different diet too.
Make a plan
Once you’ve been eating green for a few months, then you’ll know plenty of recipes, where you can get snacks while out and about, or what to buy in the supermarket. However, for the first few weeks, you’ll want to plan your meals a little more, so that you don’t get stuck for food.
A good place to start is to think about what you would usually eat and try to find substitutes. For example, you might want to think about switching out beef mince for lentils to make a simple spaghetti Bolognese, or vegan chilli.
What to swap
Here’s a quick list of some swaps you can make to your everyday meals and the potential benefits:
Swap cow’s milk for plant milk:
This is an easy swap to make for your breakfast cereal, afternoon coffee, or favourite milkshake. Be aware that some plant milks have added sugar, though, so opt for the unsweetened ones where possible. Here’s a comparison:
High in saturated fat
High in calories
High in calcium
Low in fat
Low in calories
Often fortified with B12 and calcium
Swap beef mince for lentils:
While beef might be higher in protein per 100g, it’s also much higher in calories too. So, you can eat double, or triple the lentils for the same amount of calories and plenty of protein, with none of the fat.
286 calories per 100g
20g of protein per 100g
15g fat per 100g (including 5g saturated fat)
116 calories per 100g
9g of protein per 100g
Only traces of fat
Swap cheese for nutritional yeast:
This may feel like a weird one, but if you’re after a cheesy sauce with a vitamin B12 boost, then it’s a great addition to many of your favourite meals.
High in saturated fat
High in calories
High in calcium
High in protein
0.2g of fat per 5g serving
17 kcal per 5g serving
Source of vitamin B12
High in protein and fibre
Swap eggs for tofu
No need to ditch the full English, you can enjoy a creamy scramble with a very similar nutritional value to eggs. Make a spicy scramble from tofu or chickpeas and enjoy some veggie sausages too.
143 kcal per 100g
9.6g fat per 100g
14.1g protein per 100g
118 kcal per 100g
7.1g fat per 100g
12.6g protein per 100g
These are just a few of the many substitutes you can make for a plant-based lifestyle. You don’t have to be super adventurous in the kitchen to cook up a delicious vegan meal — there’s plenty of recipes out there for a plant-based version of lots of your favourite dinners. You’ll also find plenty of vegan options when eating out, or buying ready-made meals (just watch out for added salt here).
Do your research
The most important thing with taking on a new diet is making sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. If you’re eating a good variety of foods, then chances are that you’re not far off. Most vegans need a vitamin B12 supplement, however, and you might want to up your protein intake conveniently with shakes or snacks.
Do some research to make sure that your meals are balanced and not too high in fat or sugar, as it’s all too easy to replace the meat with more carbohydrates, rather than the protein you need.
One of the most fun parts about going vegan is all the new foods and flavours you’ll be introduced to. Explore every inch of your supermarket, read tons of ingredients labels, and find some good vegan chefs on social media and you can get experimental in the kitchen.
This is a leap into a new way of living and something to be excited about. There’ll be times where you’d love a slice of the office cake, or maybe even crave a juicy steak, but find a focus for why you started this journey and use this as a reminder when you’re tempted to jump ship.
Remember, any big change is going to be hard at first, but soon you’ll be far more aware of what you can and can’t eat and have a whole host of delicious recipes under your belt for every occasion.
Also, there’s really no need to worry if you slip up — there are no vegan police out there to call you out on your mistakes. Every vegan has accidentally (or intentionally) eaten something non-vegan, so brush off the crumbs and carry on.
Take Home Message
While this is a big change for all the meat-eaters out there, you’ll be surprised by how much is actually on offer for you. There’s no need to feel restricted, just make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Use it as a chance to explore new foods and flavours and don’t be too harsh on yourself if you make a mistake, as we’ve all got to start somewhere. Most of all, enjoy the beginning of your plant-based journey!