Written by Sarah Curran
There has been a huge growth in the popularity of veganism in the last few years for a number of reasons including but not limited to wanting to live a greener life and protect the environment, wanting to choose a sustainable way of living, health reasons and of course wanting to avoid animal exploitation. Many people associate the vegan lifestyle with hippies, but this is not the case. People from all walks of life and different corners of the planet are choosing to adopt a vegan lifestyle, especially as its benefits become more well known across the globe!
What is veganism?
Veganism is defined as a way of living that eliminates as much as possible all forms of exploitation of animals for any purpose including food and clothing. It also promotes the creation of animal free alternatives for use by humans to benefit people, the environment and animals themselves.
What can I eat if I become vegan?
Vegan diets, when planned correctly are nutrient rich and full of delicious foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. Vegans still enjoy desserts such as cakes and even ice-cream, but simply made from animal free ingredients. For example, you can make a healthy delicious ice cream using coconut cream instead of dairy cream and add any extra flavouring you like, from strawberries to nuts! There is a common misconception that living a vegan lifestyle is extremely expensive and unmanageable for most people, but this is not the case at all. In fact, most people notice that they spend less money on groceries by becoming vegan, especially if they shop smartly and avail of special offers when they do their food shopping. It is also untrue that vegans cannot get enough protein from their diet as plants contain protein too.
How can I become a vegan?
Start out slowly
Becoming a vegan overnight will not suit everyone, and that is totally ok! Try and introduce small changes gradually, and over time, they will add up to living a full vegan lifestyle! There are plant based alternatives for every food you can imagine, so it’s really easy to make some changes without having a huge impact on the lifestyle that you are used to. Consider adding soya or coconut milk to your cup of tea every day instead of cow’s milk, and try replacing your mince in your shepherd’s pie with some quorn. You can also replace your butter with a soya spread or coconut oil.
Plan your diet
Going vegan can be a great way to change your diet for the better, but only with careful planning and research. It is crucial to ensure you get enough of essential nutrients, especially iron and calcium. Ensure that your diet includes a wide variety of foods, and try not to eat the same meals day in and day out to make sure you are getting the best benefits from your diet. There are many myths surrounding being a vegan, including that vegans do not get enough calcium. Eat plenty of leafy greens and include fortified foods in your diet and this will not be an issue for you. Calcium is important to keep your teeth and bones strong so it is important that you take care of them when you become vegan by planning your meals to include food sources of this mineral. You will also get iron from leafy green vegetables, which is necessary for healthy blood and to keep you topped up on energy through the day. Eat vitamin C rich foods in conjunction with iron rich foods to aid the body’s absorption of it.
Try new foods and recipes
Going vegan is a great opportunity to perfect your culinary skills. Research new foods and recipes that you can try out that are vegan friendly and take your taste buds to a new level. You could try different theme nights for dinner, such as a vegan pizza night or a curry night and invite some friends over to sample your creations and watch a film or two! There is a misconception that by going vegan you will be hungry all the time, but this is not true at all. If you eat enough food through the day you will not feel any hungrier than a person eating meat would. Simply include enough meals and snacks, drink plenty of water and you will feel satisfied all through the day.
Prepare some meals ahead
There are many myths surrounding the vegan diet, including that going vegan means automatic weight loss. Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone. While going vegan many result in a drop in calories for some people, if you do not create a deficit in your calorie intake, you most likely will not lose weight simply by becoming a vegan. However, following a vegan diet tends to be jam packed with nutritious and healthy foods which of course is conductive to a healthier lifestyle, and if you plan your meals ahead, it is easier to follow the vegan diet while achieving weight loss, especially if you add in exercise and weight training. Some people believe that vegans cannot excel in the gym in the same way that meat eaters do. Fortunately, this is not the case and there are many successful vegan athletes.
Planning some meals ahead will also mean that if you are caught off guard you will always have a healthy vegan option available to you. Consider investing in some freezer friendly Tupperware and make an extra portion of some of your favourite meals to freeze for emergencies!
Becoming a vegan is a big decision to make for some people, but it truly isn’t as difficult or challenging as many first expect it to be. It can be very rewarding, and you may also find you make healthier dietary choices and notice an improvement in your health from making some small simple changes in your daily life.