Now, I know this is different for everyone and each person will have a unique idea on which factors are easiest or hardest for them. However, these are what worked for me and if you’re at a loss of knowing where to start, then hopefully these will come in handy.
Changing your diet and lifestyle can be overwhelming, as well as leaving you open to criticism and questions. People are surprisingly defensive about their diet but try not to let any negativity affect you and solely concentrate on your own needs and happiness!
1 Going gradual is key.
I went pescatarian when I was 13, vegetarian at 23 and fully vegan at 27. It took me a long time and while there are people who manage to successfully go vegan overnight, I would advise taking gradual steps (maybe not as many as I did!). Start by cutting out red meat or replacing 2 or 3 meals a week with vegetarian ones. It doesn’t matter how long the process is or how you tailor the transition, you’ll get there in the end.
2 Don’t restrict yourself.
Try not to cut out a big food group overnight. If you tell yourself “from tomorrow I will cut out all dairy” etc, it will make it harder to stick to and you’ll feel like you’ve failed if you slip up. Additionally, try not to worry too much about the health aspect. Perfect the vegan diet first and then work on health/raw/whatever you feel the need to do.
Educate yourself on the reasons why you want to become vegan. This helps when you’re questioned about it! Also look up vegan meal ideas and how and where you can get all your nutrients. There are some really good documentaries that I found really helpful: Vegucated, Cowspiracy, Gary Yourofsky’s speech and Forks Over Knives.
As well as these, the PETA website and the Vegan Society will have a lot of answers to any questions you may have.
4 Start with milk.
Now this will vary from person to person but I found the easiest step to be changing milk. I only had milk on cereal and in tea so if you’re an avid drinker of full fat milk, this may be a bit more difficult for you.
There are so many options of vegan milk which means more variety AND it lasts longer. I love unsweetened soy milk in my tea, almond milk in smoothies and hazelnut milk on cereal! Milk has very little health benefits so swapping this is a really good first move. The vegan varieties usually have added B vitamins and calcium.
5 Prepare vegan meals.
Find a vegan meal that you can easily cook, that you enjoy and that is quick. Once you have incorporated this meal into your week, you can then add another one and keep going! With every recipe you find, you’ll learn and find new flavours that you enjoy.
6 Buy your staple items.
Stock up on fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, wholemeal rice, wholemeal pasta and bread/tortilla wraps. Those are the easy items that can be found in pretty much any supermarket. Try and get in the habit of snacking on nuts and fruit/vegetables. Almonds, raw carrot sticks and strawberries are my favourite snacks and I add seeds to salads, soups and stir fries.
7 Stock up on tinned food.
This is handy for a number of reasons. Firstly, tins last for ages so if you buy something that you’re not sure how to use, just leave it for when you’re ready. Also, most tinned stuff is cheap so it can bulk out your shopping trip for little cost. I buy the following tinned items: Plum tomatoes (for making sauces), Amy’s soup (great organic vegan soup), lentils (they’re ready to use so really handy to have), mixed pulses (great for chillis and salad), mixed bean salad (can be eaten cold or cooked as part of a dish).
8 Change your butter.
Similarly to milk, I found this very easy. I liked real butter before but wasn’t obsessed so I swapped my margarine spread for the Pure vegan brand and have never looked back! Pure tastes the same and can used for baking as well so unless you’re a real butter fiend, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
9 Replace, swap and add.
When you cook (or order) food, just think about what you could change or add to the dish. For example with spaghetti bolognese you could change the mince for Quorn mince (this is vegetarian but not vegan) or you can use tinned lentils and a mixture of pulses and veggies. You can make these changes gradually but it gets you used to thinking about alternatives. If you eat out, browse the menu for vegetarian or vegan options and try some out.
10 Get used to checking ingredients.
Usually ingredients that you need to watch out for are highlighted in bold. Anything with milk, cheese, cream, whey, meat, fish, gelatine is a no go. There is an extensive list of ingredients here but concentrate on the obvious ones at first so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
11 Try new foods!
Lastly, enjoy the process! You’ll learn loads about food, herbs and ingredients, you’ll get better at cooking and you’ll find new foods and dishes that you love. Over time your taste buds will change so don’t worry if you’re not crazy about some foods at first. You’ll probably find that you actually end up eating a larger variety of food.
Good luck and let me know how you get on!