Q I am a vegetarian, but planning to go vegan. Do you have any top tips?
There are so many good and wholesome reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle, with a broad spectrum of reasons ranging from health to animal welfare and the environment.
My personal experience over the past seven years is that becoming vegan is a process and not something that happens quickly overnight. I learn something new every time I research the subject. It’s helpful to be happy with where I am in the process – this prevents feelings of inadequacy. People around me inevitably question my lifestyle choice. I don’t always know how I feel in the moment so it helps me to take some time to reflect on my feelings and look into the facts. I’ve found it’s like learning a new language – we are all at different stages and there’s no rushing it. Support and information is available and hopefully Vegan Food & Lifestyle Magazine will be part of the inspiration you need to get started, or perhaps renew your enthusiasm?
Here are some things I found really useful when I started out. There are lots of alternatives out there and some work better than others:
- I found vegan hummus to be a great substitute for butter as a filling for jacket potato. It gives the same moisture to the potato as butter or spread and is delicious. It goes with almost everything else you might be adding to the jacket potato. It’s also really good in sandwiches.
- I bought a really helpful nutrition wall chart from a local health food shop to put on my kitchen wall. It reminded me which minerals and vitamins I needed to make sure were in my daily diet.
- Keep in mind the reasons why you switched to a vegan diet in the first place, this will help you keep on the right track. Don’t feel like you need to defend yourself to people, diets are very personal, and as long as you are happy with the choices you’ve made, you shouldn’t let other people’s negative opinions of veganism affect your decision.
- Make sure you’re getting enough B12 in your diet! Some soy-based products and drinks are fortified with it, but it’s important to take a supplement if you’re not consuming these products 2-3 times a day to avoid anaemia and nervous system damage.
- If you’re female, it can be helpful to take an iron supplement around your time-of-the-month to avoid feeling tired and worn out. It’s also important to make sure you eat plenty of legumes, sunflower seeds, dried fruits and leafy greens, such as spinach, to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet. Red peppers, citrus, and broccoli are also essential as they help aid iron absorption.
- If you’re serious about being vegan, checking food labels and verifying ingredients is a must. You’ll be surprised at just how many unexpected products have animal products, particularly milk, added to them.
- If you’re planning on eating out, phoning ahead to let the restaurant know about your dietary requirments is a good idea, and you’ll find that many places are understanding and helpful when it comes to adapting items from the menu. Happy Cow is also a great website which helps you find vegan eateries near you if you want to find places to eat.
About our expert: Jane Gollner. Following a career as a freelance graphic designer for almost 30 years, Jane is now Vegan Food & Living’s art editor. Having been vegetarian for 13 years, she decided to turn to a vegan lifestyle seven years ago and hasn’t looked back since!