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Becoming Vegan-ish – 12 Tips for an Easy Transition to a Vegan Diet
Veganuary has never been bigger. Once Christmas is done and dusted, it’s time to scoff all that milk chocolate between 25th and 31st Dec because January the first is officially the start of Veganuary. A month where people pledge to try a vegan lifestyle (typically diet based). Have you embraced veganism yet? I actually have never tried “Veganuary”. Instead the hubby and I watched Game Changers on Netflix last October. That was enough to convince the hubby to go “vegan” over night. I say vegan in inverted commas because I’d say we are more plant-based. I’m not vegan in the true sense of the term in that I’ve finished Lew’s omelette, or taken a bit of B’s Christmas chocolate. I still have a way to go. The husband is strong-willed though and once he’s made his mind up, he goes at it at full power.
So here are some of my tips and tricks for embracing a vegan-ish diet. Some of the things we’ve learnt along the way to reducing our meat and dairy consumption.
Join some Facebook Groups
But take them with a pinch of salt. There seem to be never ending arguments between established vegans and veganuary vegans. Whether it’s ethical to eat at Maccy D’s and sample their new vegan offerings, to what really constitutes a “vegan”. The groups I like the most include: Accidentally Vegan UK and Vegan Food UK.
Both groups are really useful because people share their UK finds of vegan food. From sandwiches and fast food, to healthy options and very unexpected vegan items – think Oreo cookies and Bisto!
Buy Some Cook Books
Get yourself down to The Works or go online, and treat yourself to a few new cook books. My favourites include BOSH, Rachel Ama’s Vegan Eats (her You Tube Channel is great too!) and Vegan £1 Meals. They are great for inspiration and ideas.
Get on The Gram
Yep, head over to Instagram and follow a few of the vegan hashtags. I like to look at UK vegan specific content and have a board that I save all my favourite recipes too. Before you know it, you’ll be obsessed with Buddha Bowls!
Learn How to Cook
I say this because if you want to adopt a plant-based diet, it’s handy to have a few cooking skills under your belt. And honestly, I used to be the worst chef. Pizza was my main meal of choice. We don’t eat pizza that often now.
So a few cooking tips – everything starts with garlic and onion. Now, I used to HATE cutting onion and garlic. It made my eyes stream and my fingers stink. SO why make life hard for myself? I simple use frozen chopped onion and frozen garlic. It’s fab. Frozen peppers work well too.
Fry your onion and garlic in a little oil. Keep the heat low. Now add any veg you want. If you want to make a sauce, add in some passata, a little salt, pepper, paprika. If you’re going for curry, add in some turmeric and cumin. Want Thai? Add in a tin of coconut milk, some chilli, coriander and add a slice of lime once finished. Italian? Stick to tomato and add in some basil. Again, frozen herbs work really well. And there you have your base. For rice, pasta, beans, lentils, couscous, a salad, grilled sweet potato. The options are literally endless.
Don’t be Afraid of Ingredients
One thing that used to put me off cooking in the past were super long recipes and strange ingredients which I’d never heard of. I used to begrudge paying three quid for something I’d end up using once then binning. Don’t be too worried about ingredients. If something states some fancy oil but all you have is olive oil, just go with that. If you’re probably not going to use a fancy spice ever again, see if you can substitute it for something else. Just be careful though – Thai dish would taste very different using say basil rather than coriander!
Junk Food Vegan
It’s actually really easy to become a vegan these days – in my opinion. There are literally loads of alternatives to every day offerings. It can, however, be easy to become a “junk food” vegan and stick to all the convenience stuff. And you know what, that’s fine to do. But try and embrace the veg and beans too. Try one new recipe a week. You’ll be surprised at how good they taste and how easier it gets.
Stay Away from the Cheese
One thing I thought would be hard to give up is cheese. And it was at first. There’s nothing yummier than a jacket potato, loads of butter, cheese and baked beans. However, having tried many of the cheese alternatives, my recommendation would be to steer clear for a few months before venturing there again. Most of them smell horrific. And melted, they kind of stick to your teeth. Three months in and my craving for cheese has gone. We now use Violife slices and grated cheese. It tastes of nothing. Melted, it reminds me a bit of cheese in a can you get in America. To be honest though, I tend to have things without cheese. It’s just easier. And cheaper!
Embrace New Things
Before moving to a more plant-based diet, I’d hardly ever had tofu. Lentils and beans made me squirm, and sweet potato made me feel sick. It was just all icky. However, when you’re limiting your food options to just plants then you really need to make friends with all the beans, pulses, grains, seeds and veg. It certainly helps to anyway. We now use beans and lentils in most dishes, as well as rice, couscous and an array of veg.
It’s All About the Spice
Well, and the herbs, the salt, the pepper. Basically, all the ingredients I listed above taste pretty bland on their own. Rice, pasta, pinto beans, chickpeas, quinoa and tofu…yep, it’s pretty dull stuff. But add in a splash of olive oil and vinegar, some chopped coriander, garlic and red chilles and you have something tasty.
Don’t be afraid to try new spices and herbs. I use paprika on pretty much everything now as standard – veg, potatoes, in mash, on sweet potato, in a salad dressing.
It Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth
People typically say “oh but it’s so expensive to become vegan”. Well yes, it is if you’re sticking to all the alternatives like vegan cheese, vegan chocolate and whatever else is on the shelves. Veggies and grains/beans/rice cost very little though and you can make a lot from a box of couscous. And if you cook from scratch (so the onion, garlic, passata sauce) then it really doesn’t cost a lot. Far less than if you’d been adding meat to a dish.
Eating out has never been easier for veggies and vegans. There are so many options at most places these days. If you do have a meal out though, have a little look at the menu before you go. I find this really handy as then I know what to expect and have an idea of what I’ll pick once there. It also helps me out more in that I never get a chance to look at the menu if we’re with the kids! There’s always some moaning, whinging, spilling to take care of!
If you’re doing Veganuary just for January then enjoy it! Don’t see it as something you gave up, but instead, something you gained – new knowledge of recipes, ingredients you might not have tried before, new found health, clearer skin. The benefits are endless, and not only to the animals and environment.
If you’re thinking about moving to a plant-based diet, give it a go! And don’t forget to pin this post for later!