Whether you’re challenging yourself by going completely vegan or whether you just want to cut down your animal product consumption and eat more plants, the transition is much easier than you might think! By implementing a few essential changes and prioritising sustainable products from plant-based sources, you can begin to lead a greener life.
Although this may seem like the most dramatic change, it is the most straightforward! There are a huge variety of plant-based protein sources including beans, pulses, legumes and soy-products such as tofu and tempeh. Seitan, a meat-substitute made from gluten, is often used to replace beef while jackfruit can be used to mimic pulled pork. There is a vegan replacement for almost every meat and fish product, including fish-less fingers! Be mindful that processed vegan foods such as fake meat products can still be high in fat, sugar and salt and should be consumed in moderation. The healthiest protein sources are unrefined wholefoods; namely beans, pulses and legumes. Fortunately, there are countless different types including black beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame beans, peanuts and kidney beans to name a few. They can be enjoyed on their own with simple seasoning, added to stews and curries, blended into dips or mashed into burgers. Remember that grains such as quinoa and vegetables such as broccoli also have a high protein content, so if you are eating enough you will not become protein deficient!
Swapping dairy milk for a non-dairy alternative is one of the easiest changes to make. Non-dairy milk is free from cholesterol and is believed to be a better source of calcium, making it a much healthier alternative to dairy milk. In fact, the animal protein in dairy products is believed to have a calcium-leaching effect, meaning dairy products may deplete your body of calcium. Soy milk is readily available for purchase in most areas while other milk alternatives such as almond, oat, coconut, rice, hemp, cashew and hazelnut can also be found in certain supermarkets.
Many people find cheese to be the hardest thing to give up when transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle. Whether you choose to give it up completely or simply limit your intake, there are many health benefits associated with reducing your intake of dairy products. Vegan cheese is becoming more and more readily available, with some well-known pizza chains now offering it on their menus! For a healthier alternative to oil-based vegan cheeses you could either purchase or make your own nut-based cheese. Cashews and macadamia nuts are commonly used to make vegan cream cheese or camembert-style cheese. Nutritional yeast is often used as a vegan alternative to parmesan and can also be used to replicate cheesy sauces. There is no need to sacrifice cheesy flavours when going vegan, and vegan cheese-alternatives can be much healthier for you!
Although many restaurants now also offer vegan options, vegan restaurants can offer an entirely different experience of plant-based dining that will surprise and inspire your taste buds! To learn more about the different types of delicious meals you can prepare with just plant-based ingredients it is worthwhile visiting some vegan restaurants. Treating yourself to professionally prepared indulgent vegan food will show you that a vegan lifestyle is far from restrictive!
An important habit to make when embarking on a plant-based lifestyle is to read the label of any product you buy to check that it is vegan. Key things to look out for in the ingredients list that highlight when a product is not vegan include milk and milk-derived products such as lactose, whey and casein, eggs and gelatine. You may be surprised to find that some products that you don’t expect to be vegan don’t contain any animal products! Oreos and some other packaged biscuits are good examples of this. In the same way, products that you believe to be vegan may contain some animal products, so always read the label.