Contrary to the popular belief, vegan lifestyle doesn't only mean eating plant-based foods. It also means buying and using vegan and cruelty-free beauty, fashion and lifestyle products. However, today, we will be focusing on how to adopt a vegan diet.
You don't need to spend days studying vegan nutrition; however, it is important to educate yourself about this diet so that you can do it ¨the right way¨. One can live off french fries and Oreos and call themselves a vegan, but this kind of eating is not healthy or sustainable for your body. That being said, nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. There is a great visual tool that helps us to ensure that our meals are nutritionally balanced, and it is called the plate method. It is not a strict rule, but more like a guide that makes the transition to a vegan diet even easier. Half of the foods on your plate should be fruits and veggies, one quarter should be wholemeal carbs and the other quarter should be plant-based protein. It is also recommended to include a glass of calcium fortified plant-based milk or yogurt on the side, as well as healthy fats (such as avocados and nuts), B12 and vitamin D. We can easily get vitamin D by spending 15 minutes in the sun; however, it might be good to get a supplement during the darker days in the winter.
The next step is to learn about best vegan sources for calcium, iron, omega 3s (omega 3 is naturally produced by algae, not fish. Fish only get omega 3 from the foods they eat. Personally, I take a sustainable algae supplement by a brand Nothing Fishy, which cut the middleman by taking omega 3 straight from the algae), B12, vitamin D, iodine and others. A great website with a lot of easy and practical articles about vegan nutrition is Plant Proof run by Simon Hill, who is currently completing a Masters in Nutrition. He is also collaborating with Chris Hemsworth. Yes, that is Thor himself. If you prefer to watch videos, a YouTube channel Pick Up Lime, run by Sadia Badiei, BsC Dietetics, is a fantastic source of delicious vegan recipes as well as plenty of easily digestible nutrition information.
Going cold (vegan) turkey from one day to another doesn't work for everyone. If going 100% vegan sounds daunting to you, start with small steps. Start incorporating more fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods in every meal. Experiment with mock meats and discover the products that satisfy your meat cravings. After being vegan for over 6 years, I rarely eat vegan meat products, because I do not crave the flavour. However, I know a lot of people who found the transition to a vegan diet much easier by finding vegan versions of their favourite meaty dishes. The same goes for cheese...
Once they are ready, they often make it their mission to find the perfect and delicious vegan cheese that will eventually substitute their favourite non-vegan cheeses.
Once I transitioned to veganism, I started eating even a bigger variety of different foods and exploring new flavours. However, it was a bit of a struggle for the first few months. One of the things that helped tremendously was subscribing to a food box company that delivers fresh ingredients and delicious vegan recipes, which really opened my eyes to cooking new vegan recipes as well as spoiling me with some mind-blowing taste buds experiences. Another thing that is highly recommended, is to get vegan cookbooks, which help to discover new favourite meals. Fantastic vegan recipes can also be found online on some of the popular websites such as Bosh and even Jamie Oliver's official website. If you are looking for weekly plant-based meal plans, the website Veganuary designed free meal plans that cater to everyone; from busy families, people who don't have more than 15 minutes to prepare their meals, to gluten-free individuals and people who spend a lot of time training at the gym and need to boost up their performance.
Knowing where to eat and what meals to have makes eating out more enjoyable and easier to stick to your diet. A great tool that helps to discover vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants is the app Happy Cow. It shows the restaurants in the area, their ratings, cuisines and opening times. In case you are not the person who is choosing the restaurant, a great way to be prepared ahead of the time is to go online and check out the restaurant's menu. If still unsure, give the restaurant a call and kindly ask for options or their vegan-friendly menu. If everything else fails, you can always get creative with the sides of rice or roasted potatoes, grilled veggies, beans and salad. Thanks to the fast growth of veganism, which has brought tons of new options in the past few years, having no vegan meals at the restaurant doesn't happen very often anymore.
Another trick is to visit Mexican, Indian or Chinese restaurants, which are all fantastic for vegans. Not to mention Italian restaurants, where you can ask for a vegetarian pizza with no cheese, or pasta (check with the waiter it doesn't have eggs) with tomato sauce (make sure it is made with olive oil instead of butter). Most importantly, enjoy the experience, even if the waiters don't fully understand your diet requests, stay polite and kind. They are just doing their best jobs after all.
Still not sure about how to go vegan? Here are some easy vegan swap ideas you might find useful.
Scrambled eggs – Make scrambled tofu with turmeric instead
Beef burger – Order Beyond meat burger or any other veggie burger
Cow's and goat's milk – Treat yourself to a glass of calcium fortified oat, coconut, almond, rice, or soy milk (look for those with simple ingredients and no added sugar),
Yogurt – Enjoy a cup of coconut or soy yogurt instead
Cheese – Sprinkle your salads and soups with yeast flakes (they have a delicious cheezy flavour and are a fantastic source of B vitamins), buy a vegan cheese board and discover your favourite vegan cheese Eggs for baking – Use a vegan egg substitute, chia seeds, mashed bananas, apple sauce (which option to go for depends on the recipe)
Ice cream – Spoil yourself with delicious vegan ice cream made of almond, coconut or soy milk. Even Ben and Jerry's and Magnum now offer vegan options! You can also make your own vegan ice cream from frozen bananas, which is not only delicious, but also healthy and nutritious.
If you would like to learn more, stay tuned until next time when we will be talking about other aspects of vegan lifestyle, including vegan fashion and vegan beauty.