Whether you’ve completed Veganuary and are keen to keep going, are thinking about going vegan, or have just taken the plunge, I’ve got a few tips to help make your transition as smooth as possible.
It took me two years to go from vegetarian to vegan. Making any kind of change to your diet can feel overwhelming, so I wanted to share some of the things I learned in the hopes that it makes your transition to a vegan diet a little easier.
Spend time finding exciting recipes
Ah, the age-old dreaded question, “what do I want for dinner?” When you’re making a huge change to your diet that question can feel even more overwhelming because you remember what you might have made for dinner before, but what do you make now?
The internet is packed with fantastic blogs full of mouth-watering recipes that will inspire you to get in the kitchen. Whether you want breakfast, lunch, dinner, a fancier dinner, or a decadent treat, someone has got your back. Pinterest is how I find and keep track of the majority of recipes I use (I've embedded some of my foodie boards below if you fancy some inspiration), but you could just as easily use a search engine and your bookmarks tab, or print things out if that’s your thing. There are definitely a lot of good looking cookbooks out there but I don’t use cookbooks, so unfortunately I can’t recommend any - if you have recommendations, please mention them in the comments.
Some of my favourite vegan food blogs:
- Lazy Cat Kitchen - I highly recommend their vegan beetroot wellington, and cinnamon and raisin bagel recipes.
- Choosing Chia - Not everything is vegan but most things are or can be made vegan.
- From My Bowl - All vegan, with a lot of gluten and oil-free recipes as well. Caitlin also has a great YouTube channel.
- The Awesome Green - A recent discovery with an incredible recipe for meatless meatballs with the tastiest sauce.
Keep your kitchen well stocked - especially if you’re a snacker
It will probably take you a few weeks to work out what your go-to recipes are, the ingredients you use the most, and what you snack on. Once you’ve got a handle on this, veganism feels so much easier than when you started out. Pay attention to what you’re using often and what are your favourite meals and make sure you keep your cupboards well stocked.
Meal planning is a really good way to do this, especially if you tend to be very busy and may not have time to shop at some point in the week. For example, I work in hospitality and know that when I come home and cook dinner at 10-11pm on the weekends I don’t really want to spend more than half an hour cooking. I can do this by cooking larger portions and eating leftovers, and making sure I have things like noodles, rice, vegetables, and things to make sauce if I fancy a stir-fry.
If you live with non-vegans and feel you might be tempted by an old favourite midnight snack (this is why I found it so hard to stop eating cheese), it’s even more important to make sure you’re kitchen is well-stocked. I remember when I was trying to transition, I’d be feeling peckish and would have nothing vegan in to snack on and would end up eating cheese because it was in the house - I could have gone shopping but I don’t like it, especially if it’s just for one item.
Here are a couple of helpful articles about meal planning:
Plan ahead if you’re going out
Eating out was the hardest thing for me about becoming vegan. Thankfully, restaurants do seem to be getting better at offering vegan options, and they’re not just salad or tomato pasta, either.
Happy Cow is a great, worldwide resource for finding places offering vegan options - I find it really useful when I’m planning a trip and have no idea about restaurants in the area I’m visiting. Note that not every restaurant offering vegan options will be on there - and most places will and can provide vegan food.
Check out menus online before you visit and make sure to let the restaurant know you’re vegan when the booking is placed if there isn’t a vegan option listed on the menu. It’s probably a good idea to let them know if there is only one thing on the menu so you don’t arrive and find out they’ve sold out.
Yes, you could probably turn up to any restaurant and ask for the chefs to make you something vegan and they’d sort you out. If you give them a little bit of warning, they will go out of their way to make something really nice for you.
This has been the experience I’ve had at every restaurant I’ve worked at: if you let them know in advance, they will put together a menu with different options on. If you don’t let them know, they’re limited for options - especially if it’s a very busy service. AND, if you don't let them know you can probably forget about having dessert too - fruit and sorbet does not count as dessert in my book.
"Tofino bread" - we're still working on this recipe
Get used to reading labels
You might think there’s no need for any animal products to be in a bag of salt and vinegar crisps, but sometimes you’ll be wrong. Read the label on everything to make sure there are no animal products in them - you’ll be surprised how often you’re wondering “why is there milk powder in this?”
While you’ll find things that are surprisingly not vegan, you’ll also find a few things that you might be surprised to learn are vegan, such as most bourbon biscuits, and some Morrison’s doughnuts. Vegan Food and Living have a good ‘accidentally vegan’ list but it’s by no means extensive - which is great!
Discover a community
Veganism can feel a little lonely sometimes if you don’t know anyone else whose vegan. It can be as simple as you wanting to ask a question, looking for recipe inspiration, wanting to hear other people’s thoughts on an article, or sharing a meme and laughing about the desert island all vegans apparently live on.
For all of its flaws, the internet can be a great place for you to find a community. I’ve found the Reddit vegan community really welcoming and helpful. You might also be able to find a local group where you can meet up in person, or your college or university might have a vegan society.
Do what’s right for you
If you’re thinking about becoming vegan or are transitioning, the most valuable thing I can tell you is to do what’s right for you. Changing your diet for whatever reason is a big thing, so take it at your own pace. Baby steps are amazing. Do not let anyone make you feel bad about your progress or that you aren’t trying hard enough.
While I’ve focused on the dietary aspect of veganism, you can apply most of these same tips to veganising other areas of your life, such as; personal hygiene and cosmetics, cleaning products, and clothes. I don’t recommend rushing and changing everything right away with these areas - it’s easier to replace things as you use them up; otherwise you’re wasting money and resources.