Going Vegan – 10 Tips For New Vegans Keen To Get Started

vegan tips for beginners
| Mind & Body > Vegetarian

Going vegan is easier if you’re prepared to hurdle the pitfalls of modern life. Stay strong with these 10 easy vegan lifestyle tips.

I was going to call this “surviving veganism” but I personally don’t think veganism is something you need to “survive”. You should embrace it, be empowered by your ethical or dietary choice! But sometimes we all need a little help to stay on the path of the tasty and righteous. For those thinking of turning vegan (just do it! It’s easier than you think) or those who have lost themselves along the way, here are ten tips on surviving veganism in the first few months as you get used to it.

1. It’s easier to eat vegan if you learn to cook

OK, so I’m starting with a biggie. But seriously, as a vegan I have learned that it is easier to cook your own (delicious) meals than to trawl through all the hidden ingredients on ready meal packaging, only to end up irritated and hungry.

If you’re creative, coming up with your own fun and interesting vegan recipes should be a doddle (vegan enchiladas anyone?!). If you don’t wish to create your own vegan recipes, invest in a good vegan cookbook to see you through the early days.

2. Read up on nutrition

It sounds pretty boring, but it’s vital, as a vegan, to know where all your vitamins and minerals are coming from and if you’re getting enough. I’ve got a big colourful wall chart which is really helpful for quick checks. If you’re eating a varied diet that’s full of wholegrain and vegetables you should be getting plenty of vitamins and minerals, but it is important to eat products fortified with vitamins such as B12. These products can include: cereals, margarine, soya fake meats, soya milk etc.

3. Don’t compare. Vegan imitation food won’t taste like meat/dairy

I think the reason a lot of people struggle is because they expect vegan imitation products to taste like the real deal. To a degree some of them do; I’ve had some great fake bacon and soy ice cream, but of course others aren’t going to. If you take a big glug of soy milk expecting it to taste like cow’s milk, you’ll have a shock! I think you have to understand they won’t be exactly the same, but have an open mind to trying new things. Almond milk tastes great in coffee and cereals, as does hazlenut milk, and you can come to decide it tastes better than the dairy you were once used to.

4. Not sure if your food is vegan? Just ask.

I’ve had some pretty crappy experiences in restaurants as a vegan. My main tip, if you want to guarantee you’re eating vegan in non-vegan restaurants, is to go somewhere where everything is freshly made, then you can just have a quiet word with the waitress about your dietary requirements and it shouldn’t be a problem. Places where everything is pre-packaged can be a total pain, as you have no idea what’s in the item. Never be afraid to ask the waiter if something can be made without dairy or if the kitchen could make you something if there is nothing on the menu that’s vegan friendly.

5. Smile!

Seriously, smiling? Yup. As a vegan I get a lot of people commenting how they just “love juicy bloody steaks” and how I “must just eat grass and leaves”. The best way to deal with this, I find, is to go high when they go low. You can try to educate them, or you can leave them to it and just laugh and smile. A lot of people try to get a reaction out of you. I’m not sure why people feel the need to provoke or make fun of vegans, but then again, ignorant people are afraid of new and different things. Sigh.

6. “You’re An Adult Now.”

I find that as a vegan, I have to look after myself in a lot of food-related situations, so I accept this and aim to just be prepared. If you know you’re going somewhere that isn’t vegan friendly, eat beforehand or call up the restaurant to see what the situation is. I make my own lunch for college most days because the selection is pretty awful for vegans at the cafe. Also, keeping vegan snack bars in your bag can end up being a total lifesaver sometimes.

7. Papa don’t preach…

No one likes a militant vegan (or vegetarian, or religious type, or anything really). If someone’s curious and asks a question, that’s cool, but when someone’s tucking into their roast chicken and you start preaching about the horrors of factory farming, it can really put people off you, and veganism as a whole, as it can just adhere to one of the many outdated stereotypes veganism has. It’s as frustrating to the chicken consumer as people trying to foist their love of meat is to you. You have facts on your side, of course, but preaching is rarely received as positively as a conversation – and when someone is hungry and trying to eat, that’s not the best time to chat to them on a topic they may struggle to be receptive to.

8. Thou must resist.

When I first became vegetarian, I found myself getting into the habit of “one little bite won’t hurt”. But, to be honest, one bite, one chicken… same difference. Just don’t do it. It gets easier from there on in. If you’ve found you’ve started eating something that, unbeknown to you, has animal derived ingredients in it, I find the best thing to do is to give it to someone else. You’ll feel better this way, trust me.

9. Check for hidden nasties

Big nasty food companies like to hide animal ingredients in food by putting them under seemingly surreptitious names, so you have to learn to recognise these names as being non-vegan. Here are some of the most common.

  • Carmine, a food colouring made from beetles. (gross!!!)
  • Casien, a protein from milk.
  • Gelatin, from skin, hooves, claws etc.
  • Isinglass, from the swimbladders of fish. (used to clarify some wines and beers, just check for the vegan label to make sure.)
  • Whey, a by-product of cheese, and remember kids, cheese is made from milk!

10. Stay strong!

Sometimes it’s really easy to feel pooky when all your friends are chowing down on cheese and chicken and you’re stuck at some terrible restaurant picking at a salad. It is at these times you’ve got to remember why you’ve chosen to go for a vegan lifestyle.

There are a whole bunch of reasons to go, and stay vegan, whether it’s because you abhor the violence and cruelty forced upon innocent animals, or because of the staggering negative impact that the meat and dairy industry have on the environment, or simply because you hate the idea of consuming something from another living creature. Or you might be doing it for your health, or taste preferences, rather than from an ethical perspective. Keep these thoughts with you, and use them to empower you when you’re having a hard time.

I have a slightly unconventional method. When I see meat or dairy, I try to imagine the animal it came from living, frolicking around me, then imagine its cruel and untimely death. That puts a full stop to any craving I might have. It sounds a bit much, but it really, really works. Certainly it works for me.

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