Becoming A Vegan
Becoming a vegan in this day and age is so much easier than what it would have been ten or so years ago. I for one would have struggled back then because I don't like to deprive myself. Years ago, I would have been telling you that going vegan meant a diet of healthy whole foods such as grains, fruit and veggies, beans and nuts. Great! But what about if you fancied a bowl of ice cream or a rich spaghetti bolognese? What about giving up chocolate, cakes and biscuits forever
? You would benefit your health - theres no doubt about that but
sometimes we all want a bit of indulgence - even more so if we think that we cant.
I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that nowadays you can eat all the above and plenty more if you choose to do so. Becoming a vegan today
is very easy - as long as you know where to shop.
Whether you are becoming a vegan for health reasons or for ethical reasons, you should know that giving up eating animal products does not mean going without.
Most well stocked supermarkets will sell the vegan versions of these products, or will be naturally vegan anyway.
You can get all the nutrients that your body needs from a healthy vegan diet and you do not have to deprive yourself of little treats whenever the need grabs you.
As in any diet of course, these things should be eaten in moderation and if you are giving up animal fats and animal ingredients, you will not want to ruin the benefits that a vegan diet will give your body. It is a common myth that a vegan diet is always healthy. A wholefood vegan diet is
healthy but vegan products (processed) that you can see on the above link, are not necessarily so.
Becoming a vegan means not eating anything derived from an animal or any insects. No meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey. There are other animal derived ingredients to watch out for such as gelatin which is made from animal flesh and bones. More of that later though.
You may be thinking "well if I can't eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey and this gelatin stuff, then what can I eat?"
Well, you will just have to eat plants wont you? Only kidding! Actually, I'm not kidding. You will indeed be eating plants but plants can and are
available in ice cream, chocolate, cakes, biscuit and other goodies.
This is why I say it is much easier becoming a vegan today because all this stuff wasn't available ten or so years ago. And the great news is.....there are more and more products coming out all the time. I live in the UK and update my favourites list as and when they become available. You can find that page here
The thing to remember is that most animal derived ingredients now have a vegan alternative. So you can get vegan mayonnaise, margarine, milk, cream, chocolate, ice-cream and other products quite easily. I think a lot of vegan products taste better anyway - although vegan products do vary in taste quite a bit so if you try one vegan brand and don't like it, try another. This is important to note beause if you try a brand that tastes revolting (I'm not going to mention names because some of my friends like the vegan products that I can't stomach and vice versa).
Most supermarkets label their food items as being vegan and usually have a special section for special dietary requirements. Admittedly, some supermarkets are better at labelling their products than others but hopefully they will catch up soon as the demand for vegan food grows. I shop at Sainsburys here in the UK and they do label their products if they are suitable for vegans. You can also contact most supermarkets for a vegan food list which in my experience, they are happy to do so.
Vegan Supermarket Product Examples (Western Well Stocked)
Tofu Products (Basic)
The thing to remember is that a lot of foods are vegan anyway. For example, a lot of tomato ketchup brands are vegan although some will have dairy products in them. The same applies for other food items such as bread and baked beans which are mostly vegan but are sometimes made with dairy products too. Mustard is mostly vegan as are sandwich pickles, a lot of cereals and most baking products.
Just because these vegan food products don't have any animal fat in them - doesn't mean to say they are healthy. It is a total misconception that all vegan foods are healthy. Yes, in their natural form, they are, but like non vegan processed foods, these products are also not the healthiest options as they will still contain sugar and other ingredients such as refined flour.
Health Food Shops Should Sell Vegan Versions Of The Following Foods
Cheeses (Soft and Cream)
Creams (Single, Whipping and Double Varieties)
Meat Replacement Products (Basic)
Snack Bars (Pasties, Sausage Rolls, Porkless Pies)
This is where I get my specialist vegan meat replacement products from. Do a search of vegetarian chinese restaurants in your area and see if they deliver. Some of these products
taste like the real thing and a lot of vegans will not eat them for that reason. I should warn you though that some of these products are better than others and it is all a matter of taste. I have found a couple that I like and I stick to those.
You can also veganise
a lot of non vegan recipes. Recipes that call for mince meat are especially easy to veganise - and I would suggest making a vegan spag bol or shepherds pie for new vegans before you start to get artistic. You can get vegan mince in health food shops or online. Most supermarket brands contain egg I have found.
Another thing people should know is that becoming a vegan means watching out for sneaky ingredients. For example, a lot of sweets and ready made puddings will contain gelatin which is used as a thickening agent. Gelatin is derived from animal waste such as intestines (can you be sure that the intestines are empty before they are ground up or are they still full of poo?), bones and ligaments. Not a nice thing to put into your body. There are other animal ingredients such as cochineal which is a red dye made out of crushed beetles.
The good thing about becoming a vegan, is that when you start to look at the ingredients list on any food product, you will soon see how many additives and chemicals they contain. This makes many people more aware of what they are putting into their mouths and many vegans then tend to lean towards a more natural diet. Even everyday items such as tomato sauce contains all kinds of additives and it's cheap and easy to make your own healthy vegan version.
Tips On Becoming A Vegan
• Firstly, try eating a few vegan treat foods such as ice cream or biscuits so you get an idea of what vegans can eat and know that you do not have to deprive yourself.
• Find your local specialist healthfood shop and do a fortnightly/monthly stock up.
• Veer more towards buying wholefoods (unprocessed foods) which do not contain confusing ingredients - this takes out the confusion of whether added ingredients are vegan or not.
• Check your area - or further afield as they should deliver - for specialist chinese restaurants so you can stock up on those vegan meaty products - if you like the idea that is.
• Always have it in mind what you are doing to your body and to the animals and environment if you buy animal derived foods.
• If you try a product which you don't like, then choose another brand next time as vegan products vary greatly.
• Try your hand at vegan baking so you know you can still treat yourself to home baked goods.
• Take a look at some vegan recipes so you get an idea of what you can eat.
• Keep in mind that eating healthy whole foods on a vegan diet will also help to maintain your weight.
Becoming a vegan is very easy nowadays - although I have to admit, it is easier in Westernised countries. If you live somewhere where vegan products are difficult to find - you will probably need to look into making your own plant based milks and other vegan staples. I have never tried making my own rice/nut milk, but I've been told that it is easy to do (plus far cheaper), and if you can make your own plant milk, then you should also be able to make your own faux meat products and dairy free cheese etc. This is a far more natural way to live anyway, even though it will be far more time consuming.