This month of January is extra special to me, not only because it is my birth month, but because it is the month of VEGANUARY! If you have no clue what this means, Veganuary is a charity that inspires and helps people switch to the vegan lifestyle in the month of January. This year over 100,000 people are pledging to make the switch. As a result, I thought there is not a better time than now to tell you about the 4 things that I wish someone had told me before I went vegan. These tips are real and honest, and although you may not find them all helpful, they are things that truly made my transition to veganism way easier and less stressful. So I hope that you find these tips insightful and if you have already made the switch, I would love to hear if you have any personal tips that helped you along your journey as well!
1. Take things slower than you think.
When I first decided I’d attempt to transition to veganism, I went ‘cold-turkey’ and over one night’s sleep I expected myself to wake up to a new and a perfectly ethical vegan me. Looking back, I am happy to have had the motivation to dive into this new way of living, although I do not understand how I thought it was feasible for me to adopt a completely different way of eating especially being a busy student at the time. I do still think that for some people going vegan overnight is the ideal way to transition, I still believe that for most people it can be too much to take at once. I believe that the best way to go is to cut out certain foods in steady intervals that feel most comfortable for you. This way you are not causing yourself unnecessary stress when trying to replace a multitude of foods you’re used to eating with something that is now vegan. Also, by transitioning slowly you are setting yourself up to succeed in the long-term and avoid feeling like a failure when you ‘slip up’. I believe that there is no such thing as a perfect ‘vegan’ and the sooner we let go of that idea, the more we can focus on improving our world through other non-dietary ways. Lastly, transitioning slowly will not only help you but others around you to get used to your new way of living and hopefully allow them to better accomodate you in social situations.
2. Look up the menu of a restaurant before going out to eat.
Being a vegan now for over a year and a vegetarian for 2 years before that, I am way too familiar with the situation of coming to a restaurant with a group of friends only to realise that the only option you have that’s vegan is a sad bowl of french fries, or a tasteless salad that makes you feel like a rabbit by the time you are done munching through it. So I dearly ask you to please do your future self the favour of looking up the menus of the restaurants you plan on visiting just to double check you can have a decent meal there as a vegan, or perhaps even calling up the restaurant and asking in advanced if you can make some changes to non-vegan dishes. Even in the worst case scenario, you can at least know to eat beforehand so that you don’t turn into a raging hungry vegan monster in front of all your friends!
3. Always have a selection of vegan snacks and treats at home.
This tip as an absolute must for those of you living with fellow non-vegans. Having a little stash of vegan chocolates, energy balls, or crisps can mean the difference between satisfying your late night craving with a delicious vegan treat, and feeling deprived from your new way of eating. This is especially the case if you are living with non-vegans and are surrounded by foods that may remind you of ‘what you’re missing out on’. For me this is one of those tips I totally wish I had known about from the start as it would have saved me from feeling deprived on numerous occasions. Having some vegan treats with you can be useful in many other situations like your work, or your school backpack, or even bringing vegan treats to a dinner at someone’s house. Not only will it help you to feel more comfortable with your new lifestyle but it will allow others to see that you can still enjoy yourself while choosing to eat ethically. So it’s a win-win situation! I personally always have a bar of my favourite vegan chocolate lying in my cupboard.
4. Try making new recipes at least every 2 weeks.
I must admit, I find that this tip a little harder to stick to when you already have a list of established go-to vegan meals. But nevertheless, I think this one is just as important because I find that so many new vegans focus on recreating their favourite non-vegan meals, that we forget to be open to trying completely new plant-based dishes all together. Shortly after quitting meat I noticed that my tastes and the foods I gravitated towards completely changed. It’s funny looking back and seeing how I used to think I was restricting the foods I was consuming to then realising I had been exposed to a whole new world of incredibly delicious plant-based dishes that I think I would have never gotten to trying if I had not made that dietary change in the first place. I think that setting a date every few weeks to try making (or having at a restaurant) a completely new vegan dish can stop you from viewing going vegan as being restrictive, to it being a mega exciting culinary adventure not only for your taste buds but for those around you too! I personally find Pinterest to be a great resource for finding new and exciting vegan recipes to try.
(Pictured above No Bake Healthy Brownie Bites)
To sum up, I feel like these tips apply to any dietary change a person makes, even if you’re just trying to eat healthier. One important thing to remember is that many people have to go out of their way to ensure they can have a proper meal at a restaurant catered to their specific needs, these people range from being merely health nuts or those who perhaps have certain food intolerances and allergies. So the lesson to be learned here is that you should never be afraid to ask for alterations and let people know that you are trying out this new way of eating and living.