Congratulations! You’ve made the amazing decision to go vegan. Hooray! You’re doing something wonderful and it’s likely to benefit so many animals, the environment and even your own health! But you don’t know where to begin?
It may seem a bit daunting changing everything at once but, having made the change myself a couple of years ago, I’d like to share my 12 top tips to help you to adjust in those first few weeks.
- Your Vegan Journey
- What Do I Need To Change to Become Vegan?
- List of 12 Top Tips
- 1. Stock your pantry
- 2. Embrace the unknown and discover new food
- 3. Plan Your Meals
- 4. Avoid Vegan Cheese At First!
- 5. If your family are not on board with your decision, find support with vegan friends or online
- 6. Try not to be judgmental of others
- 7. Keep lists on your phone of your reasons for being vegan
- 8. Watch documentaries to strengthen your resolve
- 9. Plan ahead when eating out or travelling
- 10. Don’t listen too much to others’ opinions on your new lifestyle
- 11. Research and learn about plant-based nutrition and plan your food accordingly.
- 12. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
I’d love to say it’s super easy going vegan but, even though nowadays it does come as second nature most of the time, I’d be lying if I said it was easy. You are becoming a vegan in a non-vegan world and that does take a bit of navigating and adjusting.
That’s why things like Veganuary are so great because you get a whole load of support to help you! I’m hoping that this blogpost will also be really helpful to you, especially in those early first few weeks of adjustment. If you feel like you need any moral support, feel free to email me too!
My Vegan Journey
Before we begin, I think it might be helpful to tell you how I became vegan and what that transition looked like for me. Everyone has a different story and the more you read, the more normal your own transition will feel because you realise there isn’t only one type of perfect vegan but all sorts of vegans coming from all angles but with a common thread, of all trying to do their best to make the world a slightly better place.
The short story is that I became vegan quite suddenly from being a fully-fledged omnivore to a fully-fledged vegan pretty much overnight! As a foodie family, it came as a big shock to my husband and children, and they didn’t exactly welcome the idea! It was quite an uphill struggle for me as I went through quite a profound change in my whole outlook on life and without having anyone who really understood to talk to.
Thankfully, we got through it and I can happily say two years on that it was absolutely the right decision for me. Even though my family are still omnivores, they now eat FAR MORE vegan food than they ever used to and FAR LESS meat and dairy, and my lovely husband always calls ahead to restaurants asking if they will do a vegan menu for his wife! 🥰
If you want to read more detail about why I suddenly went vegan and how the first few months of transition were, please read the separate post I have written specifically about my vegan journey.
Your Vegan Journey
So from my journey on to yours! No matter what has led you to trying veganism, you are doing something wonderful. It might be difficult at first but it will be worth the effort for the good that it will do and you will probably find you enjoy it too! You’ll be introduced to a load of new food and ideas and you will start to look at the world around you in a different way.
In the first few months of transitioning to this new way of life, you may well come up against some struggles and some times when you feel like giving up. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal but if you manage to push on through and get past that initial adjustment period, you will find it all gets a lot easier and you won’t need any more help to stay on track!
What Do I Need To Change to Become Vegan?
Vegans avoid eating or using any products derived from animals.
The Vegan Society’s official definition of veganism is:
“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”The Vegan Society
This has an impact on most parts of your life including:
- Your food - not eating meat, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, etc.), eggs, or even honey;
- The products you use in the bathroom and home - avoiding anything that may have been tested on animals or that may contain animal-derived ingredients.
- Your wardrobe - not buying items made from wool, silk, leather and suede, fur and down.
Being so all-encompassing, it can seem a little daunting at first. But don’t worry, the vegan lifestyle soon becomes second nature and there are great vegan alternatives for pretty much everything you think you might miss! I also don’t believe you need to tackle everything at once, as long as you are heading in the right direction.
For example, two years on, I still have some old leather, silk and wool items in my wardrobe, that I had from before the time I went vegan. It seemed wasteful to give them away and buy newer vegan versions when they are still perfectly useable so I still wear them and over time I will replace them with vegan versions. As long as you are not buying new non-vegan items after you have decided to go vegan, you can slowly make the adjustment to the longer-lasting items in your home.
The kitchen, however, is one area where you can make faster changes as these are more short-term items! So, this blogpost will concentrate mostly on the changes to your diet.
List of 12 Top Tips
This is a list of things that I wrote down after I became vegan and that I hope might help you too. This is the concise list but scroll down further if you want a little more detail on how to do each of these things!
- Stock your pantry.
- Embrace the unknown and discover new food.
- Plan your meals.
- Avoid vegan cheese at first!
- Find support with vegan friends or online.
- Try not to be judgmental of others.
- Keep lists on your phone of your reasons for being vegan.
- Watch documentaries to strengthen your resolve.
- Plan ahead when eating out or travelling.
- Don’t listen too much to others’ opinions on your new lifestyle.
- Research and learn about plant-based nutrition and plan your food accordingly.
- Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good – go easy on yourself if you make a mistake!
1. Stock your pantry
It is useful to keep a well-stocked pantry with all the vegan essentials. Then, even if you get home late from work and haven’t thought about shopping, you will always be able to make a quick healthy and tasty meal and won’t resort to diving into a packet of cheese or ordering a takeaway instead. I try to always keep my kitchen stocked with these plant-based foods:
- Hummus - this is a life-saver in the kitchen! You can have it spread on toast for breakfast, with carrot or crackers for a quick snack, added to buddha bowls, sandwiches and salads. Not only is it delicious, but it's also a great source of protein and calcium. You can either buy it in the supermarket or it’s easy to make your own homemade hummus too!
- Nuts and Seeds - always keep nuts, seeds and some dried fruit (like dried apricots) handy for easy snacking on the go. They're easy to dive into and will keep you full until your next meal by providing protein and essential fatty acids and, in the case of dried apricots, iron.
- Cashews - yes, technically they fall into the category above but they're so useful that they deserve their own bullet point! Whenever you're craving creamy sauces (think macaroni cheese, or in fact any creamy pasta or lasagna, creamy pie), just whizz up some soaked cashews with boiling water, a little garlic powder, nutmeg and salt and pepper, and you won't have any reason to miss dairy!
- Plant-based milk - these are useful dairy replacements that can be substituted whenever a recipe calls for milk. I like the Oatly oat milks (and my children LOVE the chocolate Oatly milk) and also the 101 Degrees almond milk and Rude Health cashew milk. Try a few of them and choose your favourite - they are all very different so don't be put off if you start with one you don't like!
- Tofu and Tempeh - they keep for a long time in the fridge and freezer so buy in bulk and keep a stash for whenever you need it. I like to always have some extra firm tofu and some silken tofu on hand and also some packets of tempeh. They are packed with protein and without any of the nasty stuff that fake meats can contain.
- Lentils, chickpeas and a selection of beans - keep a variety of these in your pantry either in jars or the dried kind (but you will need to be a bit more organised and soak them overnight if you use dried). They are perfect for throwing into sauces to make a quick protein rich meal.
- Peanut butter - this doubles up as butter on toast and is great for cooking too - try these amazingly quick and easy peanut butter cookies or make a quick satay sauce to dip air fried tofu bites into.
- Nutritional Yeast - always keep this in the cupboard for adding "cheesiness" to dishes and much-needed vitamin B12 as well.
- Sweet White Miso - not only is this fermented paste great for your gut health, it also adds bags of flavour to your food. You'll be amazed at how many dishes benefit from a spoonful of this stuff! Try my creamy white bean and spinach soup as just one example!
- Jars of sun-dried tomatoes, marinated peppers, olives and artichokes - these are all great for adding a boost of flavour to your meals. Try my creamy sun-dried tomato pasta recipe for a quick and easy meal or make some speedy muhummara, or sun-dried tomato and black olive tapenade to keep in the fridge to add to sandwiches, salads and buddha bowls during the week.
- Frozen Spinach - keep bags of frozen spinach in the freezer to easily add these little cubes of goodness into your meals while cooking. They disintegrate into sauces and provide essential iron whenever you feel yourself flagging and not able to shift that tiredness. Try my mung bean curry for an example of throwing in some frozen spinach at the end.
Please see my separate blogpost for my vegan grocery list (to be added soon!).
2. Embrace the unknown and discover new food
For me, one of the most fun things about starting as a new vegan was researching all the new foods and new ways of making my favourite foods without animal products in them. Once you get used to it, it’s actually surprisingly easy to make most things vegan. I’m always amazed at why restaurants and companies don’t make more of their foods vegan just to cater to everyone, because the flavour is not compromised!
There are so many amazing blogs and books that you can read to find new recipes so have fun researching! For now, I’d say it’s good to start with a few recipes that will replace things that you usually have as a meat or dairy dish, that you can instantly switch to a vegan dish without much of an issue.
Here’s my list of starter recipes for for easy vegan meals that you can rely on at first before you start expanding your horizons and finding even more amazing recipes to cook!
- Spaghetti Bolognese --> Vegan Bolognese. My hidden vegetable bolognese uses red lentils (whizzed to a powder so that you don’t get their texture) and lots of veggies for a tasty vegan bolognese sauce. Or you could simply switch the meat in your normal recipe to a plant-based mince (beware, there is a lot of variety on the market and some are not good! My favourite by far is Gardein mince). You can also use these switches for making shepherd’s pie too!
- Parmesan --> Nutty Cheese. If you’re missing having parmesan to sprinkle on top of your pasta or risotto, try making this nutty cheese instead. It’s quick to make, keeps for ages in the fridge, and tastes really delicious! Also, no grating needed so it’s much neater to serve!
- Chicken Pot Pie --> Creamy Vegan Tofu Pot Pie with Vegetables. This recipe is as close to chicken pot pie as you can get. It’s rich, creamy, comforting and delicious and I know you will love it. You can either make the pastry in the recipe or just buy some in the supermarket if you want to make it super easy! Jus-Rol is actually accidentally vegan!
- Tacos --> Black Bean Tacos with Smoky Cashew Cream. This is the meal that I know I can serve and everyone in the family will be happy. I add a little plant-based mince to the kids version so that they don’t notice the beans as much (they’re not fans of beans unless it’s Heinz baked beans!) and then everyone helps themselves to whatever toppings they like – usually I serve a selection of chopped lettuce, guacamole, tomato salsa, chilli sauce, lime wedges (and sometimes grated cheese if they’re really lucky!).
- Chicken Curry --> Mung Bean Curry. I have a few curry recipes on my site but this has to be my favourite for the comfort factor. It tastes amazing, is easy to make and it’s also a winner with kids (especially if you serve it with poppadoms and mango chutney!)
- Creamy Sauces --> Cashew Cream Sauce. When you’re craving something creamy, cashew cream sauce is a perfect substitute. It’s so rich and creamy and is much easier to make than a dairy cream sauce, taking a mere few moments in a high speed blender! This sauce works in lasagne, pasta alfredo, or even as a tart base or a sweetened cream with desserts!
- Scrambled Egg --> Scrambled Tofu. Honestly, I scoffed at the idea of scrambled tofu when I first heard of it but once I tried making it, I fell in love with it. It’s so delicious!
- Beef Stew --> Hearty Vegan Stew with Smoked Tofu. Sometimes only a stew will do and this vegan stew certainly hits the spot. The smoked tofu adds a certain meatiness and a depth of flavour reminiscent of meat. You will love it!
3. Plan Your Meals
Following on from the last point, once you’ve done your research and discovered how to veganize foods, it’s time to plan your meals. It is so much easier to stay on the vegan path, if you plan your food for the week when you’re not tired, stressed or hungry!
Take some time at the weekends to look at the week ahead and plan what you’re going to eat. You might have something in the diary that means you definitely won’t have time to cook a meal one night, so plan to make more of a meal on another night so that you can keep some leftovers for that busy night.
Planning ahead means that you won’t get into the situation of rushing into the house, stressed out and starving hungry and your mind going blank on what to cook because all you can think of are the non-vegan dishes you are used to cooking from before!
That said, if you do find yourself in this situation, it’s helpful to have a few quick dishes in your repertoire (keep them in a note on your phone for easy reference!). These are my favourite go-to recipes for when I’m in a hurry and haven’t planned ahead:
- Crispy Tofu - this takes literally 12 minutes to make and is so tasty! Add some vegetables mixed with a little oil and salt and pepper into the air fryer or oven with the tofu pieces and cook some rice to go with it. Then serve with some vegan kimchi or sauerkraut or perhaps some tahini sauce or hummus (or really any leftover dips in the fridge!) for a really healthy buddha bowl in less than half an hour.
- Quick Vegan Creamy Spinach Pasta or Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta - in less than 15 minutes, you can get either of these delicious and healthy plates of food on the table.
- Vegan Middle Eastern Lentil Soup - this (and a lot of my other soup recipes) is a quick and easy way to nourish your body in less than half an hour.
- Tofu Scramble - don't knock it till you try it! This takes 5 minutes to make and tastes absolutely scrummy on toast!
- Quick Ginger and Sesame Soba Noodles - tasty fast food, these soba noodles with silken tofu and broccoli come together in just 10 minutes.
(For other ideas, look at the "Cook in under 30 minutes" category on this website)
4. Avoid Vegan Cheese At First!
This might surprise you but I really strongly advise you to try to avoid vegan cheese at least for the first few months. Not only will it taste revolting to you (as you are directly comparing it to real cheese), you won't get the chance to explore all the meals that don't rely on cheese for flavour.
Did you know that dairy is addictive and it actually dulls the taste buds? So, if you go cold turkey on cheese, your taste buds will have a chance to adjust and you will find that your food tastes more vibrant and you no longer crave cheese in the same way. Then, when you do eventually taste vegan cheese, you have much more of a chance of liking it and you will only use it occasionally as just one type of flavour to add to your dishes as part of a varied diet!
I have to admit, two years on and I'm still not overly keen on vegan cheese. Apart from anything, it is usually not very healthy so I try not to use it much anyway. Having said that, I do like:
- Violife vegan feta (especially in salads or sliced on corn or rice cakes);
- Sheese cream cheese with chives or the one with mixed herbs;
- Sheese grated cheese (used occasionally on top of pies).
When I was back home visiting the UK, I completely fell in love with a company called "I am Nut OK" which was based in Hackney. All of their cheeses that I tasted were delicious! (I wish I could get them here in Qatar!).
5. If your family are not on board with your decision, find support with vegan friends or online
It can be difficult to get the family onboard. Just accept that this might take some time and may be a bit of an uphill struggle. Once they see your perseverance and realise it's not a flash in the pan, they will start to take it more seriously. Try not to get angry if they show a lack of understanding or consideration for your new lifestyle. Remember you were in ignorant bliss up until recently too.
You will likely be spending lots of time researching and learning about everything to do with veganism but your family and friends are not so they won’t be as knowledgeable as you or as aware of just how much of a big issue it is for you. If you have a vegan friend, definitely lean into that friendship and reach out for support or just a friendly ear to listen to you. They will likely be delighted that you are trying veganism and will be very happy to talk through anything you want to discuss about it.
If you don’t know any other vegans (as I didn't when I went vegan), then social media is a great place to find support. I joined lots of vegan facebook groups online and found this to be really helpful seeing others going through the same problems that I was facing or just to talk through your thoughts on vegan issues.
Having said that, also take care not to dive too deep into the online vegan world too! There are a lot of very loud shouty vegans on these groups who are quick to judge and quick to tell people they are not real vegans if they do this or that. Just try to ignore them and listen to the moderates who speak more sense. I remember reading some comments saying someone should leave their husband of 50 years because he didn’t go vegan at the same time as his wife. That is just crazy talk!
6. Try not to be judgmental of others
When you first go vegan, it is usually because you have done your research and feel passionately that your change will do some good. It is this passion that has driven you to take such a leap and make such big changes in your life. So, naturally, you want to let everyone else know all about your newfound knowledge to help them come to the same decision as you!
You can start to become quite critical of others when you discover that they don’t want to know all the useful information that you want to tell them, and you can start wondering why you are friends with such seemingly heartless people! Try to take a step back and remember that you too were one of those people only recently. They are not heartless. They are just following the societal norms and may see you as being radical and extreme.
Everyone comes to veganism on a different path and you are likely to alienate your friends and family if you try to preach to them. It’s hard not to talk about it all the time because, especially when you first go vegan, it is likely to be taking up a large portion of your thoughts each day because you are making such big changes to your life and you feel so good about it (and consequently wish you had done it sooner)! You just want to help others see the light as well!
However, they are not in the same place as you were when you discovered these things and they are likely not ready for it yet. I truly believe you should only talk passionately about your veganism with friends and family if they actually ask you about it and seem genuinely interested (not just being polite). Otherwise, you are preaching to deaf ears and alienating them in the process.
Instead, quietly carry on and lead by example. Eventually, people will see you leading a perfectly normal life and not missing out or wasting away and they may just start to become interested in learning more about it.
7. Keep lists on your phone of your reasons for being vegan
After a while, you may start to flag a little and may start to wonder whether you’ve made the right decision. You have found that you are nearly always in the minority, often having to explain yourself and always having to ask for vegan options. Perhaps it’s not worth it after all?
At this point, it helps to have a list of your reasons for going vegan in the notes on your phone. You can refer back to it and remember why you so passionately believed in it. It’s also useful as a crib sheet before going to a party or dinner where you know people might “quiz” you on it!
It’s important to add as much detail to this list as possible and make it extremely personal to you. Don’t just copy and paste a generic “why go vegan” list! I listed statistics about animal agriculture, the dairy industry, climate change and the positive impact that a plant-based lifestyle could have on the environment. I also listed my own feelings about what I’d learnt and I still have it on my phone now!
8. Watch documentaries to strengthen your resolve
At some point, you may really feel your resolve weakening and this is when it helps to go back and watch some vegan documentaries.
I started out on the vegan path for environmental reasons at first but, after joining various facebook groups for support in the early days, I was introduced to the vegan documentaries about animal welfare and this is really what made me continue as a vegan.
I wasn’t particularly an animal lover but I sat in tears watching these documentaries thinking how could I ever go back to participating in a system that exploits these animals that are living miserable lives and in terror, especially in an era when we have so many options available to us and we no longer need to rely on meat, dairy and eggs for our nutrition.
It may not be right for everyone as I know some can find it too distressing, but if you need any reminder of why you are making these changes to your life, these documentaries are both eye-opening and heart breaking. They serve as a graphic reminder burned into your memory to reappear whenever your resolve is wavering.
The vegan documentaries I watched were:
- Land of Hope and Glory (You Tube) - about a dairy farmer who changed his farm to oats for oat milk. His love for his cows really comes through and it’s a heart-warming and documentary.
- Cowspiracy (Netflix) – more on the environmental side but life-changing to watch!
- Seaspiracy (Netflix) – by the same team that made Cowspiracy, covering the fish and seafood industry.
- Dominion (You Tube) (distressing) – heartbreaking documentary on the lives of animals in large farms. Covers the entire animal products industry.
- Earthlings (You Tube) (distressing) – another distressing documentary on animal welfare but important to watch if you are in any doubt.
You can also watch any of the you tube clips by Earthling Ed or follow his Disclosure Podcast. He is very relatable and clear in the way he explains everything.
Rich Roll also does a good podcast that will be of interest to any fitness fans.
For documentaries about the health side of veganism, I watched:
- What the Health (Netflix)
- The Game Changers (Netflix) – about plant-based diets and top athletes.
- Forks Over Knives (Netflix)
9. Plan ahead when eating out or travelling
A little forward planning can really help to ensure you have something decent to eat when you go out for a meal.
Try using the Happy Cow app to find vegan-friendly restaurants near you. It’s a great resource for traveling as well and has good reviews to help you decide where to go.
If you’re not in control of where you’re going out, call the restaurant before you go to see if they have a vegan menu or whether they will be able to adjust something on the menu to make it vegan for you. As long as you give them plenty of time, chefs are usually happy to accommodate but, understandably, it is much more difficult if the first they hear of it is in the middle of a busy service when you are ordering in the restaurant. It’s amazing how many restaurants actually have vegan menus but only give them out if you ask for them!
If you’re going on a long journey or daytrip, plan to have no vegan options then it’s just a bonus if you find something else you can eat. It’s easier to take your own snacks and packed lunch than to traipse around looking for something to eat and ending up disappointed and hungry. If the worst comes to the worst, you can usually find some chips (fries) or crisps or some nuts. It’s hardly ideal though so plan ahead!
10. Don’t listen too much to others’ opinions on your new lifestyle
Although some people will be hugely supportive and impressed with your efforts, others will criticize or belittle your decision. Expect the negativity and prepare for it but try to ignore it!
Try not to let people get to you. (I know that’s easier said than done!) Naturally, people will have lots of questions for you and some will have suddenly become experts in nutrition and animal welfare. After a while, I found it easier not to be drawn into too much discussion at first and just try to change the subject rather than trying to explain myself and feeling like a failure because I didn’t have all the answers.
You need to be quite strong and stay firm to your beliefs and just bat off the negativity. They will calm down after a while and it won’t be such a talking point anymore.
Also know that often when people poke fun at vegans or seem to be very critical, they turn out to be the people that are most interested in your journey and opening their eyes to veganism.
11. Research and learn about plant-based nutrition and plan your food accordingly.
It is now widely accepted that a whole foods plant-based diet is a healthy way to eat. You may even enjoy some of the many health benefits from a healthy plant-based diet, such as lower risk of heart disease, lowering high blood pressure, and weight loss (Everyday Health).
If you focus on eating whole foods in your vegan diet, rather than convenience foods, you are likely to be eating more veggies than you did before and more dietary fibre. However, if you simply swap your usual food for vegan packaged alternatives or vegan junk food, you will not be any healthier and may actually be even less healthy than before!
The thing with a vegan diet is that you need to be just a little more mindful of what you're eating to make sure that you get all the essential nutrients you need. Without the right planning, you can develop deficiencies in important nutrients. As well as taking a general vegan multivitamin, you should also regularly go to the doctor for check-ups and to have a blood test to make sure you are getting sufficient nutrients.
It also helps to have an awareness of the main nutrients that vegans might be deficient in so that you can make sure you add them to your food wherever possible.
- Protein - Often people get fixated on how to get enough protein but, in fact, that is not really a problem most of the time. When I was studying nutrition, I learnt that all plants actually contain all of the essential amino acids in varying amounts. If you eat a variety of different plant-based ingredients over the course of a day, you will likely be getting a good balance of all the amino acids that your body needs. Foods that are particularly high in protein are:
- Chickpeas, lentils and legumes
- Beans, tofu, tempeh
- Nuts and seeds
- Quinoa and amaranth
- Peas and Sweetcorn
- Whole grains like brown rice, oats, wholewheat (not if you are gluten-free), sorghum, teff, etc.
- Try to include a good protein source in most of your meals and remember that variety is the spice of life! The more variety you have, the more of a balance of different amino acids you will be getting. So, for example, brown rice and dahl (made from lentils) provides a great balance of amino acids to fulfil your protein needs. Healthline has this great article on vegan protein sources if you want to learn more.
- Iron - you probably already know that red meats are a source of iron and so, when you cut these out of your diet, you need to ensure you get enough iron from other foods. Dark leafy greens are a fantastic source of iron (and with an abundance of other nutrients to boot!). So, if you feel yourself generally feeling tired and lethargic and not able to kick it, you might need a boost of iron. Add a couple of cubes of frozen spinach to a smoothie, or make some spinach soup or my quick spinach pasta and you're likely to feel better very quickly.
Remember also that your body finds it easier to absorb iron with a dose of vitamin C alongside it. So, add some vitamin C rich fruits to your spinach smoothie or a squeeze of lemon to your spinach soup to help your body to absorb as much of the iron as possible.
- Vitamin B12 – this is a vitamin that comes from the soil. Given the declining state of our soil quality and the fact that our food is now coming to us pre-packaged and thoroughly cleaned, we are all at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. (Even omnivores can be deficient in vitamin B12 but, to combat this, farmed animals are often injected with vitamin B12 nowadays.)
Luckily, nutritional yeast is often fortified with vitamin B12 so by adding this to your food, you will not only be adding a certain cheesiness to the flavour, but also adding nutrients. (It is also a source of protein). Try my “cheesy” crispy kale or vegan cheese sauce for some nutritional yeast ideas.
Yeast extract is also often fortified with vitamin B12 so I like to have this spread on my toast in the mornings (like marmite, but a gluten-free version) .
- Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9) – you may well know that we often get our essential fatty acids from oily fish. Vegans, of course, will not get this and so need to think a little more about where to get our omegas from. Usually people have enough of the omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids but not enough omega 3s which need to be proportionate to the others.
I take a flaxseed oil capsule every day to keep my omega 3 levels up but walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are all great sources of omega 3. Try these air fryer candied walnuts to keep in a jar on your desk! Seaweed is also a good source of omega 3 (that’s where the fish get it from!).
- Calcium – it has been drilled into most of us from a young age that milk is the best source of calcium and by cutting it out of our diets, we are severely restricting our calcium intake. This is simply not true. There are plenty of vegan calcium sources! Apart from the fact that most plant-based milks are fortified with calcium (as are some brands of tofu), you can also get calcium from sesame seeds (and tahini), leafy greens like kale, broccoliand almonds. Try this creamy broccoli and almond soup for a dose of calcium.
- Iodine – Iodine is important for your thyroid health. Although seaweed is rich in iodine, it is not recommended as your only source of iodine as sometimes it can be too high or contaminated. It is important that your multivitamin includes iodine and you get your blood tested regularly to ensure you are getting enough.
- Zinc – you can find zinc from many vegan foods such as chickpeas, lentils, tofu, walnuts, cashews, and a variety of seeds (pumpkin seeds are known as being particularly rich in zinc and so I sometimes have pumpkin spread on my toast in the mornings).
Please note that I am not a doctor. The nutrition guidelines I outline here are from my studies in nutrition science with Stanford Center for Health Education. There are plenty of excellent resources on vegan nutrition online.
I would recommend looking at the Vegan Society nutrition pages and the Healthline Vegan Diet beginners guide for a fuller explanation of your nutrition requirements on a vegan diet. I also highly recommend the book "Vegan Savvy" by Azmina Govindji which is an excellent guide to vegan nutrition and very clearly and succinctly set out.
12. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
If you make a mistake, just forget about it and move on. Don’t fret too much. It’s better to have 70% of the world as imperfect vegans than 3% of the world as perfect vegans.
By way of example (and I hope I don’t get vilified for this) I find it difficult to stay completely vegan on holidays. I’ve made my peace with it now as I figured it’s best to be vegan as much as possible than to fixate on being the perfect vegan and then perhaps failing altogether because I’ve set the bar too high for myself.
For me that means I am 100% vegan all of the time at home but perhaps I slip now and then when I’m away if there aren’t any sensible vegan options. Does that make me not vegan? I don’t know – some will say if you’re not vegan all the time then you’re not vegan at all. Others, like me, will be more practical and say, the label doesn’t matter so much, as long as the intent is there and you are fulfilling that intent almost all of the time. I think that’s a better way to ensure more people continue as vegans and spread the philosophy further and make the biggest change in the world.
So, I hope this moderate approach helps you. I wish you all the best as a new vegan and wish you health, love and happiness in the future.
If you have any questions at all, please do email me or send me a direct message on Instagram and I will happily chat to you about it.
(Although, if you are messaging to be one of those shouty vegans telling me off about slipping up now and then, I will possibly ignore your email 😉)
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