So you’ve decided to give veganism a try.
You’ve seen the animal rights campaigns, you’ve read about the environmental benefits, and you’ve just about had it with your holier-than-thou friends raving about how dewy their skin has been since they cut out dairy.
Or perhaps you’ve just stuffed yourself over Christmas and now feel like a human balloon in need of a good diet overhaul.
Whatever the reason, let’s assume your curiosity has been piqued and you’ve committed to starting 2019 as a vegan.
New year, new diet – at least it will be for 31 days if you’ve signed up for Veganuary, the campaign that encourages people to try veganism for January.
Tempted? Here’s seven tips to get you started and keep you on track.
Buckle up for social occasions
Being the only vegan at a dinner party is a bit like being the only scone on an American tea table. People will point, whisper, wonder and giggle.
It's not malicious - they’re familiar with your kind but have rarely come across them in such close contact.
Rather than conforming to cliché and fiddling with food on your plate knowing it will go to waste, see this as an opportunity for self-reliance.
As Richard Hunt, head of campaigns at Veganuary tells The Independent, “the easiest thing is to bring your own food with you.”
But before you start tucking into your Tupperware, think of ways you can bring your new dietary habits to the masses. Why not cook a big batch of vegan curry and ask the host if you can serve it alongside whatever meat dish they’ve made?
When it comes to dealing with questions about your veganism, keep it light. For your sake, please don’t start pontificating about the life-changing lentils you made at the weekend.
The same goes for grittier topics of conversation surrounding veganism, such as the environmental and ethical benefits.
“Remember it is often more productive to talk to people about animal suffering when they’re currently not in the process of eating animal products,” Hunt points out.
Cook in bulk
One of the hardest things about being a newbie vegan is trying to figure out what to cook for yourself every day.
So, instead of waking up every morning and trying to ascertain whether you have enough time to marinate your tofu, spend one Sunday afternoon cooking up a storm so that you’ll have enough food to last you the week.
There are a number of hearty vegan dishes that lend themselves nicely to bulk cooking, so make the most of endless resources online and try your hand at one, some or all of the following: chickpea curry, brown rice casserole, potato and mushroom stew, and sweet potato dhal.
Remember your motivation
Are you doing this because you feel passionate about the environment? Is it because you recently watched a documentary about animal cruelty? Or are you just trying to start the new year afresh? Whatever it is that got you on this “journey”, it’s crucial to educate yourself about the environmental, ethical and health benefits of veganism along the way because this will help keep you motivated and prevent you from veering off track.
There are so many relevant documentaries you could watch – Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives, Earthlings and What the Health are among the most famous.
Learning more about veganism is bound to help push you through the next few weeks.
Guard yourself against possible deficiencies
It’s well-documented that when you go vegan you can set yourself up for a number of nutritional deficiencies, that is, if you’re not prepared.
This can lead to fatigue, hunger and generally just make you rather unpleasant to be around. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
While there are some nutrients that you can only get from animal products, such as B12, many can be found naturally in your food.
For everything you need to know about what supplements to get when you take the plant-based leap of faith, consult our comprehensive guide with tips from nutritionists here.
Avoid temptation by removing it
The tricky thing about doing Veganuary is that it begins on the day of the year when almost everyone and their uncle is hungover: New Year’s Day.
So, on a day when you'd normally find yourself foraging around for indulgent hangover remedies (bacon, cheese, chocolate/all of the above in a sandwich), you might find yourself feeling adrift and falling at the first hurdle.
The only way to prevent this from happening is to remove all non-vegan products from your kitchen ahead of time.
Give the bacon to friends, put the cheese in the garage fridge... just do whatever you can to get the animal products as far away from you as possible to remove temptation.
For the next four weeks, your body is an animal product-free temple. Accept it, you've got this.
Be creative with your recipes
Whatever you do, don’t make the same vegan meal over and over again for the next four weeks.
Sure, tofu is nice, but nobody, not even vegans, would want to live off it 24/7. And they don’t.
Open Instagram, type in #vegan and you’ll find a treasure trove of colourful and aesthetically-pleasing dishes for things like tumeric noodle bowls, pesto tortilla pizza and creamy cauliflower alfredo.
If those don’t inspire you, there are endless plant-based recipes online to try, many of which offer replicas of classic meals in vegan form, such as lasagne, mac and cheese, and meatballs.
Vegan “hacks”, as they’re called, are a speciality of JP and Alex Petrides, the brother duo behind vegan food delivery service Allplants, who gave The Independent a whole host of tips on how to make vegan meals tasty here.
Don’t become a hermit
Thanks to a veganism becoming increasingly mainstream, it’s much easier to eat out as a vegan than it used to be.
A number of chain restaurants, including Pizza Express, Zizzi, The Real Greek, Wagamama and Nando’s, now cater to vegans, offering up a variety of delicious plant-based dishes.
Yes, there are specialist vegan places too (like Farmacy, Stem and Glory, and Purezza, the all-vegan pizzeria with sites in London and Brighton), but they can be harder to track down if you’re new to the area.
Using apps like Happy Cow and Yelp can help you find vegan-friendly eateries near you. Make the most of them this Veganuary.
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