Disclaimer: This post is about going vegan. If you’re not interested, please move along!
One of my strongest childhood memories dates back to when I found out that the chicken on my plate came from the hens I’d seen at a local farm. I would have been about two years old at the time. I remember being horrified and I refused to finish my dinner. By the time I was 12, I was spending my pocket money on vegetarian food and by 19, I had given up eating eggs and dairy products as well.
My transition from reluctant meat-eater to veggie was a gradual process and I still believe that’s the best way to do it. Whatever your reasons are for giving up animal products, it’s much easier to slowly introduce vegan alternatives to your usual meals and allow your tastebuds to adjust. It’s less overwhelming so you’re more likely to stick with it compared to going cold, um, Tofurky.
Over the years, I’ve had many friends ask me for advice on what to eat but these days, it’s easier than ever to find ready-made items in supermarket fridges and freezers. Many of them are even marked ‘vegan’, which removes any guesswork. From non-dairy milks and faux-cheeses to vegan Quorn and milk-free artisan chocolates, the times really have changed. When I originally became vegetarian, non-vegan Quorn had only just entered the market and there were only a handful of ready-made products available in supermarkets.
When I became vegan, I used to take a 30-minute bus ride to the nearest independent health food shop for delicacies such as soya cheese, non-dairy margarine, milk-free chocolate and packets of tofu. Now, I can find all these items and more at my local supermarket.
Even eating out is much easier as well these days, with some restaurant chains offering even vegan menus – it’s a far cry from the only vegan options involving chips or a plain jacket potato with a wilted piece of lettuce on the side. If you’re stuck for ideas, vegan recipes are now just a click away – I really like Vegan Dad’s blog and Post Punk Kitchen (founder Isa Chandra Moskowitz has her own site too). I also keep an eye on Fat Gay Vegan’s blog for the latest vegan news.
Veganism is about more than just food though; it’s about adopting a cruelty-free and animal-free lifestyle as well. Scan labels for animal-based ingredients such as tallow, whey, silk and gelatin/gelatine and look out for products that aren’t tested on animals. Fortunately, more and more vegan-friendly companies are labelling their goods which makes shopping so much easier.
Want to take part in Veganuary, but don’t know where to start? Here are some handy tips to help you on your way:
- There’s loads of brilliant information on the Veganuary website including free recipes, nutritional advice and tips on spotting non-vegan ingredients on food labels.
- The Vegan Society has a more structured 30-day pledge with lots of free advice and recipes to help you on your way.
- Peta are offering free vegan starter kits with recipes and information on veganism.
- Free phone apps, such as Is It Vegan? will help you decipher what’s suitable for vegans in your local supermarket.
Of course, not everyone will understand or respect your decision to go vegan, so make sure you’re armed with some clever responses to those inevitable questions you’ll be asked!