The only regret vegans have about going vegan is that they didn’t do it sooner. As it’s World Vegan Month, it’s the perfect time to spend a month discovering the joys of being vegan before taking the plunge yourself.
Your first vegan month will see your eyes open, mind widen, taste buds tantalised and preconceptions challenged.
Be prepared. You are about to enter a world where cheese is made from cashew nuts, fruits can be cooked to resemble meat and meringues are made from canned bean juice (No, really).
Cooking as a vegan can take some serious getting used to. Intimidated? Don’t be.
In reality, going vegan is pretty simple. In no time at all, you’ll look at your vegan lifestyle and plant-based diet in a whole different light.
This handy guide will show you how to go vegan the easy way.
Day 1 – Get educated
It’s day one. You’re officially vegan and it’s time to educate yourself! The Vegan Society, Veganuary, and nutritionfacts.org will provide all the key information you need regarding the main dietary dos and don’ts, including all you need to know about key food groups.
This is a great place to start building the foundations of your new vegan lifestyle.
Day 2 – Discover new ingredients
There are thousands of edible plants to choose from, so why just stick to the same few you’ve always eaten?
It’s time to take a stroll down the produce aisle and pick up some new and exciting ingredients you’ve never tried before.
Search out your local farm or produce markets to source fresh and seasonal produce that is bursting with flavour – and often is so much cheaper than when bought from the average supermarket.
Day 3 – Be inspired
The first week is full of discoveries. An online search reveals countless vegan blogs, magazines, recipe books and social media full of stories, recipes and news to inspire your journey.
If you’re looking for a friendly, encouraging place to learn more about veganism, tune into the Simply Vegan podcast.
Day 4 – Veganise your favourite meal
Steak and ale pie may have been your go-to meal, or maybe you revelled in a chilli con carne? Whatever your favourite meal was prior to going vegan, re-master it!
Source the substitutes needed to reinvent dishes even better, and this time make it vegan. It’ll aid your transition and stop any cravings during your first week. As a vegan, you can truly have it all.
Day 5 – Discover accidentally vegan items
A brief scour of the supermarket shelves will reveal all manner of staggeringly secretly items that you never knew were vegan!
Original Oreos, Jus’ Roll Pastries and even vegan ice cream such as Swedish Glace are just a few of the secrets in the vegan community, with many more to be revealed!
You might be surprised just how many products in UK supermarkets are accidentally vegan when you check out this guide.
Day 6 – Preparation prevents relapses
Make some larger meals in advance and keep them in your fridge or freezer for busy days and easy meals to prevent you from reaching for a ready meal.
Staples in my freezer include hot-pots and Thai curries.
Day 7 – One week in! Remember why you started
You’ve reached a whole week of plant-based living!
Take a second to think about why you chose this new diet to help focus your energy and mind to motivate you onwards.
Day 8 – Get social
Almost every form of social media these days has links to vegan clubs and meeting groups for you to try out and get together with more like-minded people.
UK Vegan Supermarket Finds (Facebook) and London Vegan Meetup (Facebook and in person) are a great way to find new restaurants, friends and good conversation! Search online to find the nearest group to you.
Day 9 – Become a master of label reading
The easiest way to identify a product as vegan is to search for the official Vegan Society logo, although most supermarkets now label their products as vegan too.
However, if this is not available there will be a list of common food allergens on the packaging of products with eggs and milk being shown in bold lettering.
Day 10 – Tell your friends and family
Coming out as a vegan can be met with mixed responses! Prepare yourself for a whole array of thoughts and reactions ranging from positive and supportive to confusing and questioning with everything in between.
Just remember to be strong, stick to your principles and be passionate. Remember, not everyone will agree with your choices, but there are many more out there who will.
Day 11 – Experiment with vegan meats
Everything from beef chunks, sausages and kebab-style slices, to faux fish fingers and gourmet roasts. No meat is un-veganised!
Often soya or wheat-based, alternatives to meat can be useful when substituting in early vegan meals, and can even fool children and amaze friends to the tasty ways of veganism.
Day 12 – Go out to eat
There’s never been a better time to eat out as a vegan.
Over the last few years the number of vegan items on menus, along with proper allergen labelling, mean it’s easier than ever to eat out as a vegan (crafting your own dish from various menu items is so last year).
Some restaurant chains even offer their own vegan menus. Enquire ahead to get the best from the experience.
Day 13 – Start a food diary
A creative way to re-think your diet is to start a food diary. Make a note of what you made, ate and sampled – what did you like? What didn’t you like?
How would you change the dish or what would you do next time to make it even better? This will help you discover your new tastes and help begin weekly meal planning.
Day 14 – Swot up on supplements
Think you know your vitamins A, B and C from your Vitamin D? It is recommended that all vegans supplement with both vitamin B12 (1000 mcg) and Vitamin D (1000 iu) every day to maintain optimum health.
These can be found in vegan varieties from health food shops or from the Vegan Society’s website – www.vegansociety.com/shop/supplements.
Day 15 – Buy in bulk
By now you should be getting to grips with the basic ingredients you need to cook with regularly.
Everything from pulses, lentils and wholegrains to nuts and seeds can be ordered online in bulk from reputable sellers offering the best price per kg.
I store nuts, seeds and legumes in glass jars – it saves space and makes for a unique kitchen display!
Day 16 – Embrace your culinary disasters!
The first few weeks of experimenting with vegan food and ingredients is likely to be a combination of delicious hits, and the…not so delightful misses. Don’t hang up that apron!
The first time I made tofu, I swore I’d never again. A few non-stick pans, recipe trial and errors and weeks later, my relationship with this delightfully versatile ingredient blossomed to become one of my everyday staple foods!
If at first you don’t succeed…bake it in the oven instead! Be sure to check out our handy guide to marinating tofu too.
Day 17 – Become a vegan athlete
There’s never been a better time to get into shape and fulfil sporting ambitions.
Being vegan, cholesterol levels will drop (plant-based foods contain no cholesterol), circulation improves and you may even see a few extra lbs naturally falling off.
Take the opportunity of starting a fresh lifestyle to take up a new sporting hobby, whether it’s becoming a gym bunny or casual cyclist.
Day 18 – Slip up? No problem!
The first time I became vegetarian, the very next day I found myself instinctively ordering a chicken dish at a restaurant!
Being vegan takes some getting used to, and if you make a mistake or accidentally consume an animal product, don’t give up.
Learn from where you went wrong, try not to dwell on your experience, and simply move on.
Day 19 – Veganise your alcoholic drinks
Becoming vegan doesn’t mean an end to enjoying a drink or two. There are so many drinks that are certified vegan, so just take your pick and enjoy responsibly.
Brands include; Malibu Rum, Grey Goose Vodka, Coors beer and Red Truck Wines. There is a plethora of independent brewers and distilleries who are also vegan – many can be found and bought online.
Day 20 – Equip your kitchen
One of the best bits of gear for a vegan is a large food processor. From making huge batches of fresh hummus, creating raw cheesecakes and blitzing burgers together, a processor is used again and again.
It’s worth investing in a high powered machine, with a longer warranty, that’s built to last.
Day 21 – Go greener
Altering your lifestyle has already reduced your carbon footprint and helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Why not consider upping the effort? Start recycling household waste more, reduce the food waste you produce by buying and eating smarter, and switch to ecologically friendly cleaning products (available from most supermarkets).
Day 22 – Substitute staples
By now, you may start craving things like mayonnaise or yoghurt. You’ll be pleased to know that soya-based alternatives to both of these common dairy products are available to buy.
What’s more, you’ll most likely find that they taste exactly the same (if not better, in my opinion) than the originals!
Alternatively, create your own veganaise and coconut yoghurts for ultimate kitchen-revelling glory.
Day 23 – There’s an app for that
Thanks to modern technology, every aspect of being vegan is handily condensed into a smartphone app!
There’s even the BunnyFree app that checks whether brands of products are tested on animals or not.
Day 24 – Organise a vegan trip
There is no better place to discover more about being vegan than at a local or nationwide vegan festival. Some top picks are The Allergy and Free From Show and VegFest.
These great festivals provide you with inspiration and products you never expected to discover, alongside some delicious free samples and a melting pot of like-minded individuals.
Day 25 – Be a great vegan guest
Crumbling at your first invitation to a dinner party? Has the thought of a birthday gathering reduced you to a nervous wreck?
Fear not! To be the perfect vegan guest, simply inform your host in advance. Give them a list of dishes or recipes that you enjoy eating and suggest simple alternatives they could create.
Clueless host? Just take your own dish! That way you can share your delicious creation around the table.
Day 26 – Eat a variety of foods
Just as with any diet or lifestyle, it’s easy to fall into a rut of eating the same dishes again and again.
Maintain your interest and creativity by thumbing through the pages of our magazine, some vegan cookbooks or websites such as Pinterest.
There’s nothing better than shaking up your daily food staples and finding ways to freshen your diet and spark creative genius.
Day 27 – Watch out for non-vegan items
There are some hidden animal products lurking in seemingly vegan foods that you need to be aware of.
Common ingredients include cochineal (artificial red colouring made from ground insect shells), most jelly sweets contain gelatine (sourced from animal bones), and certain mass-produced baked goods may contain egg or milk.
You can see more ingredients to watch out for here.
Day 28 – Don’t worry about protein
I guarantee after a month you’ll be used to people asking about protein!
You may be surprised to know you only need 10-15% of your energy from protein each day, and it can all come from plant-based foods.
Sources include buckwheat, wholegrains and quinoa, which should be combined with legumes, beans, and pulses such as soya and chickpeas.
Day 29 – Supercharge your pantry
Now you’re getting used to a plant-based diet, why not upgrade your pantry with some superfoods?
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are a rich source of plant-based omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, cocoa nibs will give your breakfast an antioxidant hit, while a variety of nuts are going to boost your protein and mineral intakes.
Simply add a few of these into your diet and watch your health and palette grow!
Day 30 – Don’t be scared to ask for help
There will be many different aspects of veganism that you’re still yet to discover. Never be afraid to ask your vegan friends or members of a vegan group/community for help.
From my experience of being a loyal member of the UK vegan community, I can honestly say that vegans are extremely enthusiastic and supportive of others who ask for help or need support.
There are so many places to turn if you’re unsure or need advice, there is never a need to feel alone – you’re part of a global support network.
Day 31 of the rest of your vegan life – Have your cake and eat it
Congratulations! The first month of being vegan has officially ended, and you can now call yourself a certified Veganuary Veteran.
Mark this special occasion by baking yourself and your loved ones (or just yourself – you’ve earned it after all!) a delicious vegan cake.
Make this day your official Vegan-niversary, knowing that you have contributed to the promotion of a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle, what more reason could you need to celebrate?
Congratulations! You have successfully completed your first month!
You’ve earned a slice of one of these stunning celebration cakes!
by Charlotte Willis