As veganism hits the mainstream, it’s easier and easier to make the change to a plant-based diet… but that’s not to say overhauling your entire lifestyle will be a piece of *egg and butter free* cake.
So, we’re handing over to Team Neat’s resident vegan - Content Manager Kathryn - for the advice she wishes she’d been given before going vegan…
You WILL mess up
Food labels can be confusing and it’s easy to make mistakes or just get complacent and forget to to check things! In the last week alone I’ve eaten a falafel that I assumed would be vegan and put a splash of Worcestershire sauce in a pasta dish, having no idea there was anchovies in it! You might buy something that contains an animal-derived E-number that you haven’t heard of before, or go to dinner at a friend’s who had no idea the pesto she used wasn’t vegan friendly. Instead of getting annoyed or feeling guilty, shrug your shoulders and move on – you’re doing your best and that’s what matters most!
You will stop craving eggs
If you’d have asked me about going vegan a couple of years ago, I’d have said “I could never give up salmon or eggs”. For others, a life without cheese doesn’t seem worth living. But over time your taste buds do change. Your palette will adapt to enjoy scrambled tofu with your avocado on toast, and when you learn where eggs really come from it’ll make your stomach turn at the thought. Sure, sometimes cravings for cheese or ice cream will still strike, but alternative products are getting more amazing by the week, and a few good ones really can scratch that itch.
Eating with others can be challenging
The hardest part about being vegan? For me, it’s not what I miss eating, but the feeling of being difficult when invited to a dinner party with family or friends. Meeting all your boyfriend’s pals can be scary enough without the added pressure of being the lonely vegan at the table *queue the collective moan as meat is removed from the menu*. There will always be jokes, so get used to them – they’re never usually meant to be disrespectful or nasty. Be confident and remember why you’re passionate about plant-based eating, which is worth being a little inconvenient for.
But you can still eat out!
Eating at restaurants isn’t off the cards, and you won’t have to live off chips and lettuce either. Sure, you’ll end up with a boring or bland plate of food now and again, but thankfully, living in London means you will rarely struggle to eat good food. 9/10 restaurants are more than happy to be adaptive, so don't rule out a spot just because it has limited options without asking first. If you go abroad or to a new city, just do you research first so that you don’t get caught out. Having a few good spots starred on your Google maps will make life a whole lot easier.
You will however eat A LOT of avocado on toast at weekend brunches – but surely things could be much worse!
Being able to back up your beliefs with scientific facts will help you to become more confident when someone questions your lifestyle. This isn’t to preach or lecture, but to help you stand your ground when those with different opinions try to belittle you. Diets are personal, and people can see your choices as a personal attack (which it’s most definitely not!). When they roll their eyes and tell you it’s natural to eat meat because we’re part of the animal kingdom, or that eating almonds and avocados are worse for the environment than meat because of food miles, it can feel reassuring to have sound counter arguments in your back pocket.
Having vegan friends will help
Having friends that are living a similar lifestyle – or just really enjoy plant-based foods – are life savers. They’ll understand your struggles, will make you feel a little less abnormal, and will want to go the extra mile with you to find amazing vegan food. It can be exhausting explaining your lifestyle to others, and sometimes it’s nice to feel like veganism is normal when you eat together. If you don’t know anyone who is vegan curious, join a meet up or get chatting to new people on Instagram. There’s a huge vegan community out there that is ready to welcome you in!
There will be a lot of things you haven’t thought about
Veganism isn’t just about what you eat... so many of your clothes are made from animal products, your trainers are most definitely made with leather and not all beauty products are cruelty free. By changing your diet you’ve opened a can of worms, but just start making changes one step at a time – you don’t have to overhaul absolutely everything overnight.
Loads of foods are accidentally vegan already
Sourdough bread, crisps, hummus, oreos, biscoff spread – there’s so many of foods that are accidentally vegan without you even realising! Just because its vegan doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy… but we all need a few treats to make life a little sweeter!
Your diet will broaden
It’s so easy to get in the habit of eating the same meals over and over again but becoming vegan will open you up to a whole new world of possibilities. Instead of restricting your palate, you’ll try new ingredients and will learn to love getting creative in the kitchen again. Trying to convince people that vegan food isn’t necessarily bland and boring will spur you on and make you more adventurous.
You can’t be perfect
Now you’ve become vegan, there feels like suddenly there’s a huge pressure on you to be a perfect human. Veganism is often the gateway to more conscious living, but don’t feel like you have to become Mother Theresa overnight. You don’t have to suddenly stop buying all fast-fashion, become zero-waste and never eat anything non-organic. Even just going vegan is a huge step in becoming eco-friendlier, so take everything else one step at a time. Start by making a few more snacks at home and buying a little less plastic – as the cliché goes; aim for progress not perfection!