5 MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN TURNING VEGAN
Switching to a vegan lifestyle is a major life change… but does it need to feel like it? Definitely not!
When I turned to a vegan lifestyle I made lots of mistakes, just like I’m sure, almost everyone else who has made the transition. Making mistakes is good, otherwise how are we going to learn and make it easier for others? So, these are 5 mistakes to avoid when turning vegan, to help make that transition period a bit easier.
1. Don’t Think it’s Going to be Difficult and that You’ll Miss Out
This is quite a common mistake made about veganism – that it’s going to be difficult and you will miss out on your favourite foods. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Not only do I still enjoy my favourite meals from before I switched lifestyles, through using meat substitutions and alternatives, I now have new favourites as well. Something that is clear about these new favourites, is how I am experiencing the opposite of missing out. A family favourite is tofu fajitas; homemade tortillas full of veg and tofu fried in a spice filled sauce. The flavour these have, well, you definitely don’t need the flavour of meat … and they’re so easy!
These fajitas don’t use a meat alternative, they are tofu. However, a meat alternative could easily be used rather than tofu and, that’s how easy and flexible vegan food can be. There’s so much on offer now, that difficulty isn’t really something to worry about.
A lot of meals may not be as different as you might expect – spaghetti bolognese for example, all you need to switch is the mince and cheese to vegan alternatives (and spaghetti if you use fresh). There is nothing different and fancy that you need, which can make the meal difficult. The same goes for other meals. You may not need to buy many additional ingredients after switching, once you get used to cooking with new flavours – for example instead of the button mushrooms you used to buy, try portobello, as they can be pulled apart to mimic pulled pork. Then it’s as simple as flavouring the mushroom the way you would the pork. It doesn’t have to be difficult and you definitely don’t have to miss out!
2. Don’t just Buy Vegan Branded Food Products
If you are like me, you may fall into the trap of seeing something in the supermarket branded ‘suitable for vegans’ produced by a company that’s primarily vegan and think ‘ok, well other brands must use animal derivatives so I’ll buy this for twice the price.’ I’m not saying don’t buy from these vegan brands (we need them and they’re great!) but a lot of everyday essentials are ‘accidentally vegan’ already! These are likely to be cheaper and can be found in more supermarkets – you don’t have to worry about some stocking your favourite brands and others not.
When you first make the switch, have a look at what you used to are currently buying and see which products are accidentally vegan. It may not always say ‘suitable for vegans’ but it should say vegetarian. Often, these are also vegan, but a simple check of the ingredients is all that’s needed.
You’d be surprised how many of your current snacks are vegan, it’s probably more than you think!
3. Not Researching First
I will hold my hands up and admit this was a mistake I made! I was gradually transitioning to vegetarianism, before making the decision on a Sunday night that I would adopt a vegan lifestyle from the following Monday morning, so I perhaps new a little about nutrition. However, even though the step from vegetarian to vegan may not be too big in terms of food groups, but there can be a big difference in nutrition.
With a vegan lifestyle, despite all the talk about how a plant-based diet can lack vitamins and (commonly) protein, this doesn’t have to be the case – you just need to now where to get them! So with research, it’s easy to learn the best ways to get your vitamins and protein – there’s naturally a lot protein packed in veg, nuts and beans.
An easy way could be to look at what you were eating before your transition and research how you can get the same nutritional benefits from vegan alternatives – this could be through fortified foods, or looking at what vegetables and nuts give you the same results!
4. Don’t Listen to the Meat and Dairy Industry with Regard to Vitamins and Minerals
There is a lot of information out there form a lot of different sectors, but one that’s not the best to listen to is that from the meat and dairy industry. Why? Simply because they will of course want you to continue to eat meat and dairy, so their research and resulting information will be heavily weighted in that area. I’m not saying their information isn’t fact, just that it may not be all of what’s relevant.
Instead, it’s best to look at independent studies or nutritionalists where possible, as these should have a more unbiased view. It’s no lie that in the majority of cases, gram for gram, there is more nutritional value in vegan alternatives or veg, nuts and beans. There are lots of ways to get your protein and vitamin B12, without the need for animal-based foods, despite what the meat and dairy industry says!
5. It’s Best to Substitute the Meat
Of course it’s personal preference, but especially during your transition, it’s best to find a meat alternative or substitute for your meals. It may not be very nice to have a ‘ham’ and salad sandwich for example, but just with the salad. In main meals, you don’t need to have a specifically branded alternative, but either mushrooms, tofu or vegan mince would make your first vegan meals similar to what you’re used to.
Once you’re used to cooking vegan meals and with a few new ingredients (even with the multiple ways to cook mushrooms and tofu!), then it’s easier to try new meals that centre around other foods. But don’t make the mistake of just dropping the meat from your meals and replacing it – I did at the start and wish I hadn’t!