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How to: eat vegan

When I went in and recently got my new tattoo wearing my ‘Don’t have a cow, man’ t-shirt’ the tattoo artist asked me if I was vegetarian. I told him that I am vegan.

I was met with the response that I have heard only too often to this question: ‘oh I could never do that, I love steak too much’. Throughout the session we got talking about why I am vegan,what kind of things my partner and I eat and what we would say to people who want to try vegan, so I decided to put together this list.

Tips on eating vegan:

  1. Start with an open mind. There’s no easier way to guarantee failure than to go into it with a bad attitude. Unfortunately, this is not something that’s easy for many folks to do. If you think that going vegan is going to be a punishment or that you won’t last, then it will be, and you won’t.
  2. If cooking at home, give yourself extra time to cook, particularly at the beginning. For most people, designing meals 100% around vegetables is going to be a completely foreign concept, and one that requires planning and extra time in the kitchen, even for a seasoned pro.
  3. Take a look at your pantry. Is it full of meat-based condiments, dried pasta, rice, potatoes, and the like? If so, you’re not going to have a fun time trying to cook. Make sure your pantry stays stocked with plenty of beans and whole grains, hearty leafy grains like kale, spinach, and cabbage, and other vegan-friendly sauces. Frozen peas, broad beans, sweetcorn and spinach are always good to have on hand.
  4. Avoid convenience foods. Vegan convenience foods are definitely hit or miss. If all you exist on as a vegan is poor frozen pizza, frozen vegan burritos, veggie burger patties and ready-made meals, you will not be a happy eater. Regular frozen foods are bad enough. That being said, it is important that you have quick meals for when you need them. Make extra and freeze. 🙂
  5. Take a walk down the fruit & veg section. Going vegan is the perfect excuse to load up on all kinds of vegetables that you never regularly ate before. It is diversity through restriction. As a vegan, your diet will inevitably become much more varied, and as such, more enjoyable.
  6. Do not be embarrassed. Even after being vegetarian for years, there has been the occasional moment when I felt I needed to explain myself, to rationalise to others why I’m doing what I’m doing. When I come right out and say, “I agree with a lot of vegan philosophy and think that this is the best way to live my life” I end up getting a lot more respect, an interesting discussion out of it, and the potential to actually impact another person. That makes it worth it to me (and I know that Alan feels the same as well).
  7. If you’re going on a road trip, pack food with you. In fact, have snacks and emergency rations available to you at all times. It’s not that you’ll get hungrier as a vegan, it’s just that on the off-chance that you do end up missing lunch or forgetting it at home, your options as a vegan on the road or in unfamiliar territory are not good. Some fresh fruit, a good salad, or even some nuts or dried fruit can be a life saver in those situations.
  8. So you messed up. Don’t sweat it. Again, the key to being a successful vegan is to live the lifestyle as much as is reasonably possible. There may be some who disagree with me on this, but if you’ve just realised that you accidentally ate some butter, don’t kill yourself. Stuck on the road with no prospect of vegan food for the next couple days? Well don’t starve yourself (see point 7) prepare in advance and do your research. The moment any diet stops being fun is the moment you begin to think it might not be worth it. That said…
  9. Stay strong. The first little while might be tough, but once you get into the swing of things, it will become easier and easier. You can live without cheese. Believe me. You’ll feel much better for it too.
  10. Don’t judge others. So you disagree with someone else’s lifestyle choice. So what? You’re not perfect either. The best way to help people and win them over is to teach by action, no lecturing. Bring some vegan food over or treat them to a vegan meal. If you want to make the change and keep your friends while you’re at it, you have to realise that not everybody is at the same place in their life, and not everybody has the same value system as yours.

And as your reward for reading this piece, here is a photo of my aforementioned tattoo (done with vegan friendly ink!)

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