I went vegan 12 years ago, at a time when vegetarian food was scarce, eating out was an adventure and everyone thought you were bonkers. I’d been vegetarian for six years, during which time some supermarkets didn’t even label products as suitable for vegetarians, and as I grew up I met a few vegans. It made me think about quite how ethical I thought I was, and whether I should be doing more. I looked at why I was vegetarian, and realised that I should be vegan for the same reasons. I promised my Mum I would move out before I went vegan, but once I’d made the decision I had to just go for it, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve learnt so much along the way, so I thought I would round up the advice that I would give my younger self.
Do your research
For some, going cold turkey makes it more exciting, but for most the change is just too drastic. If that sounds like you – make sure you do your research. Why you’re going vegan, what you like to eat, what you think you’ll miss and what you need to stock up on. Research recipes, do a big food shop and ask around for alternatives.
Before I travel anywhere – even if it’s just a trip to London – I’ll write a list of cafes, restaurants and health food stores that I want to visit while I’m there. It means no walking the streets trying to find a sub-standard highstreet restaurant that has one vegan option, or last minute hunger-induced searching through the Happy Cow app. It also really helps plan your time away, and means you won’t miss out on all the amazing offerings your destination has.
Generally when I’m travelling I pack protein bars and maybe some sos rolls from H&B, and if I’m flying long-haul I’ll eat at the airport and then stop off at Pret before we board to buy their latest vegan baguette, and a few other snacks. Make sure you’ve booked a vegan meal on the plane, but it’s always a good idea to bring a light meal with you, just in case. I tend to get quite hungry on the plane, anyway.
Meet other vegans
When I look at how many online vegan friends I’ve made over the years, I feel very lucky that so many have become real friends – Facebook official and everything. If you don’t have any vegan – or even vegetarian – mates, reach out online and get chatting on forums, Twitter, Instagram – it will help.
Don’t beat yourself up if you find it hard
Everyone finds it difficult sometimes and everyone has something that they miss, but it’s about how you cope with it that counts. That might mean adapting your favourite recipes or starting your cooking repertoire from scratch – either way, it means that cooking might take you slightly longer and food shopping might become more complicated, which takes a while to get used to. Finally – don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong. Every single vegan has accidentally eaten something non-vegan at some point. I did it last month. Accidents happen!
Don’t throw away your non-vegan goods
There are two options for your existing cupboards: use everything up and replace as you go, or donate it all to a food bank. There’s no point in wasting food or making yourself feel bad about eating certain foods, so either use up or donate. Same goes for leather, suede and wool clothing.
I hope these tips help! Please comment below with your own advice – what would you have told your pre-vegan self? What would have helped in your vegan journey?