Thinking of trying out a plant-based lifestyle? Well, you’re not alone — it’s thought that over 500,000 people in the UK are now vegan, with more joining the green revolution for many different reasons every day.
For anyone coming from a meat-and-two-veg lifestyle, the thought of ditching all animal products can feel a little daunting, but here’s some advice to make that transition a whole lot easier and super tasty too!
How to start being vegan
While it can be tempting to jump straight in with a plant-based diet, this can leave you with horrendous cravings unless you have some serious will-power. You’ll find it much easier to gradually phase out your animal products until you don’t even miss them anymore.
You could start by switching out the milk on your cereal for a plant-based alternative, or making one vegan meal every day. Eventually, you’ll be able to do full days, before transitioning to full time. This will also give your body some time to adjust to a different diet too.
Make a plan
Once you’ve been eating green for a few months, then you’ll begin to know plenty of vegan recipes, where you can get vegan snacks while out and about, or what to buy in the supermarket. However, for the first few weeks, you’ll want to plan your meals a little more, so that you don’t get stuck for food.
A good place to start is to think about what you would usually eat and try to find substitutes. For example, you might want to think about switching out beef mince for lentils to make a simple spaghetti Bolognese, or vegan chilli.
The best vegan smart swaps
Here’s a quick list of some plant-based swaps you can make to your everyday meals, as well as some of the potential benefits you can reap at the same time:
Swap cow’s milk for plant milk:
There are a huge range of plant-based milks now available on the market such as soy, almond, oat, coconut, hemp and more. Plant-based milks are an easy swap to make for your breakfast cereal, afternoon coffee, or favourite milkshake. Be aware that some plant milks may have added sugar, so opt for the unsweetened ones where possible – they usually still have a naturally sweet taste. Here’s a comparison of cows milk and a standard plant milk:
|Cow’s Milk||Plant Milk|
|High in saturated fat||Low in fat|
|High in calories||Low in calories|
|High in calcium||Often fortified with B12 and calcium|
Swap beef mince for lentils:
While beef might be higher in protein per 100g, it’s also much higher in calories too. So, you can eat double, or triple the lentils for the same amount of calories and plenty of protein, with none of the fat.
|286 calories per 100g||116 calories per 100g|
|20g of protein per 100g||9g of protein per 100g|
|15g fat per 100g (including 5g saturated fat)||Only traces of fat|
Swap cheese for nutritional yeast:
This may feel like a weird one, but if you’re after a cheesy sauce with a vitamin B12 boost then it’s a great addition to many of your favourite meals. Add some to your pasta bakes for a vegan-friendly cheesy flavour.
|High in saturated fat||0.2g of fat per 5g serving|
|High in calories||17 kcal per 5g serving|
|High in calcium||Source of vitamin B12|
|High in protein||High in protein and fibre|
Swap non-vegan snacks for vegan snacks:
Perhaps one of the hardest things people find about a plant-based diet is missing out on their favourite snacks! But don’t worry – there are lots of delicious plant-based snacks available plus you can get create and make your own. Here are are some high-protein snacks you can try:
|Vegan Baked Cookie||14g protein|
|Pea-Nut Square||12g protein|
|Vegan Carb Crusher bar||15g protein|
Swap scrambled eggs for tofu:
No need to ditch the full English, you can enjoy a creamy scramble with a very similar nutritional value to eggs. Make a spicy scramble from tofu or chickpeas and enjoy some veggie sausages too.
|143 kcal per 100g||118 kcal per 100g|
|9.6g fat per 100g||7.1g fat per 100g|
|14.1g protein per 100g||12.6g protein per 100g|
These are just a few of the many substitutes you can make for a plant-based lifestyle. You don’t have to be super adventurous in the kitchen to cook up a delicious vegan meal — there’s plenty of recipes out there for a plant-based version of lots of your favourite dinners. You’ll also find plenty of vegan options when eating out, or buying ready-made meals (just watch out for added salt here).
Do your research
The most important thing with taking on a new diet is making sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. If you’re eating a good variety of foods, then chances are that you’re not far off. Most vegans need a vitamin B12 supplement, however, and you might want to up your protein intake conveniently with shakes or snacks.
Do some research to make sure that your meals are balanced and not too high in fat or sugar, as it’s all too easy to replace the meat with more carbohydrates, rather than the protein you need.
One of the most fun parts about going vegan is all the new foods and flavours you’ll be introduced to. Explore every inch of your supermarket, read tonnes of ingredients labels, and find some good vegan chefs on social media and you can get experimental in the kitchen.
This is a leap into a new way of living and something to be excited about. There’ll be times where you’d love a slice of the office cake, or maybe even crave a juicy steak, but find a focus for why you started this journey and use this as a reminder when you’re tempted to jump ship.
Remember, any big change is going to be hard at first, but soon you’ll be far more aware of what you can and can’t eat and have a whole host of delicious recipes under your belt for every occasion.
Also, there’s really no need to worry if you slip up — there are no vegan police out there to call you out on your mistakes. Every vegan has accidentally (or intentionally) eaten something non-vegan, so brush off the crumbs and carry on.
Follow Myvegan on our socials @myvegan to join a community of other vegans who regularly share tips and tricks.
Take Home Message
While this is a big change for all the meat-eaters out there, you’ll be surprised by how much is actually on offer for you. There’s no need to feel restricted, just make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Use it as a chance to explore new foods and flavours and don’t be too harsh on yourself if you make a mistake, as we’ve all got to start somewhere. Most of all, enjoy the beginning of your plant-based journey!
If you need to focus on 4 nutrients - it's these.