Veganism: How to start, what to eat and where to get support

If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about with veganism, why not give it a try? These simple steps could soon see you reaping the benefits of a veggie-fuelled diet, writes Dominika Piasecka

HEALTHY LIVING: This Peruvian quinoa porridge with amaranth is just one example of the amazing nutritious dishes to be eaten on a vegan diet

WHETHER IT’S a Greggs vegan sausage roll, a vegan Happy Meal or a Marks & Spencer’s 60-strong Plant Kitchen lunch range, these days there are loads of exciting, innovative vegan meals that can fill your hungry desires for good food.

People from all walks of life and backgrounds are going vegan now – it is no longer portrayed as an unusual choice, it’s easy and accessible. The number of vegans in Britain has quadrupled in the last four years and is at about 600,000 now.

Why do people go vegan?
If you’re someone who likes animals and doesn’t want to contribute to their suffering, veganism makes perfect sense because it’s about trying to avoid causing harm as far as possible.

Secondly, it’s much more efficient to eat crops directly, rather than feeding them to animals and then eating their bodies. The United Nations have urged for a global shift towards a vegan diet to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. Lastly, eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type-two diabetes and some types of cancer.

Where do I start?
Most people transition over the course of several days or weeks and start by making small changes to their everyday meals.

Treat your taste buds to new foods and flavours – there are thousands of vegan recipes out there from every corner of the globe.

The Vegan Society’s VeGuide app, free to download on Android and iOS devices, features a combination of daily informational videos presented by vegan mentors, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help users ease into vegan living.

While changing your lifestyle inevitably takes some getting used to, after a few weeks it will feel as natural as anything. If you make sure you eat a wide variety of tasty plant foods, planning a healthy diet will be a breeze.

What do I eat?!
Some people see going vegan as a challenge because they think it involves learning a whole lot of new recipes and using a range of new ingredients they don’t have the time to find.

But there is a simple and fun shortcut to going vegan – you can replace any non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites.

You probably don’t realise this, but you actually eat a lot of vegan food already.

The toast and porridge you have in the morning, the pasta salad or crunchy wrap you munch on at lunch, or the bean chilli or vegetable stew you serve for dinner may already be vegan.

Veganism can be a perfect opportunity to explore new, exciting recipes and ingredients to build on what you consider as food.

Anything you’re used to eating can be made plant-based. Why not look out for soya milk on your next supermarket trip? You can gradually try all the different brands to find your favourite.

If you don’t like soya or want a change, try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice milk next.

Is a vegan diet healthy?
Vegans tend to eat much more fruit and vegetables than the rest of the population, which has amazing health benefits. Eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type-two diabetes and some types of cancer.

The British Dietetic Association’s position is that a vegan diet is suitable at any age or life stage, including infancy, childhood and pregnancy.

For those who loathe cooking, there are plenty of readymade quick vegan meals available in supermarkets.

Frozen sections are full of burgers and sausages; refrigerated sections offer lunch on the go and meat alternatives; and snack aisles are great for a wide range of vegan-friendly products.

Where can I get support?
It’s helpful to surround yourself with people who understand you.

Whether it’s in real life, through Facebook groups, apps or local vegan meet-ups, making friends with those who have similar interests can help the transition to the vegan lifestyle smoother.

For more information please visit vegansociety.com or follow them on social media.

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