With 540,000 people in the UK now identifying themselves as vegan, the industry doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Food manufacturers are stepping up to meet demand, with new plant-based options showing up daily.
Whether it’s for health reasons or ethical reasons, transitioning to a plant-based diet is easier than ever before and making the switch doesn’t have to be difficult. Meat, milk and dairy are all easily replaceable – it’s just a matter of finding the right alternatives for you.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be showing you how you can make the transition as easy as possible. I’ll be looking at easy food swaps, and the vitamins and minerals you’ll need to make sure you stay healthy.
This week, I’ll start by talking about ways in which you can transition to a plant-based diet, and how you can stay on track.
Find Your Why
Why do you want to make the change? Whether it’s for ethical reasons, health reasons, or something else entirely – figure out your why. Knowing this will help keep you on track. I’m vegan for ethical reasons, so I have a strong emotional tie to my why. This makes it incredibly easy for me to live a vegan lifestyle.
Look at vegan magazines and cookbooks. Fall down the rabbit hole of vegan recipes on social media and find some simple meals to experiment with. If you head to Instagram, you’ll find a whole array of brightly coloured feeds to get inspiration from.
Don’t feel like you must do everything all at once. What works for one, won’t work for all. While some people can easily switch to a plant-based diet overnight, this isn’t the case for everyone. Sometimes a gentler approach might be required. If this is the case, don’t be hard on yourself.
One of the ways you can begin your vegan journey, is to start adding plant-based foods into your current diet. This removes some of the overwhelm you might feel about cutting out all meat and dairy.
Gradually start adding in seeds, nuts, tofu, legumes and beans. This could be as simple as sprinkling chia seeds onto your breakfast, adding some walnuts into your lunchtime salad, or beans to your evening meal. Start adding more things as you become more comfortable, you can then progress onto making simple switches. You might start by replacing your milk with soya milk or almond milk and replacing sausages with meat free sausages. Also, try making some simple vegetarian or vegan recipes.
Even if you feel like you’re only taking small steps, the important thing is you’re making changes at a rate you’re comfortable with.
Vegetarian to Vegan
Another option is to switch to vegetarian first. Over the space of a few weeks, you can easily transition to a plant-based diet by making some simple food swaps.
Keep adding in seeds, nuts, tofu, legumes and beans, but start removing any animal-based foods, that you won’t miss.
You might decide to eliminate dairy first and switch to soya or almond milk instead. You could change your favourite cheese to a vegan alternative like Violife and swap your dairy yoghurt for a dairy-free alternative like Alpro.
Gradually replace all animal-based products, least favourite first and your favourite food last.
Start trying out some simple vegan recipes and replacing meals, but don’t be afraid of using transitioning foods to help with the process. Transitioning foods are things like meat free burgers (as mentioned above) and ready meals. They’re not ideal in the grand scheme of things, but to begin with they can be a big help. More on this below.
However, if you like cooking, get stuck in and start experimenting. Home cooking is obviously healthier than buying processed foods and ready meals.
Straight to Vegan
Making the switch from omnivore to vegan without any steps in between, is also an option. This isn’t for everyone, but if you have the mindset and this is how you want to transition – go for it.
Plan out in advance what you intend to eat. Decide what plant-based alternatives you will be eating and make sure you have everything readily available.
If you cook, make sure you have all the ingredients you need for recipes, and think about comfort foods too. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you have alternatives on stand-by to satisfy any cravings you might have.
Planning is key for any of the above steps – especially if you’re switching straight to vegan.
But whichever transition method you choose, make sure you put together a meal plan at the beginning of each week. Decide which meals you plan to replace and what you will be replacing them with. Ensure you have everything you need so you don’t feel tempted to cheat.
Don’t forget to do some research about living a plant-based diet to ensure you get all the nutrients and vitamins you need. Protein and vitamin B12 are the two big ones. The only way vegans can get B12 is through supplements, fortified foods like cereals, or plant-based milks with added B12.
I have a full blog post coming in a couple of weeks, explaining more about the vitamins and minerals you’ll need.
Using Transitioning Foods and Ready Meals
Let’s be realistic. If you don’t like cooking, you’re not going to throw yourself into experimenting with homemade meals every night. But be sensible.
Although they aren’t something I would recommend eating long term, to start with, ready meals and other substitutes can be a good way to introduce different foods into your new plant-based diet. They’re convenient, they can help keep you on track in the early stages and can make the transition period easier. I would only use them to replace the odd meal – we’re not talking every day here.
Just look out for the fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar content if you plan on using this method.
- Fat: 17g per 100g
- Saturated fat: 5g per 100g
- Salt: 1.5g per 100g
- Sugar: 20g per 100g
- Fat: 3g or less per 100g
- Saturated fat: 1.5g per 100g
- Sugar: 5g or less per 100g of total sugars
- Salt: 0.3g or less per 100g
Obviously, using fresh vegetables and cooking from scratch is healthier as you know exactly what’s going into each meal. I would always recommend this as your main aim. Look for simple recipes to begin with so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
I really hope this has been useful and if you have any questions, please leave me a comment or drop me a message. Next week, I’ll be looking at easy food switches.
I currently work as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, which means I understand the dietary requirements of people with an active lifestyle. I was vegetarian for 7-years before going vegan in 2016, so I also appreciate the difficulties you may experience during the transition process.
If you would like advice on eating correctly for your current lifestyle, or help transitioning to a plant-based diet, I will soon be offering services which will include, a full nutritional breakdown of what your body needs to suit your current lifestyle, food diary analysis, meal plans and transitional meal plans.
As I am currently studying for a diploma in vegan nutrition, next month, I will be offering 2 people the chance to have a free consultation and diet analysis. You will need to keep a (honest!) food diary for two weeks, and then I will help you to make easy changes in your diet. I will also work out how many calories you need each day, to sustain your current lifestyle.
To apply, or find out more information, please get in touch with your name, current diet (vegan, non-vegan), why you feel you would benefit from this offer and what you hope to achieve. If non-vegan, your aim must be to transition to a plant-based diet.