If you’re considering a meat and dairy-free, plant-based diet but don’t want to lose friends or your social life in the process then read on…
As someone who’s been vegan for over ten years and vegetarian nearly all of my life I thought I’d share my top five tips. After years of experience these are my go-to ways and shortcuts.
Maybe you’ve discovered your own – would love to hear them – and if you want more tips and tricks (I have so many) don’t forget you can leave a comment by hitting the plus sign below or tweet me @yanarbeauty.
1. Work out your motivation
Why are you doing it? What’s your motivation for taking on this way of eating. It’s also a way of life so the more you believe in what you’re doing the more likely you are to stick to it.
I wrote about my motivations and reasons for being vegan in a previous post here. It was a natural extension of being vegetarian from the age of nine – as my knowledge of the meat and dairy industry (and the impact it has on our health) grew so did my commitment. It’s taken years of education and awareness and I now passionately believe in it, it’s nothing like a fad.
2. Find your own boundaries
At the very beginning when I first toyed with the idea of going vegan I tried to be strict and failed miserably. A very miserable six month start ended up with a huge Christmas binge on cake and chocolate – lesson learnt – extreme and sudden deprivation can only lead to rebellion or failure!
There’s no need to lose your head over it so start gently, especially if you’re going from being a full meat eater. If someone offers you some cheese after dinner or chocolates in the office and you really can’t resist, it’s ok! Take it easy and be lenient and kind to yourself.
My boundaries are meat (obviously) and dairy as a whole ingredient, for example I would never have an egg sandwich but if someone has baked a cake for a birthday then I may have a bite or a slice out of courtesy (and sometimes I won’t – I’ll just judge the situation). I think it’s good to be balanced in mind and make small exceptions when needed and know you’re committed all other times.
3. Be flexible eating out
Eating out my seem like an impossible feat at first but it gets easier once you get the hang of it, I promise. The trick? Be flexible and open minded with the menu (mix and match ingredients and check out the sides menu for vegan-friendly options), be nice to waiters/waitresses, and don’t be anal. By that I mean, if something has a hint of butter in it maybe you can let it pass? For me, as long as butter, eggs or cheese are not the main ingredients I don’t get too caught up. For example, it’s ok if some ghee has been used in an Indian vegetarian meal (it’s likely to be minimal) but I won’t choose a paneer cheese dish. No one likes a food bore so it works for me to be flexible when social and then as true to veganism as I like when I’m at home. That way I get to keep my friends and social life too!
4. Eat more!
Cutting out three major food groups (meat, fish, dairy) means making up the calories, vitamins and nutrients somewhere else otherwise you might waste away or end up looking like a pale, unhealthy, anaemic vegan and that’s no fun. Stay strong and satiated with bigger portion sizes than you’re probably used to – the calorie content of vegetables and pulses is far lower than meat, fish and dairy so you have a lot of catching up to do at meal times.
Anyone who knows me well knows I eat family portion sized meals (and I’m still small) with a mega fast metabolism. In the past I’ve tried dipped into packet vegan / meat substitute foods (non-dairy cheese springs to mind) but found unprocessed wholefoods in their most natural state work best for me. This area is yours to experiment with.
5. Get friendly with fats
My secret to staying fuller for longer is to eat plenty of plant fats… I always have avocados, coconut oil, tahini paste, olive oil, argan oil and rapeseed oil in the cupboard and eat them with food on a daily basis. I use coconut oil instead of butter to spread onto toast (delicious on sourdough or rye bread) and drizzle olive or argan oil on food so it goes the extra mile. Otherwise I’d be starving again very soon! PLUS all of these plant fats are nourishing for skin and cells so it’s a win-win situation.
I do believe you need to be a bit of food lover to be vegan otherwise it’s difficult to make it work as it’s already a restricted diet. Enjoy yourself and be creative within the boundaries and experiment… Don’t be afraid to try something new and you’ll eventually arrive at foods and meals you love. Would love to hear any questions or tips you might have… Happy eating!
(Image credit: Gemma Correll – my favourite illustration, brilliantly depicted)