Ten Tips for Newbie Vegans

I have failed at being vegan or veggie more  times than I can shake a stick at. It’s taken me over 28 years to find a balance that suits me, and to find a way to make it work where I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Some people can just go cold turkey overnight but most people might have a few false starts before getting into the groove. Whether you are wanting to go full vegan, veggie, thinking about cutting down on animal products, or are just curious about the lifestyle, well done, every little helps.

Here is a list of life-hacks that might make the transition run smoothly for you 🙂

  1. Buy a slow cooker. I am not able to emphasis this point enough, this will make so much difference to your life and your efforts. When you come home tired after a day at work this is when you’re most likely to get a takeaway, or find yourself with your head in the cheese fridge at the co-op, if you know you have a hot, delicious tasty meal waiting for you this is much less likely to happen. I’m a great believer in making your life easy for yourself, the easier you can make being vegan the more likely you are to stick with it. There are many tasty, quick and healthy dishes that you can whip up in your slow cooker so you’ll never have to worry about dinner again.
  2. Superdrug’s own brand is cruelty free and mostly vegan. One thing that put me into overwhelm when I first started thinking about being vegan was cosmetics and bathroom items. I knew I didn’t want to use products that tested on animals but the deeper you dug the more difficult it seemed to be to avoid this. You can buy specialist products but they seemed to come with a hefty price tag, and it meant buying all my products from different places. Then I found out about Superdrug and it made my life so much easier. Toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dye, baby-wipes, body lotion, everything you can think of, all at reasonable prices, all with the bunny logo and clearly marked if vegan. They even do their own make up range, which is surprisingly good.
  3. Know what’s important to you. Being honest with yourself will go a long way. About 2 years ago I decided that I wanted to stop using any cosmetics that were tested on animals and this included hair products. I bought a shampoo and conditioner from Holland and Barretts and threw out all my expensive hair products. I went completely cold turkey and my hair went frizzy and dry, I saw a picture of myself and it really upset me. I didn’t want it to, I wanted to be above such shallow things but I hated my hair being in (what I thought to be) bad condition so much that it drove me straight back to my Loreal Professional shampoo. This time I did a bit of research and found Paul Mitchell, his salon range of hair care is not only completely cruelty free but also mostly vegan too. It’s more expensive than the Holland and Barrett stuff but I think it’s more than worth it as I will stick with it. Your thing might not be your hair, it might be burgers or beautiful shoes, whatever it is you need to do your research and get a viable alternative that will make you happy.
  4. Meat/dairy substituts are not substitutes they are replacements. Vegan cheese does not taste like cheese, sorry but it just doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not nice, I love violife, but if you go into this thinking its going to be as good as cheese then you’re going to be disappointed, it’s not. Same with vegan meat, they are nice in their own right but the are not the same. Learn to love them for what they are and become excited about expanding your meal repertoire rather than just repeating what you ate before but with ‘substitutes’.
  5. Nutritional Yeast. Called ‘Nooch’ in the vegan community this is a yeast that has a vaguely cheesy flavour and adds a savoury kick to dishes. Buy it, sprinkle it on everything, love it.
  6. Get a good supplement. For one of my attempts at veganism I was living on a tiny boat in Brighton Marina, in October. Saying it was cold and damp is an understatement, I had nowhere to dry clothes and as a poor student I was trying to save money by cycling everywhere and would often get caught in the rain on the cycle home along the beach. I couldn’t afford to eat out and I only had a one ring gas burner and a microwave to cook my meals on, which meant that I basically lived off lentil soup and tomato pasta. Low and behold I became quite poorly. I got coldsores around my mouth and a cough that I couldn’t shake. For years I equated ‘being vegan’ with ‘being poorly’, looking back now I can see clearly that my predicament had much less to do with being vegan and much more to do with being a wally. However this time I was taking no chances and got a good quality supplement from Holland and Barretts which I take every day. The vegan diet does not supply vitamin B12 and can lack vitamin D too, this means its very sensible to top up your supplies with a supplement to stop you feeling lethargic, as this is the quickest way to drive you back to animal products. This doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unhealthy though, studies show time and time again that as long as you get your vitamin B12 from somewhere veganism is the healthiest diet out there. There’s also lots of evidence to say that even if you eat meat and dairy you should top up vitamins B12 and D with supplements anyway.
  7. Don’t do it to lose weight. If losing weight is your primary goal then chances are you’ll fail. I am EXACTLY the same weight as I was when I ate meat, my husband has lost a few pounds but that is mostly down with him not being able to eat cakes at work anymore. I have even found that I eat MORE cake as I now feel that if there’s a vegan cake available I have to take one for the team.
  8. Be clear in your mind about why you don’t want to eat meat or dairy anymore.
    I had an epiphany one day when teaching a pregnancy yoga class about the role of oxytocin in birth and breastfeeding that made me never ever want to eat dairy again. I was talking about how oxytocin is the love hormone and how it is one of the major factors in bringing the mothers milk in. That the bond that Mothers have with their babies literally stimulates the breasts to produce milk, that without it the mother can’t produce milk and if the oxytocin is disrupted then this can upset the milk supply. I was showing techniques that new mothers can do to stimulate oxytocin flow themselves, such as skin on skin contact with baby and nuzzling. I’d said these things a millions times before but for some reason I just suddenly thought about cows. It’s the cows love for their babies that enable the milk to be produced, they don’t just create milk on their own they have to have been pregnant, then have a baby that they bond with. The baby is then taken away from the cow sometimes as soon as two hours after birth, and the cows have been known to bellow and cry for their babies for weeks after. I don’t believe that animals love their babies any less than we do, they are mammals and its exactly the same hormones, doing the exact same biological functions.
    From having that thought I can’t look at dairy in the same way, when someone says ‘but do you not miss blue cheese’,  the answer is yes on one level but an a much more overwhelming level I do not have a desire to eat cow grief, which is how I now see it.Your reasons will not be the same as mine, and thats totally cool, but the clearer you are in your head as to exactly why you want to be vegan or cut down on meat, the easier it’ll be.
  9. Get used to tuning people out. EVERYBODY will have an opinion on your new diet, everybody. Suddenly people who have never ever shown an interest in how much protein you eat will be overcome with concern that you’re not getting enough. People will assume that your diet is somehow a judgement on them and feel they need to justify themselves. This will happen all the time and you can’t stop it, just learn to smile and nod and tune them out. Also arm yourself with some awesome facts relating to whatever your reason for being vegan is so that if you have had enough tuning out you can stand your ground.
  10. Find a support network, whether its a friend, a partner or a group online life is so much easier when you can take a photo of your nooch covered baked potato and send it to someone who cares. The vegan online community is very friendly (much friendlier than The Archers Fanpages, my god those places are vicious!) I suggest the What Fat Vegans Eat page for lots of recipe tips and general support.

Finally don’t expect to be perfect all the time, there’s no vegan police that are going to put you in vegan jail if you accidentally (or even not so accidentally) eat something with animal products in, just do your best and know that there’s lots of people out there going through the same thing as you.

Does anyone have any to add to the list?


2 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Newbie Vegans

  1. Elainn Waite says:

    Great article Jo, for me its also about getting into the mindset of all the amazing food you CAN eat, not focusing on all the food you CANT (/dont want to!), I have slipped along the way, but I’m there 99.9% of the time, your blog posts keep me focused so thank you!


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