Choosing a vegan lifestyle is not only about your dietary preferences; committing yourself to a genuinely vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle extends to all other areas of your life, from beauty and personal care products, choosing fashion items like shoes, bags, and clothes that are made of vegan alternatives like cactus leather, cleaning supplies for the home, furniture, and home decór that are vegan and cruelty-free, since animal products happen to be found in a number of things you may not even imagine, and even when products can be vegan, which means that they don’t contain animal products, they may have been tested on animals, which is why it’s important to go for cruelty-free options as well.
If you want to know more about the basics of how to go vegan and have a truly committed vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle at home, keep reading to learn what the experts told us.
What is veganism?
Veganism is a philosophy and a way of living where people who follow it seek to exclude all forms of cruelty and exploitation of animals. This includes animals used for food, clothing, animal testing, and more.
On top of animal welfare concerns, many vegans also choose the vegan lifestyle because of the negative environmental impact that factory farming has and the health benefits of adding more plant foods to their diet.
This philosophy also promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives to benefit the environment, animals, and humans. When it comes to the diet, all animal-based products – including meat, dairy, eggs, fish, chicken, honey, and so on – are not consumed.
-Paras Doshi from Doshi
What are the basic principles anyone needs to know to have a balanced vegan diet?
Stick to a variety of whole plant foods and avoid processed vegan junk food. If you eat the rainbow, take Vitamin B12 and a D3 (if you live in the northern hemisphere and don’t get a lot of sunshine), you will stay healthy. And P.S., ALL plants contain ALL of the essential amino acids for your body to make ‘protein’, so you never need to worry about ‘protein’ on a vegan diet unless you are undernourished or malnourished.
-Jeff from Respectful Living
What kind of vegan options can we have at home as meat substitutes that provide the proteins required?
The first thing that people need to know is that most of us eat too much protein, and unless you are only eating vegan junk foods, the likelihood of you not getting enough protein is slim to none.
Please check out this video (from 2014) by Dr. Michael Gregor in which he answers the question: “Do vegetarians get enough protein?”. As he states in the video: The average requirement is 42 grams of protein a day. Non-vegetarians get way more than they need, and so does everyone else. On average, vegetarians and vegans get 70% more protein than they need every day. Dr. Gregor also has a great cookbook: The How Not to Diet Cookbook.
Another good online resource for vegan protein can be found in this comprehensive guide of vegan protein sources.
So – what vegan options can you eat at home?
- Home-made bean burgers
- Home-made veggie burgers
- Non-dairy milks
- Fruits and Vegetables – all contain protein
Store bought meat substitutes (burgers, sausages, chorizo, deli slices, crumbles, etc.) from the following companies:
- Beyond Meat
- Impossible Foods
- Field Roast
- Sweet Earth
- Morningstar Farms
- And so many more
And with so many vegan recipes available online, it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Hope this helps you on your journey to a more compassionate and healthier way of eating.
-Gita Devi from The Ginger Cat B&B
As a new vegan, what are the staple foods that should never be missed in your pantry?
Nutritional Yeast – Fortified nutritional yeast is an essential vegan pantry staple making sure you get enough vitamin B-12, naturally found in meat. Often referred to as ‘nooch,’ it can be an acquired taste that adds umami and ‘cheesy’ flavor to your meal. It can be stirred into recipes towards the end of cooking. Or try sprinkling it over the top of pizza, salads, soups, pasta dishes, etc. I recommend starting with a small amount, adding more as you get used to this savory ingredient.
Cashews – When you’re looking for dairy alternatives, raw cashews work wonders in everything from vegan mac and cheese, vegan queso and alfredo, cashew ricotta, vegan cheesecake, vegan cream, and more. Those who are free of nut allergies will benefit from adding this versatile nut to your pantry. They blend up creamy smooth in seconds with a quick soak, and you will never miss dairy again!
Legumes – Whether dried or canned, stocking a variety of legumes such as lentils, beans, and peas is a must. They are extremely versatile and the main protein in a vegan diet. Not only are they inexpensive and extremely versatile, but legumes are also low in fat, high in protein and fiber. Plus, they carry essential micronutrients and phytochemicals to keep you at your best.
Spices – Although they are not really a food, having a good assortment of spices on hand will enhance your plant-based meal. I love the simplicity of simple salt and pepper, but spices and herbs can make all the difference and make your recipe come alive. I recommend sourcing the freshest dried spices and using fresh herbs whenever possible.
-Julie West from The Simple Veganista
What are the best vegan snacks you recommend having at home for when hunger strikes ?
The best vegan snacks I recommend having at home for when hunger strikes are though rich in protein and moderately high in fat. Nuts and seeds are wonderful choices, so long as allergies or sensitivities aren’t an issue. Food bars can be satisfying, convenient snacks for home (and on the go). I suggest choosing bars that contain short, simple ingredient lists. Avoid snacks that are overly processed with artificial ingredients, and prioritize those that are organic (when possible). To save money, make snacks in batches at home and store them properly to enjoy for several days.
In your experience, what are the Do’s and Don’ts when someone starts to adopt a vegan lifestyle?
“Taking the first step is always the hardest”, but becoming vegan has never been easier than it is right now. So many new options – buying food, dining out, clothes, personal care items, sources of information etc. Everything points to an easier lifestyle than ever before.
What can I eat? – Meat, milk products, eggs, seafood, it’s easy to think that your diet will be seriously limited, but this is simply not true. Most peoples’ diets are very limited by what they choose to base their meal options around. There are a vastly larger number of fruits and vegetable options to base your meals on than animal-based options. Also, for an easy transition, there are also a huge number of faux-products – meat substitutes, dairy-free milks, cheeses, pastries, and ice-creams. You don’t have to forego your fave dishes because these days there are plant-based replicas. It’s just a case of finding the shops and outlets where you can buy them from. And it’s the same with dining out – the hardest part is getting started. Once you familiarise yourself with the local vegan-friendly options, you will find that you can eat at most places, and maybe you just do should not want to support places that do not cater at all to vegans. If you find yourself really short of options, try Italian, Indian, Chinese restaurants – you can always find a few options in these places.
Important foods for vegans – everyone needs to consume essential minerals, vitamins, and other components to ensure optimal health, and vegans are no different. Thankfully a well-planned vegan diet lends itself very well to good health. Most dieticians recommend only a vitamin B12 supplement for vegans since modern living has stripped food of this essential item. However, often vegan-friendly milks, margarines, cheeses, yogurts, even cereals will be fortified with B12. Other vegans take vitamin D supplements if they live in less sunny climes. Yet others take fatty acid supplements, however, studies indicate that most people can synthesize what they need. But the truth is that everyone should follow a healthy diet and you might find that your own supplement requirements are different. You can find many recommended vegan nutritionists online to allay any concerns.
How to tolerate the talk – Being vegan can be very challenging, especially when it comes to the thoughts and reactions of non-vegans, whether they be friends, family, co-workers, or just people you meet. Chances are you will be ridiculed, warned about your health by self-appointed “health experts”, treated to attacks from home-spun irrational philosophers, even ostracised. And the crazy thing is that this is usually from the most ignorant.
The trick is to be prepared. Dealing with these issues is challenging at the start, but the more often you address them, the more confident you will become. You will soon recognize the most familiar lines and build up your own stock answers to them. Remember that science and philosophy are on your side. There are plenty of online resources to help you, including vegan Youtube channels, you may find some receipts in the form of free PDF books to download online. And try to adopt an engaging and positive approach wherever possible because you are now an advocate for doing the right thing.
Staying the course – Making the transition can appear daunting but do not despair; you are not alone. There are more like-minded vegans than you might imagine, wherever you live. “A problem shared is a problem halved”, so get involved in on-line vegan communities such as Facebook or forums, or join local vegan clubs. And if there isn’t one, start one!
-Sheldon Hey from Vegan SA
What are the benefits of a vegan diet on our overall health?
In a socio-cultural and economic environment, with large-scale publicity aimed towards influencing the consumption of products and, as consequence, diets, we grow up with the idea that we need animal products such as meat and milk to achieve good health and, many times, social status. However, a strictly vegetarian diet is filled with all the nutrients our bodies need and is scientifically proved to be effective in keeping the body healthy at any stage of a human being’s life.
There are many studies that report the benefits of being vegan and following a plant-based diet. This kind of diet tends to offer more fibers, antioxidants, as well as being even richer in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and E.
According to the American Heart Association, this type of diet is also effective at preventing cardiac diseases. A study was carried out by the association with 100 participants with pre-existing heart conditions to rate the performance of heart functions for patients with omnivorous and vegetarian diets. The vegetarian diet was shown to significantly reduce systemic inflammation and improved the lipid profiles for the patients, while this wasn’t the case for those with an omnivore diet.
Among other benefits of being vegan is the potential to reduce risks for some types of cancer. Regularly eating vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer by 9 to 18%. Among the cancers that we can reduce the chances of risk, we have prostate cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
It can be observed that plant-based living is not only healthy and diverse but can also help us live better and longer.
-Alex Felipelli, Founder and CEO at Veggly
How can we make sure we are not deficient in any important nutrient when eating a vegan diet?
It would be wise when transitioning to a vegan diet to do a little research to see what nutrients your body needs and where to get them from. The only thing you need to supplement is B12. Everything else you can obtain from the food you eat. If you are eating a variety of whole plant-based foods then you should have no trouble meeting your nutrient needs. One of the most common things that people worry about is where they will get their protein from. The truth is that most people consume more protein than they need. By opting for healthy protein sources such as quinoa, tofu, tempeh, beans, chickpeas, and nuts, you will be getting plenty of protein, as well as nutrients. How do meat eaters know they are deficient in nutrients on their diet? They don’t. They just consume a variety of foods and address any issues that may arise as they go along. Vegans do the same thing. Avoid being a junk food vegan, instead opting for a variety of whole foods.
-Jacqueline Bodnar, MPW, Professional Writer / Blogger at VegBlogger.com
Why is it believed that the vegan diet helps strengthen the immune system and how can you do it properly?
A whole-foods, plant-based, vegan diet strengthens the immune system in three ways. First, when our diet is full of colorful plants, we are nourished with powerful antioxidants from those foods. Second, these foods – whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables – provide us with nourishing vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Third, eating a more vegan diet often means eating less inflammatory foods like processed sugar and refined flour.
The easiest way to properly nourish on a vegan diet is to eat the rainbow. Fill your plate with colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains. Plants get these colors from the powerful antioxidants they contain. For instance, blue foods (like blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, and purple potatoes) all contain anthocyanin. Orange foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and navel oranges all contain beta-carotene. Red foods like tomatoes, red bell peppers, and strawberries contain lycopene. Even brown foods like mushrooms and potatoes have antioxidants!
Together, all of these antioxidants create a rainbow of protection. They boost your immunity, fighting toxins, and protecting you from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Plus, they’ve been linked to improving eye health, glowing skin, and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you’re not sure where to start, just try to add more color to what you’re already eating. Can you add a few slices of tomato to that sandwich? Could you toss some spinach into that pasta? What about snacking on some carrots or adding some bell peppers to your tacos? The more colorful plants you eat, the more you will boost that immunity! You can read more on this topic here.
-Katie Simmons from Plants Rule
How can you achieve weight loss with a Vegan diet?
With any diet, there are a few things that must be done to achieve weight loss. It is all about moderation and making sure you not only eat right but also exercise. People who sign up with Yes. Fit’s platform are 48% more active than those who do not.
Additionally, those who choose to eat a plant-based or Vegan diet had good results, as it differed from the typical American diet, consisting of excess sodium, saturated fat, refined grains, and calories from solid fats. If you do decide to go vegan to lose weight, here are some other insights:
- Choose foods that have been minimally processed
- People who choose to go Vegan for weight loss purposes tend to consume more fruits and vegetables which are high in fiber, which is a factor associated with weight loss.
- Consume 40 grams of fiber a day from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
- Make sure you stay hydrated and try to drink water before meals. Studies suggest that drinking water before meals can reduce how many calories you consume.
- Get enough sleep: Skipping those zzz’s can help demotivate you, leading to skipping your workout. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that when people were sleep-deprived, snacking late at night increased, of those snacks were more likely to choose ones that were higher in carbs.
- Regardless of what diet you choose to lose weight, planning is imperative for success. Making sure you have healthy meals and snacks for the week on hand is a sure way to lead to success!
- Using food apps like MyFitnessPal or Carb Manager can also help you track your food and calorie consumption.
– Victoria Shepherd from Yes.Fit
How do you recommend finding support from other fellow vegans when making the transition to a vegan lifestyle?
I encourage people to go vegan as soon as possible, but if it’s near the end of the year and you’re considering going vegan, you could take part in the annual Veganuary challenge. Veganuary takes place during January each year and challenges people to go vegan for the whole month – and hopefully to stay vegan forever! Taking part in the challenge along with hundreds of thousands of other people can really help to kickstart your switch to the vegan lifestyle, and by signing up to the challenge you’ll receive informative newsletters and access to a wealth of useful resources.
For even more personalized support at any time of the year, Challenge 22 encourages people to try going vegan for 22 days (and again, hopefully, stay vegan forever!) and provides free online guidance by mentors and registered dieticians. When you sign up for Challenge 22 you gain access to a private Facebook group where a team of experienced vegan mentors is available to answer any question you may have about veganism. You can even ask to be assigned a personal mentor who will help you with any specific difficulty you have encountered.
Searching Facebook for local groups can be a great way to find local vegans who will be able to provide you with lots of information, like where to eat out as a vegan in your local city, the best shops for buying plant-based foods, etc. For example, if I search Facebook for ‘Vegan Leeds’ (my home city), the results return four large local groups where I can connect with other vegans. Offline meetups are sometimes organized in these groups too, for example, a group visit to a local vegan restaurant, so you can get to know other local vegans ‘in real life’ as well as online.
Finally, vegan festivals are a great way to not only discover and support lots of great small vegan businesses but also meet other vegans.
Good luck in making the change – you won’t regret it!
-Brit, VP Vegan Marketing
When trying to switch our skincare to vegan alternatives, what can we look for to know it’s completely vegan?
In skincare, many ingredients have to be listed with their INCI which stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. An example is the INCI for olive oil is Olea Europaea.
This could be confusing for some when reading the list of skincare ingredients. Many companies want to tell the world if their products are vegan and will label this clearly.
We use The Vegan Society trademark logo on all of our products as this is an internationally recognized symbol.
-Mary-Anne, Heavenly Organics Skin Care
How do you know when a beauty product is cruelty-free? What should we be looking for?
First, check to see if the beauty brand is listed on Leaping Bunny’s Cruelty-Free List or PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies List. You can also check my cruelty-free brands list. If the brand is in either of these three spots, great! It’s easy to tell they’re cruelty-free.
If it is a smaller brand, such as an indie brand like Necromancy Cosmetica, Fyrinnae, or Sydney Grace Co, you’ll want to check their FAQ page or about page to see if they list their cruelty-free status. Most indie brands will be very transparent. Necromancy Cosmetica, for example, states that their lipsticks are made with 100% vegan materials that have never been tested on animals.
If a brand isn’t on Leaping Bunny’s, PETA’s, or my cruelty-free list, and they don’t have the details in their FAQ page, you’ll need to email them.
The questions I typically ask a new brand now are as follows: (these questions were created with my bestie Jen from My Beauty Bunny
1. Is your company certified by Leaping Bunny/CCIC?
2. Are the products vegetarian? (no animals killed for the products – i.e. some forms of collagen, squalane, etc.)
3. Are the products vegan? (i.e. product ingredients that come from animals like lanolin, honey, milk, etc.
- Are the finished products tested on animals by the company, a parent company, a third party or an affiliate company?
5. Are the products tested on animals during the production process by the company, a parent company, a third party or an affiliate company?
6. Do you have documents from your ingredient suppliers to show that they are not testing on animals for your brand or any other brand?
7. Does your manufacturer purchase any ingredients from laboratories that conduct tests on animals? Do you have documents to support this?
8. Are the products sold in any markets where animal testing is required by local law and regulations (China, etc)?
9. If the products are sold in China, please explain how you are avoiding pre-market testing (are you aligned with PETA or Leaping Bunny)?
The information you’re looking for is whether or not the brand tests on animals or if the brand contracts out to their manufacturers/suppliers/a third-party vendor for animal testing.
-Courtney, founder of Phyrra
How do you suggest doing the transition to a vegan lifestyle?
Go vegan any way that works for you! I went vegan overnight, but that doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s a-ok! I hear a lot of people say something along the lines of “I could go vegan except for cheese”. So then go vegan except for the cheese! Every step in the right direction is awesome and will do wonders for your health, the animals, and the planet. Head to the grocery store and stock up on lots of vegan foods that you are already familiar with and love to eat- fruit, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, pasta, tomato sauce, cereals, potatoes, plant milks, popcorn, hummus, whatever it is you like to eat. So that when hunger strikes, you are surrounded by lots of yummy vegan food to enjoy! Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake (we all make mistakes); it’s not about being perfect, it’s just about doing the best you can. 🙂
-Sam Turnbull, Vegan Blogger & Cookbook Author at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
What can we use as vegan substitutes for the animal products we normally eat in an omnivore diet?
If someone is looking for an easy store bought substitute, there are many premade products these days. From mock meats, to dairy free cheeses and substitutes for other dairy products.
However many of those aren’t best as a main portion of your diet as they are overly processed and contain extra things like sodium and added sugars. While we eat them from time to time, we try and stick to nourishing foods for the main part of our diet. So finding recipes using whole foods to recreate the flavor and textures of the things you love is a great option. My site is filled with these, for example my cheese sauces and main courses like my vegan Shepard’s Pie and Vegan Gyros, plus so many more.
-Sophia DeSantis, Vegan Blogger at Veggies Don’t Bite
What recommendations can you give us to raise vegan children?
Raising vegan children can come with a set of unique challenges for parents. Talking to children about veganism from an early age can be a daunting task. Especially as reasons for being vegan are not always kid-friendly. However, it’s important to be transparent with your child about why your family is vegan, even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first. There are a lot of resources out there from vegan children’s books to vegan subscription services like Vegancuts. After all, as a parent, you never want your child to feel like they are “missing out”. At Vegancuts we curate 100% vegan snack boxes each month to showcase the very best vegan products on the market. Embracing fun experiences like subscription boxes go a long way to ensuring your kids don’t feel “left out” – and who knows, it might even make their friends jealous!
-Jase Quelch, Vegancuts Content Manager
When raising vegan children, how do you make sure they are having a balanced diet?
My children are currently 13 and 16 years old, and they have both been vegan their entire life. I ensure that they have a balanced diet by offering them a wide variety of foods at each meal. We eat a pretty typical diet with things just swapped out. For example, I may make a lasagna with tofu ricotta instead of dairy-based ricotta and vegan sausage instead of meat. Since my kids are now active teenage boys, they crave a lot of protein. I make sure to include something like beans, tofu, seitan, or TVP in most meals. Growing children need a lot of calories and healthy fat for brain development, so I think that it’s important to not be overly focused on “health” foods that may not have enough fat and calories. Veganism is not a “diet” and restrictive eating; it is a decision not to contribute to the suffering of animals.
–Monica, Recipe Developer, Writer, and Photographer for The Hidden Veggies
How do you suggest making vegan meals fun for kids and get them to like veggies?
The best way to introduce kids to a vegan diet is to make it fun. Cutting up veggies in creative shapes with cookie cutters or freehand. You can also make a creamy cheese sauce from cauliflower! Below are two recipes: Vegan ranch for dipping veggies in and a creamy cheese sauce.
- 2 cups vegan mayonnaise (Hellmans makes a really good one)
- 1 tbsp dried dill
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (You can get this at Bulk barn)
Mix until all ingredients are combined. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month
Creamy cheese sauce:
- 1 head cauliflower steamed until very soft. Drained and patted dry.
- 1 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
Blend in a blender until all ingredients are incorporated and the sauce is smooth.
You can use this sauce for mac and cheese, over cooked broccoli or for nachos.
– Elyse Keegan, Executive Chef at Plant Matter Family of restaurants
Besides eating a vegan diet, what other changes can we make at home to have a fully vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle?
The latest research from Oxford University joins an avalanche of other research and dispels any doubt about the importance of our diet – the most telling thing anyone can do to help save the planet is to go vegan. That simple change will also improve your health and save animals from suffering. But once you’ve made that decision, all kinds of inconsistencies start to jostle for attention and if you really do want to tread lightly on this planet, you can’t ignore them.
What you wear is probably top of the list – leather and wool in particular. Leather is the skin of slaughtered animals so if you wouldn’t eat them why would you wear them? A large proportion of wool is sheered from slaughtered animals and for living animals, it is a stressful and painful experience. And no, leather and wool are not just ‘by-products’ but part of the industries’ profitability.
Alpaca, angora, and other fringe wools and fibers are every bit as cruel and as for fur – well, surely no one who is capable of reading can still be unaware of just how barbaric the fur industry really is. The old campaigning slogan still sums it up – ‘beautiful creatures worn by ugly people’.
There is such a vast range of cosmetics and toiletries that are still tested on animals that it’s impossible to give a comprehensive list so check them out with Cruelty Free International. Similarly with food colorings, flavorings and additives. The red coloring cochineal comes from beetles, shellac used to make some sweeties shiny also comes from beetle, their carpaces, gelatine is ligaments and gristle and finds its way into a vast range of foods, particularly chewy confectionary such as fruit gums. Viva!’s website is a useful source of info as is the Vegan Society.
Until the flood of new vegan products came tumbling on to the market, the old vegan stand-by was chips and beans. In some areas (particularly Ireland) chips are still cooked in lard (animal fat).
When you start on the vegan journey you automatically become a label reader but very quickly you learn which products are free from animal bits and pieces and which aren’t. Often a product will be denied a vegan label simply because it’s made in the same factory as non-vegan foods. Yes, there is an outside chance of minuscule contamination but the warning is there largely to cover the backs of the manufacturers from possible litigation should someone show an allergic reaction.
Being cruelty free is a learning process and vegan Facebook groups are a brilliant source of information and are happy to answer your questions.
-Tony Wardle, Associate Director & Editor at Viva!
What kind of materials should we look to incorporate in our home to make it vegan and cruelty-free?
- Decorative Pillows:“Covers made from linen, bamboo, and organic cotton are healthier alternatives to leather and wool. They are free from harmful chemicals, vegan, and super soft.”
- Pillow Inserts:“Consider rubber, kapok, or buckwheat fill for your decorative pillows instead of foam. These fills, unlike foam, are completely organic and free from off-gassing (the harmful chemicals that foam releases). They are also vegan.”
- Sofa Cushion Filling:“When a sofa, for example, is touted as faux, make sure you check the fill. The upholstery can be a faux leather or velvet. However, the foam cushions underneath can be wrapped in feathers or down.”
- Comforters and Blankets:“How yummy to wrap yourself in a soft thick cotton, bamboo, or faux fur blanket. These are much healthier, kinder options that contain less chemicals than a wool or down-filled blanket.”
- Rugs:“I’m a fan of cotton, hemp, jute, and sisal. They are affordable, organic, and have fewer chemicals than wool or silk rugs. Plus, there are endless styles and patterns that are non-animal based.”
- Printed Fabrics:“Printed fabrics are beautiful and come in endless prices and styles. Try to find fabrics that use natural dyes that are either vegetable or water-based.”
– Deborah DiMare, founder of VeganDesign.Org
What tips can you give us to start a vegan lifestyle and actually stick to it?
Our Top 10 Tips to Get You Started
- It’s all in the planning!
Don’t wake up on the first day of your vegan adventure without having thought about what you might eat! That is the absolute quickest way to fall off the wagon. Ahead of time, have a think about your first day’s meals and buy plant milk for your breakfast and coffee or tea, some dairy-free butter for toast or sandwiches, and something tasty for your dinner.
Some people find making a weekly meal planner helpful, so they always know what they need to shop for and what they will be eating.
- Look out for accidentally vegan foods
There are so many everyday foods that just happen to be vegan, so open up your cupboard and take a look. Pasta, rice, peanut butter and Marmite, most breads, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and kidney beans, jam and marmalade, coconut milk, curry pastes, tomato puree, baked beans, many crisps, crackers and biscuits, herbs and spices, many gravy granules, tea, coffee and fruit juice… There is a good chance that half the foods you already eat are vegan!
- Ease yourself in
There is no need to reinvent your whole eating habits. If you like a sausage sandwich, have one – just make sure the sausages are vegan. If you want ice cream, go ahead. There are dozens of different delicious flavours out there. You can have almost everything you had before in a vegan version, so just switch like for like.
- Veganise your favourite dishes
Again, there is no need to adopt a whole new eating regime. If your signature dish is lasagne, make a vegan version with soya mince and plant milk for the béchamel. If you love a morning fry-up, you can make it with vegan bacon and sausages. Whether you cook curries, casseroles, soups, stews, pies and pasties, roast dinners, cakes, desserts or anything else, simply veganise it.
- When you’re ready, branch out
Many people find that becoming vegan opens up a whole new world of recipes and ingredients, and rekindles their love of great food. Once you’ve got the hang of the basics, why not jump in and try some brand-new recipes (there are thousands online) and see if it ignites your culinary passions.
- Keep snacks to hand
Don’t get caught out! It’s really easy to pick up vegan snacks in most places but not everywhere, so make sure you keep a bag of nuts, a chocolate bar or some fruit in your bag or car just in case.
- Persistence pays
Not every vegan product will work for you but just because the first cheese you try or the first latte you make doesn’t hit the spot, don’t rule out all other cheeses and plant milks. There are so many different ones to try – cream cheese, melty cheeses, nut-based, coconut-based, soya-based, all flavours and lots of different brands and styles; and as for milks, you’ll find oat, hemp, almond, coconut, rice and soya. Try them all, and you will soon find your perfect match.
Like eating out? Download the HappyCow app onto your phone and let it guide you to your nearest restaurant, café or shop where you can find vegan food wherever you are in the world.
- Find your tribe
It’s easy to feel isolated as a new vegan but there are millions of us out there. Find your local vegan meetup group and make like-minded friends in real life or search online for vegan groups that interest you. From vegan runners to bakers to knitters; from vegan weightlifters to fashionistas to activists. They’re all there waiting for you.
- Be kind to yourself
Everyone makes mistakes. Whether you ate something non-vegan accidentally or simply gave in to temptation, it’s OK. It doesn’t mean you are no longer vegan; it just means you are human! Chalk it up to experience and move forward.
-Toni Vernelli from Veganuary
What should a healthy vegan meal plan include, what do you suggest taking into consideration?
When making a healthy vegan meal plan, you can start out by focusing on each meal containing at least one source of plant-based protein, such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, nut butter etc. For ease, I’d suggest making big batches of certain dishes that can be eaten more than once – soups, pasta sauces, stews, and curries all reheat well the next day, and can be frozen too. Dressings and sauces are also great for livening up vegetables, beans or grains, and can be made in batches and stored in the fridge – they’re really useful for having on hand when you’re in a rush and want to quickly throw something together.
– Rhian Williams from Rhian’s Recipes
How do you suggest starting the transition from being an omnivore to a vegan lifestyle?
Ready to go vegan, but nervous about making the switch overnight? You don’t have to! If life is busy and the idea of changing the way you eat feels overwhelming, try one of these slow-and-steady approaches instead:
- Try one new vegan recipe a week
- Eat one fully vegan meal per day
- Pick up at least one new plant-based food every time you go to the grocery store
- Watch one new documentary each week to strengthen your resolve (What The Health, the Game Changers, Seaspiracy, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives)
- Pick up a vegan cookbook and work your way through the recipes (The Friendly Vegan Cookbook is a great place to start).
Focus on “crowding out” the animal foods you used to rely on with new equally delicious vegan options. Choosing vegan is not about deprivation, but rather exploring a whole new world of colorful plant-powered foods, cuisines, and dishes. When you’re creating meals, you can look to food staples like rice, beans, pasta, bread, veggies, fruit, and nuts. You can easily veganize burritos, sandwiches, soups, pizza, tacos, lasagna—you name it. Plus, today you can find vegan versions of almost everything—burgers, deli slices, cheese, butter, ice cream, coffee creamer—even whipped cream! And don’t forget to explore ethnic cuisines that can be extremely vegan-friendly, such as Ethiopian, Meditteranean, and Thai.
Are you ready? Take a peek at this handy vegan guide for more support and just remember, there is no such thing as a “perfect vegan.” Be gentle with yourself, just by trying you’re doing something great for yourself, the planet, and animals.
What mistakes should be avoided when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?
First things first – don’t be too hard on yourself. Some people find it easier than others to give up animal products completely from day 1, but others may go back to their normal eating habits from time to time, and both are ok; that’s just part of the process. Don’t beat yourself up for “not doing it right”.
Next, try to avoid vegan junk food. Most people think that just by being vegan, you’re automatically healthier, but that’s definitely not the case if your daily meals just consist of burgers and pizza. I highly recommend you do your research and have lots of healthy vegan recipes on hand to experiment with. Personally, I’m a fan of adding at least 50% raw food into your daily meals as that gives you lots more nutrition. Try dividing your plate in half – fill half your plate with something cooked and make the other half a salad.
Lastly, don’t worry about protein and calorie counting. It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein. In fact, vegetarians and vegans actually average 70% more protein than they need every day. Just make sure you have plenty of variety, listen to what your body needs (not craves!) and enjoy your food.
-Anya Andreeva, founder of Live Love Raw and author of “How To Be A Raw Foodie”.
How can we build a vegan pantry at home? What meals should be included?
Just because someone is a vegan does not mean they will be naturally thin and super healthy. This is because it is still possible to have too many calories as a vegan, despite the wealth of nutrient-dense foods to choose from. So, every effort needs to be made to create balanced meals.
This can be a challenge, especially if you are first starting out as a vegan. One reason for this is because certain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B12 and Iron, are more easily found in meat products. In addition, Iron is more readily absorbed in the body when paired with meat.
Let’s talk about the challenges vegans face when putting meals together. Create healthy and balanced meal combinations that will leave you full of energy.
Getting Adequate Protein
People who eat meat take getting enough protein for granted. All they need to do is consume dairy products and a serving or two of meat or fish a day to do it. But vegans need to get their protein from plant sources. Fortunately, there are things in the plant world that are still rich in protein:
- Soy Products
- Nuts, seeds, nut milk, and nut butter.
- Grains, especially quinoa and farro
- Legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans.
Another suggestion is to drink one or two protein shakes or a protein powder drink daily. Just make sure the packaging indicates that it is vegan friendly. A popular ingredient in most protein powders is whey, which is derived from milk and should be avoided.
Getting Enough Iron in Your Diet
For women, getting enough Iron is enough of a challenge. For a vegan, it is even tougher, and many vegans end up with iron deficiencies. On the advice of your doctor, you may want to take an iron supplement. You can find plant-based, vegan-friendly iron supplements at the health food store. In addition, eat these foods:
- Green beans
- Brewer’s yeast (a supplement)
- Wheat germ
- Lima beans
- Dried fruit such as raisins and prunes
- Cooking in a cast iron skillet
- Blackstrap molasses (use in baking or take as a supplement)
To make plant protein more absorbable, pair it with a vitamin C-rich food, drink, or supplement. For example, you can have a small glass of orange with a meal that contains a lot of Iron.
Eat Foods Rich in B-Vitamins
Vegans get enough of most of the B Vitamins because grains are a good source. However, Vitamin B 12 is a little more challenging. Supplementing with a vegan-friendly version of B12, which is often synthetic. Some cereals and drinks also contain B12.
Getting Enough Calcium
Thanks to fortification, it is easier than ever for a vegan to get their calcium. Here are plant-based choices to consider:
Pea protein, hemp milk, flax milk, almond milk, cashew milk, rice and soy milk are often fortified with calcium. Make sure the product is vegan-friendly and contains a good amount of calcium.
Leafy green veggies and other vegetables such as Bok choy, collard greens, turnip greens, and okra are also rich in calcium.
When preparing the vegetables, try not to boil them unless you drink the water. A lot of the calcium leaves the food during the cooking process and goes into the water.
15 Must have items for your Vegan Pantry.
1. Beans. Pinto, black, kidney, chickpea, lentil, cannellini beans, navy, pink, lima, mung. As you can see, the variety of beans (dried or canned) provides lots of opportunities for creativity. They are great additions to soups, salads, stews even meatless meatloaf.
2. Grains. Black rice, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, spelt, millet, bulgar, teff are all grains that have great flavor, texture and all add to the nutrition that a vegan needs.
3. Tempeh. Tempeh can be one of the best staple sources of protein. It can be refrigerated for a week or two (check the date on the package) and will keep up to several months in the freezer.
4. Tofu. Extra-firm tofu for baking and frying, vacuum-packed silken tofu to blend into dressings and puddings, and dried tofu for soups and stir-fries. Tofu is an essential part of the vegan pantry. Choose non-GMO whenever possible.
5. Nuts. Pistachio, walnut, almond, pecan, pine, brazil – nuts are a great source of protein. They can be used in salads, pesto, meatless meat recipes, desserts, and just for snacking. Nuts have natural oils. They can turn rancid. Store in the freezer to keep them fresh.
6. Dried fruits. Pineapple, apple, raisins, apricots, coconut, papaya, mango, and dates are not only great for snacking, but they are a creative way to add flavor and texture to grain dishes, vegetable braises, and sautéed greens.
7. Vegetable stock. Making stock from scratch is as simple as storing the veggies you might throw away like onions, peppers, celery and boiling them for an hour, draining the cooked vegetables, and storing the stock in the refrigerator. There are also many store-bought options to choose from.
8. Nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is used to flavor sauces, add to breading and potatoes. It has a cheesy flavor that many enjoy on popcorn.
9. Miso. White Miso and Red Miso add savory to soups, vegetables, tofu, and dressings. You can even use them in desserts. I make a Dark Chocolate Banana Cheesecake with Red Miso Caramel that is ridiculously delicious. Miso is stored in the refrigerator.
10. Tahini. Tahini, or sesame paste is one of my favorite vegan pantry ingredients. It can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. I use it in my Chickpea burger recipe to add moisture, nutrients.
11. Dried Sea vegetables. Seaweed, nori sheets, and hijiki are great additions to broth or used to wrap around vegetables and rice. They are also great to snack on.
12. Grapeseed oil. From making rich curries and roasting vegetables, baking and to searing tofu and coconut oil is super versatile.
14. Maple syrup. Maple syrup is my favorite natural sweetener. It is perfect for baking, making dressing, and glazes. It is even great in tea, coffee, or smoothies.
15. Ground flax seeds. Flax seeds are super nutritious and loaded with fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. I love them stirred in my oats, mixed into smoothies, and baked into breads and muffins. And, combined with a little bit of water, ground flax also works as an egg substitute.
Quick Meals from Your Vegan Pantry
Garlicky Butterbean Soup with Greens
Sticky Orange Sesame Tofu
Miso Shitake Ramen Soup
-Sherimane from Naturally Sweet Desserts
Since some store-bought meat and dairy vegan substitutes can be very expensive, how can we keep our meal prep on the cheap side?
Vegan meats and cheeses are wonderful and I’m really glad they exist, but if you’re on a tight budget, my key advice is to make a meal plan around whole food ingredients. You can whip up magnificent dishes using affordable options like lentils, split peas, oats, beans, rice, fruits, vegetables, and so much more. Instead of thinking you need vegan beef for your taco filling, try Lentil Tacos. Instead of vegan cheese in your Scalloped Potatoes, make your own sauce. It requires a little extra effort, but it’s worth it in the taste and in the wallet.
Meal planning is also an essential part of saving money on food. Prior to grocery shopping, make sure to take inventory of what’s already stocked in your pantry and refrigerator and plan your meals around what you have onhand. This allows you to spend less money, make sure you use up food before it expires, and helps to avoid impulsive purchases at the grocery store. If you’re looking for something comprehensive to help you get started on your meal planning journey, check out the Plant-Based on a Budget free meal plan that will help you bring your grocery bill to just $25 for the week!
-Toni Okamoto, author of Plant-Based on Budget and co-author of “The Friendly Vegan Cookbook”
Can you give us a few examples of easy-to-make nutritious vegan meals for a beginner vegan?
Making nutritious vegan meals is much easier than most people think. Oftentimes new vegans focus on the foods they can no longer eat but I’ve learned to focus more on the foods that you can eat. Typically when I plan meals I try to think about what’s in season and go from there.
Right now summer is in full swing so for breakfast, I like to add lots of fresh berries and nuts over a big bowl of oatmeal or overnight oats. Avocado toast is another option that is easy to add into your breakfast rotation.
You can really get creative by adding things like sauteed mushrooms and spinach to make it more filling. Lunch and dinner are also pretty easy. Sauteing fresh broccoli, kale, and mushrooms in lots of fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil and tossing it over a bowl of pasta with some fresh seasonal herbs is super easy and filling.
-Shantelle Gary from Let’s Be Vegan
What Vegan & Plant-based swaps can we use when making desserts to avoid using any animal products?
When baking, there are various vegan & plant-based options we can choose to avoid Animal Products. Sweet Vegan loves using plant-based milk for baking & chocolate making! Better for your body, mind, and the environment! All the options are gluten and lactose-free.
Dairy Milk– One cup contains 150 calories and 7g of protein. Depending on what you are whipping up in your kitchen, you will need to select the plant-based milk that matches up best with this consistency and flavor profile.
When developing my chocolate creations I discovered many great dairy alternatives. The best options are based on the goods and results/taste you want to achieve!
Oat Milk– One cup of oat milk contains 130 calories and 4g of protein. Great for baking since the flavor profile does not alter or clash with the baked goods. Higher in carbs than almond, coconut, and rice milk, which gives you lasting energy and fuels your body. Recommend using for: lighter flavor muffins, cakes, and pastries. Use 1:1 ratio for dairy. Shake well! Makes an awesome cappuccino and latte!
Almond Milk– One cup of almond milk contains 60 calories and 1g of protein. There is no cholesterol or saturated fat in almond milk. Generally good for baking but can leave an almondy flavoring. This might be desired in heartier muffins & bread but not for your lemon/blueberry/fruity treats. Adjust baking time as needed. Contains more water than other kinds of milk, and baked goods will bake faster. Will leave a dryer to feel to your finished product. This milk will add a warm & nutty flavor to your dessert making!
Rice Milk– One cup of rice milk contains 112 calories and 0.7g of Protein. It has a minimal flavor and the lightness makes it perfect for chocolate making! A great choice for those with nut and/or soy allergies.
Soy Milk– One cup of soy milk contains 131 calories and 7g of protein. Nutritionally, it is the most similar to cow’s milk. Helps deliver a creamy texture to your delicious creations while being low in calories and high in protein. Soy being a common food allergy and a strong flavor personality, this would be the downside to this milk alternative.
With so many great options out there, it is important that you choose what is best for you, the people that you love, and the delicious treat you will be making of course! Like anything, baking & chocolate making is based on trial and error, so if something doesn’t work, there is always another solution. Mistakes are edible! Enjoy the process and have fun creating your own!
-Chef Andrea, Owner & Founder at Sweet Vegan
What is the secret to baking a perfectly fluffy and moist cake without using any animal products like eggs, milk, and butter? Which substitutes do you use to make it still be delicious and decadent?
There are lots of vegan substitutes for eggs, milk, and butter available today. But I find that instead of trying to substitute these ingredients in a non- vegan recipe, using a simple vegan cake recipe tends to yield better results.
Vegan baking is easy once you get started! At first it’s all about trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try a recipe a few times and to experiment. My advice would be to start simple, go for a Victoria sponge cake or simple chocolate fudge cake.
Take a look online as there are so many fantastic recipes available at your fingertips. Virtually anything can be made vegan now and there are so many brilliant vegan bakers sharing their recipes, hints and tips.
In Bo’s Book, the cookbook I created to help raise funds for disabled animal charity Miracle’s Mission, I have a delicious gluten free and vegan chocolate cake recipe that rises beautifully & is light and fluffy whilst still tasting rich and decadent.
At The Vegan Chef School we offer an Online Vegan Cooking Diploma which can help any new vegan to learn tried & tested recipes and help you gain confidence cooking vegan food at home!
– Chef Day from The Vegan Chef School
How can we make sure that we are getting all the required nutrients that our body needs with a vegan diet?
Check out our vegan food plate, which offers a simple guide to healthy plant-based nutrition. The composition of the vegan plate corresponds to current scientific knowledge regarding the health effects of what we eat and drink on a plant-based diet.
-Anna-Lena Klapp, Nutrition and Health Specialist at Proveg International
Why is it important for vegans to supplement with B12 vitamin? Why is this necessary?
Vitamin B12 used to be found in the soil where we farm our food. But over the centuries of over-farming, our soil is mostly barren of naturally occurring B12, which leaves no plant-based sources of it (although it’s worth noting that B12 deficiency rates are about the same in both vegans and non-vegans alike). B12 is a very important vitamin, and deficiencies can have symptoms ranging from sluggishness all the way to irreversible brain damage! A deficiency can take years to develop, as we can store it in our livers for 3-7 years, so even if you haven’t supplemented for years and your blood tests are fine now, it doesn’t mean that they will be down the line. With vitamin B12 supplements being so affordable and readily available, there is no reason not to take the supplement and stay healthy — vegan or not.
– Dani Taylor, Vegan Strong Assistant Tour Director, Author, Vegan Strength Coach, and Natural Bodybuilding Athlete
What would be your recommendation to create a vegan and cruelty-free home?
Creating a vegan and cruelty-free home starts with a simple choice, and if you stay true to that choice, then your home will be vegan and cruelty-free without much effort at all!
Nowadays, there are vegan-friendly products in every category, whether grocery or personal care or clothes, you name it. So all it takes is to be conscious when shopping and determine whether the products you are purchasing come from cruelty-free places. If you do that, then before you know it, your entire home will be well on its way to 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
-Govinda from Auromère
Why did you go vegan and what do you recommend to help others with the transition?
These days, I think less about being “Vegan,” than I do about simply being kind. While I love the v-word and I’m grateful that people finally know what it is – – when I changed my lifestyle back in 1983, nobody had a clue — I think that sometimes it can be a bit divisive. And in the current climate in the U.S. and around the world, more divisiveness is the last thing we need.
I choose to eat a fully plant-based diet, and I also strive to live a cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable life to the degree that I am able. I was attracted to vegetarianism as a teenager when I started reading about yoga and the concept that it would be very difficult to sustain a spiritual life while consuming the flesh of slaughtered animals. I had been vegetarian for a few years when I heard about veganism. I learned that baby boys in egg operations are killed almost immediately upon hatching, and that some 99% of the little girl chicks go into confinement agriculture systems.
I also learned that female cows behave like all other female mammals, providing milk for their babies, not simply “giving it” like some kind of machine. In order for a dairy cow to be commercially viable, she has to be impregnated once a year via artificial insemination. The bond between the mother cow and baby calf is especially strong, and yet the baby is removed within 1 to 3 days of birth, and the grief-stricken cries of both haunt the people who hear them, until they have heard it so many times that they become numb.
And eventually, all animals in the agriculture system end up at a slaughterhouse. So, I knew that I would have to evolve into being a complete vegetarian, aka vegan. It was tough back then – this was long before the Impossible Whopper and vegan milks in every supermarket and Starbucks. Even so, after a series of fits and starts, it stuck.
Of course I had nutritional questions. I wanted to know about protein. Then I learned that lack of protein, other than in cases of starvation, is almost impossible to bring about. Even vegans on a varied whole foods diet get more protein than necessary, but plant protein is not harmful, even in excess, while dangers of excess animal protein include its ability to turn on otherwise latent cancer cells.
I wanted to know about calcium and learned that leafy greens are full of it – – the cow got hers from eating grass, after all – – and these days, most of the commercial vegan milks are fortified with the same amount of calcium found in cow’s milk, or even 50 percent more. (Check the label to be sure what you’re getting.)
I wanted to know about iron and learned that even though heme iron in red meat is more readily assimilated by the body than is the iron in plant foods, vegan women and omnivorous women tend to experience anemia at almost identical rates. To ensure adequate iron intake as a vegan, eat iron-rich foods such as leafy greens with a vitamin-C-rich food, i.e., just splash on some lemon juice. Eat dried fruits, or soak them and drink the soaking water. Get a cast iron pot or skillet, uncoated, and use it for as much cooking as possible. Some of that iron gets into your body, especially if the food you’re cooking something acidic, such as a pasta sauce. And a favorite food of the old time “health fanatics” is blackstrap molasses. Even 1 tablespoon per day is like a supplement of both iron and calcium. Put it in a smoothie or mix into some vegan yogurt (usually made from almond or cashew milk, or look for soy yogurt if you have a nut allergy).
Speaking of supplements, the one that all vegetarians and vegans need to be taking is vitamin B12. It is made from bacteria and therefore not readily available in plant foods. The supplements come in many forms, such as sublingual, to dissolve under the tongue. They’re very easy to take and the amount needed is quite small, around 10 micrograms per day. The Academy of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health recommends supplementary vitamin B 12 for everyone over 50, regardless of their food choices. As the dietitian Virginia Messina is fond of saying, “If needing to take B12 means that being vegan is unnatural, I guess being over 50 is unnatural too.”
The longer I live, the more I see that making vegan choices is simply one more way to be caring to other beings; responsible in terms of the welfare of the planet —animal agriculture is a major contributor to environmental degradation; and a grateful steward of my own body. While some people look at veganism and have dietary concerns, others embrace it to save their lives. Indeed, a whole, plant-based diet has been shown to prevent and reverse such scourges as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
If you’d like to get started on this rewarding way of eating and living, check out websites including Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Nutrition Facts.org. Read my book, Main Street Vegan, and check out my Main Street Vegan podcast. Weekly since 2009, we are nearing our 240th episode. And check out the documentaries: Vegucated about making the switch. What the Health? details health aspects. The Gamechangers is about athleticism and strength. A Prayer for Compassion is about spirituality (all faith traditions) and food choices.
Once you have the information you need, get some support, in person or online. Look for vegans in your area via Meetup groups. One of these days, I believe that eating animal foods will be seen as smoking cigarettes is now: a few people still do it, but it’s been a long, long time since it was cool.
– Victoria Moran, founder of Main Street Vegan, author of books including Main Street Vegan and The Love-Powered Diet. Host of the Main Street Vegan Podcast and head of Main Street Vegan Academy
When planning your family vacations, how can you find vegan hotels and restaurant options?
When planning a family holiday, ensuring that you will be catered for as a vegan is an essential part of your preparation. If we were to suggest one essential travel tool for finding restaurants that serve vegan food it would have to be Happy Cow. This excellent resource lists user generated reviews for vegan options all around the world meaning you will never have to eat salad and french fries again (unless you want to!). We are Happy Cow Ambassadors for Siem Reap, Cambodia, our current hometown, and along with many other location specific ambassadors we all work hard to ensure listings and reviews are up to date and correct. When it comes to choosing a vegan friendly hotel or resort, there is nothing better than contacting your chosen property directly and entering into a conversation with the restaurant or food & beverage manager to discuss your requirements. This will go a long way to ensure you won’t go hungry when on holiday! If you’re traveling to Southeast Asia and looking for a luxury hotel or resort, check out our review section on Vegan Food Quest where you will find tried and tested reviews for some of the finest luxury hotels and resorts in the region. Or feel free to reach out directly and we can help you to plan your vegan travel to this part of the world. For those of you who wish to join a vegan tour or use a vegan travel agent, where all of your vegan friendly planning and preparation will be done for you, 3 of our favourites are Veg Voyages, Vegan World Travel, and Green Earth Travel. Quite simply, it’s all about research, but as the years pass, it’s getting easier and easier which we love!
-Paul Eyers from Vegan Food Quest
As you can see, nowadays, you can find vegan options for almost everything you need to move forward to a fully vegan and cruelty-free lifestyle. As more of us choose this way of living, more products will be offered in the market to cover all the needs of this growing trend all over the world.