Interest in veganism worldwide has grown massively over the past 10 years. Reports of a 600% increase in veganism in the US and 360% in the UK demonstrate the type of scale I am talking about. As a vegan for the past 24 years, it has been amazing to witness this growth and the massively increasing range of plant-based food as a result. Now I no longer have to make do with plain pasta or a side salad when eating out and can enjoy all kinds of amazing vegan food options! There is a vegan alternative to absolutely everything now and not only do they taste better but are generally better for you too.
So why are more and more people going vegan? Well, for the majority, studies tell us it is for health reasons – plant-based diets help reduced our risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, osteoporosis, asthma, kidney stones and the list goes on. Plus not only do vegans live healthier but longer too (research tells us between 6-10 years longer!)
In my experience, however, people usually go vegan for a combination of reasons. The plethora of documentaries now available on Netlflix relating to animal welfare, health benefits and the environment have gone a long way to raising peoples awareness of the benefits of a vegan diet to ourselves, the animals and the planet.
Here are a few to check out if you haven’t already:
- What the Health
- Forks over Knifes
- Game Changers
So, if you are interested in becoming vegan or adding more plant-based foods to your diet, here are some tips to help you get started.
1.Take your time
This isn’t always easy to do if you have made up your mind and want to go 100% vegan overnight. But, I do find a transition period works best, particularly if you are trying to bring a partner or family along with you. Allow time to gradually add more plant-based foods and decrease the amount of animal foods you eat.
2. Get support
This might all be new to you but it’s not to others who have been through it. Be open to learning from their experiences to help make things easier for you. There are plant-based health coaches (like me!) or facebook support groups or perhaps a friend or colleague you know who is vegan. And trust me, vegans love sharing their passion and helping you on your way!
3. Veganise your recipes
I find it best if people hang on to as many of their own favourite recipes that they enjoy and veganise them. Then it doesn’t seem to be so ‘dramatic’. It is easy to replace mince in a shepherds pie with soya mince or to add beans to a casserole instead of chicken. This helps with helping family members feel less threatened too.
4. Use transition products
There are so many meat alternatives available now – ideally your new protein sources will include lots of beans, peas, lentils, tofu etc. but to help along at the start, the processed vegan sausages, burgers etc do have a place.
5. Crowd it out
Focus more on all the new wonderful foods you are adding to your diet (particularly loading up on the fruit and veg) and in that way you don’t leave a lot of room for the ‘old foods’ you used to eat. Think about all the things you can have, not the ones you can’t (or ‘choose not to’ as I prefer to say.)
6. Read your labels
This one isn’t as important as it used to be as food manufacturers all want to tap into the vegan market so their products now usually proudly display the vegan symbol but it’s a good habit to get into none the less.
The only vitamin or mineral you can’t get on a vegan diet is vitamin B12 so it is important to supplement with that. I advise my clients to take a good multi-vitamin and mineral while transitioning just to be sure they are covered.
8. Practise your protein line!
If I had a euro for every time I was asked where do I get my protein, I’d be rich! Rather than dread that question, I now welcome it and use it as an opportunity to inform people of the range of plant-based proteins and the benefits of them over animal based sources.
9. Inspire rather than incite
Once you start to feel the benefits you will want to share your story with everyone! Sometimes this passion can turn to being preachy though so I find it’s best to create awareness by inspiring rather than inciting. Let people see how great you are doing on a vegan diet and let that be the trigger for them.
10. Progress not perfection
As much as we all want to be doing our bit for ourselves, the planet and the animals, it’s hard to get it right 100% of the time. It does get easier though, that's for sure so just give yourself the time starting out and focus on progress not perfection!
If you are interested in going vegan or at least eating more plant-based, I hope the tips above will support you! To help you get started, I am sharing two of my favourite recipes that I hope you’ll enjoy – Chickpea Delight and Cashew Spread.
If you would like more recipes, just pop over to www.AilisBrosnan.com where you can sign up for delicious recipes and get a free healthy green smoothie e-book. If you would like support to transition to a healthy plant-based diet check out my 8 week online program PLANT POWER.