7 Essential Tips If You’re Thinking About Going Plant-Based
Do you think that one more person going vegan won’t make a difference? Well, the vegans of this world beg to differ. Just by taking part in Veganuary this month, one person can save 33,000 litres of water, 900 square feet of forest and 30 animals!
To start this year on top form, some of us in the BLANC team decided to participate in Veganuary. Not only were we inspired by the full-time vegans and vegetarians at BLANC, but also by all the benefits a plant-based diet has both on our personal health - and that of the environment. Are you considering going vegan, or incorporating some aspects of the Vegan diet into your lifestyle? These 7 tips will provide you with all the vegan life hacks and recipes you need to embark upon your plant-based journey.
If going plant-based is not for you at this moment in time, we are the biggest believers in “every little helps” - so do read on anyway! You might find that one or several of these tips aren’t that hard for you to implement in your daily life - so even if you’re not convinced about going vegan, you could already be making a huge difference. Here goes!
1. Take your time
Keep your end goal in mind, but take as much time as you need to make this transition. Some people manage to go vegan overnight and if you feel that it’s the right way to go about, go for it. However, don't worry if you feel you need more time. Like any other lifestyle change, adapting to a plant-based diet not only takes time getting used to, but you need to find out what works best for you. This is a journey and it’s not a one size fits all experience.
2. Get your staple foods ready
Hummus and pita, pasta with marinara sauce, apple and cinnamon oatmeal, bean and rice burritos, one-pot pasta, avocado toast - these staples are to be on speed dial in your brain for the beginning of your plant-based journey! They will be your best friends when time is short. There’s a time and place for making Instagram-worthy acai bowls and plant-based sushi-rolls as well, but that time is not in between meetings when you have five minutes to prepare your lunch.
3. “Is that vegan?”
There are actually a lot of vegan foods that you can find in basically any UK supermarket, and maybe you’re already eating them on a daily basis. Look out for the ingredients highlighted in bold on food labels to uncover a whole new world of accidentally vegan foods. Take a look at the Instagram account Accidentally Vegan for more finds! Here are some surprising examples:
- Uncle Ben's Chicken Rice
- HP sauce
- Nakd cocoa bars
- Sour Patch Kids
- Sriracha Mayonaisse (from Flying Goose)
4. Go vegan and don’t break the bank
A common belief about going vegan is that it’s too expensive, and it definitely can be, but it doesn’t have to! You will probably notice certain products, like vegan cheese or chocolate, are more expensive. If you’re on a budget, the trick is to avoid the massively processed vegan foods and rather batch-cook most of your meals.
A great money-saver when on a plant-based diet is to subscribe to a fruit & veg box (and a great life hack if you’re short on time). If you’re based in London, Morrisons wonky fruit & veg box is only £3.50. Have a look at Find Local Produce for farmer’s markets and veg scheme boxes near you!
5. Documentaries to keep the motivation levels up:
Be prepared, at the beginning of your journey towards a plant-based diet, the cheat days may come - that’s a natural part of the process! When they do, a little reminder of why you are doing this in the first place may help. Usually, people who go vegan don’t do it because it’s fun (even though it is!) but have a reason for their choice: it can be to stop animal cruelty, to have a smaller impact on our environment, for their own personal health or maybe a combination of the three. These documentaries are sure to bring back your vegan spark:
Focus on the environment:
Focus on personal health:
Focus on animal agriculture:
6. The Deficiency Drama
Since everyone will want to talk to you about B12, omega-3 and protein deficiencies, you might as well know the facts!
Where will you be getting it from? Protein is found in things like lentils, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, nuts, buckwheat, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, to just mention a few of its plant-based sources. Protein deficiencies are very rare in the western world and as long as your diet is varied and includes a combination of grains, pulses and vegetables, you shouldn’t be worried - just don’t depend on the processed vegan foods!
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the estimated need for men and women aged 19-50 is 45g-56g of protein per day (depending on your body weight). To get some perspective on where you can get these amounts from, we compared some plant proteins to beef:
- 100g of beef equals 26.6g of protein
- 100g of black beans equals 22g of protein
- 100g of almonds equals 21.15g of protein
- 100g of oats equals 10.3 g of protein
The omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for human health and affect our immune system, brain, nerves and eye functions. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t produce these fats and so we need to find a way to consume them.
The fundamental omega-3 fat is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the fundamental omega-6 fat is linolenic acid (LA). LA is quite simple to replace just by eating a varied and balanced diet. You can find it in hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Getting a healthy amount of ALA can be a bit more tricky and requires some preparation. ALA can be found in chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil. An easy swap to make to establish a safe source of ALA is to permanently swap your cooking oil to rapeseed oil. The Vegan Society has a great sheet of what you need to know about omega-3 and omega-6 on a plant-based diet.
This vitamin is naturally found in the soil, but due to chemically intensive practices and over-farming, soil quality is declining. This makes it hard to depend on getting B12 from the soil (and because of the chemically intensive process, it’s not your best option either). It’s true that you can easily get deficient in B12 on a vegan diet, but there are lots of supplements to be found in wellness stores, like Holland and Barrett. However, be careful with what type of supplements you buy - the quality of the supplement is key to making sure your body can absorb the B12.
Taking qualitative supplements for B12 is not only important for people on a plant-based diet though but for meat-eaters as well. Research shows that 39% of people eating meat also are deficient in B12. A reason could be that animals, as well as humans, get B12 from healthy soil, but because a lot of farmed animals are caged or simply never get to feed on nutritious soil, they don’t get in contact with B12 in the same way they used to. To make sure the meat still contains B12, farmers have started to give supplements directly to the animals - a majority of the B12 supplements produced are actually made for farmed animals. As mentioned in the documentary Game Changers, the best way to make sure you get a healthy amount of B12 is to cut out the middleman (in this case the animals) and start taking a good quality supplement.
7. Recipes you need to try
Lucy, our People and Sustainability Manager - and also one of the full-time vegans at the BLANC office - was kind enough to share some of her best and easiest vegan recipe tips.
Lucy: Two years of plant-based eating got me back to cooking from scratch. I have a subscription to Riverford’s veg box which is what decides what I make on a weekly basis. I have a few recipes that I usually get back to week on week but if I receive a bit of unusual veg that I wouldn’t pick up from a supermarket shelf, a recipe index always comes with the box. There is always something on there that sounds really tasty. Here are my go-to plant-based recipes:
- Once a week I cook a one-pot pasta, a recipe I got from the Happy Pear that I adapt to whatever veg I have in the fridge.
- A curry will use up all the leftover veg and I usually follow this recipe from Deliciously Ella.
- For those nights I don’t feel like cooking, I will put together a jacket potato and fancy beans. A can of kidney beans and chopped tomatoes, paprika, chilli and then add any veg that you like. Spinach, onions and carrots would normally do for me.
- To end on a sweet note, I recently made this lemon cake and it was absolutely delicious.