If you’re vegan-curious, or even vegan-determined to give it a try, here’s how to do it without losing your motivation. Or your friends.
Do it properly
A major dietary change needs careful planning, and there are certain vitamins and minerals your body needs that are generally found in animal products, such as vitamin B12. If you don’t have enough, you could suffer anaemia and damage to your nervous system, so make sure you eat foods fortified with B12, such as plant milks, soy and breakfast cereals, or nutritional yeast, which has a cheese-like taste and can be sprinkled on anything savoury.
Or take a supplement (just check it’s vegan, as some multivits come in a gelatin shell). You’ll also need Omega-3 and 6 (in nuts, linseeds and rapeseed oil). Try algae supplements instead of fish oil.
If your hair becomes weaker, you’re not getting enough protein, so eat more nuts, pulses, soya and plant oils, or supplement with vegan protein powder.
Finally, a discreet word: you may find yourself rushing to the loo more often. That’s due to your increased fibre intake, but your digestive system will soon settle down.
Don’t get too hung up
Evangelists may insist you can’t eat avocados because they’re pollinated by exploited bees, you can’t have figs because wasps die in the fruits, you can’t have biscuits because they might contain palm oil, and as for soya, the crops are destroying the rainforest. All of this is true, but most vegans stick to a manageable path and just aim to do as little harm as possible.
Your usual shop, just without meat, milk and cheese, won’t cut it. There are certain basics but the initial outlay will pay dividends, as your weekly food bill will drop dramatically. Stock up on: nutritional yeast (fortified with B12) to thicken sauces; plant milks (most find oat or almond milk the nicest); nuts to scatter in salads or stir-fries. Buy agave nectar instead of honey, tinned or dried beans and pulses for protein, vegan cheese and yogurt.
If ready meals, spag bol and pizza were your previous go-tos, you’ll need to think ahead. Curries, chillies with soya mince and risotto and pizzas with vegan cheese are all simple options. And read labels: a lot of products contain milk powder or whey for no apparent reason.
We’ve all heard the jokes: 'How do you know someone is vegan? They’ll tell you.' But there is truth in the cliche. Because when you’ve made a huge lifestyle and ethical commitment, like all new converts, it’s tempting to get evangelical about it. Filled with purpose, one minute you were happily talking house prices and local schools, the next you’re sharing brutal abattoir videos on social media. By all means, explain your reasons when asked. But otherwise, unless you want to lose friends and irritate people, keep your veganism to yourself.
Take-your-own to dinner parties
I’ll be honest – the invitations dwindle somewhat when you turn vegan, purely because many hosts have no idea what to serve you. Make it easy on them and offer to bring your own food. It works best if you create a vegan version of what they’re having. So instead of fish pie, seaweed and lemon marinated tofu pie, or a soya mince chilli instead of beef. It stops them panicking and demystifies veganism.
Do your research
A few years ago, eating out was a nightmare. Now, in bigger cities there are vegan restaurants and cafes. In smaller towns there will almost certainly be something vegan on the menu at the big chains. And if you can’t see an option, call ahead and ask. The chief area that still needs work is plant milk in many independent coffee shops, so take your own in a travel cup. The app HappyCow tells you the nearest vegan restaurants and cafes.