My Essential Social Tips For Transitioning To A Vegan Diet
Based on the idea that it takes 21 days to change a habit Beyonce and Jay Z famously went vegan for 22 days back in 2013. “The benefits of a plant-based diet need to be known,” Beyoncé wrote in an email to the Times. “We should spend more time loving ourselves, which means taking better care of ourselves with good nutrition and making healthier food choices.”
While I am not a fan of dramatic changes or doing things just because they are trendy, there’s no doubt Veganism is a big thing. Lots of people are committing to eating without any animal products and having gone through it all myself, I've a lot of experience with the challenges you will face.
Personally, I cut out meat and chicken overnight but stayed eating very small amounts of dairy and fish, mainly in social situations, for about 6 months. That worked for me and the idea of going cold turkey vegan is pretty dramatic. Whatever stage you're at these are my tips!
The First Rule of going Vegan…Don’t Talk About Going Vegan
Remember that you are doing this because you have chosen to, and it’s your decision. You do not have the right to make a decision on what other people choose to do or bore them to tears or give out to them for eating sausage rolls in front of you.
Let people be drawn in by how good your food looks or how well you seem to be feeling, not because you are holding a knife to their neck unless they swap sushi for soy with you.
Do not use veganism as an excuse to isolate yourself. If I am honest I prefer the term plant-based when speaking about my diet. Veganism is an entire lifestyle that extends to excluding, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. This means not going to Zoos, wearing any form of leather or wool or using any cosmetics that have animal ingredients so be aware it's not just about the food.
Whilst I think it’s admirable that some people commit to changing every element of their lifestyle, any step someone chooses to take is a positive one in my opinion, even if it’s just swapping to plant-based milk in their coffee or making sure their cosmetics are cruelty-free.
Be Flexible When Life Gets in The Way
Whilst this might be controversial, these are my feelings and there isn’t really a rule book. Be flexible on your strict veganism when eating out or in your friends’ houses. If I was preparing food for a dinner party, getting a litany of dietary requests would drive me mad, so I try not to be that person.
Food is a social way to come together and the company and atmosphere takes precedence for me. My stance on eating has always been control what I can, go with the flow otherwise, and I try to never make anyone feel awkward.
Don’t ruin a dinner party or sit with an empty plate making everyone feel awkward. Eat well before and try what you like and don’t draw too much attention to yourself. I always offer to bring a dish that I know I can eat and honestly it makes me really happy when I see others enjoying it too!
Get Educated And Excited
Rather than thinking about what you are missing out on, you need to focus on what you will gain. There are countless websites and blogs with amazing healthy recipes and easy meal swaps. https://veganuary.com can even send you through coaching for the 31 days and has so many resources. I also think instagram is amazing for recipe ideas.
When we travel, I will always ask my followers to recommend places to eat or places that serve awesome coffee. Make sure to use a few hashtags of the place you are going to and hopefully you will get some great recommendations. Social media is a free resource and we should use it to our advantage.
I am continuously amazed at how much effort restaurants go to and how happy they are to accommodate, as long as you give them notice. If you’re making a booking anywhere it literally takes 30 seconds to let them know, and it will make your dining out experience memorable for the right reasons.
Otherwise, I have put together some gorgeous meals from side dishes in lots of places. There’s always an option and refer to point 3 once again, it’s about the company first and foremost.
Nutritional Yeast is Bae
Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that is a favorite amongst many vegans because of its nutty ‘cheesy’ flavour. (Bon Appetit even calls it “nature’s Cheeto dust” – it’s that cheesy and that good). It is also a really good source of vitamin B12, so if you’re vegan, it’s a good idea to add some to your food regularly.
Check the labelling to make sure it has the B12 added as not all brands do. Sprinkle some on hot popcorn or add a generous spoonful to a stir fry or pasta sauce. If you’re making vegan Mac and cheese this is essential. You will find it in most health food stores or they will easily source it for you.
Thai Food is Your Friend
If you are craving a takeaway, the most failsafe option is a really good Thai curry with loads of veggies and tofu. It’s so satisfying and readily available.
I always thought the nicest part of any curry was the sauce and have never missed chicken or prawns from it. This is an easy thing to order when the Sunday night takeaway cravings come!
Watch a Few Documentaries
There are loads of great documentaries on Netflix and Youtube now. There’s no doubt things will be challenging as eating meat, fish and dairy are very ingrained in our way of life but understanding the difference you are making by adopting a vegan diet is very rewarding.
For me, watching Earthlings, Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy (which is produced by eco warrior Leonardo Dicaprio) changed my mindset entirely. I hadn’t made a connection between what I was eating and the conditions, and sadly death, that was a requisite step to get the meat to my table.
Whilst I know there are some incredible producers who genuinely care and respect their animals, I find it hard to comprehend how people eat things such as foie gras, battery eggs or veal which are openly known to be associated with cruelty.
A fun fact also is that by going plant-based, you save 1,100 gallons of water, 30sq ft of forested land, 20lbs CO2 equivalent and one animals life every single day (via @farmacyuk )
The best €10 you can possibly spend is on some Tupperware in the €2 shop. Pick a day of the week and batch cook some roasted veggies, brown rice, hummus, grilled tofu, make a jar of curry paste, some energy balls and you are set up for a few days.
I also find that my food bills are way cheaper than before. Some trips to the health food store are a little more expensive but on a day-to-day basis it’s very cheap to eat this way.
Know That Dublin Has a Vegan Chipper
A few months back I went on a vegan food tour and they showed us where to get Vegan Baileys (Bow Lane), epic vegan pizza (Milano do a really nice one too) and we ended up in McGuinness’s on Camden street for a vegan chipper.
They have a whole separate fryer for vegan burgers, chips, nuggets, sausages all made with Moodley Maonor produce, which is epic. If you are missing the texture of meat this hits the spot. Guinness is also vegan now. Previously it was filtered through a fish bladder…thankfully that’s stopped but know that whilst others are having a dry January, Guinness is something you can enjoy (sensibly).