Going Vegan – Easy Steps to Transition into a Vegan Lifestyle
VEGAN – The word can sound daunting can’t it? Most people associate the word ‘Vegan’ with extremists and hippies. Even as a vegetarian, going vegan can seem like such a huge step it becomes overwhelming. I want to share with you the process I used to transform from a protein hungry meat eater to cruelty-free vegan.
It can be a slow process…but quitting won’t speed it up
I believe the best way to make such a transition is by using small steps. If you just take one giant leap forward, you are more likely to stumble back. I have heard of people quickly going vegan and just as quickly reverting back because it was ‘too hard’ or they didn’t ‘feel well’. As I have heard many times before you could eat Oreos 24 hours a day and still be vegan. But you won’t be healthy. You need to do your research and become the best version of you possible.
I followed the steps below: –
1. Going Pescatarian
What is Pescatarian? I get asked this question a lot. Pescatarians will not eat any meat or poultry but will still eat fish, dairy and eggs. The first step on my vegan conversion was to cut out chicken, turkey and all red meat. At the time I still felt that I needed some form of protein so kept up my fish intake, eating mainly frozen white fish, salmon and tuna. I believe the fitness industry drums this into us, telling us our protein intake must be much higher than it needs to be.
It was a small step, but a totally realistic one. Knowing I could achieve this, I didn’t feel like I was cutting anything out of my diet. Not anything that I couldn’t substitute with fish and eggs. I felt good and I thought l was really making a difference.
2. Going Vegetarian (Lacto-Ovo)
The next obvious step for me was to cut out eating fish as well. I came to realise that there was no difference between a living being on land and a living being under the sea. Eating too much fish also has health risks due to the large proportion of mercury they contain. Some kinds of fish don’t even provide the level of Omega-3’s we have been told to consume. This can however be supplemented quite easily with a vegan alternative to ‘Cod Liver Oil’.
We are now overfishing our seas to the point of near extinction of some species and destroying the aquatic habitats of others. Bycatching is also a huge problem. Turtles, dolphins & sea birds can get caught up in the nets and poles used for fishing. These are often thrown back into the sea dead or dying.
Therefore I figured the best thing I could do was to stop eating fish entirely. I was still drinking milk (lacto) and eating eggs (ovo).
I substituted most of my meat for Quorn and started to introduce lentils and chickpeas into my diet.
3. Cutting out Milk & Eggs
As I started to research further I was saddened, but perhaps not surprised, to see how the dairy industry really works. Cows being forcibly impregnated repeatedly. Baby cows taken away to be fed on milk replacers, while we drink their mother’s milk. I figured there had to be a more humane way.
There are so many options when choosing a substitute for cow’s milk. Almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk & soya milk are the most popular. Personally I have stuck to oat milk.
I turned my attention to where my eggs came from. I saw how chickens are treat as nothing more than egg laying machines. The female chicks doomed to be a machine just like their mother. The males, however, are sent straight to the grinder as they serve no purpose. Even free-range chickens must only have access to an outside area but have no stipulated time scale.
I believe the consumption of eggs is a grey area with some people as there are farms where the chickens have a good life. You can visit these places before choosing to buy their eggs. I have read about the psychological consequences of taking eggs from chickens, but I have not done any research into this and therefore cannot really comment.
I found it easier to cut eggs out completely rather than worrying about where they came from.
Cutting out dairy & eggs was the hardest transition of all. Not because I wanted to eat them. But because milk and eggs are unnecessarily included in most products. Even cheese is added to most vegetarian dishes. But by doing a bit of research and shopping around, I soon found out what was and what wasn’t vegan. It gets easier as you learn. The most important thing to remember is ‘not to beat yourself up’. If you eat something that you didn’t realise had milk in it or were misinformed. It’s ok, you know for next time. It’s sneaky, I’ve found milk in many things I wouldn’t have expected.
I changed the Quorn I was eating as this contained eggs. There is, however, a Vegan Quorn range which I believe is growing and growing. Many ranges like ‘Linda McCartney’ have a host of vegan alternatives available.
Dairy is most people’s sticking point, but once you see the alternatives to the horrific cruelty there really is no choice. They even have vegan cheese on pizza now. What other reason could you need.
4. Going Vegan
Once I got my head around cutting out dairy and eggs that is when I felt happy to call myself vegan. I was not consuming any animal products, not even honey. But going vegan is a journey and one I am learning about on a daily basis. There have been some surprises along the way such as:
Sweets, marshmallows, jelly etc. – I was already aware of this, but most sweets contain Gelatine, usually pork or beef. Gelatine is made from the skin and bones of animals and used as a gelling agent. You can however find many varieties of sweets which do not use animal gelatine.
Some beers and wines –Certain alcoholic beverages are filtered using Isinglass (fish bladders). I luckily very rarely drink but you can buy vegan wine. Peta have also provided a list of beers which are not processed in such a way – Vegan Beers
Red dyes – Dyes such as ‘Natural Red #4’ are made by using the scales of tiny insects. It is often found in cosmetics and medications while also being added to food products and juice drinks that they wish to give the ruby red colour.
Some chewing gum – Various chewing gum companies will add animal-derived glycerine (animal fat- tallow) to their products to give it the chewy texture. Lots of companies are now using plant based Glycerine but it always pays to double check.
5. Opting for Cruelty Free
I felt like I was on the right track, having cleared animal products from my diet as much as I could. I then turned my attention to the products in my home. Seeing how we tested most of our toiletries, cosmetics & cleaning stuff on animals was heart-breaking. Where does the madness stop?
I watched various videos showing me the cruel unnecessary acts that we carry out on defenceless creatures. All for the sake of vanity. I urge anyone and everyone to find out what really happens. We need to boycott these companies and show the world that it is not acceptable.
A word of warning also. If your makeup company states that they don’t test on animals but are still trading with China, then they are required by their law to test these products on animals. If a product is made in China there is no mandatory requirement for them to test on animals. Any product sold from outside of China however are required to test these on animals before China will trade with them.
Make sure your company of choice does not trade within China. Let’s put pressure on them to end this torture. I have chosen to avoid companies that choose money over values, let’s speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.
I replaced all my make up and skin care products with those carrying the bunny logo. Any household products I buy must state that they do not test on animals. Try and get the ones that carry the bunny logo and the vegan logo.
It’s easy to get disheartened by it all, but I knew I wanted to make the change. Transitions like this don’t happen overnight. I waited until I had run out of one product before choosing a vegan/cruelty free alternative. Small steps. Some products are more expensive, some aren’t. Do a bit of trial and error and find out what works for you.
6. The Journey continues….
I have come a long way with becoming vegan and I am proud of what I have accomplished. I didn’t beat myself up when I had mishaps or misinformation. Eating out with friends became easier. Vegan choices started popping up more and more frequently. If I was going to someone’s house I would eat before I went. Shopping became less tasking and I just felt healthier and happier.
It took me a couple of years from being a meat eater to going vegan. Although it had been my goal from the very beginning, I knew it was too big of a step to take all at once. I am glad I gave myself the time to learn and adjust slowly.
I have put my health first making sure I get all the correct nutrients and I have never felt better.
It is a work in progress though. I’m finding out new things every day and will continue to do my research and learn from my fellow vegans.
I have now started to look at the environmental affects my choices have and that is something I still have a long way to go with. As I embark on my year out travelling I can’t help but think about my carbon footprint and have started to investigate different ways of Carbon Offsetting. The journey continues.