For new vegans, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormous amount of information out there. While an abundance of information is certainly not a bad thing, it can be hard to find solid, practical advice. To that end, here are 7 easy vegan tips for beginners that make it an absolute cinch to transition to veganism.
1. Don’t worry if you slip up
Sometimes you might accidentally eat something that’s not vegan.
Don’t sweat it.
Animal products are snuck into a lot of foods. The worst offender is that pesky menace “milk powder” which you’ll find everywhere, including biscuits and crisps that otherwise would be perfectly vegan.
Similarly, you may have been enjoying a product for a while and notice their “improved” recipe is no longer vegan,
looking at you Jammie Dodgers (Update: they’re vegan again!).
If you do happen to unknowingly eat something non-vegan, don’t worry about it. The vegan police aren’t going to come knocking. Simply learn from it and move on.
Importantly, don’t overreact or feel you’ve done anything wrong. After all, it’s a minefield out there and it really isn’t the end of the world.
For some, there is an additional sense of personal contamination associated with accidentally eating meat or an animal product. This can be distressing and it is important to not beat yourself up about it. We are all human and that means we all make mistakes. Whatsmore, mistakes help us learn what not to do and what Pringles aren’t vegan.
2. Look in your cupboards
Keeping well-stocked with the right foods is one of the best vegan tips I know. Keeping a good supply of these common vegan foods will make your life a lot easier.
Take a look in your kitchen cupboards and see which of the following vegan staples you already have:
- Beans and lentils (you grow to love them, try different kinds)
- Oats, rice, quinoa, and other grains
- Tempeh and tofu (good replacement for meat in meals you already know)
- Nuts (filling, contain essential fats and can be kept for a long time in the freezer)
- Vegetable stock (good base for a lot of meals)
- Nutritional yeast (adds an umami taste to your meals with a little B12 to boot)
- Tinned tomatoes (good for curries and pasta dishes)
- Dried herbs and spices
This list of vegan staples is not exhaustive. However, these ingredients can make a great variety of meals when combined with your favorite fruit and vegetables.
A lot of vegan beginners struggle to think of meal ideas, so I suggest you get yourself a cookbook or look at some good vegan cooking blogs.
3. Know how to respond to questions
Part and parcel of being a vegan is answering people’s questions. Mostly, this involves answering hypothetical moral dilemmas.
After all, it’s important to know if I’d eat a pig on a desert island to save my Granny’s dog’s life.
When I first became vegan, I would dread these moments. I hated being put on the spot. I knew why I was vegan but articulating that in the moment is difficult.
Attention is drawn to vegans because people are inquisitive and really want to learn more about vegan philosophy and the reasons people go vegan. Others feel silently judged, often simply by your presence. They will then try to poke holes in vegan philosophy as an attempt to justify their own dietary choices.
While this list of vegan tips can’t address all of these sorts of questions, I can give some general advice that should help.
A fun way to learn how to answer a lot of criticisms of veganism is by browsing Vegan Sidekick’s comics. These short comics exemplify the frustration many vegans feel and do a great job at debunking anti-vegan arguments. Not only are they funny, but they can also help ease that sense of isolation you sometimes feel as a vegan in a non-vegan society. This comic raises your spirits when you feel no one you know understands where you’re coming from with animal-rights issues.
For more in-depth arguments you could read Dr. Melanie Joy’s book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows which details the logic, or lack thereof, behind the standard western diet and justification called Carnism. It’s an incredibly engaging book and really makes you see the world differently, even if you are already vegan.
4. Don’t be embarrassed about being vegan
Despite the growing popularity of veganism, when someone introduces you as “The Vegan”, it’s a hassle. It often leads to a bit of harmless joking, a tonne of questions, and a variety of comments thrown at you by curious family and acquaintances.
How you feel about these situations depends on your personality and confidence level. Not everyone wants to stand out as the token vegan at a meal. Sometimes you just want to eat and talk without having to explain your weird belief that the body parts of animals don’t belong on someone’s dinner plate.
At the same time, do not be embarrassed, make excuses or explain away your veganism. Veganism need not be something you make the focal point of your identity, but neither should it be something you hide.
Sometimes you will feel like you are inconveniencing people. For instance, when choosing somewhere to go out to eat, or you are a dinner guest. However, in my experience, most people are accommodating, courteous and genuinely curious.
Some people relish the chance to try their hand at some vegan cookery or the opportunity to try a new restaurant. It is easy to underestimate the kindness of other people and I am always surprised by how welcoming people are of veganism.
If you are honest and confident in your veganism people tend to respect your decision more. People can tell when you are embarrassed about your veganism or you’re unsure of it. This leads to people not taking you seriously. Instead, be proud and welcome the questions if they come.
Have the courage of your convictions and represent veganism well.
5. Be prepared
An easy way to slip up as a new vegan is to be ill-prepared.
For example, let’s say you’re going out for the day to a theme park. You decide to take a break from all that intense queuing and go grab some lunch. Upon entering the food hall you find that the vegan food options are a banana, some lettuce, or a dry baked potato. Yum.
Fortunately, this situation is thankfully becoming quite rare as lots of places now have vegan options. However, it’s always worth planning ahead when going somewhere new.
Therefore, always bring yourself a packed lunch or a few snacks in your bag, just in case. I, personally, like to keep some mixed-nuts in my bag, some fruit, and even some vegan junk food like crisps or some chocolate.
Also, don’t forget, pasta, fries, and baked beans are typically vegan, along with any vegetables you like. You can normally piece together a vegan “meal” at just about anywhere this way. Just tell the serving staff to have a plate made up for you of the various vegan offerings. It certainly won’t win Masterchef but at least you won’t go hungry.
You can make things easier by planning all your meals for the following week. This gives you time to shop and get the necessary ingredients ready. Not knowing what your next meal is going to be is one of the things that trips a lot of vegan newbies up. So, by knowing precisely what your meals will be for the next week, you’re way more likely to stick with a vegan diet.
Another good vegan tip is to dedicate an afternoon to cook some meals in bulk and freeze them. That way, whenever you find yourself in a pinch or too tired to cook, you can reach into the freezer and grab a meal. An instant-pot is an absolute must here. You can cook an enormous portion of chili, for instance, in basically 10 minutes.
6. Be a pragmatic vegan
Veganism is about avoiding harm to animals as far as practical. This means being realistic about your veganism.
For example, if a product says “may contain trace amounts of milk” or has a warning about being made in the same factory that handles milk or other animal products, don’t worry about it.
Veganism isn’t about personal purity, it’s about reducing harm to animals. Unless you have allergies, eat away, it’s vegan.
Another example would be avoiding walking on areas of grass. I first heard of this from Gary Francione, as a way to try and avoid killing insects. To me, this is a noble sentiment and isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. There are many opportunities where I can avoid on grass, so I do. However, this isn’t always possible.
Similarly, you may accidentally kill a worm or a fly in growing your own vegetables. It is not healthy to condemn oneself for unintentional harm.
Veganism doesn’t ignore the fact that animals are killed during the production of food and in everyday life. The point is to not participate in the unnecessary suffering of animals that can be easily avoided, i.e. the animal agricultural industry.
7. Get enough calories and B12
The last of our vegan beginner tips is probably the most important for your own health and veganism at large.
Firstly, make sure you’re eating enough. A semi-accurate way to gauge how many calories you need is to use a TDEE calculator.
A lot of the scare-stories about malnourished vegan teenagers nearly dying are simply due to poor planning and simply not eating enough.
An issue you may face is that vegan foods are quite bulky. This means you feel full earlier than you would with animal products, with fewer calories. This is great for losing weight but not so good for maintaining.
A good idea here is to get yourself a blender and make yourself a daily smoothie. Blend up some fruit with a scoop of oats to get some easy calories.
Also, ensure you are eating nuts. Nuts are high in calories and good fats and a handful a day can really boost your calorie intake.
Importantly, you should also be taking a B12 supplement. There’s no way around this, vegans need to take B12 as modern vegetables and fruits are washed and stripped of the B12 producing bacteria.
B12 deficiency leads to severe health issues and is used to keep nerve and blood cells healthy.
While it is possible to get some B12 from fortified foods like Soya milk and nutritional yeast, it’s very difficult to get an adequate amount due to malabsorption. It can’t be emphasized enough, all vegans should take a B12 vitamin.
Hopefully, you’ve found these vegan beginner tips useful and can put some of them to use. The most important thing to remember is that veganism is a process and you’ll always be learning and growing.
Fortunately, the vegan community is great and very supportive. If you’re ever unsure or need some help, reach out and they’ll be more than happy to give their best vegan tips and advice. Good luck!