Getting started

shopping basketIt has never been easier to be vegan with the wide range of products now available and increasing options for eating out. A little advance preparation and some useful information will help you to make a smooth transition towards the Vegan Approach.

Find out how with our 10 simple steps:

1. Find your motivation

Before you start it is worth thinking about why you want to try the vegan diet. Most people go vegan to save animals, help the environment or to benefit their health. Sometimes it’s a combination of these reasons. Finding out more about the benefits of following a vegan diet can help you to stay on track, and help you explain your choice to family and friends. Reading our Why Vegan page is a good place to start.

Being vegan can save at least 11,000 animals1, cut your carbon emissions almost in half2 and reduce your risk of suffering from diet related illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers3. Having to spend a few extra minutes reading labels seems a small price to pay for all these benefits!

Read Emily’s vegan journey.

Finding it hard to give up cheese?

Read Stumbling Block of Cheese Part 1 and Part 2.

Sources:

  1. The average a meat eater would eat in his or her lifetime, according to VIVA.
  2. According to this carbon footprint calculator, a non vegetarian’s carbon emissions are 4.5 tons, a vegan’s is 2.3 tons per year.
  3. The American Dietetic Association.

2. Prepare your kitchen

Use up, or give away any non-vegan foods you have.

Start replacing them with vegan products.

See Go Shopping section.

Frys burgers

3. Decide what to eat

Make a list of vegan breakfast, lunches, dinners and snacks that you would enjoy. This can include:

  • Food you like that is already vegan.
  • Food you like that can be adapted to be vegan, e.g. if you use butter, change to vegan margarine, use vegan mayo instead of egg mayo, use chickpeas in curry. Our guide to veganising popular dishes shows you different ways you can replace animal products in home cooked meals such as spaghetti bolognese, sheperd’s pie and lasagne.
  • Follow our 7 day menu plan, or create your own if you find this helpful.
  • Identify some snacks that are suitable for vegans and carry them with you for any situations where you may have limited options for vegan food. See our Eating Out Guide for ideas.
  • New recipes and ready-made foods to try. There are loads of recipe websites and blogs and some fantastic vegan recipe books. The Vegan Approach to Cooking contains all of the dishes that we serve at our events. Below are a few of our favourites recipe websites and books.

Websites

Books

4. Go shopping

You can use your recipes or menu plans to work out what to buy.

Our Shopping List will give you some ideas.

Find out which substances contain animal products. The Vegan Society produce an Animal Free Shopper which lists products suitable for vegans and a list of animal derived ingredients. The Vegan Society guide to reading labels and Is this food vegan? chart will also help.

Ask other vegans. The Suitable for Vegans Facebook page is a great place to ask for advice and find out about new vegan products. And Veganoo offer lots of reviews on new and current vegan products. Check out Parsley Soup’s favourite products.

Vegan food can be purchased in many different places:

  • Co-op, Asda and Sainsbury’s supermarkets clearly mark which of their products are suitable for vegans. Supermarket free-from sections have a good selection of egg- and dairy- free treats such as chocolates, biscuits and desserts. However, be aware that some products may be labelled dairy-free but may contain other animal products, so read the labels carefully.
  • Most health food shops have a good range of vegan specialties.
  • You can also purchase specialty goods online: see www.veganstore.co.uk and www.goodnessdirect.co.uk.
fruit and veg
‘It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.’

5. Find out about nutrition

Read up on nutrition to see the benefits you can receive on a vegan diet and to ensure that your diet is balanced. Knowing the facts can also help to reassure friends and family you are making a healthy choice. Seek professional advice if you have any particular medical issues that may be affected by a change of diet.

A summary of The Vegan Society’s nutritional guidelines:

A vegan diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity. As with any diet, it is important to ensure that the vegan diet is well balanced. This can be achieved by adhering to the following guidelines:

5-a-day: the UK Department of Health recommends a minimum five portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day. Include a variety of different-coloured vegetables and fruit to ensure a range of health-giving vitamins and minerals.

Limit the use of refined grains since much of the nutrient content is lost. Whole grains, on the other hand, are associated with many health benefits.

Avoid hydrogenated fats, which are damaging to health. Good fats to provide are those containing omega 3, for example rapeseed oil, which has the additional benefit of being cheap and readily available.

Limit the use of salt.

It is important to provide sources of:

Vitamin B12

Readily available in fortified foods such as yeast extract, soya milk, breakfast cereal and margarine. Daily amount from fortified foods: 3 micrograms. Alternatively a supplement can be provided. Daily amount from a supplement: 10 micrograms.

Iodine

Found in small amounts in green leafy vegetables and in larger amounts in seaweeds such as kelp. Daily amount: 150 micrograms.

Vitamin D

Most Vitamin D comes from sun exposure. If this is limited, foods fortified with vitamin D2 (such as margarine or soya milk) can provide some of the daily requirements, or a supplement can be used. (Note: D3 is not usually suitable for vegans). Daily amount: 10 micrograms.

Omega 3

Daily amount: one heaped tablespoon of ground flaxseed or two tablespoons of rapeseed oil.

If you are interested in monitoring your health during your vegan month then The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have a 21 day vegan kick start programme with menu plans and tools for tracking your health and weight. You can also talk to your GP about this and buy cholesterol testing kits from your local pharmacy.

Websites with nutritional information:

vegan food pyramid

6. Find vegan-friendly restaurants

People often wonder what vegan options are available when they’re out and about and looking for a quick bite, on a lunch break from work or planning an evening meal. Our Eating Out Guide offers a section on vegan snacks and quick lunches, followed by some lunch takeaway options. Then we do an overview of vegan offerings from some of the main town centre chain restaurants and pubs.The Happy Cow website lists vegan friendly places to eat and shop worldwide.

Eating out

7. Think about your family and friends

Though the number of vegans is increasing all the time, unfortunately we are still in the minority, so family, friends and other people you interact with will be interested in your diet. Most people will be supportive, curious and respectful, but there may be times when people may have difficulty accepting your choice. Read Being vegan in a non-vegan world to find out more about dealing with social situations and explaining your diet to friends and family members. The Vegan Society’s guide to answering tricky questions is also very useful.

If you cook for other people, you may wish to start by veganising some of your family’s favourite meals to demonstrate that they won’t be missing out. Vegan meals are suitable for all ages, though children have particular nutritional needs and it is important to ensure these are met. If you have young children Sandra Hood’s ‘Feeding Your Vegan Infant with Confidence‘ is a great book to read. It contains excellent nutritional information as well as support with the social aspect of being in a vegan family.

Read how Chrissy looks after a vegan household.

More information about vegan parenting

8. Meet other vegans

Having support can help your vegan journey. We’ll put you in touch with a local experienced vegan guide who can answer questions, give information and provide moral support.

Meeting other vegans gives you encouragement and lots more information and ideas. Many areas have local groups that arrange social events. There are many forums on the internet and Facebook groups where vegans can keep in touch. Contact us for local groups near you.

Look for vegan groups and individuals near you on:

9. Veganise your life

Beyond skinBeing vegan is not just about the food you eat. It is easier for most people to think first about changing to a vegan diet, but once you have this sussed, you might want to think about following a vegan lifestyle. Clothes, cosmetics and household goods can contain animal products, and are sometimes tested on animals.

Clothes

Vegans avoid wearing any materials made from animals including fur, leather, silk, wool and feathers. All of these products involve the death and exploitation of animals. Leather and wool are often considered to be a by-product of the meat industry, whereas they are, in fact, profitable industries that enable the killing and rearing of animals to remain profitable.

For more information see the Vegan Society’s leaflet, ‘Feel good in your own skin’.

Some new vegans continue wearing non vegan items they already own, others donate them to charity shops. Whatever you choose the important thing is to replace them with vegan alternatives. You can find vegan footwear in many high street shops and online retailers. There are also specialist vegan footwear and clothing companies:

Cosmetics and household goods

Cosmetics, toiletries, and household goods can all contain animal products and be tested on animals. For more information on vivisection and animal-free methods of research see:

There are now a wide range of vegan cruelty-free cosmetics and household goods available in the UK from national stores such as the Co-op, Superdrug, Lush and Sainsburys. There are also many specialist vegan companies:

10. Get active

After following these steps we hope you are a happy, confident vegan. Becoming vegan is one of the most important actions you can take to save animals, help the environment and eliminate world hunger.

You can have an even bigger impact if you promote veganism or campaign for change. You will already be doing this by talking to people about your diet. Small actions can have a big impact, such as baking vegan cakes to take to work, inviting friends or collegues to eat at a vegan restaurant, cooking for family members, sharing vegan products, recipes and information on Facebook, Twitter or your blog. You may wish to get involved in a national or local group or start your own! See our page Getting involved to find out how you can help us.

The links below give details of other national groups.