How To Go Vegan: Full Guide

Go vegan graffittied on a wall

By McDonald, T.  |  Updated 19th of September 2022

Veganism is growing rapidly in popularity in the UK and the rest of the world. In fact, the UK has been the top producer of vegan products in recent years. This growth has been attributed to meat free Monday and veganuary, so with veganuary coming up you might want to give veganism a try.  If you are looking to be a vegan, you will undoubtedly have questions such as how do I start?  What should I look for?  First things first, if you are serious about being a vegan it would be wise to sign up to this blog, so click on the subscribe button and use the labels in the side bar to locate specific topics or you can even use the search bar at the top of this page.  Even if you are reading this long after I wrote it, please note that I keep it updated. Next, you can start to think about what we actually mean by vegan and then look at you whole life. This blog will guide you through the first stages of becoming a vegan and show you how to thrive.

Index

  1. What is veganism?
  2. Why go vegan?
    1. Animal cruelty and exploitation
    2. Health
    3. Environment 
    4. Advantages
    5. Disadvantages   
  3. How to get started as a vegan 
    1. Mock meats
    2. Tofu
    3. Banana blossom
    4. Jackfruit 
    5. Cheeses and dairy
    6. Join a social media group
  4. How to check food is vegan
  5. Clothes and veganism
  6. Veganism and personal care 
  7. Conclusion  
  8. References

What Is Veganism?

A vegan is someone who doesn't eat meat or dairy products.  However, veganism is not just about food; it is a philosophy.  The vegan society (n.d.) says this about veganism:

"Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

A vegan consumes only animal free products whether the produce is food or not.   This means we don't wear animal products either or wash in them for that matter. 

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Why Go Vegan?

There are many reasons for and against veganism including health.  On the whole if someone eats a well balanced vegan diet they are likely to be just as healthy as anyone else.  The misconception is that meat eaters are healthy.  Furthermore, and this is the most important part for me, is the fact that vegans have nothing to do with with the slaughter or exploitation of animals.  For instance, have you seen "A Cow's Life" from Panorama or "Dominion", an Australian documentary?  So, the main reasons are animals and health; however, there is a third reason: the environment.

Animal cruelty and exploitation

Pigs suffer horrendous lives where they are farmed for the kill.  Some have their throats slit while the others watch on in horror.  Others are suffocated in a CO2 tank where they panic and scream helplessly. 

Cows are farmed for meat and milk.  Obviously, the cow has to give birth in order to produce milk, which should be for the baby cow.  The mother cow looses her baby a day after it is born and will cry for a week.  The baby males are slaughtered because they have no value other than veal.  See here.

Chickens are slaughtered via a conveyor belt, stun bath and blades. However, some of the birds miss the stun bath while others break their own legs trying to escape. Again the males are worthless and so are sent to an macerator where they are ground up alive.  See here

Health

  • Less cholesterol.
  • Easily reach your 5 a day.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer.
  • Easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Feel better, more energy.
  • Many vegans report feeling younger and have better sex drives even in older age groups.
  • Less guilt hidden in the subconscious mind impinging on mental health.

Environment

  • Less green house emissions.
  • Less deforestation. 
  • Better for the animals.

Advantages

  • High in roughage.
  • No animals killed or exploited.
  • Reduced risk of cancer.
  • Reduces cholesterol.

Disadvantages  

  • You could miss out on vitamin B12, calcium and iron if you are not careful.
  • Some people might hate on you.

The disadvantages are easily rectified by looking for and eating vegan foods fortified with B12, iron and calcium or taking a supplement.  Notably, provided you keep to a well balanced vegan diet your long term health will look great.  A vegan diet is linked to lower risks of heart disease, lower blood pressure than meat eaters and lower cholesterol than meat eaters.  Although there are some disadvantages, the long term advantages of a well balanced vegan diet far out way any negatives.  I use VEG 1, a supplement from the vegan society, which has B12.

Asormtment of vegetables

Healthy Diet

Meat and cancer

Processed meat and processed vegan food both come with a cost to health.  Any processed food is likely to be high in salt.  However, processed meat is classed as group 1 meaning it is carcinogenic.  According to the WHO (2015) 

"In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer."

Colorectal cancer is sometimes called bowel cancer.  It is also worth noting, red meat is classed as probably carcinogenic putting it in group 2A.

A well balanced vegan diet

As i said earlier, it is possible to get all you need from a well thought out vegan diet and taking supplements.  Well balanced means a good variety of vegetables, fruit, beans, pulses, nuts, dried fruits and vegan dairy substitutes. 

"With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs." NHS (2018) 

Good sources of vitamin B12 

  • Yeast spread like marmite or vegimite.
  • Nutritional yeast (check it is fortified with B12).
  • Many vegan milks are fortified with B12.
  • Supplements such as VEG 1 from the vegan society.

Good sources of Calcium

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage.
  • Pulses.
  • Sesame seeds.
  • Bread.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Fortified tofu. 
  • Some vegan yogurts and cheese alternatives.

Good sauces of iron

  • Pulses.
  • Wholemeal bread.
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli.
  • Nuts.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Turmeric.
  • Paprika.  
  • Cumin.

 Notice broccoli, wholemeal bread, pulses and dried fruit cover both calcium and iron.

The Environment 

It turns out that going vegan can even help the environment.  Meat and dairy farming is one of the biggest contributors to global warming.  Furthermore, using vegan soap and detergent can also reduce pollution in the seas.  Regular soaps and detergents have a negative impact on wildlife. 

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How To Get Started 

Most people start by veganizing their favourite meals.  When people ask me how to go vegan what they really mean is what do I eat instead of meat.  Well there is a huge choice these days with so many mock meats to choose from. 

Mock meats

These are foods that try to be like meat and do a really good job!  Some people don't like the texture of meat, so they tend to eat something different.  However, if you liked eating meat and miss a burger or a sausage, this is a great food to start off with.  Many people, including myself, started by using what some of us call transitional foods.

Wicked Kitchen Vegan Chorizo style sausages with This is not bacon facon, beans, mushrooms and tomato on a white plate with writing on it
Vegan sausages and vegan bacon are great!

Plant Chef vegan sausages and With Out The Oniok vegan bacon
Different type of vegan sausages and bacon

Vegan burger in a roll with vegan onion rings, vegan mayo and BBQ sauce
Vegan Rodeo Burger

Vegan burger with salad
They are many types of vegan burger

Vegan steak, Plant Chef, on a plate with chips and broccoli
You can even get vegan steaks

Tofu

This is very popular and one of my favourites because you can use tofu as a meat substitute.  I eat this a lot because it tastes good and is high in protein and calcium. 

You can get different types:

  • Silken.
  • Firm.
  • Extra firm.

I go for the extra firm because is is higher in protein and calcium.  However, tofu does need to be pressed and is bland if you don't flavour it.  Nonetheless, preparing and flavouring tofu is easy!

Marinaded tofu square peices with a red chilli
Marinaded tofu

Pressing tofu

First, you will need a press.  This is mine in the image below.  There many different presses on the market, so pick one that best fits you.  However, I recommend one that catches the water from the tofu and that fits in the fridge.  Mine is plastic, but if you can find a metal one that would be better for the environment.

Plastic tofo press
Tofu press

Second, you will need to learn how to prepare tofu, which is also easy. 

Sliced tofu with dressing
How to prepare tofu

Some ideas for tofu.

Tofu and vegetable kebabs on a plate with potato wedges.
Tofu kebabs are fantastic

Tofu curry and rice
You can use tofu in curry

Butter tuffu curry and rice
You can use tofu in place of chicken
 

Textured soya protein is a great mince substitute

This is much better than it sounds, so please give it a try. You can get chunks or a type of mince, which is popular with many vegans I have met over the years.  In short, it is a great mince meat substitute.  It comes dry, so you have to add boiling water to it and let it soak for five minutes.  If you want to give it extra flavour, add stock to the water.  Is often called textured vegetable protein TVP for short.

Textured vegetable protien (TVP) on a white plate
TVP before soaking

The mince is soaked in boiling water.

Use it as mince.

Banana blossom

This is used as another meat substitute.  Many people use it as a fish substitute and batter it then fry it like fish to have as fish and chips. In addition, it can be used as a chicken substitute for battered chicken. Look around to find a recipe you like the look of and try it.

Tin of banana blossom held up in a garden on a sunny day.
Banana blossom in a can

Vegan fish and chips

Jackfruit

I have had this in a curry and it was great.  It is sometimes used as a pork substitute since it has the consistency of pulled pork and with the right flavours is amazing!   Definitely worth looking into.  Lately, I have begun to use this a lot as a tuna substitute in tuna pasta bake. 

Jackfruit in water

Jackfruit can be used as tuna or pulled pork

No-Tuna pasta bake

Jackfruit as pulled pork substitute with spices

Jackfruit as pulled pork substitute with salad in pitta bread

Cheeses And Dairy

Yes, there are vegan cheeses and milks.  You will find the cheeses in the vegan section of the store.

Milks come in different variates such as:

  • Soya.
  • Oat.
  • Rice. 
  • Coconut. 
  • Hazelnut.
  • Almond.

Most people like the oat milk best, but soya is usually the cheapest to buy.  Notably, vegan milk also comes as a UHT version so not all vegan milks will be in the fridges of the store. 

If you are looking for something to go in your coffee, most people say the oat milk is the best since the soya milk tends to curdle in coffee.  Nonetheless, I know someone that insists soya milk is the best, so it really is down to personal choice.  Subsequently, the only way to find out what you like is to try them all. I use oat milk for coffee and drinking as it is, but i use soya milk for things like tea and baking because it is cheap.  Most vegan milks are fortified with B12 and have calcium.    

Join a social media Group

Sign up to a social media group, such as a vegan group on Reddit or Facebook, which will have a continues stream of recipes and ideas not to mention a willingness to respond to your questions.  I found signing up to a vegan Facebook group a great help.  In addition, use hashtags and follow hashtags such as #vegan, #veganfood or #veganism.  Please note that #Plantbased does not always mean vegan. 

Here is a Reddit group, which is s young vegan group.

If you prefer twitter, follow me and I will introduce you to some great vegan minds.

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How To Check Food Is Vegan

You may have seen vegans eagerly looking at food labels in the supermarkets and wondered what it is we are looking for.  Well, sometimes things have clear labels on and sometimes not.

Look Out for the vegan society logo

Red arrow pointing to a vegan logo

A big 'V' on a green background

Many packaging will have a green or grey square with a V and may even say if it is suitable for vegans on the front or the back. 

Red arrow pointing to a vegan logo

Check the ingredients

If you need to check the ingredients, the milk and egg will be in bold making it easier to see. Under allergies, which is usually under ingredients it should say if it is suitable for vegans. Not all things that are labelled as suitable for vegetarians are OK for vegans.  For instance, Linda McCartney products are labelled as vegetarian; however, all but three of her products are vegan. 

WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Calcium carbonate

Sadly, this is not always vegan.  This is because sometimes it is made from animal shells. It may be in the ingredients list as number E170.

Free from does not mean vegan

All vegan food is Free From, but not all Free From is vegan. Free From is aimed at those with allergies for gluten and or lactoses. Some Free From are only free from dairy, which doesn't include egg. So, you might find some free from bread, but when you look at the ingredients, you see it often has egg in.

Can I get vegan chocolate?

Yes, there are many types out there to choose from and you can even get vegan Easter eggs for Easter. This is one of those products that is free from and vegan.

Vegan smarties and a vegan white chocolate bar.

Vegan chocolate bar in lime green cardbord packaging. Lime and sea salt.

Vegan chocolate mini eggs

I have tried a selection of vegan chocolate and all of it is great, but some brands are very expensive, so shop around and check stuff out online to save time.   

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Clothes And Veganism

Vegans abstain from wearing fur, leather and any other things made from animals.  With this in mind, ask yourself what is your belt made of or what are your shoes made from?  This doesn't mean that you should go out and buy all new clothes.  It means that the next time you need to replace something look for that vegan option; keep an eye out for vegan clothes next time you go shopping. 

Ask yourself:

  • What is your belt made from?
  • What is your tie made from?
  • Do your jeans have leather labels?  
  • What is your shirt made of? 
  • What is your dress or skirt made from? 
  • How about your coat?  Is it a leather jacket?  
  • What are my shoes made of?

In short, ask what are my clothes made of?  

The following are all good:

  • Cotton.
  • Lenin.
  • Bamboo. 
  • Vegan leather.
  • Paper name patches on jeans.

However, we still tent to look for some sort of label or indication that it is ethical sourced from sustainable industries.

Vegan belt made out of an inner tub on a white background.
A vegan belt made from recycled inner tube instead of leather

 

White linen shirt
A white linen shirt


Vegan socks made from bamboo
Socks made from bamboo are very soft

Yoe can even get vegan trainers/sneakers.  I got these from ADIDAS.  They are called superstar and you can even personise them. 




Veganism And Personal Care

Yes, you can even get vegan toiletries! This means they are not tested on or made from animals and neither do they harm animals in the environment.

Examples are:
  • Soap.
  • Shampoo bars.
  • Deodorant. 

Vegan soap
Vegan soap

Vegan shampoo bar
Vegan shampoo

Vegan deoderant
Vegan deodorant
 

A popular shampoo bar
 

Even the supermarkets are stocking vegan toiletries these days.  In the UK, I have bought vegan shampoo from Tesco and Waitrose and vegan deodorant from Sainsbury's.   

When it comes to toiletries, the bottom line is look for stuff that is cruelty free meaning it is not tested on animals. Obviously, avoid anything that is made from animals too! Some soaps are made from the fat of animals, which means they are not vegan.

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Conclusion

Being a vegan is easy once you know the basics. You must learn about food as well as nutrition and be prepared to test out new things. You will have to learn about clothes too including accessories; as time goes by, you find you end up replacing animal products with vegan ones. Nonetheless, the idea is to have fun and not burden yourself with guilt; this should be a liberating experience! As long as you try your best to think vegan and put the animals before your hunger and fashion needs, you will enjoy being a vegan.

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References

NHS (2018) 'Eat Well: The Vegan Diet'. [Online] Available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/ (Accessed on 24/11/2020)

The Vegan Society (n.d.) 'Definition Of Veganism'. [Online] Available at https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism (Accessed on 24/11/2020)

The World Health Organisation (2015) 'Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat - Q&A' [Online]. Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat (Accessed on 25/11/2020)

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