Understanding Veganism: Tips for Trying a Plant-based Diet

Whether you’re considering adding more plant-based foods to your diet or thinking of switching to veganism, our new blog answers all those questions running through your head about how to get started…

As an animal sanctuary that rescues from the dairy and meat trade it would be ethically wrong for us to then serve meat and dairy products in our on-site café. Unfortunately, we continue to get a lot of criticism for our plant-based decision. Our advice? Give us a try! Our carrot cake is sublime, our barista made drinks are wonderful and our jacket potatoes always hit the spot. If you do end up rather liking our vegan menu, and would consider cutting back on meat and dairy, or trying veganism longer term, we’ve got answers to the most common worries along with some tips to help you make the switch…

Is a vegan diet a healthy diet?

Like any kind of diet there is the good and bad when it comes to vegan food. There are plenty of junk food vegan choices, but typically a plant-based diet is higher in fibre and lower in cholesterol. Studies suggest that a vegan diet can lower the risk of heart disease, reduce cholesterol levels, help to manage Type 2 Diabetes, and can even reduce the risk of cancer. And if people tell you that as a vegan you will struggle to get enough protein, well that simply isn’t true. There is a whole ton of protein in plant-based foods, including in beans, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds and some veggies. A vegan diet can be as healthy as you want it to be by making informed food choices and eating a wide variety of foods.

But how will I give up chocolate and cheese?

Chocolate, milk and cheese seem to be the things that stop people trying veganism, and there is a reason for that: dairy contains casein which releases casomorphins during the digestion process… casomorphins – in a nutshell – are produced by cows to keep a calf wanting to drink its milk. In other words, milk and milk products are addictive, and when casomorphins are consumed the fragments attach to the same brain receptors that addictive, opioid drugs attach to! It’s no wonder dairy seems such a daunting thing to give up. The general rule, however, to break an addiction is to avoid it for three weeks. After three weeks it will be out of your system along with the worst of the cravings.

Thankfully there are really good cheese and chocolate alternatives including Violife (a cheese alternative that even melts well) and creamy, delicious Nomo for a chocolate alternative. Galaxy and KitKat have vegan choices that we love too.

Should I take supplements as a vegan?

Truthfully, the only supplement vegans might need to take (after advice from a professional) is for B12. As with any diet the key is eating healthily – make sure you pile up on leafy green veg for iron, nuts and seeds for omega 3, and things like chickpeas for your protein intake. Plant-based milks often have calcium added, and fruits like figs, papaya and oranges contain calcium too.

Will it be hard to eat out?

Gone are the days where a vegan had to plump for a side salad and pot of olives in a restaurant: most menus will contain a vegan option for sure. Do your research though and check the menu ahead of booking. Thankfully there are also lots of entirely plant-based restaurants and cafes springing up too, so a quick search on apps such as Vanilla Bean and Happy Cow will point you in the right direction for your area. If you fancy a tipple then vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, rum and bourbon are all vegan-friendly in their natural state, but if they have flavouring added you should check the ingredients (they can contain animal products).

Tips for making the switch

Whether you just want to try veganism a few times a week, or make it a more permanent choice, these tips will help.

Be positive: If you start off thinking you are going to fail, or view going vegan as a ‘punishment’ of sorts, then you’re setting yourself up to crash and burn.

Take a look in your cupboards: It’s probably stocked with meat-and-dairy-based condiments (including the likes of Worcestershire Sauce and Mayonnaise), so take unused items to the Food Bank or put them in their own cupboard if others in the family will still use. Stock up with things like beans, whole grains, vegetable oil, rice, pasta, etc. Having a decent pantry supply of basics will help with meal planning.

Plan ahead: Having a meal plan will help keep you on the right track. If you’re struggling for vegan meal inspiration then have a look at these plant-based blogs:

Pick Up Limes

Sweet Simple Vegan

It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

Jessica in the Kitchen

Hot for Food

Avoid convenience foods: the odd frozen pizza or burger patty is fine in moderation, but easy, freshly made meals are more likely to keep you on track, and are certainly better for your health!

Have emergency snacks on you at all times: If you’re hungry and caught out you’ll be less likely to fall off the vegan wagon if you have something to hand in your bag.

Don’t beat yourself up: The key to being a successful vegan is to make switches to your lifestyle that are attainable. If you accidentally have some butter or got bamboozled into some cheese then it’s okay. Lifestyle changes take time, so take the time you need and be kind to yourself.

Stay strong: There WILL be tough days, but once you get to grips with veganism it becomes second nature in time. It genuinely does get easier and easier. The early days might feel especially hard, so distract yourself with fun activities, a spot of exercise or even a bit of meditation.

You’ve totally got this, and whether you’re vegan or not, please do come by to Max’s Café to try our plant-based menu. It’s open whenever the sanctuary is open (10am to 3pm Friday to Monday, and every day 10am to 4pm in school holidays). There’s nothing scary about a vegan toastie, a soy latte or a plant-based doughnut, we promise. We’ve also got our Vegan & Wellness Day happening on 24 June from 10am until 4pm, which is the perfect opportunity to learn more about plant-based food, products and lifestyle. We hope to see you there!



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