Making a change. Giving up a lifelong habit. Starting something new. Most of the time the fear of the change (and of failing) is greater than the change itself. And so is the case with transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. That said, if you have been worrying about the negative impact of what you eat, it’s time to leave the sidelines and join the vegan bandwagon (and stay put on it).
If you are a newcomer to this conversation who is worried it’s just too hard – we have some great news for you. With PETA Asia declaring Singapore as the second most vegan-friendly city in the region, the cosmos is in your corner to go vegan. Plus we have some great tips and guidelines to help smoothen your transition to this top dining (and growing) trend:
1. Ignorance is (not) bliss
They say well-informed is well-armed. Well ‘they’ are right. The best way to get rid of some of the apprehensions around a plant-based diet is to learn as much as possible about veganism. So if you are wondering ‘How to start being Vegan’ – preparedness is the key:
- Read books, blogs, magazines; watch documentaries and movies – inform yourself about the health and environmental benefits of a vegan lifestyle to motivate you. To start you off, here are are some vegan documentaries that have been winning festival circuits: The Last Pig and Cowspiracy.
- Find replacements for the foods you enjoy. If you are big on cheese, a simple online research will throw up many yummy substitutes like almond cheese and cashew cheese. If you learn that soy chunks are a great substitute for meat, you will not find your meat free future so gloomy anymore.
- Learn how to recognise vegan ingredients by reading labels and familiarise yourself with less obvious animal derived products.
- Scout your neighbourhood, area, city to source vegan produce and for vegan friendly restaurants so you have ample options as ready reference.
2. Remember why you are doing it
There are a lot of differences between adopting a vegan lifestyle and going on a diet. The former has no cheat days to begin with. In such a scenario you might probably wonder “Is it hard to be vegan?” Not if you come up with your own reasons for going vegan and keep reminding yourself about them. Once you are versed in the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, focus on them if you feel the urge to “cheat”. If it’s cruelty to animals that motivates you to go vegan seek visual reminders like photos of your favourite animals to keep you focused. The intent is to find out why you want a vegan lifestyle, be conscious of those reasons and repeat them to yourself when the going gets tough.
3. It’s not a ‘go big or go home’ situation
Some people manage to go vegan overnight and if you feel that’s the approach for you, that’s amazing. But for many of us, a lasting lifestyle change comes with incremental change – when we set our own pace. As you get used to the notion of veganism, make small changes to everyday meals. For starters, you could pick a day to remove meat and dairy products from your meals. #GreenMonday, #MeatlessTuesday and similar movements can even let you plug in to a larger community on the same transition route. An even lower starting bar – begin by picking a meal a week to change (instead of a full day). Begin with having a vegan breakfast during one week, add a vegan lunch to it the next week and so on and so forth.
Another option – ingredient swaps! Instead of cutting meat from your plate replace it with oatmeal and jacket potatoes- ingredients most of us enjoy that happen to be plant-based.
Why not sign up for Veganuary’s challenge to try out veganism for a month and see how it works out for you? Basically, slowly lessen your consumption of animal products while simultaneously increasing your consumption of plant-based food. As you make simple changes like adding a bowl of salad, nuts and fruits to your diet and give your mind and body time to get used to this new way of living, the urge to deviate will become lesser and lesser until veganism too becomes a habit for a lifetime.
4. Don’t forget to have fun
Remember how things turned out for Jack who only worked and did not play? We do not want the same for you! So it’s important to keep things light and have some fun. How? With some retail therapy of course! Go to a grocery store and discover (and buy what you need) all the wonderful vegan produce out there. Have fun stocking up your pantry with healthy grains like quinoa and wild rice. Instead of fretting over how to go vegan, hunt for different legumes like lentils and chickpeas which are great staples to round out your meals. Explore the racks for different herbs and condiments such as mustard, tahini and balsamic which can make your meals zesty and flavorful! You won’t have to search too hard: Supermarkets have been increasing the range of vegan options in recent times; Zero Waste stores too have a good selection of vegan/vegetarian offerings. In addition, you can now shop online at Nourish – Singapore’s first marketplace for vegan food items and Green Common – a brand new plant-based produce store. Even Redmart has a section dedicated to vegan options.
Back at home, experiment with simple vegan recipes with foods you like. You could look up vegan recipes on the web and do wonders with all the ingredients you have bought; perhaps even enrol for a vegan cooking course. Treat your taste buds to new foods and flavours and go on a voyage of discovery of new dishes. If you have a sweet tooth try our vegan popsicle recipes which are perfect for pampering yourself. Going vegan would not seem like such an arduous task anymore.
While eating out too you don’t have to gaze enviously at your omnivore friends spoiled for choice at restaurants. Hopefully by now you would have familiarised yourself with vegan alternatives to meat and could choose a restaurant with vegan options on their menu.
As you get used to and begin enjoying new recipes and flavours, you’ll notice how much better you feel until you start craving plant-based foods more than meat.
5. The more the merrier
Shifting to a vegan lifestyle will become so much easier if you have a friend or a family member to accompany you. Find a friend who wants to shift to a plant-based diet just like you and support and encourage each other during the difficult early days of transition. Find out and join communities like Animal Allies, Singapore Vegan Society and Vegan Singapore which can give you valuable insights and boost your confidence as you transition to plant-based eating. You might be surprised to find your favourite celebrity in the list of famous people who have embraced a vegan lifestyle. So go ahead, get star struck and draw inspiration along the way.
Remember while making any big change like adopting vegan living it is important to go easy on yourself. In order to make a lasting change take the time to find out what works for you and what does not. Being open to trial and error and keeping a positive mindset -where you focus on what you are gaining rather than what you are giving up, is a big part of succeeding at a plant-based lifestyle.