5 TIPS FOR NEWBIE VEGANS


I went vegan in April 2018. My sister suggested we do it and I laughed at her (me? give up cheese? Never!)

Then I started researching vegan food on Youtube, watched a documentary, and two weeks later I went vegan overnight. And I haven’t looked back.

Not everyone does the overnight thing, and that’s totally OK. But it seems I am an all-or-nothing type of person, so this worked for me.

Its been about 18 months now (at time of writing) and I honestly feel that the quality and variety of my diet has improved so much. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, so I thought I would write down a few tips for newbie vegans as you start this awesome lifestyle.

Veganise your current lifestyle first

By this I mean, try to veganise whatever food you like to eat now before you get overwhelmed with all the exotic recipes and ingredients that are out there. You need a stable base for comfort eating before you start exploring.

Personally, I ate peanut butter sandwiches and fruit for a few days while I researched recipes. This is probably the easiest thing to veganise, because peanut butter is vegan already, most commercial bread is vegan (e.g. Albany) and Flora makes vegan margarine now.

Other easy to veganise basics:

Pizza

If you like pizza, swap your normal pizza for vegetarian n and omit the cheese. I like topping mine with avocado slices instead of vegan cheese, but Panarottis does offer a vegan cheese option. I will probably write a blog post about vegan pizza before too long, seeing as pizza is a food group for me 😊

Breakfast

Many breakfast cereals are vegan already, so you just need to swap cow juice for a plant-based milk you like (I like Good Hope unsweetened soy). Or you can join the overnight oats brigade if you like that. There are also plenty of toast options if that is your thing. Avocado, hummous, Marmite, jam, syrup, chickpea “chicken mayo”, tofu “egg salad”, faux deli meats (Woolworths or Fry’s polony), tofu scramble, pancakes, smoothies… There are really tons of very accessible options.

Side note: If you like milk in your coffee, it’s critical that you find the right substitute pronto. You can make your own nut milk, rice milk or oat milk, but honestly, I am too lazy to do this. They also tend to be a bit sweeter, and I don’t take sugar in coffee, so unsweetened soy it is

Main meals

If you like Indian food, then make different kinds of vegetable curry, e.g. red lentil dahl, butter bean curry, potato and pea curry,

If you like Asian food, then veg fried rice, vegetable sushi or stir-fried veg noodles are all options (one of my favourite easy meals, in the beginning, was to stir fry whatever veg I had and add in a packet of two-minute noodles. Super quick, frugal and filling)

If you like traditional South African food, then the Boere Vegan Facebook group has a LOT of recipes for things like bobotie, pumpkin fritters, pancakes, etc.

Other vegan basics you can immediately grab on to include baked potatoes with baked beans, chip rolls, salads, and so on (think about combining all the “sides” onto one plate).

Stay away from substitutes in the beginning

When you first start eating vegan, your palate expects lots of salt, fat and the texture of meat and dairy. It will take a while to adjust. I find some meat substitutes delicious (now), but I don’t like all of them, and I am very iffy about vegan cheese. In the beginning, I hated substitutes, but I found that over time my palate adjusted and I started liking them. If you try something and don’t like it, but everyone else loves it, don’t be too disappointed. Just give it a few months and try again, you may be pleasantly surprised. They are not the healthiest or the cheapest options, but they are super convenient and useful to take to things like a braai

There are different approaches to a vegan diet

I am not talking about these posers who say “I am vegan except I eat fish”. If you eat animal products, you are not a vegan. You may be pescatarian, vegetarian, omnivore, flexitarian, whatever, I don’t care. You aren’t a bad person, but you’re not vegan. End of story

However, within the vegan community, there are many different approaches to eating. You can be HCLF (high carb low fat), HFLC (high fat low carb)/keto, or WFPB (whole food plant-based) or nutritarian, or junk-food vegan, or raw, or somewhere in between

It doesn’t really matter (although some approaches are more healthy than others). And I don’t think you need to choose. I am just pointing this out so that you know there is more than one way to be a vegan, and they’re all OK by the animals 😊

Some vegans are pretty passionate about their approach and will claim that their way is the only way. Just smile and wave at them. Live the lifestyle you want.

Join groups but watch out for moaners

If you decide to go vegan, it’s likely that you will be the first among your family or friend group to do so. This can be isolating. So you need to find some vegan friends as well (not to replace your friends obviously, just to expand your circle).

Facebook has some great South African vegan groups, e.g. Boere Vegans, Vegans of SA. I have listed links on my resources page. There will probably also be local ones near you, e.g. Vegans of Cape Town. These groups have lots of useful resources, but please check the pinned posts and group files before you ask a question unless you feel like having 100 people make snotty comments on your post.

Never forget that the collective noun for vegans is “a moan of vegans”, so don’t take it personally if you get flak. Also, remember that Facebook as a useful mute/unfollow feature. If someone consistently irritates you on Facebook, don’t leave the group, just unfollow that person. Your life will be easier and you’ll still get the benefit

Youtube has some great vegan channels (see my Resources page). But there are also vegan blogs, meetup groups, markets and channels on other social media. Choose your favourite one and get involved. Find your tribe!

Don’t try and be the perfect vegan all at once

The perfect vegan doesn’t exist, and there will always be someone who can out-vegan you. You have made the decision to stop using animal products and that’s great! Well done on making the right choice. But we don’t live in a vegan world, so once you change your diet, you will constantly find other things you need to change. Cosmetics, toiletries, clothes, shoes, cleaning products, etc. The list goes on. I would suggest that you use what you have right now till it’s finished (I am not about waste) and then when you need to replace something, make a conscious choice about what you buy. It’s not all going to happen overnight, but over time you’ll be surprised how many changes you will have made and how easy it was.


That’s it for now. I hope found this post helpful and entertaining 🙂

If you are an experienced vegan and have more tips to share, or you are a new vegan with questions, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Yours in veggies

Deidre Johnson profile pic

Deidre


For those days when you dont feel like cooking, I manage a Facebook group called Dining out with Vegans. If you live in Cape Town, feel free to join – we meet for dinner about once a month to support local vegan restaurant options.

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