The Ecotricity guide to going vegan
What does going vegan mean?
Unlike vegetarians who don’t eat meat, going vegan means avoiding all animal products – including meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey. Most vegans also try to exclude all types of animal exploitation from their lifestyle, including:
- Wearing leather, wool or silk
- Using toiletries or make up that include animal traces, like shellac nail varnish
- Visiting zoos, or other animal attractions
- Buying pets, although some vegans rehome companion animals
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.
The Vegan Society
What do vegans eat?
A vegan diet isn’t as restrictive as some might have you believe – you just have to cut out food that comes from animals. After that, the world’s your oyster mushroom!
Choosing a vegan diet doesn’t mean saying goodbye to mouth watering burgers or comforting lasagne. It’s just about making a few substitutions. You can still eat vegetables, fruits, bread, rice, nuts, lentils, pulses, dried pasta, tofu, soy, vegan cheese, sausages, dairy free ice cream… you get the idea.
What are the advantages of going vegan?
Avoiding animal exploitation is just one of the many reasons that people choose to go vegan – there are loads of advantages to following a vegan diet:
- It’s better for the planet. Going vegan is one of the biggest ways to reduce your impact on the environment and combat climate change. In fact, you could cut your carbon footprint in half by giving up meat and dairy.
- It’s better for your physical health. A whole foods plant based diet is widely recognised as hugely beneficial to your overall health. It can help you lose weight, improve energy levels, and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
- It’s more sustainable. More than 800 million people in the world live in food poverty, and we don’t have the resources to feed a growing population an animal-based diet. Going vegan is the best way to ensure there’s enough food to go around.
There’s never been a better time to go vegan – with more than half a million of us in the UK turning our backs on animal products, supermarkets have been forced to up their game. Tesco saw sales of vegan food rise by 25% in 2018, and Waitrose reported an 85% spike in the sale of vegan and veggie food.
Do your research
Before you start clearing out the fridge, do some research - it’s good to cement your reasons for going vegan before you make any big changes.
There’s lots of information online about vegan food, vegan nutrition and tips on how to get started. Netflix has plenty of vegan documentaries, but these websites can also help you get going on your vegan journey:
- The Vegan Society offers information about the history of veganism, along with educational guides about vegan diet and lifestyle. The Vegan Society trademark is the official accreditation for vegan products in the UK – it’s why we’re so proud our green energy is registered vegan.
- Veganuary was launched in 2014 and has grown in popularity over the last few years. Originally set up to encourage people to go vegan for the month of January, the charity now offers starter kits for those new to veganism all year round.
- The NHS website has lots of information about how to stay healthy as a vegan. They include information about how to get the right nutrition from your vegan diet, along with tips for mums to be and advice for bringing up children on a healthy vegan diet.
You could also try speaking to other vegans you know, or find vegan bloggers and YouTubers to follow for recipe inspiration. Check out Vegan Punks for some great vegan meal ideas.
Start out slow
While you might be tempted to dive straight in once you’ve done your research, the best way to go vegan is to start by making gradual changes.
You can try having one vegan meal a week, or start by switching to a plant-based milk. Then you can broaden your vegan repertoire until you’re 100% plant based.
By starting out slowly, you’ll get to know what foods and dishes you enjoy, and it won’t feel like such a drastic change.
Choose the right plant milk
Not all plant milks were created equal – and those that taste great in porridge can taste horrible in a cup of tea. It’s all about finding what works for your taste buds, so don’t be afraid to try a whole range of plant milks before you settle on the one that’s right for you. The main plant-based milks you can choose from are:
- Almond milk. It’s great in porridge, on cereal, in smoothies and in coffee. You might find the nutty flavour a little overpowering in tea, and some brands can be a little watery. For a deliciously creamy almond milk with no artificial preserves, give Rude Health a try.
- Soya milk. Soya milk is a good all-rounder, great in hot drinks, in baking and on cereal. It’s a good source of calcium and B12 but the downside is, it’s not particularly environmentally friendly. Alpro work closely with WWF to ensure their soya production is as eco friendly as possible.
- Oat milk. This is the most environmentally friendly of all the plant milks. It's good in coffee, on cereal, in porridge, and in baking. In our offices, our favourite brand of oat milk is Oatly – it’s oats so good.
- Coconut milk. This stuff's great in savoury dishes and sweet treats alike. You can use tinned coconut milk in curries and Thai dishes. But you can also buy coconut milk in cartons to make decadent vegan cappucinos, and creamy porridge.
There’s also rice milk, hemp milk and a whole range of other nut milks to try – and most varieties are stocked in supermarkets, so you can take your pick.
Make your favourite meals vegan
There’s a vegan substitute for almost everything, so it’s easy it is to make your favourite foods plant based:
- Spaghetti Bolognese. This meat-heavy Italian favourite is surprisingly easy to make vegan. Cook your onions, garlic and vegetables in olive oil, and use soya mince or a tin of green lentils instead of beef. Check that any red wine you add is vegan friendly, and you’ve got yourself a hearty dinner.
- Curry. South Asian countries have been making delicious vegetarian and vegan curry recipes for centuries. If you want an authentic curry, use coconut milk in place of dairy cream, and pack it full of delicious vegetables and spices. Be sure to cook everything in oil, rather than ghee.
- Pizza. Most supermarkets stock at least one brand of vegan pizza. But if you’d prefer to make your own, grab a ready-made pizza base, smother it in your favourite tomato sauce, and cover it with tasty vegetables. If you want to go all out, grab some Violife mozzarella style vegan cheese and some vegan chorizo to sprinkle on top.
- Sunday roast. Roast your veggies in oil instead of butter or animal fat, and make a delicious umami gravy from scratch – this vegan gravy recipe is packed with flavour. There are hundreds of recipes for nut roasts, lentil roasts, and vegan savoury pies online, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
When it comes to cakes and sweet treats, you might need to get familiar with some ingredients you’ve not heard of before. But the general principles of baking still apply – it’s just about learning a new science, and it won’t take you long to perfect that vegan lemon drizzle. Check out the Minimalist Baker blog for a whole range of vegan cake and dessert recipes.
Eat a balanced diet
Going vegan won’t automatically make you healthier – you have to eat the right things. It’s best to opt for a diet that’s rich in a variety of vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, whole grains, starchy food, nuts, lentils, beans and pulses.
The Vegan Society has lots of great resources on balancing your nutrition on a vegan diet.
Do vegans need to take vitamins or supplements?
Vegans can get all the nutrients they need from a balanced diet, but you may need to supplement B12 and vitamin D. This is no different to most meat eaters, so you don’t risk nutrient deficiency just by going vegan.
One of the most commonly asked questions of plant-based eating is, ‘where do vegans get their protein from?’ And the answer is – there’s protein aplenty in plant based foods like quinoa, oats, pulses, nuts, broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts. Check out this recipe for a protein power salad from Vegan Apron.
Try new things
The best thing about going vegan is that it opens up a whole new world of ingredients and recipes that you might never have discovered. Before you know it, you can be enjoying animal-free living that’s better for you and the planet.