6 Tips to Help New Vegans this Year

[insert Happy New Year, omg time has gone so fast line in here]

Can you tell I’m not big on new year? Anyway…I was browsing the Veganuary hashtags on Twitter this morning and I had an idea to post up a few tips to help folk who are giving veganism a go this month. It’s been a long time since I was a new vegan…over 8 years now in fact, but after a long hard think, I’ve come up with a few things that I hope will help.

So here they are. 6 tips to help new vegans.

Keep it simple

I think it’s easy to overwhelm yourself when making big changes to your lifestyle. When I first went vegan I told myself that it would be hard, that I would struggle to find food. I panicked. I spent the first few months making all kinds of strange meals with bizarre, expensive ingredients. Of course some of it was good, but I prefer simple eating for every day life.

To put it simply, you’ll find veganism a lot easier if you can work it around your usual routine. My everyday meals are quick and easy to make, I save the fancy time consuming cooking for weekends or feeding my friends.

Here’s a few easy meal suggestions: Jacket potatoes and beans, pasta with tomato sauce/vegan pesto, vegetable stir fry with noodles, veggie sausage/burgers with mash, beans/mushy peas, roasted veg and couscous, soup and crusty bread, bolognese with soya mince, lentil dal, bean chilli

Try new foods

Don’t view this as a limitation, I eat a more varied diet now than I ever did before. Take the time to experiment with new textures and flavours, obviously within your own comfort zone. If you struggle to try new things, have a think to see if you’re comfortable to prepare the vegan foods you do like a little differently. Of course there will be things that you don’t like, but there will also be foods that you will love, I promise.

Limiting food can make you feel like you’re missing out and that’s not a good feeling to carry around.

Be kind to yourself

Mistakes can happen. When I decided to go vegan, I spent the first few months eating obscene amounts of Party Rings. I didn’t think to look for gelatine in the ingredients because…IT’S A BISCUIT. WHY? Luckily Party Rings are now vegan, so go grab a pack or two. But, if you do slip up, whether intentionally or not, don’t give up, get yourself some vegan pizza and get back on track.

Also, dinner can go wrong. I’m not saying it will but experimenting with new foods and a different way of cooking can lead to disappointment sometimes. Even normal every day cooking can lead to burning if you’re really into watching Buffy and lose track of time. It’s frustrating but it’s okay. The best way to deal with this is to make sure you have some essentials in your kitchen; baked beans, bread, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, veggie sausages, instant noodles, flavoured packets of couscous. These can be a real time saver in this kind of situation. Having a few takeout menus on hand can also help.

Planning is key

It sucks when you’re really hungry and you don’t have any food on you. The last thing you want to do is wander around shops, frantically reading labels. The best thing in this situation is to have a little something with you. If you’ve got the time, plan your lunches and snacks for when you’re at work or away from the comfort of your kitchen. Carrying some dried fruit, nuts or a few nak’d bars is also a good idea for when hunger hits.

But, sometimes it’s not easy to plan. Life can be busy and stuff gets in the way. Your best option at this point is to find a supermarket or grocery shop. Bread, peanut butter, hummus, salsa, crisps, prepared salad bags and some dressing, carrot sticks, crackers and fruit these are all good lunch/snack options if you’re stuck.

Support is there if you need it

There are lots of vegans out there who are happy to help and listen to any frustrations you might have. We’re easiest to find online, look out for vegan groups on Facebook or search a few vegan hashtags on Twitter. If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, check out the many great vegan bloggers that are out there. Ask around to see if there are any meet ups or events going on near you. If you can’t find something why not organise a vegan potluck or pizza party with your friends? Big changes are easier to deal with when you have a support network around you.

If you’re in the Manchester area there is loads of stuff going on. Check out the Vegan Manchester social group, Manchester Vegan Potluck, Cake Liberation Front and Manchester Vegan Society.

Eating out is not impossible

There are many vegan options out and about if you know where to find them, but at the beginning finding a spot for a quick lunch or a suitable restaurant for an evening meal can feel impossible. Take some time to find out what options are in the area. Big cities will often have completely veggie or vegan eateries and many restaurants now label vegan options or have vegetarian options that can easily be adapted if you just skip on the cheese. Take a look at some online menus and if you can’t find anything, give the restaurant a call and see what they can do. There have been many occasions when I’ve been made something tasty and off menu at a non vegan restaurant and the chefs are usually pretty cool about it, quite often I’m told they’ve enjoyed cooking something new.

Lots of chains cater for vegans; Pizza Express, Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Nandos, Las Iguanas, Pret a Manger, Boots, Toby Carvery (yes, really.). Even Pound Bakery offer a vegan sausage roll and Greggs Belgian Buns and Iced Fingers are vegan too. Check out the Happy Cow website to see what’s in your area.

So those are my biggest tips. I’ll finish with a little reassurance…once you get the hang of it veganism is really easy….and I can also promise you that your life won’t be about scanning ingredients lists in the supermarket forever. Enjoy the experience, meet new people and eat as much tasty vegan food as possible.

Can any of my vegan readers offer any tips for new vegans? What did you struggle with at first? What are your favourite blogs/websites for tasty recipes? Comment below with your own tips.

Now go! Go and be vegan!

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