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How to go vegan: Complete guide & tips

Plates of food; 2 Vegan buddha bowls - Salads, chickpeas, houmous, veggie sticks, tomatoes and mushrooms.

Wondering how to go vegan or take on a plant-based diet? You’re in good company. According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019 – and those numbers are only see to boom in the coming years.

Whether you’re looking to make the switch for environmental, ethical or health reasons, swapping out animal products for plants can feel restrictive. But by getting clued up on nutrition, pre-planning meals and experimenting with plant-based cooking, a vegan diet can be healthy, affordable and tasty, too!

Our guide here to teach you exactly how to go vegan, stress-free. It covers all the need-to-know facts about vegan nutrition and finishes with 10 essential tips for going vegan.

What is a vegan diet?

Vegan diets eliminate all animal products and by-products, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey.

The definition of veganism, according to The Vegan Society, is:

“Veganism is a 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.“

Want to transition to a vegan diet without necessarily eliminating all animal-derived products, such as leather and wool? In this instance, you’d typically refer to your lifestyle as plant-based, rather than vegan.

What can you eat as a vegan?

Many new-found vegans make the mistake of focusing on what they can’t eat, but we think it’s best to focus on what you can eat.

While the meat and dairy aisle may be off-limits, your shopping trolley will be packed with colourful wholefoods from nature’s larder. You’ll be surprised at how much variety there can be to a vegan diet, as long as you’re happy to try new things and get creative in the kitchen.

Plates of food; Kale salads, flat breads, dips and vegan sushi rolls.

It’d be impossible to list every plant-based food on offer, but here are just a few to get you started:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Beans & legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils & edamame
  • Grains, such as bread, quinoa, wheat and rice
  • Nuts and seeds, such as chia seeds, pumpkin seeds & walnuts
  • Soy products, such as tofu and tempeh
  • Dairy alternatives, such as oat, soy, hemp and nut milk, cream and cheese
  • Natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup and agave

Is a vegan diet healthy?

A well-planned vegan diet that includes all the required macro and micronutrients can be healthy and nutritious. The British Dietetic Association confirm this, stating that:

“Well-planned plant-based diets can support healthy living at every age and life-stage.”

The key phrase here is well-planned. By eliminating numerous food groups from your diet, you are at risk of becoming deficient in certain micronutrients. This is because some nutrients are more difficult to find, or in smaller quantities, in plants.

So if you’re set on switching to a vegan or plant-based diet, it’s important to ensure that you consume enough of each essential nutrient through specific food sources and/or supplements.

Nutrition on a vegan diet

Let’s take a look at the nutrients that can be harder to find during a vegan diet transition and how you can ensure you’re getting enough of them.

NUTRIENTFUNCTIONVEGAN SOURCES
ProteinBuilds and repairs muscles, keeps the immune system healthy, helps to make hormones, carries oxygen and nutrientsTofu, tempeh, edamame, all kinds of beans, chickpeas, quinoa, peas, nuts, seeds, Purition
Vitamin B12Keeps the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy and helps to make DNAFortified foods such as nutritional yeast, yeast extract (marmite), fermented foods and vegan spreads
SeleniumCreates antioxidant balance in cells and assists with thyroid hormone metabolismBrazil nuts, mushrooms, barley and walnuts
ZincHelps the immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria and assists with immune and neurological functionPumpkin seeds, beans, cashews, chickpeas, almonds, peas, mushrooms, tofu and spinach
Omega 3 & 6 fatty acidsImproves heart health and helps the body with growth and repairChia seeds, flax, hemp seeds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, vegan algae supplements, Purition
IronHelps to transport and store oxygen throughout the body, increases red blood cell formationEdamame, lentils, spinach, sesame seeds, kidney beans, prunes, cashews and pumpkin seeds
CalciumForms teeth and bone, regulates muscle contraction, regulates hormonesGreen leafy vegetables, broccoli, almonds, beans, turnips, tofu, rhubarb and fortified plant-based milks
IodineRequired to make thyroid hormonesFortified plant-based milks, potatoes, strawberries and seaweed

Source: The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition by Precision Nutrition

What supplements do you need on a vegan diet?

While you’re still getting to grips with veganism, you may want to consider researching and supplementing:

While a well-planned vegan diet provides almost all of the essential vitamins & minerals required for optimal health, there’s no denying that some are much harder to source from plants alone.

  • Vitamin B12: If you don’t consume many fortified B12 foods (think marmite, plant-milks – but check the nutritional label – and nutritional yeast), a B12 supplement is essential.
  • Omega 3: EPA and DHA are mostly found in oily fish. To ensure you’re gaining an adequate daily intake, consider supplementing with algae oil.
  • Iodine: Naturally supplementing with half a teaspoon of iodized salt will supply your daily needs.
  • Vitamin D: This is a problem for vegans and omnivores alike! If you don’t spend much time out in the sun, a vitamin D supplement could be a wise move, especially during the colder months.

How to get enough protein as a vegan?

The most asked vegan question and stereotype of all time? It’s got to be ‘vegans don’t get enough protein’ and ‘where do vegans get their protein from?‘. The good news is that, once you know your vegan protein sources, it's actually fairly easy to meet or exceed your daily protein quota!

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for adults. This adds up to about 56g/day for men and 45g/day for women, but it will vary depending on your weight. 

This is actually pretty easy to meet; and if you can, we’d recommend aiming for more than this, if you can.

Raw vegan ingredients on a table top; broccoli, beans, lentils, almonds and grains.

You don’t necessarily need to track this, although it might be helpful to do so in your first couple of months as a vegan. Generally though, simply making sure you include 1 or 2 generous servings of a vegan protein source in each meal will allow you to meet your daily protein requirements.

Here are 15 of the best vegan protein sources to include:

  • Tofu: ½ block tofu = 26g protein
  • Tempeh: ½ block = 22g protein
  • Edamame: 1 cup edamame = 19g protein
  • Lentils: 1 cup cooked  = 18g protein
  • Oats: 1 cup uncooked oats = 10g protein
  • Beans: Half can kidney beans = 10g protein
  • Chickpeas: Half can = 8g protein
  • Quinoa: 1 cup cooked quinoa = 8g protein
  • Purition Vegan 1 serving = 13-15g protein
  • Soy yoghurt: 1 cup = 10g protein
  • Nutritional yeast: 2 tbsp = 10g protein
  • Seeds: 28g pumpkin seeds = 8g protein
  • Soy milk: 1 cup = 7g protein
  • Nuts: 28g almonds = 6g protein
  • Green peas: 100gs = 6g protein
  • Mushrooms: 100g  = 3g protein

What are the health benefits a vegan diet?

Research has linked varied and well-planned vegan diets to a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Boosted heart health and lowered risk of heart disease (2019 study)
  • Increased weight loss and better weight management (2015 trial & 2017 review
  • Decreased risk of several types of cancer (2017 review)
  • Improved blood sugar and decreased risk of type-2 diabetes (2019 review)
  • Improved health of the gut microbiome (2019 review)

But being vegan is not automatically synonymous with better health. A vegan diet packed with processed and starchy food is highly unlikely to reap the benefits mentioned above. It’s important to nourish your body with healthy whole foods and the right nutrients, by planning and supplementing your meals appropriately.

What happens when you go vegan?

You’re not going to see any drastic or life-changing effects after a few days, or even a couple of weeks, of being vegan. The health benefits mentioned above are typically a result of long-term vegan or plant-based diets. However, you may notice a few small changes within the first few weeks.

Plant foods are typically lower in calories than their animal-counterparts, so you may experience some initial weight loss. However, it’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally cut your calories to an unhealthy low – otherwise, you might end up feeling tired and groggy.

On the flip side, if you pack your new-found diet with vegan junk food or get a little too carb-happy in place of meat and dairy, you could end up gaining weight. So aim for balance and make sure to cook with whole foods, rather than processed vegan foods, whenever possible.

Vegan salad bowl; roasted sweet potato, avocado, tomatoes, fresh baby spinach leaves, quinoa and chickpeas.

You might also experience some digestive changes due to the increase of fibre in your diet, such as a change in bowel function and an increase in bloating. Don’t be put off, though — as your gut adjusts to the increased fibre, things will settle down!

How to go vegan: 10 tips to get started

Keen to get started and kickstart your transition to a vegan diet? Here are our 10 tips on how to go vegan, stress and pressure-free. You’ve got this!

1. Get clued up

The single most important factor to a successful vegan transformation is simply knowing your stuff. Before you even think about making the switch, get reading, watching and learning. The more you know about plant-based diets, the easier the transition will feel and the more likely you will be to make it a success.

The first thing to read up on? Vegan nutrition. Try to gain a thorough understanding of which vegan foods contain each of the essential vitamins, minerals and macronutrients required to stay in optimal health. 

2. Add before you subtract

If you’re not used to eating vegan food, it may be easier to slowly incorporate vegan meals and snacks into your existing routine at first. Forget about taking anything out of your diet for now.

Start by adding a vegan meal or two per week and increase the frequency over time. Try to include lots of beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and tofu into these meals and learn how to prepare, cook and store them effectively. Begin picking up vegan alternatives, too — such as plant-based milk, spread and yoghurt — and see which brands and flavours you like best.

This will help you to find your groove with plant-based eating, without it being too much of a drastic change.

3. Veganise your favourite meals

There’s no need to miss out on all of your favourite meals when you transition to a vegan diet. Nowadays, there’s an alternative vegan recipe for pretty much any meal under the sun! While you’re still in the adding-not-subtracting phase, why not start ‘veganising’ your favourite meals?

That's things like spaghetti Bolognese → lentil Bolognese, chilli con carne → bean chilli, scrambled egg → scrambled tofu and chicken curry → chickpea curry.

Vegan curry; Rice bowl with curried aubergine, green and chick peas topped with corriander.

There are so many amazing vegan recipes out there now! A quick Google search is sure to find you a vegan recipe for any of your favourite meals.

Remember to have an open mind here. It will take some time for your taste buds to adapt and meals won’t taste exactly the same as they did before. However, they can sure help to satisfy the craving and are often equally (or more) nutritious.

4. Go at your own pace

When you are ready to start eliminating animal products from your diet, don’t feel pressured to do so all at once. Most people will find a gradual transition to a vegan diet much easier to adapt to..

You could cut out dairy products for the first month, cut out fish the next and follow with meat for the third month. You could be pescatarian or vegetarian for a few months before going vegan. Or, to start with, you could go plant-based on alternative days or weeks.

Set yourself some goals and milestones and work to them over a period of time that suits you. This could be as fast or as slow as you like. Everyone is different and there’s no pressure to get it right straight away!

5. Get involved 

The vegan community is growing fast. There so many seasoned vegans who’re happy to help you out, as well as countless other newbie-vegans in the same boat as you!

With that said, why not join some vegan Facebook groups, where you’ll discover lots of extra help, guidance and a thriving community of like-minded people? Here are a few of our favourites

6. Plan your meals in advance

At the moment, you’ve probably got your shopping and meal routine down to a fine art. But going vegan is likely to turn all this upside-down and it might take a while to get settled into your all-new plant-based eating routine. This is where meal planning comes in! Planning your meals in advance is one of the best ways to ease into any kind of dietary change.

Sit down once a week with some cookbooks and decide what meals you’ll eat, and what ingredients they require, for the week ahead. It might seem like a pain, but it’ll make it shopping far more efficient and help you to double-check that your nutrient needs are being met (remember that all-important protein source with every meal!).

7. Fill up your store cupboard

Before you decide to go 100% vegan or plant-based, your kitchen cupboards or pantry will need a refresh. Stocking them with lots of non-perishable vegan essentials means you’ll always be able to whip up a tasty vegan meal at a moment’s notice.

Here’s our pick of the top vegan store cupboard essentials you’ll need before going vegan:

  • Proteins: Canned kidney, cannellini and black beans, chickpeas, dried lentils
  • Fats: Nuts, seeds, natural peanut and almond butter 
  • Grains: Oats, barley, quinoa, couscous, brown rice, bulgur wheat
  • Canned veg: Jackfruit, chopped tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, olives, pickles
  • Sources of omega 3: Chia seeds and linseed/flaxseed
  • Sources of vitamin B12: Nutritional yeast and marmite/yeast extract
  • Cooking oils: Coconut and olive oil
  • Dairy alternatives: Long-life soy, oat, almond, coconut and/or rice milk
  • Herbs and spices: Turmeric, chilli & garlic powder, garam masala, oregano, rosemary, paprika, cumin
  • Sauces and flavourings: Vegetable stock, vinegar, tahini, soy sauce, miso paste, mustard

Your initial vegan shop might seem pricey, but lots of these items (such a herbs, spices and sauces) will see you through recipe after recipe. Bear in mind that we’ve only listed non-perishable items here. For a balanced diet, you’ll also need to have a variety of fresh foods – especially fruit and vegetables – stocked in the fridge for your weekly meals.

8. Focus on wholefoods

One of the most common mistakes whilst transitioning to a vegan diet? Becoming a ‘junk food vegan’. A junk food vegan’s diet is packed with highly-processed vegan alternatives, such as mock meats, vegan sweets and biscuits and vegan pizzas.

There’s a common misconception that vegan junk food is healthier than meat or dairy-based junk food. But the truth is, junk food is junk food. Eating too much processed food is bad for your health, whether it’s vegan or not.

Tabletop display of non-starchy green vegetables; celery, chard, avocado, parsley, broccoli, green peppers, asparagus and parsely.

Instead, focus on eating as many minimally-processed, unrefined vegan whole foods as possible. This way, you’ll consume a far wider range of nutrients, feel fuller for longer and have much more energy and vitality.

Plus, wholefoods are typically cheaper than processed vegan options. If you’re on a budget, cooking from scratch with beans, pulses, veggies and grains is the way to go.

9. Aim for progress, not perfection

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Transitioning to a vegan diet is a huge challenge. It’ll take time to adjust your habits, get into the swing of veganism and feel fully comfortable with your new plant-based diet.

You might lose willpower a week or a month in and fall off the bandwagon. Perhaps you’ll misread a label and accidentally eat something non-vegan. Maybe you’ll choose a non-vegan meal at a restaurant. And guess what? All of those predicaments are totally fine. Don’t beat yourself up over small mishaps or pressure yourself to be perfect from the get-go.

Learning how to become a vegan can feel like a minefield, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right straight away. Do what’s right for you and aim for slow and steady progress, not perfection.

10. Try Purition

Concerned about having enough time to prepare nutritious plant-based meals? Purition Vegan can help you through your vegan diet transition.

Made with whole ground seeds and nuts paired with a premium plant-based protein blend of pea, sunflower and protein, Purition provides a small vegan meal when you’re pushed for time.

Purition served 4 ways; instant porridge, meal shake, protein balls, layered Purition yoghurt bowl.

A glass of Purition takes seconds to prepare but provides around 15g of complete plant protein alongside fibre, natural fats and naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals. A perfect breakfast or lunch for busy vegan lifestyles – or a natural, nutritious and complete post-workout vegan protein shake.

Hopefully, our vegan diet guide has told you everything you need to know about how to go vegan. Wondering if Purition’s vegan protein powders could help you on your transition to a vegan lifestyle? Order a Discovery Box and try out some samples or get in touch with us on hello@purition.co.uk; we’d be happy to help!

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