A few years ago I took a big step and switched to a vegan diet. My health was not at its peak at the time. I knew in my heart that if something didn’t change, I would be on a downward slope for the rest of my life.
When I shared my journey of switching to a vegan diet, someone asked me if it had been easy. When people talk about their successes they sometimes glamorise or gloss over the challenging parts. I have been guilty of this in the past. My journey wasn’t easy so I have decided to share my experience.
I eased myself into a vegan diet by starting with a seven-day challenge. I’ll admit it there were days when I was tempted to throw in the towel. The main thing that kept me going, apart from completing the challenge, was the improvement I saw in my health and well-being.
These are some of the challenges I faced and what I did to overcome them.
Getting Hungry Quickly
I found myself eating more frequently because I was hungry. The food just didn’t seem to stay in my stomach. I saw my grocery bill soar and had to find ways to cut down.
I used to love scrambled eggs. I loved the smell of eggs. A full English breakfast was my idea of a good breakfast — eggs, mushrooms, bacon, sausages, baked beans, hashbrowns, toast, and a lovely hot cup of tea to wash it all down. Bliss!
Now that I’d switched, what was I going to eat as a replacement?
Adjusting Taste Buds
I love barbeques and burgers but a vegan burger does not taste like a beef burger because, well, it’s not beef.
In the UK, supermarkets have a fabulous range of meat free products. They’ve done an excellent job of creating look-alike products but a meat eater will tell you — that’s not meat. Well, of course it isn’t and that’s the challenge- adjusting to the new texture and taste of meat alternatives.
Fewer Snack Options
The one challenge with being vegan is that you forget how many of your favourite brand snacks are not vegan. I used to love crunchie bars, dairy milk chocolate and chocolate peanuts. I couldn’t find a vegan equivalent. My only option was to find alternative snacks.
Vegan products are expensive, compared to non-vegan foods. This was probably the hardest adjustment as it hit my pocket hard. Some friends tried going vegan. They tested the waters by going pescitarian first then vegetarian. They never quite made it to the vegan stage because they said it was too costly.
How I Overcame the Challenges of Switching to a Vegan Diet
I incorporated more carbohydrates into my diet such as sweet potatoes, brown rice for main meals. For breakfast I ate oats with bananas and found I stayed fuller for longer than when I had vegan eggs and toast. I also made healthy chickpea snacks, oat flour muffins which I could snack on throughout the day in addition to fruit.
The Cost Challenge
I learnt how to make my own products such as oat milk, parmesan cheese, different types of snacks using chickpeas, plantain, among other things.
Adjusting Taste Buds
During the first days I had to trick my brain into thinking that I was eating my favourite meal while my taste buds were adjusting.
The secret to success here lies in how to season your food, so I did my research around spices that mimick certain flavours. For example, did you know that black salt adds and egg-flavour so you can add it to your vegan scrambled eggs.
Main Lessons Learnt
Switching to a vegan diet can be challenging but it is doable. To give yourself the best chance of success, ease yourself into it by:
- Reducing your dairy intake. Start introducing dairy alternatives such as vegan cheese, dairy-free milk such as soya, oat or rice milk.
- Cut down on meat gradually until you’re comfortable to have a meal with no meat. Introduce more meat free products. Quorn, Linda McCartney, Wicked, No Bull have a great range of suitable alternatives.
- Invest in gadgets and equipment so that you can make substitutes at home for a fraction of the cost of buying from the supermarket.
You must not rely on the information in this article as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.