I’ve been vegetarian for a long time now, and even before I ‘officially’ became a vegetarian I rarely ate meat. At this point, I’m actually eating vegan at home and the only place where I still have dairy is at work because they do not offer a vegan lunch (yet). However, one of my goals for 2017 is to become fully vegan and take my own lunch to work so I can avoid animal products there as well. It’s something I’m really passionate about, so after getting into a twitter debate with some pro-meat/anti-vegan people, I decided to write up a post on why I’m vegan, and how to make transitioning to a vegan diet a bit easier.
The main reason I became a vegetarian, and am transitioning to becoming a vegan, is to save animal lives. I’ve always been sensitive to animal suffering, and do not believe we should be killing or mistreating them for our own gain. They cannot speak out for themselves, tell us their hurt, fight back or run away from the people that are abusing them, and I’ll gladly give up meat and dairy (and any other animal products) if it means some animals can be saved and situations like these can be avoided in the future.
Taking care of the environment
We (hopefully) all know that climate change and global warming are real and that the meat industry is a big part of the problem. According to several studies, giving up meat is even more beneficial for the environment than giving up your car. We don’t need to eat meat to survive, but we do need our planet and a healthy climate. If we can slow down global warming by eating vegan, why wouldn’t we? For me personally, the planet is more important than a cheeseburger.
Gradually transitioning to a vegan diet
If you’re planning on becoming vegan or vegetarian there’s nothing wrong with taking it slowly if you have a hard time adapting. You could, for example, start by cutting out meat and fish during weekdays, or cut out meat but not fish, or cut out dairy first, or have a couple of vegan nights a week. And once you’re getting used to it and found meat-replacements you like, take it a step further and cut out the next meat product.
I’ve never been much of a meat eater. I never liked it as a kid but ate it anyway because my parents and grandparents made me. The older and more independent I got, the less I started to eat it. After a while, I realized I hadn’t touched meat in months and was only having fish once a month, so I decided to ‘officially’ become a vegetarian, ask the cook at work for an extra portion of vegetarian food and consciously never buy meat or fish again.
The transition from vegetarian to vegan has been a bit harder, because it’s hard getting vegan options at restaurants, and there are so many things actually contain animal products. Most of the regular store-bought chocolate? Milk. Hot sauce? Fish. Supplements? Gelatine. Cake? Eggs and butter. Pizza? Cheese. The list is endless.
I usually cook myself, which gives me a lot of control over what I put in my body, so having a vegan dinner at home is pretty easy. However, for all the other things, I’m cutting them out and replacing them with vegan alternatives one by one, to make the change not too overwhelming. I haven’t had any milk products since summer (consciously, it might have been added to curries at work), stopped eating candy or cakes that are not vegan, and am shopping for vegan cheese and honey at the moment.
Make your own vegan alternatives
Since many of the products you buy at supermarkets contain some form of animal product, it’s often more convenient to just make your own version of it. This way you can also eliminate any sugars or other unnecessary products ending up in your food. Even if you don’t want to eat vegan, making your own alternative for chocolate, for example, is probably still worth it.
After realizing Sriracha hot sauce does not only fish but also an entire list of unhealthy ingredients, I started making my own hot sauce. I only use chili peppers (habanero), onion, coriander, apple cider vinegar and salt in them. It’s vegan, healthy and tastes amazing! I also make my own vegan chocolate bars using this recipe.
Eating vegan/vegetarian does not mean you have to change your diet entirely. I’m still eating pasta recipes, curries, pizza, burgers, soup, cake, ice cream, etc. like most people. I just replace the animal products with vegan-friendly alternatives. I personally love beans as a substitute for meat. It’s easy to cook with them, they have a lot of protein, and are super tasty. I’ve never been a big fan of tofu or fake meat, but it is a great possibility, especially if you like the texture of meat.
Meat and fish: Beans, nuts, falafel, vegetable patties, fake meat, tofu
Milk: Nut milk, coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk
Butter: Coconut oil, olive oil, or cook without butter (most pan-fried dishes work just as well with water)
Honey: Coconut nectar, agave nectar, maple syrup
Cheese: Vegan cheese (made out of nuts, soy, vegetable oil or other vegan products), hummus, tofu, nuts (great in pesto, for example)
Cruelty Free products: 100% Pure (vegan and natural products), Lush (not all of their products are vegan!), The Body Shop, Special Effects hair dye (I use their Cherry Bomb and Nuclear Red to achieve my red hair, but they have many different colors)