Staying vegan after Veganuary...
How did you find Veganuary? Did you manage to stay vegan for the full 31 days, or was it a struggle?
Are you now fully vegan, flexitarian or are you just starting to try vegan food?
Whatever stage you are at when it comes to learning to live as a vegan, I will do my best to suggest some ideas past Veganuary based on my experience of being vegan for the past 5 or so years.
Try more fruits & vegetables
To make life easier when it comes to staying vegan, I really recommend investing in a few decent vegan cookbooks; but most importantly start trying foods that you would never usually eat!
Honestly, the best thing I ever did was overcome my fear of fruits and vegetables...
I used to be a really picky eater, for over 20 years!
Well into and past my university days, I would mainly eat a typical western diet of meat, cheese, dairy, pasta and bread. The only staple fruits and vegetables I ate were potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and sometimes strawberries...
I remember being in my mid twenties and trying to overcome eating an apple after hiking a peak in the Yorkshire Dales.
It makes me sick to think that I had very little nutrition entering my body everyday for all that time, however I am so glad that I am now a fairly healthy vegan and enjoy a plant based diet.
So how did I do it? Easy...
Just take it slow and focus on one food at a time, for me it was a banana. I ate one banana a day, for a whole week. After 7 days, I overcame my fear of being a picky eater and was able to carry on eating bananas.
I then tried it with other foods that I used to turn my nose up at, such as mushrooms, onions, beans, etc. This really helped to change my mindset about all fruits and vegetables. I will at the very least try new foods now, in fact I find it exciting when I see a fruit or vegetable in a shop!
To help with this way of thinking, I created a food chart game specially designed for picky eaters and picky children, called super foodies. Check it out here.
If you fail one day, don’t give up!
We are only human, and I have certainly made mistakes and had cheat days in the past. After all, it can be very difficult, especially after being conditioned to eating certain ways and eating foods that are made to be very addictive.
Luckily in 2022 there are so many great vegan alternatives to choose from here in the UK and I’m sure all over the world. But don’t put yourself down or give up on the vegan diet if you do find it hard or have a few off days. The key is to just stick at it, keep researching about food health, particularly books likes ‘How not to die’ or documentaries such as ‘What the health’ and ‘Seaspiracy’.
I recommend finding alternative foods to help get over your cravings, for example medjool dates with peanut butter inside are a great, healthy treat to have instead of a chocolate bar, or there are great healthy cereal bars available. Eventually, your taste buds will get used to not eating things like dairy and with the research done you will learn to dislike the smell, taste and idea of eating dairy or meat.
What order to stop eating meat & dairy?
From what I remember, it was really easy for me to give up eggs; I wasn’t that keen on them anyway, and the thought of them dropping out of a chickens backside put me off them anyway. Milk was such an easy thing to also drop when I started trying plant milk, especially oat milk. The hardest thing with milk and eggs is avoiding products with traces of it in, such as crisps and cakeys. But luckily there is so much vegan chocolates and treats, it really isn’t hard anymore.
Meat and fish was surprisingly easy to give up after trying bean, chickpea and lentil based meals, I’d say chicken took the longest but not too hard to avoid. When it comes to cooking, I love making a delicious vegan curry, packed full of spices and lots of vegetables.
Honey is also easy to avoid, with alternatives such as maple and agave syrup.
Stay vegan by going to events
The UK has one of the biggest vegan events around the world; the vegan campout. A 2-3 vegan festival, that is full of thousands of likeminded people, vegan food stalls, products, celebrity talks, activities and music. I fully recommend it, even as a vegan a learned new things about animals, tried new foods, watched some activism and most importantly met other friendly vegans.
Being around lots of likeminded vegans and animal lovers definitely adds to the strength of staying vegan and cements the idea of never wanting to go back to meat or dairy.
Stop buying animal products but don’t throw stuff away!
Once you’ve mastered the hardest part of cutting out meat, dairy, eggs and honey; this step is very easy. There is so much alternatives to leather, wool and any other animal based products.
I would start out by looking at what you have around the house, with the intention of eventually replacing them when you need to. For example, you may still have a belt that is made from leather, but I don’t see any point in throwing it away as that is just wasteful. The best thing to do would either donate it to charity or just keep using it until it is worn out.
The main thing to remember, is to avoid buying any animal based materials in the future where at all possible.