22 Jul 2015

How to Easily Transition from Vegetarian to Vegan


The idea of transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism can seem daunting, especially if you have only recently switched to vegetarianism. In reality, it's easy. If you do it the right way, it can be one of the simplest and yet most rewarding changes you ever make. There are so many vegan alternatives for animal products available these days, all helping to make your transition much easier.

I became vegetarian at six years old and became vegan at age eighteen. For most of my life, I couldn't imagine being vegan. I didn't know much about it, and it seemed so difficult. No ice-cream? No chocolate? No cake? No cookies? No cheese? What a horrible life that must be! 

How naive I was! I had no idea about the abundance of vegan ice-creams, chocolates, cakes, cheese and cookies available. I couldn't fathom how these foods could taste delicious without milk or eggs.

What's awesome is that since becoming vegan - which wasn't that long ago, only three years - the amount of vegan food available at the supermarket has grown exponentially. I can walk five minutes to my local supermarket and find all sorts of animal product alternatives - vegan cheese, cake mix, biscuits, meats (everything from herb sausages to pepperoni), cookies, chocolate, yoghurt, ice-cream... the list goes on. Five years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. Awareness of veganism certainly has grown in leaps and bounds over recent years, bringing an abundance of cruelty-free food along with it. It's fantastic.

So I was wrong about vegan food. It isn't boring. It isn't lacking in nutrition. For most people, it isn't difficult to find. For the majority of vegetarians, the transition from vegetarianism to veganism should be a smooth and delicious one. It certainly was for me!

Why vegetarians should switch to veganism

At first, vegetarianism can seem like enough. I mean, it's fairly obvious that eating meat causes animal suffering. Most people know about the horrors of slaughterhouses. Many people, however, don't know about the extra suffering hidden under the surface, the suffering that isn't so obvious - all caused by the dairy and egg industries.

As a young vegetarian, I didn't really understand why vegans existed. I figured it was a health fad. I couldn't see how taking milk from cows and eggs from chickens could possibly harm them - you don't have to kill a chicken to take her eggs, I thought, so what's wrong with eating them?

There is a great deal wrong with eating eggs, and drinking milk is just as bad. The level of suffering caused by the egg and dairy industries is just about on par with the meat industry. I won't go into too much detail here - there are plenty of sites that offer this information already (here, here) - but, in essence, the dairy and egg industries kill cows and chickens by the millions (after letting them suffer for their entire short lives).

If you want to stop animal suffering and promote animal rights, going vegan is the best way to do it. Vegetarianism is definitely a good step forward, but there is always more we can do to help. We should be striving to do our very best. And veganism is simple and easy, so why not make the switch?

Replacing cheese, milk and eggs in a vegan diet

One thing always seems to get in the way when people try to switch to a vegan diet: cheese. A lot of people crave it and end up switching back to vegetarianism. There's a reason for this: cheese is addictive! There's an ingredient in cheese called casein. When casein is digested, a protein fragment known as casomorphin is produced. Casomorphin has properties similar to opioids, which can be highly addictive and cause withdrawals. That's why withdrawal symptoms are experienced by people trying to cut out cheese! (Source, source)

I don't recall suffering any cheese withdrawals after switching to veganism, but I did miss the flavour. I no longer do. I eat cheese substitutes from time to time, sprinkled on pasta or other hot meats, but I certainly don't garnish every meal with cheese like I used to. I can quite happily go without it. In fact, the smell of cheese is very off-putting to me now, along with the smell of milk and eggs (well, I've always hated the smell of eggs). Cheese substitutes are nice to have around, but I don't feel like I need them.

You can make delicious vegan cheese from nuts and spices

I also used to be a big milk-drinker - especially flavoured milk. Banana milk was almost a daily staple in my vegetarian diet, despite how bloated and nauseous it often made me feel. Since dropping dairy, I rarely feel those effects.

If you're looking to drop cheese, milk, eggs, and other animal products from your diet, here's a table that can help you find alternatives:

Product

Faux/Processed Vegan Alternative


Natural/Homemade Vegan Alternative
Cheese

Vegan Cheese – Chao, Daiya, Sheeze, Notzarella, etc.

Homemade vegan cheese using nuts – cashew cheese, almond parmesan
Egg
Egg replacer powder – Orgran, Ener-G, etc.

To replace one egg:

1 TBSP ground flax seed + 2 ½ TBSP water

1 TBSP chia seed + 1/3 cup water

½ banana, mashed

¼ cup of applesauce


Milk

Almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc.

Easy-to-make homemade plant-based milks such as almond, oat
Honey

Vegan honey – “Bee Free Honee”, etc.

Agave nectar, maple syrup
Yoghurt

Vegan yoghurt – So Delicious, Trader Joe’s, Alpro, Kingland, Co Yo, etc.

Homemade yoghurt
Ice-Cream

Vegan ice-cream – So Delicious, So Good, Almond Dream, etc.

Frozen bananas, blended

With all these alternatives readily available, making the switch from vegetarian to vegan shouldn't be difficult at all. Once your body has moved past the brief "withdrawal" stage that you may experience, you will feel wonderful; and eventually, the mere thought of eating animal products will make you sick. You won't crave it anymore, and you'll feel better for it.

If you're looking for specific recipes, search online! You'll find an abundance of information all over the internet. I'm not a great cook myself, so I can't provide you with any awesome recipes, but there are many vegan food blogs out there that will help. Here's a few popular sites to get you started: link, link.

Of course, you don't have to replace any of these products if you don't feel like it. You could just go without, as many vegans do. Plain fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds are more than enough for many people.

Make the switch today

If you're a vegetarian looking to become vegan, hopefully this post has helped you. If you're vegan already, and have vegetarian friends (I know many of us do) this post may help them out - why not share it with them?

I definitely haven't regretted making the change from vegetarian to vegan. Honestly, it's the best decision I've ever made in my life. It opened my eyes to so many new foods, new people, and the blogging community. It really has changed my life for the better. If you love animals and don't want them to suffer, and if you love to eat delicious, healthy food, I encourage you to make the switch to veganism. If you do it right, you'll never look back.