Should you jump right in? Or is it better to dip your toe into a plant-based diet first?
Katy Beskow, a longtime vegan and the author of three bestselling cookbooks, suggests a gradual approach. “The availability of vegan products means you can do it so much more easily than before. My advice is to replace products in your diet with alternatives step by step, be it milk, mayonnaise or yoghurt. That way, you won’t see a difference.”
How do I make sure I am getting enough protein?
Heather Russell, a registered dietician at the Vegan Society, says there is no cause for concern. “A common myth is that it’s difficult to get protein from plant foods. In reality, they can provide all the essential protein building blocks that we call amino acids. Good sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, soya products, peanut butter, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds.”
What about vitamins and minerals?
If you are going vegan, it is important to make sure you get enough vitamin B12 – commonly found in meat, eggs and fish – as without it, you will feel exhausted and weak. You can get B12 from fortified foods including “dairy alternatives, breakfast cereal, dairy-free spread and yeast extract”, says Russell. Alternatively, you can take a B12 supplement, which you can buy in most pharmacies and health-food stores. Russell also advises you think about your calcium intake. “Fortified plant milk contains the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk, and fortified yoghurt alternatives, calcium-set tofu, and a soya and linseed bread fortified with extra calcium are also really rich sources.”
What should I do if I have a wobble and really crave some meat?
Breaking a decades-long attachment to the smells, flavours and textures of meat can be hard. Perhaps you are at a barbecue when the smell of sausages wafts over to you. The good news is that nowadays it is easy to recreate the flavours and textures of meat in vegan food, whether it is a plant-based burger or seitan with the texture and crunch of fried chicken. You can get chicken, ribs, bacon, steaks, burgers, sausages – everything is available as vegan.
It is difficult to find vegan options where I live. How can I keep my diet varied and interesting?
We are fortunate in the UAE to have the pick of the best food from all over the world delivered right to our door.
Check out the next few pages for some great inspiration on what delicious food to get and where to get it from.
What about children? Is veganism safe for them?
Children can be healthy vegans. “It is possible to provide all the nutrients needed for growth and development without animal products,” Russell says. She advises parents to consult the Vegan Society website, which has detailed guidance on vegan diets for children of all ages, including infants, and can offer advice on which fortified foods and supplements it may be necessary for them to take.
Is it difficult to maintain a healthy weight on a vegan diet?
If you only eat salad, perhaps – but what a joyless life that would be. “Well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages,” says Russell. “They can provide all the calories and nutrients needed to hit nutritional targets and maintain a healthy weight.”
Being vegan doesn’t mean you are on a diet. Beskow urges converts to indulge in all their favourite treats from their pre-vegan lifestyle, in moderation. “If you are used to eating biscuits, you can buy lots of biscuits in supermarkets that are accidentally vegan … Have some crisps, enjoy your food – that’s what it’s all about. People see veganism as so restrictive and about saying no, but it’s about saying yes – but to different things.”