How To Go Vegan

Record numbers are choosing to go vegan. Thinking of joining them?

When multiple Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton announced last year that he was going vegan, there was widespread consternation amongst the sporting media. This is a man who competes in one of the most physically gruelling sports on the planet. Drivers can lose as much as 3KG in body weight during a two-hour race in which they are exposed to 3G forces every few seconds. Some feared a vegan diet would not provide Hamilton with the fuel he needed to make it to the end of the race. They said that without meat, he would have insufficient protein, Vitamin D and iron.

A year on, and the doubters have been proved wrong. Hamilton typically leaps from the car post-race, looking as fresh as when he began. Two months after announcing going vegan, he won yet another world title, his fourth, and he is now well on his way to a fifth. According to Hamilton, his vegan diet has given him an edge. At the end of last season, he told reporters in Abu Dhabi: “I feel amazing. It’s the best I’ve ever felt in my life.”

Reducing greenhouse gases

Hamilton is one of a record 3.5 million vegans in the UK – that’s about seven percent of the population and so there is more choice of plant-based foods and snacks than ever to serve this growing sector. People choose to go vegan for a whole host of reasons, but environmental concerns come close to the top of the list. From farm to fork, food is responsible for about 20 percent of the UK’s greenhouse emissions, and scientists estimate that if every meat eater turned vegan tomorrow, those emissions would reduce by about 50 percent.

Join the revolution

Adopting a vegan lifestyle can sound like a major, and even a frightening, step. However, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips for a successful transition.

1) Take it slow – you don’t have to go vegan overnight. Some people do so and never look back, but for most, a gentle transition makes for a better experience. Start out with one day a week – “meatless Monday,” for example.

2) Learn about vegan food – any dietary shift can be difficult, so learn about plant-based nutrition before you start. There is no shortage of books, blogs and factsheets out there, so really do your homework.

3) Start on familiar ground – going vegan will expand your palate, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s always good to start with what you know. Think about a couple of favourite dishes, and come up with ways of making them into vegan alternatives. For example, you can substitute dairy cheese for cashew cheese and meat for a plant-based protein source like beans or soya.

4) Cook for everyone – vegans don’t eat meat, but meat-eaters can eat vegan food, so avoid cooking different food for different people. If you have guests for dinner, come up with a vegan menu that everyone will love. You might just surprise them, as well as yourself!