Blog,  Life

A Beginner’s Guide to Veganism

Thinking about trying veganism? Nice one! Here’s a little guide with some Exeter-themed advice to help you along the way…

I’ve lived in Exeter all my life and have been vegan for around three and a half years. It all started with signing up to Veganuary in 2015 for reasons of health and curiosity. From being a regular meat-eater to a successful and enjoyable month of veganism, I then went pescatarian for a few months – mainly due to social pressures around me. With the help of powerful documentaries, informative articles, online resources and the lovely local community, I went vegan in August 2015 and never looked back – and can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Start following positive vegan accounts and hashtags for constant motivation

KNOW YOUR ‘WHY’

For your health. For the animals. For our planet. Whatever your reason for trying veganism, stay focused on this motivation. If you feel your commitment faltering, go back to the reason you started and re-focus. Write it down and keep it with you, so if you’re confronted by a moment of weakness, you can easily remind yourself why you’ve made this pledge.

REINFORCE THAT MOTIVATION

There are loads of brilliant resources out there to help you get informed and to strengthen and increase your motivation to go vegan. If documentaries are your thing, you’re in luck:

Viva!, Veganuary and The Vegan Society all have helpful websites with lots of resources, and you can sign up to Veganuary’s daily emails for regular tips and inspiration.
British vegan activist Earthling Ed also has some really brilliant resources that are all free, such as his e-book ’30 Non-Vegan Arguments And How To Respond To Them’, plus his 30 Days 30 Excuses video series – short videos confronting the most common excuses not to go vegan – is well worth a watch.

Yes, you can still eat cake! Just like these almond butter brownies from Naturally Bread.

PLAN AHEAD

The huge growth in veganism in the last few years means it’s so much easier to shop and eat out these days, but there will probably still be occasions where you need to plan ahead and go prepared. Whether you’ve got a dinner party, work conference or day trip coming up where the catering arrangements are unclear, do what you can to make the situation as easy for you as possible – such as bringing your own dish, calling up venues in advance and always carrying snacks with you!
DINING OUT: Luckily, Exeter is full of incredible vegan options. From independents like Rabbit Vegan Cafe, Cavern Cafe and The Flat to chain restaurants like Zizzi, Wagamama and Comptoir Libanais, your main problem is going to be deciding on which to choose! If you’ve been invited somewhere for a birthday or an event that doesn’t have a vegan option, ring up in advance to let them know you need a vegan meal – most places will be happy to create something for you if give them notice.
SUPERMARKET PREP: Planning alternatives to your favourite meals before you go shopping will ward off any likelihood of a breakdown in the middle of the aisle on a crowded Saturday morning. Are you going to try veggie mince or make a mushroom and lentil ragu for Wednesday’s spaghetti bolognese night? Does your regular supermarket sell Quorn’s fishless fingers or do you fancy whipping up crispy battered tofu for Friday’s usual fish and chip night? It might seem like a minefield to start with, but once you’ve decided on the swaps you need to make, food shopping actually becomes quite simple as you can start avoiding large sections of the supermarket immediately!
VISITING SOMEWHERE NEW: If you’re planning on staying somewhere new, a little advance planning can help you discover the best vegan food in that area. Other than doing a simple Google search, find local Facebook groups to ask for recommendations before your visit, check out what’s listed on Happy Cow and search through Trip Advisor for places that have reviews containing ‘vegan’.

GET INSPIRED ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Creating your own online world of tips, inspiration, advice, discussion and information is invaluable when trying veganism. If you’re a regular user of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., start following positive vegan accounts and hashtags for constant motivation. Once you find a few, you’ll open a whole colourful new world of inspiring recipes, chefs, activists, bloggers…! Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

FIND YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK

If you have friends or family who are already vegan, ask them for support and advice – chances are they’ll be thrilled to help. Join local vegan Facebook groups for inspiration and ideas, check out the Exeter Friends For Animals (EFFA) website for local information and support in going vegan and go to Exeter Vegan Market on Saturday 19th January for a friendly welcome, delicious vegan food and a huge range of vegan products to browse. Vegan cafe Mooplehog in Okehampton are hosting weekly meetups on Saturdays for those doing Veganuary and there’s no doubt plenty of restaurants will be doing Veganuary specials to look out for!

Don’t be hard on yourself. If you slip up accidentally, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

DISCOVER #VEGANEXETER

Discover a new and exciting part of your local area that you didn’t know existed by spending some time getting to know the best vegan-friendly places around, find out where to get vegan takeaways, visit your local vegan mini supermarket Seasons and join in the local conversation online. Join EFFA to sign up to their mailing list and keep in the loop with any local news and events. Get following #veganexeter, #exetervegans and local Instagram accounts to become part of the community. As well as following RootedExeter, here are some others to add to your list for a variety of local plantbased content:

Check out our Winter Guide from 2017 – go to page 16 for a map of some of Exeter’s finest vegan eateries!


BE PATIENT…

  • …with your taste buds. You will learn to love all these new foods and you will stop craving cheese – I promise! – just give it time.
  • …with other people and the world around you. Although the growth of veganism has skyrocketed recently and it’s become a lot more mainstream, there’s still a lot of preconceptions and misinformation (on both sides!) out there, and it’s possible you’ll come across those ill-informed people who will question what you’re doing and try to bring you down, online or offline. If you’re up for a potentially heated discussion then great, but remember it’s not your job to try to convince them that what you’re doing is right for you, for the planet, for the animals – whatever your motivation – so don’t feel as though you’ve failed if you’re not armed and ready with all of the answers all of the time. Refocus on your motivation, rely on your support network – you’ve got this!
  • …with yourself. You’re introducing a big lifestyle change and there will be challenges and obstacles, so don’t expect it to be an easy, overnight transition. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you slip up accidentally, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. We all slip up, we’re all human. Being vegan isn’t about being perfect.

Good luck on your vegan journey and remember – one of most common regrets of any vegan is wishing they had started earlier!