Aine Carlin’s 6 top tips for going vegan
So you want to go vegan? Not an unusual step given our growing interest in all things plant-based – although that doesn't mean there aren't a few remaining tips and tricks to be had to ease the dreaded transition. Sure, we've come a long way since the days of coffee shops recoiling in horror at a request for soya milk, but there's definitely still a way to go. And for the record, vegan emphatically does not mean gluten-free – or, as I like to say, 'Give me all the bread!'
The easiest place to begin is at home
You can absolutely control what you cook/consume in your own kitchen, so clear out those cupboards and start anew. This might seem drastic but if you're serious about this vegan malarkey then having a lingering Dairy Milk in the fridge is not going to help your resolve. Yes, you'll inevitably have to part ways with a few old faves but with so many incredible alternatives on the market now, it feels more like a swap than a sacrifice. Think vegan pesto (Sacla have two delicious flavours), plant milks (I use unsweetened soya in tea but love almond milk in porridge) and even though you might not think it now, you're probably going to develop a penchant for tofu (thank goodness for Cauldron and their array of awesome products).
Embrace the cook within you
I know it sounds crazy but there's something about going vegan that draws people to the kitchen, firstly out of necessity, which then quickly graduates into a full-on obsession. You'll initially need to arm yourself with the basics and that means investing in a few good cookbooks. But once you have a handful of go-to recipes up your sleeve you'll soon be experimenting like a pro.
Eat with others
Veganism has an air of solitude about it and that's why I always encourage people to cook and eat in groups as much as possible. Whether it's a leisurely lunch or an extravagant dinner, get your friends over, open a bottle of (vegan-friendly) Pinot and celebrate all this wondrous new food you're discovering together. Sharing awesome plant-based food is the best way to show people that it's not a life of deprivation you're destined for, rather a vibrant way of eating that is full of variety and abundance.
Beer-battered tofu tacos – find the recipe in the October issue of Sainsbury's magazine
Prepare for eating out
Eating out is surely one of the most painful parts of the 'vegan transition'. Six years on and I still find it excruciating explaining myself to the waiting staff. So, until restaurants make our lives easier by clearly labelling things on the menu, I'll stick to doing my research ahead of time. Google is your friend in these instances or simply pick up the phone and ask all the necessary questions beforehand – this means you'll avoid having the spotlight put on you when you go to order. Bonus.
Be kind to yourself
If you fall off the wagon, don't stress about it, this is not a race to perfection and slip-ups may happen. It's important not to compare journeys because no two will ever be the same.
This isn't just about food
Veganism encompasses so much more than that. From clothing to homeware, beauty products and beyond, this is about 'cruelty-free' living insofar as is humanly possible, and that means reading labels. Whether it's those shoes you covet (leather is a no-go I'm afraid) or that mascara you can't live without (keep an eye out for bunny logos) you'll soon get the swing of things and realise you needn't forfeit your well-tuned personal style for your newfound cause. Hurrah!
Aine Carlin is a vegan food blogger and writer. Her book, Keep It Vegan (Kyle Books, £14.99), is out now and her tofu recipes are featured in the October issue of Sainsbury's magazine.