Have you ever fancied the idea of going vegan? You’re not alone. Thanks to big-name vegans like Ellie Goulding and Jennifer Lopez, veganism is growing in popularity. In fact, the number of vegans in Britain has risen 360% in the last decade. The trouble is that going vegan involves a complete overhaul, especially if you’re currently a meat-eater. That’s why we called on TV star Lucy Watson, who went vegan this year, to share her experience and the helpful tips and tricks she has learnt along the way. With side effects including clearer skin and weight loss, we’re tempted to give it a try. Keep reading for Watson’s useful guide to becoming a vegan.
“Anyone who knows me will know of my vegan diet, and they may think I’m that ‘preachy vegan one.’ You may not know me at all, or maybe you do and you had no idea I was vegan! Some may see what I do as preaching, but I see it as sharing knowledge that many are simply unaware of. I sort of think, Life’s short, and if I’ve got the platform, why not? If ‘preaching’ can influence a positive change in one person’s life, it makes everything worthwhile.
“Now I know for some people being vegan may seem like a really extreme choice of diet and lifestyle, but for me, it was quite simple. I’ve been pescatarian since I was 6, and three years ago I became vegetarian. Turning to veganism earlier this year seemed like a natural progression. As someone who loves animals, when I hear about a process that involves animal cruelty, I no longer want to be associated with it. Aside from the animal cruelty aspect of the meat/dairy industries, there are many health benefits associated with turning vegan, much to many people’s surprise.
“Before going vegan, I had a very unhealthy diet. Although I ate no meat or fish, I was absolutely obsessed with dairy and included it in nearly every meal I ate. A standard day for me would be pancakes in the morning, mac and cheese for lunch (with some veggies) and maybe a Chinese takeout for dinner. By going vegan, I immediately eliminated 70% of the unhealthy meals I was used to eating,” Watson says.
Keep scrolling to find out the health benefits and how to stick to being vegan on the go.
The Vegan Health Benefits
“Two weeks after going vegan, I noticed that a lot of my clothes no longer fit me,” Watson says. “I’m not someone who really believes in regularly weighing yourself, but I was curious to see how much weight I had lost. It turned out I’d dropped around 5 kilograms, which is roughly half a stone. I was shocked, as I hadn’t intended on losing any weight. I was a size 8 and went to the gym three times a week, so I was relatively happy with my size. I realised that cutting out dairy had meant cutting out so much fat from my diet. It was then that I finally understood just how bad dairy can be for you.”
how to start
“Take it slow. If you are a full-blown meat eater, this is not something you should try and accomplish overnight,” Watson says. “It’s a huge adjustment, and you should get to your end goal gradually like I did. You could start by cutting out red meat from your diet (which has massive benefits to the planet in terms of carbon emissions) and maybe try having one vegan meal a week (whether you decide to go fully vegan or not, it gives you a chance to experiment with different foods and recipes).
“Also, do your research. There are plenty of websites out there that can advise you on what to eat. If going meat-free feels pretty daunting, try replacing some of the meals that you are used to eating with meat alternatives, such as Quorn’s vegan range, Fry’s or even Linda McCartney’s range. Eating enough protein is really important, so be sure to look into protein alternatives such as lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas or quinoa.”
what to eat?
“I know that there are many people out there who have wanted to make the change, but find it too overwhelming to even know where to begin! I found it hard at first; I’m not going to lie. I didn’t really know where to start having removed nearly everything from my fridge and cupboards. I made a list of all the things I loved to eat and went on a mission to find vegan alternatives.
“Knowing where to shop is important. All the major stores such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have a wide selection of vegan and free-from foods. I personally shop with Ocado online and occasionally pop into Whole Foods or Green Bay (an entirely vegan grocery store). It was important to me to find cheese alternatives, but I also just increased my vegetable intake in general. Simple meals tend to be veggies and rice with soy sauce or sweet potato with vegan chilli (black beans for protein, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas with spices). Nowadays there is such a large range of vegan alternatives that it really isn’t as hard as people may think.
“When it comes to eating out, there are lots of places to go in London. Manna in Primrose Hill has an amazingly vast menu with everything from ‘sausage’ and mash to ‘meatballs.’
“Mildred’s has a vegetarian/vegan menu with so many options that you won’t feel like you're in a vegetarian restaurant. They have restaurants in Soho, Camden and Kings Cross, and are hugely popular.
“Fed by Water in Dalston is a pasta and cheese lover’s vegan dream. It’s all Italian, and the food is incredible; it’s some of the best pasta and pizza I’ve ever had.”
“Having visited my doctor since going vegan and being told I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been, I couldn’t be happier. But you will see the benefits on the outside too. My skin has never been clearer. In fact, going vegan has been known in a lot of cases to cure skin problems, such as acne and eczema. Not only that, but I have heaps more energy than before.
“Aside from obvious health improvements and beauty benefits, you will reduce your carbon footprint by over 50%. Save the animals, save the planet, save yourself! There really is no downside.”
would i go back?
“I think anyone reading this will know the answer, but no, I really could never go back. Not even slightly. I’ve never felt better and I really don’t miss the things I used to eat. I genuinely think if I tried to eat mac ’n’ cheese, I would be sick because it would be too rich for my stomach. Something I never thought I would ever think.
“The truth is that if I can do this, so can you. I hope this has inspired you to make a change, be it big or small, it all makes a difference.”