The number of vegans in Britain has risen by more than 360 per cent over the past decade, according to a new survey that shows record numbers of people are avoiding food derived from animals.
Some 542,000 people aged 15 or over – more than one per cent of the population – have adopted a plant-based diet, up from 150,000 in 2006. According to the Vegan Society, the survey proves that veganism is now one of Britain’s “fastest growing lifestyle movements”.
The poll of almost 10,000 people, carried out by Ipsos MORI in for the Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine, is the largest ever aimed at quantifying the number of vegans in Britain.
The perceived health benefits of a vegan diet are thought to be driving the trend. Advocates of plant-based eating say vegans typically have lower levels of cholesterol and blood pressure, a lower body mass index, and reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer. Environmental and welfare issues are also contributing to the swelling numbers turning away from food sourced from animals.
Yet some vegetarians rely too heavily on processed foods, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. And they may not eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods, thus missing out on the nutrients they provide.
However, with a little planning a vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. The key is to be aware of your nutritional needs so that you plan a diet that meets them.
When people think about a vegetarian diet, they typically think about a diet that doesn't include meat, poultry or fish. But vegetarian diets vary in what foods they include and exclude:
Some people follow a semivegetarian diet — also called a flexitarian diet — which is primarily a plant-based diet but includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
Thinking of joining them? Here's what the experts told us.
We recommend removing one kind of animal from your diet at a time ("chicken and eggs are a great place to start"); being "vegan at home" to better control your food; or trying "vegetarian for now" and continuing to eat eggs and dairy.
Start with the one thing you consume the most and substitute it with the vegan version, such as almond milk for whole milk.
Crowd out less healthy, or non-vegan foods with a yummy vegan addition. For example, have a green smoothie before your usual breakfast, or some fruit before an afternoon cookie. By eating the plant-based food first you won't have as much room for other stuff, and you'll develop a taste for the healthier option.
When going vegan, "people get so caught up in rules, they become anxious," says Terry Hope Romero, author of the book Vegan Eats World. "Relax and learn to love to cook, explore new cuisines, and be adventurous with food. Most importantly, be easy on yourself. Don't view a vegan lifestyle as the finish line, but as an evolving process of conscious eating." Vegenista blogger Melissa Bechter says, "As my commitment to a cruelty-free lifestyle became stronger than my cravings, I found that eventually I lost my taste for animal-based foods."
It might be easier to become a vegan if you can avoid questions or scrutiny from others. "Don't announce what you are doing; focus on yourself and being conscious of your surroundings, body, and food addictions first," says longtime vegan John Salley, a four-time NBA champion and a partner of Vegan Vine wines. "Be still and strong in your ability to control your own life."
Once you begin your vegan diet, "you'll need someone to rant to about how many times a day you get asked where you get your protein," says Jill Wiseman, co-founder of e-commerce site Vegan Cuts. Whether your support lives next door or is through a Facebook page, you'll widen your world of vegan-friendly products, recipes, and restaurants. If you don't know where to look, Crystal Tate of Food for Lovers recommends 30 Day Vegan Challenge: "[The] daily tips and videos hold your hand through grocery shopping, dining out, and trying new recipes."
If you're trying to become a vegan, "rich sources of concentrated protein include beans, soy products like tofu and seitan, quinoa, nuts, and hemp seeds," says Moran. Plus, there are vegan protein powders you can add to water and shakes. As long as you include these staples along with protein-rich veggies like asparagus, cauliflower, and broccoli, you should meet your daily requirements.
"Many who claim to be vegetarian or vegan are really starch-atarians filling meat voids with pasta, fries, bread," and other non-plant substitutes, that are actually terrible. Try to eat more healthy, whole foods to give your body the vital nutrients and antioxidants it needs, like nuts, seeds, green and red vegetables and fruits
When you remove animal products you lose a lot of the fat and salt, which is often what contributes to the can't-put-it-down taste. Add to your menu rich, complex flavors with walnuts, avocados, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, fresh basil, cold-pressed flax seed oil, and unrefined grey or pink sea salt. Other ingredients to consider include nuts, dried fruits, protein powder, chia or hemp seeds, and Spirulina, a protein-dense freshwater algae.
Many staples of a vegan diet like grains, beans, and nuts are cheap, and they usually store well if you buy them in bulk. Bechter also suggests you join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); shop at farmers’ markets an hour before closing for discounts; and visit VeganCuts.com for daily deals and discounts on vegan food and lifestyle products.
Even fast-food places are starting to offer vegan options on their menus. In select restaurants, Mexican chain Chipotle serves Sofritas, a shredded, organic tofu cooked with chipotle chiles and roasted poblanos. National chain Tropical Smoothie Cafe will substitute plant-based protein Beyond Meat (which shreds up like cooked chicken) in all salads and sandwiches at no extra cost. New York-based chain Fresh & Co., which also serves the "Vegan 'Unchicken'" says that items with it are among the most popular on its menu and even meat-eaters are opting for it. You can find other choices on this comprehensive list from PETA.
Whether you're eating out or cooking at home, be adventurous. Moran says, "Asian cuisines have tantalizing plant-based options originating from the spread of Buddhism." She also likes Italian pastas; Ethiopian lentil stews; satisfying and spicy Indian curries; and Mexican veggie tacos, fajitas or burritos ("just hold the cheese").
Vegan versions of your beloved recipes will inevitably have different tastes and textures from what you are used to. Instead create other go-tos, or try to incorporate similar flavors in new dishes. "I began experimenting with 'transition foods' to help quell the cravings for cheese and dairy," says Bechter. "When I realized that I could still make some of my favorite recipes with non-dairy alternatives, like pizza, macaroni & cheese, or grilled cheese sandwiches, it became easier for me to cut out the dairy habit."
Drink plenty of natural liquids.
Some companies like Cho-Yung Tea are proud to label their drinks as vegan, and it is becoming increasingly common to find supermarkets labelling their wines, beers and ciders as such. If you like to keep things really simple (and support our work while you’re at it), then buy products sporting the Vegan or Vegeratian Trademark: the product is guaranteed to be free from animal ingredients and will not have been processed using any animal-derived substances
There's no shortage of great information on becoming vegan: Googling "going vegan" yields 40,900,000 results! The experts we interviewed recommended everything from blogs (Lunch Box Bunch, FatFree Vegan Kitchen) to non-preachy books (Main Street Vegan, Eating Animals) to groups that set you up with a vegan mentor (Vegan Month). Ashayla Patterson recommends, "[Start] with film documentaries because seeing real people and their stories is often more compelling than reading about the virtues of veganism." Try Netflix instant stream options like Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.
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