Why I made the switch to being VEGAN and my top tips for how to make the change!

Hi everyone, It’s Will from Live Smart, and I wanted to write this blog on a topic very special to me. It’s all about being vegan, why I decided to make the change and the challenges I faced along the way. Plus I share my top tips if you fancy trying some plant-based meals or if you’re thinking about taking the plunge too.

I’ve been vegan for around eight months now and, for me, the most challenging aspect so far has been defending my position to people who don’t understand why I’m living on a plant-based diet.  

Let’s take things right back, what made me do it?

I used to be a massive meat eater, I was raised in a small village in South Gloucestershire to a father who was a trained butcher and mum who was a trained chef. To say meat meals was the staple meal in the house is an understatement! I’m now a final year geography student with a passion for nature, biodiversity and how we can live side-by-side with the environment as one. Currently, we’re not.  

We are now battling with habitat and biodiversity loss (the ecological crisis), the climate crisis and the health crisis, they are all interlinked.

World map divided by land use. Source: https://ourworldindata.org/land-use

FACT: the land used for the meat and dairy industry is equivalent to North, Central and South America combined

This image illustrates the true extent of this industry, equating to the size of the Americas. Lands that were once rich in biodiversity are cleared for raising livestock, as well as being replaced with monoculture cropland used for animal feed. The meat and dairy industry alone equates to one quarter of our global emissions and only provides us with 18% of the calories we need. If we switched to a plant-based diet, we could feed ourselves on a lot less land and protect magnificent species at the same time. 

Satellite imagery of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, May 2017-September 2020

FACT: our intrusion in nature is creating a sick planet, where humans cannot be healthy 

Up to 75% of all new diseases come from other animals due to the way we interact with nature. Impacts of human activity such as deforestation, habitat loss, and poor sanitation, create the perfect brewing pot for new diseases to spread between species and even to humans. As the late biologist Dr Thomas Lovejoy stated, “This pandemic [COVID-19] is the consequence of our persistent and excessive intrusion in nature”. If the world transitioned to a more plant-based diet, we could secure ourselves a healthier, more resilient and more sustainable future.

FACT: a vegan diet can have massive health benefits

It is a myth that you need meat and dairy in order to obtain all your essential vitamins and nutrients, and studies have shown that vegans who eat a balanced diet, receive more essential nutrients than having meat meals. Eating meat can increase the risk of health problems, due to the saturated fats present in some meats. Recent studies have shown that people who stick to a balanced vegan diet, slash cancer rates by up to half and reduce the risk of getting long-term health conditions by up to 78%!

My 5 top tips for going vegan (or just giving it a go):

Me with my vegan beef, bacon and cheese burger with chips and salad 🙂
  1. Go flexi or vegetarian first 

This was something I found useful; I already wasn’t drinking milk (just because I didn’t really like it) but cutting down on my meat intake was something which I really took to. I went from including meat in every meal, to having mainly plant-based meals throughout the week. It really helped discovering the variety of plant-based alternatives in the supermarket and, once I started trying them, I found that they tasted so much better!  

  1. Speak to other vegans 

Changing our diet is not an easy task. suddenly having to know what meals to cook and what you need to eat to get a balanced diet is a really difficult task! What I did was reached out to my closest friends who were vegan or veggie and asked them for some guidance on how they tackled simple things like food shopping and bringing together a decent meal. If you’re stuck, please contact me 😉 

  1. Meal plan 

Finding the time to meal plan is beneficial. At the weekend, I draft a day-by-day meal plan from Monday to Friday. This allows me to only shop for what I need which is great for your purse and, in the long term, it will save you time cutting down the days where you’re stuck thinking of what to cook. One thing I’m going to do in 2022 is to start batch cooking. This will help me cut down on my cooking time in the week to save more time for studying.

  1. If you trip up, that’s ok! 

So, you’ve started your plant-based diet and suddenly you see a pepperoni pizza which looks really good, you take a bite and instantly feel the regret. This is an anecdote of what happened to me at a party. At first, I was disappointed with myself, but after some reflection I realised that changing a diet is always going to be hard to begin with, and reflecting on this small act reminded me of the reason why I was changing my diet and spurred me on to stick to my belief. Tripping up is part of the journey! 

  1. Do some research! 

Remember how I started this blog? My hardest obstacle to face was people who sometimes didn’t understand why I chose to be vegan and would try to convince me not to with some ‘facts’. My best armour in these situations is research. Now I’m fortunate that my degree covers environmental science but you don’t have to be a scientist to know where you stand. Also, it’s important to know what foods are rich in the healthy nutrients we need. I love the vegan cookbook ‘Bosh’ by Ian Theasby and Henry Thrith and it covers everything you need to know. 

Veganism is a hot topic and, while it may not be for everyone, I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and found it insightful and helpful. Small changes to our diet and other daily activities, can add up and make a significant difference for the planet!

Will, your Live Smart Co-ordinator

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