'I think I'm going to try being vegan.'
Thinking of trying out veganism? We know that it might seem like a massive life change at first, but it gets easy really fast, in fact by the time you get to your third week as a vegan you will probably find that the lifestyle feels mostly effortless to continue. It's a bit difficult to know how exactly to start with going vegan so we thought we would write a guide to help make those first few weeks of trying out a green lifestyle so much easier. At the end of the three weeks you of course won't be a savvy as someone who has been vegan for many years but you will definitely be over the hardest part and know more than enough to stay vegan if that's what you want.
Start with your diet
The most important thing I can tell you is that when I went vegan, I didn't feel like I was missing things from my diet, I felt like I was gaining new things. Having the mentality that you are not cutting anything out and instead crowding things out really helps. When you think that you are cutting things out, it makes veganism feel like a deprivation, a sacrifice, a restrictive diet. However when you crowd out non vegan food it doesn't feel like a sacrifice at all because you are getting rid of the old foods that are a product of suffering and death and replacing them with a whole bunch of new stuff that you might not have tried before, free of animal suffering, full of new tastes and textures, satisfying and filling.
Experimenting with new vegan food is the most important thing you can do in these first three weeks, try as many new foods as possible, because every time you find a new vegan food that you love, the animal based foods you used to eat get pushed further to the sidelines, and even if you go back to eating meat at the end of your vegan experience, at least you will know how to make a whole bunch of great vegan meals for the days when you feel like eating a little greener or when you have your vegan pals over for a party. Of course, you won't love everything that you try, but every time you find something you enjoy it will feel like you have struck gold and will displace some of the non vegan foods you are accustomed to eating. Trying all this new stuff means you will learn about all these vegan options that exist in supermarkets and restaurants that you probably never noticed before.
If you want tips on where to shop for vegan products then you are definitely in the right place. We are Norway's biggest experts on where you can find vegan food. We made a free app for iOS and Android phones with a guide to all of the best places you can shop and eat vegan in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. There are over 900 places in the app each with a detailed description of all the vegan tips and tricks you need to know when visiting them.
When I do my grocery shopping for the week I usually end up going to three places: an international grocery store, a supermarket and a health food store. I do them in that order because they get progressively more expensive so it's more economic for me to find the most stuff at the first one.
First I go to an independent grocery store.
First of all I head to the biggest and best international supermarket in my city. When I say international supermarket, I mean the sort of place where you will find an array of products from all over the world. Usually these places have a lot of ingredients that you might need for cooking asian or Indian food. These are my favourite shops to get my vegan essentials from because they are so cheap and they have so much great stuff, dried beans, rice, sauces, tofu, accidentally vegan sweets and cakes, and so much more! I can usually find most of the ingredients for my vegan recipes from these sorts of places. I buy a hell of a lot of dried stuff from here like chickpeas, broad beans and lentils. Once your cupboards have a safety stash of dried pulses bought from independent grocery stores, you will find that your weekly shopping becomes a lot cheaper.
Then I hit up a chain supermarket.
Once you have packed your backpack full of rice and tofu head over to one of the big chain supermarkets where sometimes the fruit and veg is a little fresher and they have a better choice in plant milks and vegan substitutes for everyday stuff. In our opinion the best supermarket chain for vegan food in Norway is Meny. They sell a wide range of vegan products like burgers, sausages, soy milk, almond milk, vegan cheese and ice cream.
Unfortunately, supermarkets often group all the 'alternative' food together in one place which means that if you look for something like vegan cookies, they might also be organic, gluten free, sugar free, and therefore really expensive. This is great if you do actually have food allergies, but for those of us who are living on a budget (nice to meet you, me too) it's really wise to shop around for those expensive vegan luxury items or see if you can make them yourself.
If I need anything special I pop to the health food store.
A good natural food store generally beats a supermarket in every important respect, but you can't do all your grocery shopping there as it will cost you an arm and a leg! When you first enter one of these sort of shops you might feel as though you have gone into vegan heaven. Here you will find all sorts of terrific vegan goodies that offer familiar flavours and absolute convenience: ice cream, mayo, frozen pizza, and a selection of vegan 'meats'. You will often find artisan and ethical products made by independent companies that are not only vegan but also organic, fair trade, and environmentally friendly. To be honest I don't shop at these places often. I'm not the fanciest vegan lady in the world, but it is nice to enjoy a bit of luxury chocolate now and then isn't it?
I need recipe inspiration!
Why not start out with something easy and cheap to make like an indian lentil dahl curry, or try making a bit pot of vegetable soup? A stir fry with fried tofu is also another great vegan option. The thing with stirfrys, soups and curries is that you can always vary them with slightly different vegetables, sauces and spices, so when you have mastered it once it should be super easy to have another go.
Try at making your own sweet potato chips and vegan aioli, or try and whizz up some pålegg for your lunch. See what kind of pizza creations you can come up with and maybe try making your own vegan burgers. Once you start checking out vegan recipes, you will be amazed at how much stuff you can actually do.
Back in the day, dining out as a vegan was a painful and frustrating experience. Restaurant menus would be bulging with meat and fish and they would smother everything with egg and cheese. Vegans would be left with nothing but a side salad or maybe some fries. However, in a relatively short amount of time, things have drastically changed. In most big cities you will find a few 100% vegan restaurants and you can find vegan friendly ones all over the place. Some restaurants even have their own vegan menu, and now that allergies are being taken seriously (finally!) it's much easier for vegans to see what they can and can't eat on most menus.
We have spent the last two years working almost every day on finding out about the vegan friendly places to eat in Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. Our team has visited each place that is listed in the app and written a detailed guide of what you can eat there. There are now over 900 vegan friendly places to check out in Norway, so if you download our free app you shouldn't really find it a problem to eat out.
However if you live in a city that is not listed in our app you might find helpful tips on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Happy Cow or asking in some of the vegan facebook groups. If there are absolutely no vegan friendly places in your area, then the best thing to do is to ask a restaurant if they can veganise one of their existing dishes. Most places are very open to this and you may inspire them to create a vegan menu item in the future.
Most people (vegans and meat-eaters alike) don’t eat nearly enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It's such a vegan stereotype to much away on kale and spinach but those dark green leafy vegetables are some of the most nutrient rich things you can eat!
Some people think that simply by being vegan, they’re exempt from having to think about nutrition. Whilst it is true that vegetables are generally packed with nutrients, it’s still quite possible to develop a deficiency on a vegan diet. In fact, even if you fill your diet with healthy foods, you can still fall short on key nutrients. One thing that is really important is that vegans either take a B-12 supplement several times a week, or eat a substantial amount of B-12 fortified foods. Whether you are vegan or not it's always a good idea to get regular blood tests at the docs to ensure that you are not deficient in anything. You can find out you need to know about B-12 here, and for more info about staying healthy whilst eating plant based check out Hepla - A group of norwegian doctors and health professionals advocating for plant based diets.
Maybe check this stuff out
A good way to get through your first few weeks as a vegan is to give yourself regular reminders of why you’ve decided to make this change. The more passion you feel for your new lifestyle the easier it will be.
For many new vegans, being confronted with the realities of factory farming is the single biggest motivator in their efforts to go vegan. We remember what it was like when we first went vegan and saw a bunch of very graphic videos and images of what happens to animals in factory farming. Even though we believe that everyone should be well informed of the systematic cruelties practised by animal agriculture we want to tell you that there are ways of learning about this stuff without traumatising yourself. Many people suffer with anxiety, depression, PTSD or other trauma so we should be careful about the ways that we confront the suffering that animals experience, so that we are taking care of ourselves whilst also not shying away from the realities of factory farming. Instead of sitting and watching video clip after video clip of the most horrifying animal abuse until you find yourself crying hysterically or shaking with anger, or following facebook accounts which constantly post horrifying content, maybe start by reading about it. Two great books to check out are 'Eating Animals' by Jonathan Safran Foer and 'Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows' by Melanie Joy. Both of these books are available to buy online, or maybe even borrow from your local library. I actually downloaded Melanie Joys book as an audiobook and listened to it on my walk to work each day.
More than a diet
As I said, focus on your diet at the start of your journey with veganism. Then a few weeks or months later, when you start to feel like following a vegan diet is for you, you might want to expand your veganism to include other shopping choices. This mostly involves thinking about your clothing and cosmetics.
Many cosmetics contain animal ingredients and most brands are also tested on animals. However it is possible to find products which are not tested on animals and include no animal derived ingredients. If this is something you want to look into we recommend checking out Cruelty Free Kitty, Ethical Elephant and Vegan Beauty Review. These bloggers have spent so much time researching brands to see if they are vegan friendly or not. When doing your own research on whether a cosmetic company is vegan or not it really helps to compare more than one source and be critical of what companies actually mean when they say 'cruelty free'.
Fur, leather, wool, silk and down are fairly easy to avoid. Bamboo wool and synthetic materials can be just as warm, look just as good, cost much less and not be the skin of animal that suffered or died.
The whole point of you trying out this three weeks as a vegan is not to be a 100% perfect individual (spoiler alert: it's impossible to be perfect) instead the point is to make a meaningful and satisfying change in your life. So if you slip up and consume some animal products whether accidentally or deliberately, please don't use that as a reason to give up completely. Remember that veganism is a journey, not a destination.
Let's now revisit the main bits of advice I have given you in this article. If you can manage to do this stuff then I have full faith that you will not only find your first few weeks as a vegan very easy but you'll also feel equipped to go stay vegan if you fancy it.
- Try loads of new food that you have never made before.
- Get the Vegan Norway app.
- Go shopping for vegan food.
- Read a lil bit about vegan nutrition and check out our article on protein.
- Develop your cooking skills, and try some recipes that look tasty as hell.
- Check out some books on the subject of veganism.
- Take your B-12!
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Everybody slips once in a while, especially in the beginning. It's no reason to quit.
That’s it. You can do this!