7 things you must consider before you go vegan
Veganism is a growing trend for all sorts of good reasons. Here's what you need to know to maintain your health and (hopefully) keep your friendships with non-vegans
In some parts of the world, "Veganuary" - where you go vegan for the month of January - has become as much of a trend as "dry February", where you give up alcohol for the shortest month of the year.
Whether you turn to the meat-free life for a month because you're vegan-curious, or forever because you are committed, there are various things you need to know to maintain your health and (hopefully) keep your friendships with non-vegans.
1. DO IT PROPERLY
A major dietary change needs careful planning, and there are certain vitamins and minerals your body needs that are generally found in animal products, such as vitamin B12.
If you don't have enough, you could suffer anaemia and damage to your nervous system, so make sure you eat foods fortified with B12, such as plant milks, soy and breakfast cereals, or nutritional yeast, which can be sprinkled on anything savoury.
Or take a supplement (just check it's vegan, as some multivitamins come in a gelatin shell). You'll also need Omega 3 and 6 (in nuts, linseeds and canola oil). Try algae supplements instead of fish oil.
If your hair becomes weaker, you're not getting enough protein, so eat more nuts, pulses, soya and plant oils, or supplement with vegan protein. Finally, a discreet word: you may find yourself rushing to the loo more often - due to increased fibre intake, but your digestive system will settle down.
2. DON'T BE AN EXTREMIST
Evangelists may insist you can't eat avocados because they're pollinated by exploited bees, or figs because wasps die in the fruits, or biscuits because they might contain palm oil, and as for soya, the crops are destroying the rainforest.
All of this is true, but most vegans stick to a manageable path and aim to do as little harm as possible.
3. SHOP SMART
Your usual shop, just without meat, milk and cheese, won't cut it. Ask your health shop for nutritional yeast (fortified with B12) to thicken sauces; buy plant milks (soy or almond); nuts and tinned or dried beans and pulses for protein.
4. PLAN AHEAD
If ready meals and takeaways were a big part of your eating plan, you'll need to think of alternatives. If you like a meaty taste, try the various brands of frozen meat-replacement products - including pies, "sausages" and "burgers" - available at supermarkets.
They are pricey but quick and easy. If you're unsure about convenience foods, read labels: a lot of products contain milk powder or whey.
As for eating out, the app HappyCow lists vegan restaurants around the world, including in SA.
5. DON'T PREACH
We've all heard the jokes: "How do you know someone is vegan? They'll tell you." But there is truth in the cliché. Because when you've made a huge lifestyle and ethical commitment, like all new converts, it's tempting to get evangelical about it.
One minute you were talking house prices. the next you're sharing brutal abattoir videos on social media.
One minute you were talking house prices. the next you're sharing brutal abattoir videos on social media. By all means, explain your reasons when asked. But otherwise, unless you want to lose friends and irritate people, keep your veganism to yourself.
6. DON'T BE A NIGHTMARE GUEST
Expect the invitations to dwindle when you turn vegan because many hosts have no idea what to serve you. Make it easy on them and offer to bring your own food. It stops them panicking and demystifies veganism.
7. CHECK YOUR DRINKS
Not all alcohol is vegan because some is filtered through isinglass, a gelatin made from fish bladders. The good news for wine drinkers in SA is that a large number of wine producers do not use this.
The app Barnivore lists almost 6,000 alcohol brands in terms of which are vegan friendly.
• Additional reporting by staff reporter.