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Going vegan: How to cut down your meat and dairy consumption

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 16/11/2018 Georgia Chambers
a woman in a green shirt © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

From cheese-less pizzas to meat-free burgers, going vegan has never been so easy.

Yet for some who want to try a plant-based diet, the idea of giving up meat, dairy and the foods we're used to eating everyday can sound daunting.

There's estimated to be 540,000 vegans in the UK and whatever your reason for changing your diet, there's important information to consider to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need.

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So, is it better to go cold (no) turkey or cut down gradually? And is honey vegan?

Here are all of your questions about switching to a vegan diet answered by nutritionist Rose Glover:

What are the benefits of going vegan?

(GERMANY OUT)   Food; vegetables, Vegetables,green asparagus   (Photo by Stanzel\ullstein bild via Getty Images) © Getty (GERMANY OUT) Food; vegetables, Vegetables,green asparagus (Photo by Stanzel\ullstein bild via Getty Images) "Research has shown that compared to a meat-eater diet, the average vegan diet is higher in vitamin C and fibre and lower in saturated fat," says Rose

"Statistics also show that plant-based diets also tend to correlate with lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease.

"As well as dietary benefits, there are also environmental and animal welfare advantages to going vegan, too."

Is a vegan diet healthier?

Rose says we shouldn't just assume someone who is vegan is also healthy.

"The key is planning and understanding a vegan diet to get all the nutrients your body needs," she says.

"Done correctly, a vegan diet can be suitable for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes."

Will a vegan diet help me lose weight?

"Whilst research does show that vegans tend to be lower in weight than non-vegans, just because the label says ‘vegan’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you!

"It can be easy to fall into the trap of having unbalanced meals every day such as big plates of pasta or substituting meat with highly processed foods, so it’s important you balance meals with wholefood and plenty of colourful fruits and veggies, healthy fats and good sources of plant protein such as legumes."

Will going vegan improve my skin?

A woman selecting vegetables at a Farmers Market. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images) © Getty A woman selecting vegetables at a Farmers Market. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

"Potentially. Vegans tend to eat more vegetables than non-vegans, so a diet full of fruit and veg can contribute to good skin. Some people also find dairy a trigger for acne, so removing this from one’s diet can help skin appear clearer.

"Omega 3 is also essential for healthy skin, usually found in oily fish.

"Obviously, this is not doable if you’re on a vegan diet, so make sure you eat a daily serving (1-2 tbsp) of either ground flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, seaweeds or flax oil/walnut oil."

Will I lose muscle if I start eating a vegan diet?

"Not necessarily. If you stock up on plenty of beans, lentils, organic soya products like tofu and tempeh, nuts and nut butter, seeds and non-dairy yoghurts made from nuts, you should be getting plenty of protein in your diet.

"Muscle bearing exercises such as weightlifting would also help and you could always supplement your diet with a good quality minimally processed protein powder every now and then."

WASHINGTON, DC -  Blood Orange Tofu photographed in Washington, DC. (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images). © Getty WASHINGTON, DC - Blood Orange Tofu photographed in Washington, DC. (Photo by Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images).

Should I gradually phase out meat and dairy or go straight to a vegan diet?

"If you don’t eat much fruit and veg, aim to make the transition to a vegan diet relatively gradual so you build up the amount of fibre from veggies and pulses in your diet.

"You may experience some bloating to begin with but fibre is essential to good health so your digestion will thank you in the end!

"Don’t feel like you need to completely change your diet overnight, you can make the change gradually by removing one or two animal products to begin with."

Should vegans take food supplements?

"Yes – I’d recommend you take a B12 supplement as the vegan sources of this nutrient are very limited and unreliable.

"Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and makes DNA.

"To boost your vitamin D intake in the winter months, I would recommend a taking a supplement and eat fortified plant milks.

"Please note it’s important to talk to your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before starting any supplementation."

What are the best vegan milks?

Vegan milk © Getty Vegan milk

"The aisles are now packed with a wide range of delicious alternatives to dairy milk.

"You can get milk made from nuts like almond, hazelnut and cashews or seeds such as hemp seed milk or grains like rice milk.

"It’s a good ideas to try the brands which fortify with calcium, so you can be sure you’re getting enough of this essential mineral."

I love chocolate and cheese, what should I replace them with?

"There are delicious dairy-free alternatives to cheese, although some of these are quite processed so I would have them as a treat every now and then.

"You could also try nutritional yeast, which is a nutrient-dense food you can add to pasta dishes in the place of cheese in recipes.

"It has a very cheesy flavour and is packed with protein and b-vitamins, too."

What vegan foods can I eat to keep my energy levels up?

"Be sure to get plenty of iron in your daily foods, as low iron can cause fatigue.

"Vegan sources of iron include wholegrain cereals, beans and lentils, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, dried fruits such as apricots and nuts and seeds.

"Don’t supplement with iron if you haven’t done a test to determine a deficiency, as excess iron can be harmful."

Is honey vegan?

a close up of a coffee cup: 1-honey-012.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited 1-honey-012.jpg

"No – most vegans don’t eat honey, which is an animal product as it’s made by bees for bees – it’s their source of food and energy.

"It’s up to the individual vegan to decide whether they want to exclude honey as part of their diet."

How do you get protein into a vegan diet?

"When some people go vegan, they make the mistake of cutting out meat but not replacing it with plant protein, which can be found in a number of vegan foods.

"Examples include lentils and beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, whole grains and even some vegetables.

"If you eat a wide variety of these foods and aim to make your meals whole-food based and balanced with a source of plant protein, whole-grains and veggies, you should be getting plenty of protein in your diet."

How do you get calcium into a vegan diet?

In the UK, it's recommended that adults get 700 milligrams of calcium a day - how can you get this from a vegan diet?

"A 400ml glass of some fortified non-dairy milk can provide roughly two-thirds of this daily recommendation, and just 100g of calcium-set tofu provides 350 milligrams," explains Rose.

"Greens such as bok choy and broccoli and tahini are also great foods to try and work into your diet."

Watch: The benefits of going vegan [Mirror]

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Can diabetics go vegan?

"Yes – in fact, a healthy vegan diet can help reduce some of the risks associated with diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease and obesity.

"In addition, a vegan diet rich in vegetables, whole-grains and pulses can improve blood sugar control and insulin response.

"However, if the diet is mostly made up of starches, sugar and refined grains like white rice and pasta, then this can have an adverse effect on diabetes."

Does eating a vegan diet get easier the longer you do it?

"Absolutely. When you start to experiment with different vegan meals, it may seem like it takes a lot of thought, time and effort and first but like anything in life, you will soon find that it becomes second nature!"

Can I still do intense workouts if I'm vegan?

1-weightlifting-291.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited 1-weightlifting-291.jpg

"Of course! There are many vegan athletes who thrive well on a planned plant-based diet. You will just need to make sure you are getting in some good quality protein and carbohydrates to fuel your workouts.

"Aim for approximately 10-20g of both protein and carbs within 20-30 minutes of your workouts. Good examples include a snack of a slice of whole-grain toast with nut butter or a protein smoothie."

Top tips for cutting out meat and dairy:

1. "Invest in a couple of good vegan cookery books and get creative in the kitchen – have fun with it!"

2. "Stock your cupboards with plenty of vegan essentials and lots of spices and herbs."

3. "There are plenty of great accounts on social media you could follow and get some recipe inspiration from, too."

Rose Glover is a nutritional therapist. You can find out more about her via her Instagram and website.

Gallery: The risks and benefits of becoming vegan or vegetarian [StarsInsider]

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