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Living on the veg: A beginner's guide to veganuary

Updated on: 01 November,2022 09:44 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sukanya Datta |

On World Vegan Day, practitioners share how the plant-based lifestyle changed their lives and suggest tips for beginners

Living on the veg: A beginner's guide to veganuary

The musician at a vegan meet (right) Kiss Nuka. Pic Courtesy/Facebook

Feed your soul
Anushka Manchanda aka Kiss Nuka, artiste, producer and activist

I grew up an animal lover, but ate meat and dairy because like most people, I never made the connection between my love for animals and the food on my plate. In 2016, I came across a heartbreaking video from the dairy industry. Subsequently, I gave up red meat, chicken and dairy first; then a year later, fish. By 2017-2018, I went completely vegan, swapping out all my clothing, skincare and make-up for vegan versions. It was tough at the beginning and I was the only one in the family on a plant-based diet. Now, it’s so much easier. I have been cooking meals for myself, experimenting in the kitchen with a variety of vegan ingredients. It’s helped me build a beautiful relationship with food and the flow of cooking, and of course, it’s been great for my health. 

Pro tip: Connect with fellow vegans. Find your people. We will help you with tips, recipes, alternatives, and most importantly, offer support and love. For me, this support has been invaluable. It’s a process, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Nourishment over need
Aadar Malik, comedian and actor

Malik whips up vegan cold coffee. PIC COURTESY/INSTAGRAM
Malik whips up vegan cold coffee. PIC COURTESY/INSTAGRAM

I began the switch over to a vegan diet after my wife introduced me to the concept. I was already aware of what was happening in the dairy industry, and I really got attached to my dog. That affection translated to other animals, too, which kickstarted my journey. It’s not been as difficult as you would imagine, because in India, most of our food is vegan. I have reduced my dependency on food; earlier, I used to think I need a certain amount of protein in a day. Now, I have realised that I can have a healthy life by eating regular meals and feel much lighter. But one thing you should take care of is Vitamin B12. It’s just a matter of taking a supplement.

Pro tip: Most of us enjoy chai or coffee. Oat milk is a winner for that. If you spend 10 minutes in a week to make your own oat milk, you’re no longer dependent on expensive store-bought milk. If you like to work out, invest in plant-based protein powder.

A new approach to food
Yashashree Kale, yoga instructor and founder, Guardian Of The Purr

I always had pets or was involved with rescue shelters. I turned vegan about three years ago after various phases of giving up meat and dairy, and then going back to it. But I feel connected to animals on an emotional level, which helped me with the transition. I don’t miss anything [from a non-vegan lifestyle]. While my husband, who also turned vegan, enjoys mock-meat options, I have started enjoying vegetables a lot more. There’s a lot you can do with vegetables. Veganism has helped me look at food differently. Earlier, I would often feel lethargic and bloated after meals, but that doesn’t happen now. My skin, hair and digestion, too, have improved.

Pro tip: Start small, replacing one ingredient at a time. Swap options like ice-cream, or milk first.

Mindfulness matters
Ayushi Damani, digital marketer

The idea of ahimsa — do no harm — was central to my upbringing. After watching the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret on the reality of the dairy industry, I was shocked. During the lockdown, I had time to reflect on self-growth and I felt veganism was congruent to my belief system. A lot of the food we eat in Indian homes is by default vegan. But after turning vegan, I plan my meals and help the cook make tweaks to everyday dishes — like using tofu in paneer dishes or adding vegan cheese. The challenging part was eating out, being hosted, and travelling. To ensure I don’t eliminate important nutrients, I have become more mindful of what I put into my body. My health indexes have also improved significantly.

Pro tip: Don’t go cold turkey on all dairy at once. I started by cutting out dairy items that I didn’t enjoy, before the ones I did. Have a sustainable approach.

Guilt-free digestion
Gaurav Sawn, photographer

A hard-core meat-eater all my life, it first hit me around 10 to 12 years ago that animals, who I love spending time with, end up on my plate. I struggled for a long time and it was an on and off relationship with dairy and meat, until a few years ago, when I turned vegan completely. The transition is rooted in my connection with animals who give us nothing but pure love. The initial phase of turning vegan is riddled with surprise and anger. The cause feels more urgent then. It’s difficult to be patient while knowing that there are millions of animals being slaughtered for our consumption. Now, after practising veganism for a while, my approach is more nuanced, patient and mature, especially while dealing with non-vegan people. I’ve always been into fitness, but after giving up dairy and meat, my digestion has become much better. Even while eating not-so-healthy vegan food, it’s easier to digest. The recovery process is also greatly aided by a vegan diet and is far better than in a non-vegan lifestyle.

Pro tip: While travelling abroad, especially in countries where they use a lot of cream, butter or cheese, or seafood and meat, it’s always good to carry dry food that can bail you out. For instance, I pack vegan protein bars in my bag.

What is World Vegan Day?

First celebrated on November 1, 1994, World Vegan Day marked the 50th anniversary of the UK Vegan Society, set up in 1944. The event was established by Louise Wallis, who was the then-chair of The Vegan Society. Wallis had later revealed that they chose the date as it comes close on the heels of Halloween — a time for festivities, feasting and celebration across the world.

The vegan way

Oat milk pairs well with coffee
Oat milk pairs well with coffee

Pooja Gosher combined her MBA degree, love for vegan food and the gap in the market when it comes to vegan options when she started her plant-based delivery kitchen, The Bodhi Café. With an array of wholesome bowls, cauliflower wings, wraps, jackfruit and soybean pizzas, and breakfast platters loaded with mock meat options, the deli aims to ensure vegans don’t feel left out. She offers handy tips to switch to the green side:

>> The choice of milk matters while making chai or coffee. Soy milk blends well with tea if you want a kadak chai. Oat milk whips up well so it makes for a creamy, frothy coffee. Almond milk also pairs well with coffee.

>> Coconut milk and coconut cream are good replacements in creamy dishes/soups. 

>> Mix nutritional yeast with crushed cashews and some seasoning to create vegan cheese at home. Sprinkle it on pasta, toast or fries.

>> Use almond milk for baking. Flax seed is also a good swap for eggs in bakes.

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