How To Go Vegan In 6 Easy Steps

by Anda Mtshemla

vegan

noun veg·an \ˈvē-gən 
a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals; also:  one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)
(Merriam-Webster)

Since going vegan nearly a year ago now, I’ve seen so many positive changes in my life; my skin cleared up, my grades improved, I got a job– all, obviously, direct results of a plant-based diet. Since good health is trending, I figured I’ve done my share of stumbling clumsily through veganism so, I’ve turned my biggest challenges into a list that will help you in starting your vegan journey successfully.

1. DON’T GO COLD TURKEY

Despite this being bad for obvious vegan reasons, jumping straight from consuming animal products regularly to a completely plant-based diet might really shock your body. While I doubt the switch will actually negatively affect your body, it may make it difficult to curb animal product cravings in the future, should they come.

Start slow; a good start is, of course, cutting out all meat products and replacing them with imitations. Next, let go of the cheese and other dairy products. Continue to cut out and replace things from your diet like this until you have fully transitioned.

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via GIPHY

2. GIVE YOUR PANTRY A MAKEOVER

Unless you follow a meat and egg-dense paleo diet, I truly believe that any food cupboard can easily be transformed into a vegan paradise. You will be surprised how much of what you already have is perfectly suitable for vegan consumption so don’t go getting rid of everything in your pantry just yet.

Since we’ve decided on a slow transition into veganism, when say, your mayonnaise finishes, replace it with vegan mayo. Try a different bag of chips instead of the non-vegan variation you usually buy. Swap your honey for agave or maple syrup, opt for soy or almond milk next time you run out of dairy. The possibilities are endless!

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via GIPHY

If you need a little help setting up your pantry, click here.

3. LEARN HOW TO READ “VEGAN”

While there are the obviously vegan food products in stores like fresh produce and the few clearly marked items, there are a plethora of things in the store that aren’t necessarily marketed as vegan or labelled as such but perfectly fine for you to eat.

The best way to go about finding out if a food item is vegan is to turn it over and search the ALLERGENS first. If there is no milk, eggs or any of the obvious non-vegan ingredients, that’s one tick for it. Next, look for the “E numbers.” This one is a little bit trickier but easy to get the hang of since there aren’t that many that are animal derived. E22, for instance, is gelatine and should be avoided. E992 is beeswax which as a vegan, you’ll likely not want to eat. Once you’re clear on those two things, throw it in the basket!

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via GIPHY

Here’s a comprehensive list of all the E numbers that you can keep handy for uncertain moments. If you’re still unclear on whether something is vegan, you can always Google!

4. PLAN YOUR MEALS

Once you’ve got your pantry right, create a meal plan with what you have. This is not in a miserable, dieting kind of way but more a way for you to get into the vegan swing of things. Collect recipes you’d like to try and meals you know you’ll enjoy, and note them so you know what you’ll be preparing for every meal. Trust me, your experience is going to be far more enjoyable if you’re not worrying about what you’re going to make for dinner.

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5. BE CREATIVE WHEN EATING OUT

Food has become extremely social in our modern society; we eat to celebrate, you go out for a meal with friends to catch up and at times, you may even be eating purely to pass time. For this reason, when you become vegan, you may start to feel frustrated in social situations as vegan options are sometimes difficult to come by.

American rapper, Andre 3000 said in Esquire,  “I was a hardcore vegan for fifteen years. I’ve even done raw. But socially it became horrible. I was kind of just sitting at home eating a salad. You become mean. That’s not good for you,” which, I get, but I couldn’t disagree with the man more.

Don’t be afraid to ask what vegan options are available at a restaurant; some restaurants have entire vegan menus that are available on request, so you don’t have to be content with a salad or plate of chips. Alternatively, search Happy Cow for a vegan-friendly restaurant near you and suggest it next time you go out to eat with friends. Take your own snacks along to parties and events etc. Don’t be like Andre.

6. FOLLOW 24KARROTS

Yeah.

No, but on a serious note, the vegan community isn’t very well established, especially in South Africa so it’s important to garner inspiration from all corners of the Internet and align yourself with people that get it. There are a number of groups on Facebook where vegans share experiences, recipes, vegan finds and most importantly, memes.

vegnewsmeme

A little extra guidance…

Vegan-friendly products and restaurants in South Africa: Click Here
Vegan Society SA Facebook page: Click Here
The video that helped me quit dairy: Click Here
The most important documentary in vegan history: Click Here
Vitamins and deficiencies: Click Here
DISCLAIMER: The statements expressed in this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should seek their own professional counsel for any medical condition before starting or altering any dietary plan.

 

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The 3-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

by Anda Mtshemla

As a vegan, most chocolate products are pretty much out so you’ll find yourself consuming a lot less chocolate. The upside, I’ve found, is that you consume higher quality chocolate because, with the animal products omitted from the chocolate you’re eating, there’s a lot more room for that cocoa to shine.

This is an important thing to remember for this next recipe. Since we’ll be using a little bit of an unconventional ingredient, you need to make sure you find a good quality cocoa powder, or just one you know you enjoy, to use because that’s what’s really going to transform the flavour of this simple dessert.

You will need:

1/4 cup cocoa powder (sub for cacao if raw vegan)

2 tablespoons sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, granulated sugar)

SECRET INGREDIENT: 2 ripe avocados

If you prefer a richer, more chocolatey mousse, you can skip the sweetner in the recipe completely!

Method:

Scoop avocados into blender along with your sweetener

Blend until completely smooth

Blend again while gradually adding cocoa powder

Serve as is or refrigerate and serve chilled

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Delicious and Healthy 3-Ingredient Rich Chocolate Mousse

 

The Hot Cross Cinnamon Swirls

by Anda Mtshemla

With my first Easter as a vegan around the corner, I wanted to create a recipe with the feel of any other Easter, while minimising time in the kitchen and maximising on the long weekend.

While I was never a fan of hot cross buns as a non-vegan, there’s just something about things that you can’t have. So I put my own vegan twist (or swirl) on the classic Easter treat, which combines the ease of a cinnamon roll, using a simple hack, and the unique flavour of a traditional hot cross bun!

You will need:

1kg bread dough (get this fresh from your local grocer)

3 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1/2 tablespoon crushed cloves

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup sugar

for the “cream cheese” glaze

4 tablespoons icing sugar

1 tsp water

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C

Halve the dough to make it more manageable

Work the raisins into both sections of the dough

Roll out the dough to about 1-2cm thickness

Cut off the sides to make sure the dough is rectangular in shape

Combine coconut oil, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a separate bowl

Spread this mixture evenly onto the sheet of dough then roll the dough into a tight log

Slice the log horizontally into 3-5cm swirls

Pack the swirls into a greased baking pan of your choice, leaving space around the edges

Bake for 20-25 minutes

while the cinnamon swirls bake…

Combine the icing sugar, water, lemon juice and salt in a bowl until the mixture reaches a thick but pourable consistency

Once the swirls have baked, drizzle the cream cheese glaze over them and serve warm

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Vegan Hot Cross Cinnamon Swirls crossed with a “cream cheese” glaze

This article was featured in Joburg Style. Read it here.

The Pros & Cons of Going Raw

by Anda Mtshemla

Choosing lovely February, of just twenty-eight days, to go raw vegan was a very deliberate decision. I knew it was going to be a challenge as I’m still fairly new to the vegan lifestyle and didn’t want to take on too much. I just may have because on the 23rd day, I cracked and had a cooked meal, but this is beside the point. The weird thing about taking new things on, though, is that it’s always things that you didn’t expect to be challenging that test you and all the things you were expecting, well, they test you too.

Cold, Wet Food

Cold is expected. But wet? I was not expecting wet. Since you’re not getting to cook away any of the moisture in your food, a lot of your meals are going to be really, really wet. I’m not even going to get into the details of spiralised cucumber… I suppose an optimist would describe this as “juicy” but it was all just very wet to me.

It is E X P E N S I V E

I was inspired by the greats: Fully Raw Christina, Rawvana, Laura Miller, who, don’t get me wrong, are all fantastic. In fact, I watched all their videos about how to go raw cheaply. But if you’re being realistic, you need to eat large amounts of fruits and veggies to stay satiated while raw and buying huge amounts of anything ain’t cheap, baby. Every time I went grocery shopping, a Migos song played in my heart.

Eating Out is Going to be a Bust

I live in a tiny, purple town where vegetarian options are a difficult find, let alone vegan. Raw vegan is simply asking too much. It doesn’t help that I’m still not quite at that place in my veganism to enquire about every single ingredient used in a menu item—I would just rather not eat out. But it was difficult declining friends’ offers to catch up over lunch.

Alcohol

I’m not a big drinker but I am a university student so it happens from time to time. I was raw during Orientation Week at my varsity and that’s when all the really big parties happen (my mom follows my blog, I’m not gonna get into it). I could only drink wine and I went a little wild with it on a few occasions. All I can say is don’t go heavy on the wine. Your bowels will thank you for it.

You’re Going to Drop a Few Kilos

Now, I’m putting this right at the end of the cons and the beginning of the pros because it’s kind of both. I’ve dropped two sizes since going vegan ten months ago and only just got new clothes that fit. So you can imagine my disappointment when my clothes that fit me perfectly two weeks ago, were now sagging off of me like a 2007 Soulja Boy. You’re likely going to lose weight, so, be aware of that.

Summer Fruits on Summer Days

This one is to kind of counter the first con because on days when it wasn’t miserable and rainy, it felt really good to sip on a frozen fruit smoothie or a sit down for a cool salad. I don’t need to tell you anything about how well cold things go down in the summer time, but man, any raw vegan will tell you that the best time to do it is during the warm seasons.

More Life, More Energy

I am possibly the laziest person you’ll ever meet. Like, my favourite thing to do is nothing, so I was astonished when I had no trouble waking up in the mornings and got down faster than a baby on a bottle at night. Honestly, there truly is something about not cooking your food because I was a changed woman for (almost) 28 days.

Zero Cook Time

My favourite part about making food is not making it at all, actually, it’s eating it so skipping the step that stands between me and eating was amazing, to say the least. It’s just prep and eat: what’s not to love?

The 3-Ingredient Vegan McFlurry

by Anda Mtshemla

Believe it or not, “Milk’s Favourite Cookie” contains no milk. Or eggs. Or butter. Or any animal products at all, in fact, making them vegan-friendly. Many people’s favourite Oreo recipe, McDonald’s innovative take on famed “cookies ‘n cream” ice cream, is not vegan. But we can fix that.

PREP TIME: Overnight  COOK TIME: 5mins  MAKES: 2 servings

You will need:

4 frozen bananas

1 tsp vanilla essence

6 Oreos, crushed

Method:

Place frozen bananas in blender and blend until smooth and creamy

Add vanilla essence and blend until combined

Add crushed Oreos and pulse until combined

Transfer to mug or bowl and serve

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Yup. Just bananas.

NOTE: Keep in mind that this recipe should be enjoyed immediately as the “ice cream” will lose its creamy texture as the bananas thaw

The Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Anda Mtshemla

Pre-vegan me enjoyed chocolate chip cookies so much that I  nearly considered not going vegan thinking that I would have to give up my favourite sweet treat. While I did, for a while, because no cookie was cutting close to the decadent, crunchy-outer-soft-centre biccies that I was used to, I gathered inspiration from all over the internet and poked and tweaked and I’ve found it.

They’re so simple, I almost always already have all these ingredients in my pantry so I’ve found myself making these regularly over the past couple of months, which has been quite naughty of me… But since Christmas is coming up and Santa is on his way, I’ve paired the cookies up with some cinnamon oat milk and I’m going to serve this combo up to Santa on Christmas Eve in the hopes that he’ll forgive me!

PREP TIME: 10mins  COOK TIME: 12-15mins  MAKES: 12

You will need:

1 cup dark chocolate chips/1 slab dark chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup soy milk

1 cup sugar

2 cups All-Purpose Flour

6 tablespoons refined coconut oil

1/2 tsp salt

For cinnamon oat milk:

1 cup rolled oats

2 cups water

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F

Lightly grease/line baking pan

Cream sugar and coconut oil together

Add milk and stir until well combined

 

Add salt to flour and gradually stir into the wet mix

Gently fold in chocolate chips/chunks

Roll a tablespoon’s worth of mixture into ball and place on tray

Pop into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes

While the cookies cool…

Pour rolled oats and cinnamon into a clean bowl and add water until covered

Leave to soak for 20 minutes or overnight

Once soaked, drain the excess water and pour oats into a blender with 1-2 cups of cold water

Blend for 1 minute

Pass blended mixture through a mesh strainer a few times until only smooth, milk remains

Voila!

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Vegan chocolate chip cookies served with cinnamon oat milk

The Vegan Shopping List

by Anda Mtshemla

When I decided to become vegan, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Despite having been vegetarian for eight years prior to converting to veganism, like many, I wasn’t sure what the difference between the two was. However, after months of trial and error, spending hours reading gibberish-like food labels in between Pick n Pay aisles– I think I may have figured out the formula. You can, of course, tweak this list to better suit your taste but these are a few good staples to have and some of the basics you’ll need to create my delicious recipes with me!

VEGGIES:

Carrots

Baby Spinach

Large-leaf Spinach

Sweet Potato

Butternut

Beetroot

Cauliflower

Mushrooms

Frozen Vegetable Mix (McCain has an awesome selection)

Garlic

Onion

Potatoes

Aubergines

Buying fresh vegetables is very stressful for me since they manage to spoil before I can eat them so I cheat and get what I can frozen. You won’t miss out too much on flavour if you steam your veggies and this way, they’re easy to add to almost anything.

TIP: Only buy vegetables which you know you eat frequently, fresh e.g. I use baby spinach as a base for my salads and smoothies and large leaf spinach in almost everything else, so I always opt for fresh spinach. Also, don’t play yourself when it comes to carbohydrate-rich veggies like potatoes and butternut. These help you feel satiated and manage your caloric intake since when you make the switch to a lower calorie plant-based diet so, stock up!

FRUIT BASKET:

Bananas (lots and lots)

Avocados

Tomatoes

Apples

Pineapples

Lemons

Dates

Frozen Berry Mix (this one from Woolies🙌 )

As with veggies, the same goes for fruit, since it too spoils. So, most of the fruit I buy, I eat very regularly and these fruits are all very versatile and great to have in your vegan pantry!

TIP: Buys fruits and veggies that are in season to keep your spending low and achieve fresh, flavourful!

GRAINS, LEGUMES, SEEDS, NUTS & BOLTS:

Rice

CousCous (great for lazy chefs)

Pasta

Oats

Chickpeas

Kidney Beans

Butter Beans

Lentils

Chia Seeds (great for “chia eggs” and topping smoothies)

Black Beans

Quinoa

Pumpkin Seeds

Dried Currants/Raisins

Nut Mix (I love these from Woolies)

Dried Goji Berries

Dried Dates

Bread (Albany Ultima in “Rooibos & Rye” is my fave)

Tortilla Wraps

Chickpea Flour

These are my favourite ingredients in my pantry because they all leave me feeling very satisfied and satiated after eating them. The legumes are great as you can use them in a variety of dishes and they’re high in protein!

The seeds, nuts and dried fruits are great in oats, smoothies and muesli, and are great for adding crunch and natural sweetness to different dishes.

Be mindful when selecting your pasta, however, as some variations do contain eggs.

SPREADS, SYRUPS & STUFF:

Agave Nectar/Maple Syrup (not to be confused with maple flavoured golden syrup)

Olive Oil

Coconut Oil

Nut Butter (peanut, almond, cashew– whichever you like)!

Tahini (awesome for dressings and adding to sauces)

Sugar

Hummus

I had no idea at first but not all sugars are created vegan! Luckily, South African sugar brands have confirmed that no animal products are used in their sugar making processes, so keep a little in your pantry for baking or adding to your tea.

CONDIMENTS & SEASONING:

B-Well/Taysti Mayonnaise

Tomato Sauce/Ketchup

Dijon Mustard

Soy Sauce

Salt

Black Pepper

Curry Powder

Garlic Powder

Onion Powder

Curry Powder

Vegetable Stock Powder

Paprika

Cayenne Pepper

Nutritional Yeast

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Turmeric

Some of the most important items in your pantry. Vegan food, like any food, can be bland which is why I love to transform the flavour of different foods with these ingredients!

TIP: Get the Steers or Nature’s Choice seasoning! It’s a super versatile spice and great for lazy days in the kitchen.

SNACK CUPBOARD:

Popcorn (many microwave variations are vegan-friendly too)

Oreos

Jelly Tots

Skittles

Chocolate (Lindt 70% upwards and Beacon dark chocolate are both fine for vegans)

Gelatin-Free Gummies

Chips

My absolute favourite part of my pantry– and I thought I was going to have to let it go when I went vegan! There are a plethora of other vegan snacks that I have not included here that you can try out too, see them all on the Vegan SA blog.

FRIDGE:

 

Plant Milk of choice (Soy, Almond, Oat etc.)

Coconut Milk

Coconut Water

Sauerkraut

Iceberg Lettuce

Firm Tofu (get it here)