The ‘V’ word – a word so sensitive or controversial. A lifestyle that was previously labelled extreme, entirely alien, preachy and associated with hippies, is now being viewed with a more positive lens and becoming more commonplace in society. Yes, you guessed it right, this ‘V’ word stands for Vegan.
In the last 3 years, there has been a 600% increase in the number of people who identify as a vegan in the U.S and in the UK, this figure was at 350%. For this little red dot, Veganism is growing as well. Singapore currently ranks 6th on the Happy Cow app for the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, with 40 fully vegan restaurants and 590 vegan/ vegetarian-friendly places!
So, what does being vegan actually mean? There is a difference between a vegan lifestyle and a vegan diet. A vegan diet is a plant-based diet, one which excludes the consumption of any animal product and byproduct. This includes meat, eggs, dairy products and honey. On the other hand, a vegan lifestyle is all-encompassing and includes living compassionately not just through one’s diet, but also by not supporting animal cruelty in the purchase of any product.
By now, many questions will probably have popped up in your mind: What can you even eat? Where do you get your protein? Isn’t it expensive? Isn’t hard to become vegan? Well, here are some of the most commonly asked questions being answered by our writer, Jasmine Hussain!
What can you eat?
As a vegan, there is an abundance of food that you can eat! This is a huge common misconception that people have about the vegan diet. Once they hear the words ‘no meat’, a blank appears in their heads and they are presented with the toughest challenge of having to think of what other than a salad can vegans eat.
Rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses – the supermarket is your oyster! (perhaps inappropriate for a vegan). Going vegan does not mean having to give up all your favourite foods. Think of any dish and you can probably find a vegan recipe for it online. You’ll even find new favourite foods when you go vegan!
Your options are limitless when it comes to vegan food and if you do live in Singapore, it’s basically vegan paradise.
Where do you get your protein?
Contrary to popular belief, being protein deficient is really only seen in people who are malnutrition or people who are suffering from a calorie deficit. All plant foods have protein and there is no need to go out of your way to find ‘sources’ of protein. When it comes to greens, spinach, broccoli, kale and even peas are great sources of protein. Nuts, seeds, legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh and even oats are excellent sources of protein. Even fruits have protein! I can go on for ages, but I’m just making the point that you will never miss out on protein when you go vegan.
Isn’t it expensive?
No, it is not. Do not be fooled by all the superfoods out there, which many restaurants, cafes and YouTubers use in preparing their vegan meals. There is no need for you to buy quinoa, chia seeds, coconut oil, cold-pressed juices or acai powder. In fact, being vegan is often much cheaper than adopting an omnivore’s diet because a plant-based diet consisting mostly of fruits, vegetables and grains cost less than one that incorporates meat. You can lead an equally healthy vegan diet and get in all your daily nutritional requirements without all these expensive superfoods.
Meat substitutes and dairy-free products such as nut milks and yoghurts, and soy-based cheese are more expensive than your regular meat and dairy products, however, these are not necessary items for one’s pantry. These are the products often used in restaurants and cafes trying to appeal to the consumer market with their unique and creative vegan dishes, which explains why vegan restaurants or cafes are often more expensive.
On a more positive note, prices for these products are in fact falling due to the rising demand for vegan products and the fact that more people are adopting a vegan diet. Hooray!
Don’t you miss eating meat?
For me, not at all. I don’t miss meat, not one bit. This was because I felt too strongly about my values and beliefs and couldn’t possibly bear the idea of having to eat meat ever again knowing how harmful it was to the environment and to the animals. When eating out, I will always search for the menu online and check if there are any vegan options available. When there aren’t any obvious options, I will then look for options that I can make vegan.
For example, when going to a pizza place, just ask for a pizza without cheese and a whole bunch of vegetables on it (mushrooms, pineapple, spinach, peppers etc., these are all ingredients that the pizzeria already has), of course first making sure that the base has no dairy, which is usually the case. Small changes like this could easily make many non-vegan dishes vegan and if you are not sure about it, simply call the restaurant in advance and ask if there is something they can do. More often that not, they will be more than willing to help. In the rare case that there is absolutely nothing for you to eat, don’t ever feel shy about bringing your own food to the restaurant after letting them know your reasons why (this has never happened in my experience), or simply ask your friend or family to change the location of the restaurant.
Isn’t it hard to become vegan?
It has been just short of three years of my journey as a vegan and it has been a truly exciting and inspiring one. I have become the most compassionate version of myself, my skin has never been so clear (cutting out dairy really helps) and food has just become so much more exciting because vegan cuisine is remarkably experimental and creative and you can honestly find a vegan version of every food item on the market – well in my experience at least.
However, I must say that my transition into veganism has been a rather smooth sailing because I had the advantage of moving away from home to an amazing city that is incredibly vegan friendly and to an environment where I had the privilege of cooking for myself and therefore not trouble my family to make adjustments for my diet.
At the same time, I am blessed with an amazing, supportive family that is proud of me for making this change and has never made me feel like I was being difficult for going vegan. They did question my decision initially, but only out of concern that I would not be able to get all the nutrients required to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle. However, after doing research, I was able to confidently present my case of how I would be able to nourish myself well and even become healthier than I was before. Today, my family actually enjoys making vegan dishes for me at home and we enjoy exploring the countless number of vegan restaurants and cafes in Singapore.
As you can see, being vegan is not so bad after all! For those who want to try it out, the change does not have to be drastic, it could simply be in the form of meatless Mondays or simply swapping the dairy milk for a nut milk like soy milk in your oatmeals or cereals. There is so much inspiration online – YouTube, Pinterest or just Google for easy tips on how small changes could veganise your regular meals. Help make the world a better place by eating lower down on the food chain, after all, being vegan is the single biggest thing one can do to combat climate change.
To finish off, I must highlight that being vegan is not the only dietary change you can make to combat climate change. Eating lower down on the food chain does make an impact and this could simply be in the form of meat-free Mondays, or eating red meat only once a week. It is not feasible for everyone to become vegan, in fact, it is impossible. But if everyone played a part in making small dietary changes, this would without a doubt accumulate to a significant positive impact on our environment.