In a diary rich country where a cow is literally worshipped, food choices in India are more religion-inspired than anything else. Vegetarians are probably vegetarians not because of the animal slaughter issue but majorly because their religion prohibits it. Gentle living and cruelty-free behaviour are rooted deeply in religious beliefs. A vegan lifestyle is still a fairly new concept to wrap around in India, veganism is often associated with a bougie lifestyle. If you traipse through the supermarket, you might find a clear distinction between the veg and non-veg with green and red labels, but how often do we see a section dedicated to veganism?
India is one of the leading milk producers in the world and is an extremely vital part of our diet so is our silk sarees (especially in the south). Finding vegan options in supermarkets substituting your daily needs such as ice creams, curd, butter can seem like a herculean effort. If you find yourself overwhelmed at the dairy section wondering if it’s all worth it, we have prepared the ultimate guide for you to transitioning into a vegan in India.
There is no set in stone way of going vegan. We have just listed down approaches you could follow and be vegan while also keeping your sanity.
Let’s say you just binged watched hidden camera shots of animal abuse in a documentary in the wee hours of the night. It has so notoriously influenced you and want to swear off every other animal product in your life. From your favourite leather bag, shoes, fur key chains to your most beloved chicken wings. If you are used to making drastic changes in your life in a fortnight, then go for it! (if your health permits). Although it is arguably not that healthy to go vegan on the spot, says our lead nutritionist, Dr Shweta. Abruptly introducing a new diet could disrupt your body’s metabolism, but it’s fairly easy for vegetarians to go vegan since their body is already used to plant being a primary source. Now, for those of you who don’t want to be shoved against the wall by your new belief, follow these baby steps.
1. Take It Slow
Like any other change in lifestyle, your body needs to get used to it. Nobody can run a marathon by making a decision in a fortnight. We start off by running a mile at a time, to conquer the whole stretch later on, similarly to that fashion, do not feel pressured to go completely vegan from day one. Go vegan one alternative at a time. Instead of cutting out your favourite foods, find a vegan alternative for it instead. Let’s say you love to have cheese. Find almond milk-based cheese or cashew mozzarella cheese. Making minor changes every day is the most efficient way. If you are used to having milk every day in the morning, try soy milk and see if you like it. Eat burgers made out of mock meat. Swap one product at a time to clean your diet.
2. Gradual Growth
You do not have to buy every single vegan product at the store. Determined to replace every product in the diet, we might hoard onto vegan chocolates, vegan cupcakes, a fridge full of vegan yoghurts. Going vegan necessity does not mean being healthy, for all you know, you can be diving into a very unhealthy vegan diet as well. This journey of self-discovery should be an enjoyable one, not a stressed-out one. Take your time in sampling what you like and pick your favourites. Check out our nutritionist curated list of vegan necessities here.
3. Experiment New Things
Depending on how clean your pre-vegan diet was, you might find yourself sitting on the sofa one afternoon having an intense urge to just give it all up and eat meat already! This is pretty common at a beginner stage. Introduce your platter and taste buds to interesting vegan recipes. The vegan wave has swept across the whole world. You can find interesting vegan recipes with amazing new dishes and interesting variations (including Indian ones too) in many vegan blogs and websites. If you are struggling in the cooking department, a lot of establishments and chain restaurants provide ready-made vegan boxes. Vegan festivals like Ashimsa will motivate and provide the vegan resources you need.
4. Seek Help
The vegan community is large and generous, wondering where to buy vegan shampoo? Or vegan chocolates. Vegan Instagram communities can help you guide where to find what you need. Following popular vegan influencers, reading more books and educating yourself on upcoming vegan trends will keep you on the right track. Having a community that shares your lifestyle and belief system can bring in a sense of belonging. Talking and networking with other vegans will make your transition easier.
5. Remember Why
You will probably find being vegan easier than you expected, but we’re all human and there will come days when you are in doubt and might question if everything you are doing is all worth it? Is it really making the environment better? Step back for a second and take the time to reflect on your choices. Read more vegan articles, attend vegan events and watch more documentaries to strengthen your willpower. Remember the intention of why you started all this in the first place. Spend time with animals and photos of your favourite animal could reaffirm your vegan lifestyle.
6. Don’t Give Up
Be sure to know what to expect before going vegan, in a country like India where dal might come with a tinge of the glorious ghee, teas with animal flavouring agents, intricate royal looking silk sarees hung on every shop you visit, during festivals when you are obligated to sit and eat kova laddoos with the family. Being a complete vegan might be challenging around a population that uses butter, ghee and milk for most dishes. With information, communities, like-minded people and experts by your side, you can easily overcome these road bumps for long-term solutions. The joy of vegan living comes one day at a time.
There are going to be two types of people you will encounter while transitioning into a vegan lifestyle. One who will make fun of your decision and entice you with aromatic biryani, the other - who are concerned about your nutrition. Block out all the negativity and live life standing for what you believe in.