A vegan diet: should you try it?

Bowl of sweet potato teriyaki seen from above

January is a month of new resolutions and personal challenges. What if this year, instead of making yet another empty promise, we were to make a change that would benefit both ourselves and the planet?

Vegan diets are often surrounded by questions and sometimes prejudice, but with more and more people, including celebrities, making the switch, this is much more than just a passing trend. With potential health benefits and improved environmental impact, maybe this is the year to go Vegan?

What is veganism?

Veganism is a lifestyle that excludes all forms of exploitation and cruelty towards animals. People who adopt veganism, known as vegans, seek to avoid all consumption or use of animal products.

For some, this extends far beyond food, to include clothing, cosmetics, household products and anything else that may involve animal exploitation.

A vegan diet is based on plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds, while excluding meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and other animal products. Strict vegans will also avoid products that use animals or insects in the production such as honey This lifestyle is often motivated by ethical, environmental and health considerations.

3 good reasons to try a vegan diet: 

  1. Positive environmental impact:
    Adopting a vegan diet can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. The production of meat and other animal products often generates a larger carbon footprint than plant production, because you have to grow the animal feed and make space for the animals themselves, significantly increasing the resources needed. This contributes to deforestation, water pollution and biodiversity loss.

  2. Health benefits:
    Well-balanced vegan diets, rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, pulses and nuts, can provide a variety of essential nutrients. Numerous studies suggest that vegans have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and diabetes.

    Be careful, however, to replace the foods you remove from your diet to avoid deficiencies (more on this below!). For example, in 100gr of beef you will find 20gr of protein, and only 8gr in the same quantity of lentils.

  3. Ethical considerations :
    Veganism is based on ethical principles aimed at avoiding all forms of animal exploitation. Meat production is so focused on efficiency that "farm animals" only reach an average of 5% of their natural life expectancy, most of them living in factory farms. Every year, 55 million farm animals are slaughtered in Switzerland.

    Intensive livestock farming also prevents the poorest populations from having enough food. To give you an idea, 1 billion tonnes of cereals end up in the feed trough every year.

    So, by opting for a vegan diet, you are helping to reduce not only animal suffering, but also human suffering, with more food available, and less environmental damage. 

5 tips for getting started on a vegan diet:

  1. Start small: Try replacing one animal-based food at a time. For example, start by replacing cow's milk with plant-based milk, then move on to other substitutions step by step.

    Another idea: replace one of your usual Powermeals with a vegan meal delivery, for an effortless vegan week! 

  2. Get informed and plan ahead: Find out about the plant-based alternatives to your regular meals and explore new recipes. Meal prepping can also help you feel more comfortable with your transition.

  3. Keep an open mind: Be curious and ready to experiment with new foods and preparation methods. There is a wide variety of plant-based foods that can replace animal products in delicious ways.

  4. Find support: Join online groups or forums, follow social media accounts or find friends and family who share your vegan goals. Social support can be very encouraging.

    The Swiss vegan society website is a great resource which lets you become a member of their community and meet other vegan people and spread the word about this lifestyle.  

    Several Instagram accounts can also help you find your way around and give you ideas for meals or products to try. Here are some of our favourites: @vegan.ch, @suissveganworld, @eatplanted.
  5. Forgive yourself and be flexible: Don't be too hard on yourself. Transitions can be fraught with mistakes and moments of weakness. Learn from these experiences, but don't give up. Flexibility in your vegan journey can make the transition more viable and sustainable. Like all new habit building, it takes time and discipline.

Will a vegan diet cause nutrient deficiencies?

Deficiencies worry many people who want to make the transition to a diet containing fewer animal products. But it is perfectly possible to be vegan and still get all the nutrients you need. 

The deficiencies most commonly associated with veganism concern vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

To make up for these deficiencies, here are some of our recommendations:

  • B12: This one is important as a lack of B12 can have some scary psychological symptoms. In fact, stories of vegans running delirious through the streets used to be a big deterrent against making the switch to a vegan diet. However now, many vegan foods are enriched with vitamin B12, and you'll commonly find it added to cereals, plant-based milk, and plant-based meats. Keep an eye out for it on your labels. B12 can also be found naturally in spirulina and shiitake mushrooms.  If you're still worried you can also consider picking up some B12 food supplements.
  • Vitamin D: Exposure to the sun and consumption of mushrooms and certain enriched plant milks can boost your vitamin D, so make sure you get outside!
  • Iron: This can be obtained from pulses, seeds and green vegetables. Combining these sources with vitamin C helps boost iron absorption, so add a squeeze of lemon across your spinach to make the most of these vegan iron sources. 
  • Calcium: can be found in green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds and tofu.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: can come from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil.
  • Proteins: can be obtained from pulses, wholemeal cereals, tofu, tempeh and seitan. If you're looking to boost your protein even higher without relying on animal meat, check out our blog on vegetarian sources of protein

A varied and balanced diet, combined with special attention to these key nutrients, can help prevent deficiencies and maintain optimal health while being vegan. You should also make sure that you consume the right number of calories for your needs and lifestyle. If in doubt, it may be advisable to consult a health professional or nutritionist to adapt your diet to your needs.

What substitutes can you make in a vegan diet?

Here are a few examples of substitutes to help you reduce your consumption of animal products: 

1. Meat: Meat is probably the first food you want to cut out of your diet. Many ingredients can reproduce the texture of meat, such as tofu, seitan or soya steaks. These alternatives are also rich in protein. For seasoning, that still gives you a great meat-like taste try vegan barbecue sauce and spice rubs. 

2. Cheese: It can be hard to give up your delicious fondues and raclettes, but there are some ways that you can still enjoy that cheese-like flavour. For example try:

- Yeast flakes as a sprinkling or as a base for sauces, they have an umami taste, a bit like parmesan.
- Sprouted rice as an alternative to mozzarella.
- Vegan fromage frais made from cashew nuts.
- Tempeh as an alternative to camembert cheese.

3. Cow's milk: Perhaps one of the easiest ingredients to replace is milk, because there are so many plant-based milks available, and some even manage to replicate the rich creaminess of dairy. We recommend:

- Oat milk: in coffee or to make breakfast puddings.
- Almond milk: as an addition to morning cereals or in hot chocolate.
- Soya milk: soya milk is probably the vegetable milk with the most neutral taste and can be used in desserts, soups and many other recipes.
- Coconut milk: for cooking, in your curry recipes for example.

4. Beer: did you know that many beers are not vegan and contain animal gelatine to clarify them? Fortunately, all beers made in accordance with the German Purity Ordinance are vegan and luckily all the major Swiss producers respect this rule. For international brands you may need to check in advance, here is a handy list: barnivore.com

5. Eggs: eggs are present in a large number of everyday recipes, but once again they can be replaced. Here are a few alternatives:

- Bananas: mashed, they can be used as a binder in sweet recipes. 
- Avocado purée: Avocado purée can be used in sweet or savoury recipes to add texture and moisture. About 1/4 cup of avocado purée replaces one egg in a cake recipe.
- Commercial egg substitute: There are commercial egg substitutes available, in powder or liquid form, that are specifically designed to replace eggs in various preparations.
- Agar-agar powder: Used as a gelling agent, agar-agar can be a vegan alternative in certain recipes that require eggs for consistency. 

About Powermeals

We are a fresh and healthy meal delivery service. We offer a selection of vegetarian, vegan and omnivore meals every week. If you'd like to try adding one or two vegan dishes to your diet, we're here to make it easy!


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