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Going vegan

Ever thought of becoming a vegan or trying a vegan diet? We find how others did it and how they feel they benefit

The vegan pioneers

David and Stephen Flynn of The Happy Pear health store and café in Greystones, co Wicklow, café in Clondalkin, Dublin, founders of a food range sold in Supervalu and Rude Health cover stars.

“When we came back from travelling in our early 20s, we changed our diet dramatically. We didn’t really know any vegans so we had to build a community around us that would support our new lifestyle and that’s how our business came about. Through starting our business, we met many like-minded people. It’s amazing nowadays just to see how much easier and more supportive people are and how society is set up to promote and help people eat a more plant-based or vegan diet.

“The very nature of the human experience is that we are flawed and we’re all doing our best. So, we think it’s best to be more inclusive because we’ve found there’s more health, wellness and compassion in this approach, but each of us needs to draw our own lines about what’s appropriate.

“Our message has always been inclusive – it’s never about encouraging people to be vegan or vegetarian. It’s about doing your best and including others and if it suits you to be vegan that’s brilliant, but our main message is just to eat more fruit and vegetables. You could eat a vegan diet and have dark chocolate and fries all day long and you wouldn’t be that healthy, so it’s better to try to eat a whole food and plant-based diet.

“We feel more ourselves through eating a vegan diet and through this lifestyle we have met so many great like-minded people and I feel through our interest in fruit and veg that we’ve become more connected to where our food is from. It’s important if you’re going to sustain your diet that you find out what makes the most sense to you and where you draw your own boundaries.”

Happy Pear tips on how to go vegan

Try to get support. Ultimately, we become the product of the five people we spend the most time with, so if you can have friends or loved ones around you or find support online. That way you can share meals and cook with each other.

Be prepared. If you’re new to this you may spend a lot of time trying to figure out if something is vegan or not, so it’s best to be prepared. We have hundreds of recipe videos on our YouTube channel, which could help with this. We show that within an hour’s preparation you can cook food for a week and it’ll only cost you €20. Things like this show just how easy, accessible, healthy and cheap it can be.

Be kind to yourself. If you do slip off the wagon it’s alright. Tomorrow will be better, and no one is perfect. Hope is a lot healthier than guilt.

The Happy Pear recipes for Happiness is published by Penguin Ireland

The model and nutritional therapist Rosanna Davison

“I decided to try out a vegan diet back in 2011 during my first year of studying nutrition – it was more difficult back then as I had to be creative about meals and snacks. Now, there’s so much more choice and availability in shops and restaurants. I didn’t find it difficult as I had been vegetarian since my teenage years and found that milk and cheese triggered spotty breakouts. I felt the benefits after about three weeks. It significantly improved my energy levels, sleep and immune system. But I also felt confident that I could eat a balanced diet without lacking key nutrients.

“For others, a gradual transition is much more achievable. I would always encourage anyone thinking of adopting a plant-based diet to do their research and plan a diet based on wholefoods rather than processed convenience foods. It’s essential to supplement vitamin B12 as a vegan, but I find that adding leafy greens to my meals and smoothies provides sufficient iron. I also boost my intake of ‘friendly’ bacteria with fermented foods or a high strength microbiotic from the fridge of my local health store. I’ve included a lot more info about plant-based nutrition plus plenty of easy recipes in my books, Eat Yourself Beautiful and Eat Yourself Fit, (Gill) and on my website”

The food blogger Holly White

“Once I knew that for both environmental and ethical reasons I wanted to eliminate animal products from my diet, it was easier to motivate myself to learn how to cook better meals and make more conscious decisions when it came to my cosmetics. Since becoming a vegan I feel that my skin is clearer and I am far less bloated. It has also helped me mentally – because I know that nothing has to unnecessarily die or suffer in order for me to live I have a greater mental clarity as well.

“I think the most important thing for those considering following a vegan lifestyle is to focus on what you are gaining, rather than what you are giving up. I would advise slowly starting to add more vegan recipes into your normal week and gradually you will find it easier. Also invest in a few cookbooks and spend a bit of time experimenting and soon you will have some favourite go-to meals.”

Holly White book Vegan-ish is published by Gill and available through her website

The health store owner Catherine Melvin is co-owner and manager of Hudsons Wholefoods in Ballydehob, Co Cork.

“We are a wholefood shop with vegetarian deli and café and we offer vegan options every day. Some of the most popular are vegan pasties such as the Cornish pastie-style puy lentils and red wine with vegan pastry; and a spicy bean and potato Mexican pastie with black beans. Another popular offering is roasted squash, cashews and black bean burgers. Lots of things we don’t label vegan, but they are, such as soups, salads and breads.

“You can definitely see the increase in the vegan movement – it has taken off in the last few years, especially with younger people. Most of the products we sell in store are vegan including rice, miso, lentils, noodles, fruit and vegetables, dairy alternatives such as nut butters, veggie cheese, soy yogurt and nut milks. We sell ready-made vegan sausages, fake bacon – there is a vegan option for practically anything you want to eat these days.”

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