Expert Tips For New Vegans

These simple hacks from five of London's best and brightest plant-based professionals will help ease you into a vegan diet.

Making a drastic lifestyle change is never easy, MOB. Whether you’re switching jobs, moving to a different city, or simply trying to shoehorn the word “baby” into your common parlance, giving yourself a fresh start can be difficult. Getting into veganism – y’know: that plant-based diet that’s beloved by everyone from pop stars to professional athletes – can come with its own set of teething issues.

Research conducted back in 2018 by the Vegan Society found that Great Britain was home to around 600,000 vegans and, whether it’s due to environmental concerns or worries about animal welfare and your own general health, you’ve probably thought about dabbling with a plant-based diet yourself. Knowing where to begin, though, can be tough. Cheese and meat are obviously off the menu but how can you make sure that you don’t end up eating tinned chickpeas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Well, we spoke to some of the UK’s leading plant-based chefs and got them to give us their top tips to help you start (and stick to) a vegan diet. So, without further ado, here are four expert tips for vegan newbies:

Bettina Campolucci Bordi, chef and cookbook author

Bettina please credit Niki Webster
Plant-based chef Bettina Campolucci Bordi. (Photographer: Niki Webster.)

"Eating a more plant-based diet doesn’t have to cost much or be complicated. My top tip would be to sign up to a local vegetable box. It’s a great way of eating seasonal produce and supporting local food producers in the UK, not to mention that any plants eaten at the height of their season taste better. Also, by getting a veggie box, you will find that you will receive produce that you wouldn't have necessarily bought yourself, making you discover new produce and figure out exciting ways of cooking and incorporating it onto your plate. Start off with these simple but tasty ingredients and let them take centre stage."

Find out more about Bettina on her website.

Denai Moore, chef and founder of Dee’s Table

Denai Moore
Denai Moore is the chef and founder of Dee's Table.

"My top tip is using soy sauce in rich and savoury dishes. It's one of my favourite ingredients and lifts a lot of meals that are normally based around meat, such as bolognese sauce. Soy sauce is so cheap and versatile outside of Asian cooking. I use it in marinades, dressings, and just a splash goes a long way when frying or sautéing onions, or base dish ingredients. Vegan food may seem complicated but it doesn't have to be – there's so many substitutes that are reminiscent of meat, dairy, and fish. I'd recommend just substituting ingredients in meals you already make with vegan substitutes. When I first went vegan, I used a lot of vegan-style mince which made it easy to create something that felt familiar. You don't have to buy any crazy superfoods, or specialist ingredients to make something vegan."

Find out more about Denai Moore on her website.

Anshu Ahuja and Renee Williams, founders of DabbaDrop

Dabba Drop
Anshu and Renee are the founders of London's first plastic-free takeaway.

"Substituting dairy and meat for plants may seem daunting for some who assume that food won’t be as flavourful without those comforts but, believe us, it’s a terrible myth! Our top tip to help anyone trying veganism is to make sure your kitchen is well-stocked with versatile ingredients. Keep lots of condiments, chillies, pickles, chutneys, spice-mixes, herbs, nutritional yeast, vinegars, infused oils, miso paste, and vegetable stock on hand to give all of your cooking an umami flavour boost."

Find out more about Anshu and Renne on their website.

Danae Dade, founder of Cookie&Biscuit

Danae Dade
Danae Dade is the founder of Cookie&Biscuit.

"My most useful tip for sticking to a vegan diet is to take it one meal at a time. It's so easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly daunting task of changing most of your regular meals but by breaking it down, it's much easier to stick with it. Breakfast is, I think, the easiest meal – you could just swap out regular milk or yoghurt for non-dairy milk or yoghurt in your cereal or porridge. There are vegan swaps for everything these days, so going vegan has never been easier!"

Find out more about Danae on her website.

Kirk Haworth, chef and co-founder of Plates restaurant

"My biggest tip for transitioning to a plant-based diet is all about finding your passion for cooking and creating with new flavours and dishes that will satisfy you. If you’re not tuned in to what you’re eating or meal planning, it’s easy to struggle – even for me as a chef, I have to be organised! You need to set up your pantry basics first, though, and learn some core foundation dishes that you enjoy.

So, work out your favourite dishes and come up with some adaptions to try to bring them fully plant-based. One tip for your pantry is to get some good oils in like coconut oil, rapeseed oil, and sesame oil. You can even make your own herbaceous oils for extra flavour by adding herbs to your standard olive oil. It’s all about layering and adding flavour."

Find out more about Kirk on his website.

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