The founder of Faithful to Nature shares her road to veganism and her top 10 vegan pantry essentials.

I have been an avid vegetarian since I was 16 years old. I volunteered at the Krishna Society while at university to hand out vegetarian food in underprivileged areas. After my studies, I traveled through Asia avoiding all meat and fish determined to stick to my beliefs.

Then I went to South Korea in 2002 to teach English and it was sink or swim in terms of eating meat. I only found one dish in my whole time there that was truly vegetarian as even the vegetable dishes were often prepared with fish stock. I lived in a very small room with what could barely be called a kitchen, as it is cultural to eat out for most meals. By the time I left South Korea I was eating meat.

I went back to being a full vegetarian as soon as I left and relocated to England, where my conviction only grew. Six years on my son and I were both practicing raw veganism. I breast-fed him for 15 months and then moved him straight to a mix of rooibos tea; almond and coconut milk. Cassian’s first birthday was entirely raw and it was amazing.

Then I got divorced, the wheels fell off and my personal resources flagged (a.k.a. burn out). I chose to start eating dairy, fish, wild game and even free-range lamb on very rare occasions as I was struggling to find the time to make my nut milk, sprout, juice, grow and make so much of my own food. Now, having gotten so much more balance back into my life, I am starting to prepare to become vegan again. As you can see my journey has been far from “perfect.”

Why do I feel that the effort to go vegan is worth it?

All animals are sentient beings (spend time with any creature and you will discover they have a personality) and whilst it would be OK to eat meat occasionally if all farm animals were treated with humanity, they are not. The farming of cattle in particular is the single largest factor contributing to the Earth’s fertile forests being ravaged for practically dead farmland and our rising CO2 levels.

Perhaps it would be alright for us to hunt if there were less humans on the planet and we could do so in moderation but our population growth is out of control. Knowing that we are so unconnected to our food and have the education, consciousness and plant protein resources on our planet to exist in abundance without the consumption of meat, I can’t truly be at peace with myself when I consume meat. My wallet has impact and every time I buy milk or cheese I feel like I am saying that the state of these industries are acceptable to me.

Our choice of diet is the most inconvenient truth on our planet. I do not judge those who eat meat. I get that this topic aggravates claws to be drawn on both sides. But I do pray for greater education and honesty on our planet when it comes to the consumption of meat because I believe there is a lot of misguided nutritional and environmental information that we have all been fed.

Going vegan or even vegetarian is not for everyone but becoming more discerning to the quantity and quality of meat you consume can have a big impact. Even halving the amount of meat and diary your family consume can make a difference.

These are insights I have gained from my personal journey:

  1. I am at my healthiest as a vegan. I feel so much more vital and clear when eating a plant-based diet. There is no doubt that I am healthier and have a stronger immune system when I am consuming none or very little dairy and meat.
  2. It’s all about balance. Take small steps when going vegan to give your body time to adjust. Reduce your meat consumption and start getting to know your plant proteins. There is absolutely no need to eat less protein when you stop eating meat – just start eating cleaner protein. (The success of so many vegan athletes is evidence of this.) Then start experimenting with dairy alternatives – of which there are so many. By this stage you will most likely be feeling healthier, lighter and so much at peace with yourself – taking the last step will be a breeze.
  3. Plan ahead. When I am vegan, I invest a lot more time into my food and nutritional requirements. It takes planning and organisation to prepare food from scratch.
  4. Have fun. I have absolutely loved re-educating myself to make a nut-based cheese cake, for example, or learning to sprout a myriad of seeds. Fry’s Family Foods really help an easy transition and can be found at most major retailers.

My Top Picks To Support Our Journey To Thrive On Plant Based Protein

1. Rice Drink

A dairy-free plant-based milk alternative that’s so tasty and versatile you’ll be able to replace milk in just about any situation. I find it has a slightly sweet vanilla after-taste and it’s been an easy swap. It also has the important nutrients for vegans: vitamin B12 and calcium.

2. Nutritional Yeast

This organic nutritional yeast is full of natural cheesy/ nutty flavour, plus it’s an amazing vegan-friendly source of protein, B vitamins and folic acid. You can add Health Connection Nutritional Yeast Flakes to soups and sauces, or even sprinkle over your popcorn for a flavour boost. I spotlight this product often because I believe it is that good!

3. Organic Coconut Milk

Good Life Coconut Milk is made from organically grown coconuts, so it’s free of preservatives, additives and other synthetic ingredients. It’s a treat in coffee and is a fantastic add to smoothies.

4. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a simple and fabulous swap for butter. We cook with it and it tastes so good on bread and hot cross buns!

5. Nut Milk Bag

I’ve gone through my fair selection of nut milk bags (used to make alternative dairy-free milks from nuts) but the ama-zing is my favourite. Made from nylon and a thick drawstring at the top it is super easy to clean and drains the milk well. It is also great for sprouting and making your own fruit and veggie juice.

6. GMO-Free Soya Mince

Soy is a simple, cost-effective veggie-friendly meat alternative that’s packed with protein, and a good source of fibre and minerals as well. Health Connection’s soya mince is organic and free of colouring, flavouring and GMOs, so you can rest assured your meat-free dishes are truly healthy and free of synthetic additives.

7. Nori Wands

Nori is a superfood that will give you your much needed dose of Iodine and is also nature’s energy booster, containing loads of vitamins and minerals like taurine and vitamin B12. Add to that fibre and protein and you have a delectable snack that will keep your energy on an even keel throughout the day.

8. Protein Shakes

These delicious meal replacement smoothies contain 25g vegan protein per double serving (hemp and pea protein) and great to have for smoothies on the go.

9. Organic Quinoa

This is the perfect low-GI, gluten-free alternative to heavy, starchy grains; and a great way to give your daily diet a protein and iron boost, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian.

10. Organic Hemp Seeds

As an ancient, highly revered food, hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids and are considered to be a complete protein source. Add to smoothies, cereals, salads, trail mixes and meals.