Here are a few tips for those thinking of exploring veganism, on the 25th anniversary of World Vegan Month
It’s very easy to stay vegan and still enjoy a multitude of Arabic food staples. Hummus is usually fine for vegans (just check that the restaurant hasn’t added yoghurt to the tahini-chickpea mix), as are falafels (if you’re being really strict, you might want to check that the oil they’ve been fried in wasn’t used for meat dishes too) and spinach fatayer. And of course, vine leaves stuffed with rice, tabouleh, and fattoush are ideal for those keeping their meals plant-based. You’ll have to resist the grilled halloumi though, sorry.
… or eat Asian
Asian cuisine is also a great choice for vegans. Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants usually provide a wide range of delicious plant-based dishes that make it easy to enjoy a meal without worrying that your options are going to be severely limited by abstaining from animal products. Thai curries are usually made with coconut milk, but with other cuisines, it’s always worth checking that the sauces are dairy-free, and — with Indian cuisine — that the food hasn’t been cooked in ghee.
Source your supplements
A plant-based diet can meet most of your nutritional needs, but it’s often suggested that vegans should consider taking vitamin B12 as a supplement. It’s the only vitamin that isn’t reliably supplied by a varied plant-free diet, and is important to help minimize the potential risk of anemia and heart disease. The recommended dose is 10 micrograms per day.
It’s also worth seeking out foods that are rich in calcium and iron, as plant-based diets may not provide these in the same high doses as a diet including meat. Calcium-rich vegan foods include sesame seeds (also good for iron intake); beans and lentils — especially winged beans (aka Goa beans) and white beans; figs; almonds; spinach (again, good for iron); kale; edamame; and (some) tofu (also iron-rich).
If you are seriously considering committing to veganism in the long term, then it’s worth talking to your doctor about your individual dietary requirements, but generally speaking there is no reason why your health should be negatively affected by switching to a plant-free diet. In fact, the reverse is often true.
Cleaning without cruelty
Vinegar, baking soda, lemons (the juice and the peel) and essential oils are all great alternatives if you’re worried about non-vegan ingredients in your cleaning supplies (or concerned that mainstream products may have been tested on animals). It’s easy to mix your own highly effective cleaning materials. A good one to start with is a straightforward spray cleaner for tiled surfaces. Mix two tablespoons of lemon juice with two tablespoons of organic (check for a cruelty-free logo) hand soap or washing-up liquid and two tablespoons of white vinegar. Add a cup of warm water to it all, distil into a spray bottle, and you’re ready to go.
Skip the aquarium, head to a sanctuary
Vegans consider zoos and aquariums to be forms of animal exploitation, so they are off the list of family activities. But kids, especially, love to visit places where they can see different animals, so a sanctuary that provides rescued or endangered animals with a home is a great alternative. In Saudi Arabia, the Shaybah Wildlife Sanctuary, for example, has helped return the Arabian oryx, sand gazelle and ostrich to the Empty Quarter. All three species had been hunted nearly to extinction in the 20th century, but can now be found roaming the sands once again.