As a practicing and preaching vegan, I meet a lot of people who’re keen about veganism. While most of them agree that the dairy industry is cruel, they’re hesitant to change their ways because - how can you ever live without cheese?
My decision to turn vegan was made overnight. For the first few days, I was so disgusted by the way dairy farmers treat the animals, that I was sure I’d never even craved anything that was a result of this cruelty.
But a few days later, the cravings hit me. I was sure I’d never go back to my old ways, but I did stay up all night wondering - How am I going to live without cheese?
And not just cheese. As an Indian, ghee and curd were also a major part of my diet.
Giving it up certainly wasn’t easy. But like they say, if you’re really determined, you’ll find a way.
Here are five things I did that helped me curb my dairy cravings:
If you’re a new vegan, struggling to give up dairy, I’m sure you’ll find these useful, too.
1. Find substitutes for things you can’t eliminate
Eliminating dairy from your diet all at once can be very difficult. Even after I decided to turn vegan, giving up ghee was the hardest. For a very long time, I couldn’t find a healthy plant-based substitute for something I was used to eating at every single meal, every day. But once I did, things got so much easier.
Thankfully for me, I was never much of a tea or coffee drinker. So giving up milk wasn’t difficult at all. For my occasional cereal, I switched to soy or almond milk.
Plant-based milk is not very difficult to find nowadays. In fact, there are a lot of online delivery options, too. If you consume milk every day, subscribing to one of these services is a good idea.
2. Veganize your favorite dishes
It’s easier than it sounds. And, a real life-saver when you’re craving something you never thought was possible to make without dairy. When eating out, look for places that serve vegan options. If that’s not always possible, get your food customized. Or look for accidentally-vegan options.
If you request, most restaurants will easily make you Indian ‘sabzi’ without cream in the gravy or ghee in your ‘dal tadka’.
If you’re a fan of Desi-Chinese, you’d be happy to know that most dishes, except the obvious paneer-based ones, are vegan anyway.
3. Stock up your favorite accidentally-vegan snacks
Most of your dry snacks and a lot of biscuits are also vegan. Check for the ingredient list. As long as there’s no milk solids, butter, cheese powder or honey, you can enjoy it guilt-free.
A lot of vegans believe palm-oil isn’t vegan, either. In that case, ask a local ‘halwai’ what oil they use for their salted snacks. Most of them don’t use palm oil.
You can also request a local baker to bake dairy-free cookies for you.
4. Meet other vegans
‘The biggest struggle after turning vegan isn’t finding substitutes for your favorite foods. It is watching your favorite people support the very cause you stand up against.’
At times like this, meeting like-minded vegans can be very helpful. Having someone to share your concerns, frustration or simply hang out without answering questions about your food choices can be very motivating.
Thanks to social media, it’s very easy to meet fellow vegans in your city online. Most of them have regular meetups you can join. Or, you can simply connect with other vegans online and find solace when you feel like no one understands you.
5. Don’t be too harsh on yourself
This is the #1 mistake new vegans make. You know that dairy is cruel. You’re determined not to support it anymore. But giving up something you’ve grown up eating isn’t easy. Your body takes time to adjust to the change. Craving dairy products, for the first few months after turning vegan, is 100% okay. What’s also 100% okay is giving in to these cravings.
Most people are triggered by something and decide to go vegan almost overnight; which is not the healthiest way to do it. The ideal way is to cut down dairy consumption slowly. Introduce substitutes to your diet. And then, give up dairy products completely.
Allow your body a few months to adapt. Forgive any mistakes you make. And keep reminding yourself why you turned vegan in the first place.
Scientists and environmentalists believe that following a vegan lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to save the planet.
At a time when everyone’s worried about reversing climate change and global warming turning vegan is certainly one of the best ways to contribute.
Whether you’re a new vegan, old vegan, aspiring vegan or someone who’s still considering veganism, pat yourself on the back, because you’re doing a great job and your contribution definitely counts.
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)