The term ‘vegan’ was coined in 1944 by the founder of The Vegan Society, Donald Watson. Together with his wife, he decided on the term ‘vegan’ by taking the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian’, “because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion,” as he put it.
Today the movement is growing rapidly, and with the constant stream of creative culinary innovations, there’s never been a more exciting time to go plant-based. So, without further ado...
Step 1: Get motivated!
Start at the beginning, with YOU. Take some time to yourself to figure out your motivations for the change. The benefits are infinite, so if the seed’s sown, here’s a little food for thought:
Overall: Our immunity is linked to our gut, so better gut health should lead to better health overall. Loading up on the detoxifying properties of plants means you’ll get sick less and feel better sooner.
Digestion: Plants are packed full of nutrients that is simple and straightforward for your system to make sense of, meaning your body will feel at peak efficiency.
Energy: This quick and easy nutritional process conserves tonnes of energy which can then be devoted to other, more productive activities. Banish sluggishness and fatigue!
Mental wellbeing: Less processed food means improved concentration and mental clarity. Plants also provide serotonin, melatonin and tryptophan, three neurotransmitters that help reduce anxiety and boost relaxation, which should also help you sleep better. Serotonin is found in fruits like pineapples, bananas, plums and tomatoes, melatonin is found in fenugreek seeds and tryptophan is found in beans and potatoes.
This one’s a no brainer really. While some health and superfoods might be a little pricier, the vegan diet is infinitely less expensive than one that includes animal products. It’s rich and plentiful without the price tag.
Animal welfare: At the heart of Donald Watson’s philosophy, as well as the vegetarian principles that underpin Hinduism and Buddhism for example, is the simple notion that eating a peaceful diet promotes peace.
Environmental: Animal agriculture has disastrous effects on the environment and is one of the most inefficient uses of resources, with huge amounts of land, water and energy being required to produce comparatively small amounts of meat.
These are just a drop in the ocean, but whether it’s one or all of them that gets you going, there are tonnes of delicious and uplifting reasons and ways to stay green in South London…
Step 2: Get prepared!
Preparation is the key to making the change and sticking with it.
Start with shopping
Stock your cupboard with the basics (Green Onions in New Cross is a good place to start).
Cans: beans, chickpeas, coconut milk
Nuts, bananas, dates, seeds (flax, chia, sunflower, sesame)
Acids: Apple cider vinegar, lemon, mustard
Grains: Rice, pasta, quinoa, oats
Flavours: soy sauce, nutritional yeast, veg stock
- In the fridge: tofu, milks (almond, soy and oat are good to start with)
- Surround yourself with beautiful, fresh vegetables that get you excited about cooking.
We are so lucky in South London to have loads of delicious and affordable vegetables right on our doorstep, Peckham’s Rye Lane or Walworth’s East Street Market are both great places to bag yourself a veggie steal - and take along a couple of your own bags for a waste-free bonus. Elsewhere in South, the City and Country Farmers’ Markets pop up on various days and in various locations - including Herne Hill, Lewisham and Oval, check their website for details.
Good Food in Catford run a not-for-profit veg box scheme that sources only the best local and organic vegetables, the proceeds of which go toward food banks. Containing a minimum of five and a maximum of eight different veg varieties, these are a great way to add in some variety whilst keeping it local, ethical and seasonal.
Over in Deptford, High Street Flowers, Fruit and Veg are committed to stocking the freshest organic produce, and on the off-chance you’re looking for something they haven’t got, the knowledgeable owner, Ralph is happy to source whatever you need.
Step 3: Get schooled!
If diving headfirst into a new cooking regime has you daunted, just thank your lucky stars you’re a South Londoner! There are plenty of places on hand to make the transition less painful, even - dare we say - fun?!
- Cookery classes
An independent food boutique offering vegan baking classes, breadmaking courses and - importantly - vegan cooking classes that not only help you produce delicious food but offers lots of hot plant-based pointers and information.
Make a night of it over in Wandsworth, with dinner and bottomless booze included in this vegan cookery class - with finesse guaranteed to impress!
Cookbooks are a wonderful way to get lost in ideas.
Cosy up in one of the fabulous independent bookshops on offer South-side and let inspiration wash over you like nut milk and bee-free honey. Some favourites for a little contemplation include Herne Hill Books and Lewisham’s Halcyon Books. The Calabash of Culture has the added bonus of its own inventive vegan menu. Featuring a choice of grains, stews, curries and salads as well as some heavenly raw desserts, this eclectic little spot is perfect for new plant-based pledges to have a little taste of things to come. Which brings us to our next very important step…
Step 4: Get excited!
Once you’ve tapped into the vegan network, you’ll realise that there’s tonnes of stuff out there for you to try! A few mouth-watering morsels include…
- A café in Wimbledon, run by a passionate mother and daughter team devoted to delicious and nutritious food free from meat, dairy and refined sugars. Their enticing selection of desserts is finger-licking proof that being a vegan does not mean you can’t treat yo’ self!
Named after its warm and hospitable owner, Beza is a cosy little Ethiopian hangout serving up deliciously authentic and scrumptiously simple home-cooked food. Rice & inerja (flat bread similar to sourdough) are accompanied by a variety of veg and legumes and a symphony of sides in true Ethiopian style.
KataKata is a creative and community centred aimed at promoting peace and health through its vegan menu. Think delicious buckwheat crepes and galettes piled with a tasty array of colourful vegetables and an easygoing, welcoming atmosphere.
Available for pop-ups, supper clubs and catering, these guys combine their Caribbean backgrounds with the philosophy that the body is electric, and requires food of high conductivity to function properly. Expect energy, vibrancy and an incredible dose of flavour.
And there you have it - your 4 easy steps to going plant-based as a South Londoner, we hope you enjoyed them and that you enjoy getting going! If you still have questions or concerns, why not head over to Vala, an online healthcare service that lets you speak to a professional at your convenience about any health or wellness concerns you might have. Alternatively, Vedic Age in Catford follows the ancient Indian health principles of Ayurveda to provide holistic consultations tailored to you.