November 1st was celebrated as World Vegan Day, a day that emphasises the philosophy that keeps vegans away from animal-based products. The lifestyle is gaining popularity and for all the good reasons. But how easy is it to be a vegan in India?
Being vegetarian seems plausible, but a vegan? From the looks of it, veganism seems a tad bit hard to follow anywhere in the world, and not just in India. India loves dairy, and the country is one of the leading consumers of milk and dairy products. But India already has a fair share of exquisite vegetarian dishes that may have to undergo some minor changes to incorporate the vegan diet fully.
Vegetarian or Vegan?
Vegan products are more available in big cities than smaller towns and villages. Almost all dairy products can easily be replaced with soy products and meat with meat substitutes. Many Indian dishes are naturally vegan – all the dals and pulses do not tend to use dairy products.
I talked to one of my friends who had turned to the vegan lifestyle sometime in February of 2017. “I was never into dairy or dairy products as such, even cheese (I know some people find that hard to believe) and my family did not consume meat or eggs either. I did have eggs as my go-to meal when I lived alone, but that was mostly out of convenience only. I didn’t take a particular liking to it. So my transition to being vegan was not a difficult one.
In terms of difficulty, I don’t think it is as easy to become a vegan in India, because we use a lot of butter and ghee, be it northern or southern cuisine. Eating out was always a hassle because I was always that one person telling the waiter that I didn’t want cheese or butter in my food. It wasn’t easy in Chennai because veganism was a very new concept then.
But soon enough, people started adopting certain dietary practices such as gluten-free and lactose-free foods. It forced a lot of eateries and joints to adapt these in their menus. I think Bangalore was a little ahead of its time because they already had a vegan restaurant when I had just turned vegan. Chennai slowly adapted as well. As of today, we have vegan options on the menu, and we have stores that deliver a wide range of vegan ice creams and vegan curd, butter and even cheese, and a variety of plant-based products and kinds of milk are also available in supermarkets now!”
Apart from the limited range of options available, another issue vegans may face is when it comes to getting adequate nutrition. Or the fact that being vegan is expensive. Dairy substitutes are not always available, but when they are, they can empty your pockets.
So Why Switch?
With more videos of animal cruelty being displayed on most platforms of social media, most of us inevitably feel the need to shift to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. There has been a massive increase in young people like Greta Thunberg advocating sustainability and animal rights, which in turn has led to big companies and organisations to turn to other alternatives.
Even though veganism as a concept came into being in 1944, the practice is not widely accepted. Thankfully, it is catching on. Even big brands like McDonald’s is trying to introduce new vegan options in their menus. Recently they came out with their plans to introduce the McPlant line in 2021. Cafe Coffee Day has its own vegan shake. Fully vegan restaurants have taken root in cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, and Goa. Supermarkets now have vegan aisles, and e-commerce sites are making vegan options more accessible.
If you do plan on turning vegan, here are a few reminders –
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grains as they contain more irons and B vitamins.
- Tofu, tempeh, and soybeans are easy substitutes for most dairy products and are rich in protein.
- Omega-3s are not just found in fish; you’ll also find them in soy, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- There are plenty of plant-based substitutes that taste just like meat, including falafel, tempeh, and seitan.