How to go vegan in France

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I tend to think of the articles I write for the website in terms of providing free information for English-speaking vegans in France, from the perspective of people who are already followers of a vegan lifestyle. However, with the release of the latest IPCC report and the fires in the Amazon rainforest at the top of media headlines, I’ve noticed that more and more people are coming round to the idea that the only way to deal with this issue is to stop eating meat and fish. In other words, to go vegan or plant-based, if you prefer. If you are living in a country where you are unfamiliar with, dare I say it, ‘non-standard’ food then this might seem to be an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. However, whilst it may be easier to adopt a vegan diet in the UK or US, it is certainly not that difficult in France and it is getting easier. So, I’ve put together a few ideas and sources of further information below. Do contact me if you need any more information or support; I’ll try to help 🙂 

going vegan in France
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Where to find information on the internet

There is a seemingly endless supply of good, science-based evidence to support the fact that eating a plant-based, vegan diet is good for the animals, good for the planet and good for you own health. I won’t elaborate here, you can research this easily, but I challenge anyone to say that in the last few weeks they have not become aware of the climate change issues. They are even evidenced closer to home with water shortages and heatwaves in France. If you’re reading this because you’ve decided that it is time to make a change to your own and your family’s diet and lifestyle, but you don’t know where to begin I’d suggest checking out some of the internet resources that offer a step-by-step guide.

Go vegan courses

For good basic information about veganism have a look at the The Vegan Society website. It covers the basic principles of veganism, but also has a ‘how to go vegan’ section plus a downloadable app VeGuide to help you go and stay vegan, with 30 days of videos and interactive content. You might have heard of Veganuary, a massive campaign held every January since 2014 to encourage more people to try the vegan diet. Well, you don’t need to wait until January, the Vegan Starter Kit operates all year round. If you’re looking for more personal support then check out Challenge 22. This course works on the premise that it takes 21 days to break or form a new habit, so there is full support on social media and via mentors throughout the challenge process and beyond.

More information sources

If you’re more of a bookish type then I’d recommend Vegan for Life by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina. It’s a straightforward guide to transitioning to a vegan diet that’s easy to follow, and you don’t need to start knitting your own muesli. If you like information in a visual format then the videos of Dr Michel Greger’s YouTube channel are excellent, though this comes at veganism from the plant-based health perspective. His app is a great little device to have on your phone to check you’re getting all the nutrients you need every day. The number of channels offering vegan recipes is enormous. Popular favourites with fellow vegans in France are Bosh, The Happy Pear and Vegan Richa, but a search online for ‘simple vegan recipes’ will provide lots of choice. Not forgetting that there are free phone apps and Instagram, too.

France-specific factors

One important factor for vegans, and indeed most people following a modern diet, is to ensure you’re getting a daily supplement of vitamin B12. The easiest way is to take a daily vitamin tablet, which you can buy online or in many bio shops here in France. Some people have reported success buying B12 in pharmacies. (I have not been able to obtain it in any of the three local pharmacies unless prescribed.) Others have had it prescribed by their doctor. In this case, the costs would be reimbursable from your carte vitale.

Apart from that important issue, then ‘going vegan’ is simply a question of stopping buying meat and dairy and replacing your usual ingredients with vegan-friendly alternatives. In recent years, the number of vegan offerings in the supermarkets has increased; look in the bio aisles and the chilled cabinets. If you’re searching for a particular ingredient then it’s often more convenient to make an online order from The Vegan Shop, or somewhere similar.

A few suggestions – how to start

If I were starting from scratch again and transitioning to a vegan diet I’d probably follow one of the three or four week courses mentioned above. In the VV household we made a fairly long transition via vegetarianism, as many people do. (And I was a qualified vegetarian cook.) But, in hindsight, I wish we’d made the move to vegan earlier and quicker. If you’re starting today then I’d look at three or four of your favourite meals and find recipes, tweaks or substitutions to make them vegan.

Breakfast is not usually much of a problem, unless you’re a regular full English aficionado in which case just sub the meat for vegan sausages (Aldi) and the eggs for scrambled tofu. Where you normally have dairy products, like milk, butter and cheese, just substitute with plant-based. Oat milk is usually fine for coffee and tea. Cheese does seem to be a bit of an issue for some, but there are lots of vegan cheeses available now. I’ll go out on a bit of a limb here and suggest that maybe you drop cheese for a month or so, just to ‘forget’ the flavour. Cheese does actually contain an addictive chemical, hence the so-called cravings. So, you will probably notice the difference in taste with vegan cheese.

Your next shopping trip

Assuming you’ve signed up for a ‘go vegan’ course and you’re armed with some exciting new recipes and maybe a shopping list, or you’ve decided to go it alone and just substitute your usual foods, then it’s time to head for the shops. If you’ve got an android phone then download a new app called Veg’Check. It’s free. Designed to work in France, you can scan the majority of supermarket barcodes with a smartphone camera to find out whether a product is vegan or not. It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s a great addition to the vegan toolbox for French shopping. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started. Before you go, check out the tips for reading labels in France and the vegan symbols to look out for.

Instead of thisTry this
Dairy milkOat or plant-based milk
YoghurtAlpro, soya or coconut-based
ButterVegetal spread, e.g. Fruit D’or
CreamSoya or other cuisine liquide (in
bio aisle)
Minced beefSoya haché (chilled or freezer)
Pork sausagesVegan sausages, e.g. Aldi Bon et Bio
Steaks or chopsSoya or seitan steaks (chilled or
HoneyAgave syrup
BiscuitsSpeculoos or Oreo (watch out for
palm oil)
MayonnaiseJardin Bio and Sacla both make
vegan mayo
NutellaJardin Bio do dark chocolate
vegan spread
IcecreamBen&Jerrys and Magnums are
available in vegan, plus some
own brand vegan desserts

Hmmm, you’re thinking, I thought the vegan diet was supposed to be healthy 🙂     

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