My Guide To a Plant-Based Lifestyle In South Africa (2021)

I have been meat-free since 2013. I consider myself a plant-based vegetarian that tries to live as close to a vegan lifestyle as possible. That sentence alone would send many in these communities into a frenzy. The battle between calling yourself plant-based vs vegetarians vs vegans can be a handful to manage as everyone has their own perspective on what is right and wrong and the labelling of it.

Simply put, I do not eat animals and I try to cause the least amount of harm to animals and the environment through my actions and purchases (which includes non-related food items as well). Key-word being try. No one is perfect. This is a lifestyle change, not just a temporary fad.

People who follow a plant-based diet get to make choices throughout the day that help their own health, the planet, and so many animals. plant-based is so widespread nowadays, it is more appealing than ever before.

Worried that plant-based food will be boring or tasteless? Take a look at some meat free dishes below. Everything but boring.

Anyone that has given up eating animals can tell you that they are always bombarded by the questions such as:

  • Where do you get your protein from?
  • What is wrong with dairy and eggs?
  • Is plant-based food expensive?
  • Doesn’t plants feel pain?

And probably the most popular question, what if you were stuck on a deserted island and had nothing else to eat? For some reason giving up eating animals increases your chances of ending up on a deserted island all alone by a 1000%…. fair warning, haha.

Honestly though, going plant-based can seem daunting at first, but after some research, self-education, engaging with others and just some good old fashion positive attitude mixed with practice, it can be one of the best decisions of your life.

DISCLAIMER: I have decided to compile my own personal guide to plant-based eating, (more specifically for South Africans but still applicable to everyone) to try and assist others, in making things slightly easier and for them to have a place to go to with lots of resources available about giving up eating animals and embracing a kinder, plant-based lifestyle.

I am not a medical professional. Always seek medical advice on any existing conditions you might have. This post will also get updated periodically. The goal is to have a page to send people too that need slightly more education and resources especially for South African related pages and products. This does not mean this post will have everything you need, but it has everything I wish I had access too when I started in 2013. Be kind. If you feel something is lacking, comment on the post below with the additional information.

First, let’s get the basics out of the way before we dive into the actual food side of things.

What exactly does plant-based mean?

There are a few different variants under the plant-based umbrella. The main thing is NO eating of Meat, Fish, Shellfish, Insects and Poultry. I mean, plants are in the name after all.

The term Vegetarian is normally the most common term used for someone that is eating a plant-based diet but not everyone likes the labelling as it can be quite confusing when you discuss all the different kind of plant-based diets you get, to simply label them all under ‘vegetarian’ can simply put, place you in situations where you have to explain yourself more to others than what would be needed too.

Some other examples are of the type of plant-based diets you get are:

Lacto-ovo vegetarians. This would be someone who does not eat animal flesh but would still consume eggs and dairy. This is the more common version of vegetarian that most people know about.

Lacto vegetarians. They would no eat eggs, but would still be fine with dairy products.

Ovo vegetarians. They would be the opposite as they would avoid all animal products but still eat eggs. Then you get the new-comer that more and more people strive towards…

Vegans. Vegans and Veganism are all about avoiding all animal products, this includes eggs, dairy and even honey (which is basically bee vomit – insects by-product) basically if it came from an animal, it would not form part of the vegan diet. You also get the raw vegan diet, whereby people would only consume plants that have not been cooked. This is for various reasons and benefits but simply put, not for everyone. Vegans also tend to be on the more ethical stance and against animal abuse, how animals get treated and not wearing animal products, it is not all about what you eat but also how they are against using animals in any way.

Now, you do get those that call themselves plant-based but would eat fish on occasion. They would be called Pescatarian and this is not plant-based because they are eating Fish, a living creature.

Then you also get what some people have dubbed the Flexitarian which is people who would follow a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat. I personally don’t see how this is a plant-based diet then or how it could possibly fall under this bracket as I just see that as people preferring veggies over meat but why they have a whole name for them I don’t honestly know.

Pescatarian and Flexitarian are not plant-based because they both contain animals or animal products on the menu. That’s breaking the one rule of a plant-based diet. No meat.

I still felt this should be mentioned because it’s mostly plant-based but not completely and to also help people understand the difference in terminologies that could sound quite foreign in the beginning.

(Also, just to mention, I started off as a ‘Pescatarian’ before giving up meat completely. So it can sometimes be a great catalyst to the next part of your journey while you educate yourself on what to eat etc – not everyone can give up meat from the start in one go)

Where do you get protein from on a plant-based diet?

Nuts, beans, tofu, and seitan has an abundance of protein. As well as other plant foods. You don’t need meat for adequate protein.

Is plant-based food more expensive?

Yes and no. It all depends on your general way of living. You can eat only processed foods from certain grocery stores or you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from local grocers. Once you know where to buy and what to buy, it can be very affordable.

Do plants feel pain?

Plants have no brain or central nervous system, which means they can’t feel anything. It takes a reported 7KG of grain to produce just 500 grams of beef, so if you’re really concerned about plants, you should be avoiding meat anyway.

Do you need meat to be healthy?

Research continues to provide proof that a nutritious plant-based diet is beneficial to your overall health. A plant-based diet is a win-win situation, you get to live a longer, healthier life while living a kinder life not fueled with harm against animals.

What is wrong with dairy and eggs (if you are going vegan)?

Animals raised for dairy and eggs not only endure horrific suffering on factory farms but eventually end up as meat themselves. 

Since this post is more about a plant-based diet in South Africa, I am not going to go into the ‘preachy’ part of plant-based here, so If you are interested in understanding this question you are welcome to view the below two videos from youtube Erin Janus – if you are not interested in that part of things, skip the videos.

What would a typical plant-based diet consist of?

Vegetables – I mean, that is sort of a given right? Vegetables are great for you, packed with nutrients, fibre, and generally lower in calories. You can never go wrong with eating veggies.

Legumes – This means beans, lentils and soy. Greatly beneficial for protein. Can make some tasty dishes and just fun really.

Whole grains – Your rice, oats, buckwheat and barley.

Nuts and seeds – We are talking about cashews, pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, quinoa. They have some fat and calories, but its good fats and add to your protein on a plant-based diet.

One of the most important factors to remember when going on a plant-based diet is that real food versus faux or processed foods makes a difference. You are looking to gain the nutritional benefits from these foods instead of eating doughnuts and chocolate cake that might be plant-based but not considered as real food. Focus on nutrient-dense foods.

What about superfoods?

Superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that deliver mega-doses of antioxidants, vitamins, polyphenols and minerals, thus eating them offers multiple health benefits. As a result, consumers of superfoods are healthier and thinner, and eating these powerhouses may reduce your risk of chronic disease and prolong your life.

Soy is rich in high-quality protein, iron, calcium, phytochemical and omega-3s, thus provides nutrients essential to your health.

Yellow bell pepper is a vitamin C powerhouse, aiding in Iron absorption.

Chia seeds is a top source of omega-3s, and improves heart health.

Kale delivers high doses of Lutein and Zeaxanthin keeping your eyesight perfect.

Sweet potato is tasty but also a great source for beta carotene which maintains healthy vision by protecting the skin and surface of the eye.

Pumpkin seeds are a top source for Zinc which increases your immune system and speeds the healing process.

Tahini is rich in calcium and improves bone health.

Watermelon is a top source for Lycopene which offers antioxidant properties.

Purple grapes is filled with antioxidants.

So now that we have worked out the kinks, of what exactly does plant-based diet and lifestyle mean I must still mention that this is just basics and everyone tends to be on their own journey and doing it for different reasons such as culture, religion, health etc. The arguments of who is right and wrong will always come up and it’s important to remember that we are all on different journeys at different times. Each step towards eating fewer animals is a step in the right direction in my opinion.

Let’s discuss a bit more about what South Africa has available on offer to make this experience easier, and more rewarding for you. I will show you some products that are available online and at your local grocery stores as well as ideas to make your transition or existing lifestyle a little bit more fun and easier.

Online and in store resources to try out.

Products that are easily available at Spar, Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Checkers and other local and online grocery stores.

Frys Family Food Delicious, easy to cook faux meat alternatives. Perfect for those who wants to go plant-based but still need some replacements in the beginning to make the journey easier.

McCain Food Range – available at most grocers.

Spar Vegetarian Range Simply Veg

Checkers has a vegetarian and vegan range called simple truth from food to chemicals that are all eco friendly and good for the environment. They also occasionally stock Linda Mcartneys and the Meraki plant-based burger patties.

Violife vegan cheese products from Violife Foods – Available at most places quite easily.

Woolworths has a massive arrange of items these days. Not all listed here.

Some other products to look out for in stores.

In addition to the above mentioned products, you can also visit the below websites for more information and online purchases.

Happy Cow Find Vegan restaurants and stores nearby.

Vegan SA South African Vegans Directory Listings. Find vegan-friendly restaurants, shops, food and drinks, products and accommodation around South Africa.

South African Vegan Society The South African Vegan Society is a volunteer organisation focusing on public outreach, distribution of resources, product endorsement as well as providing support for those who choose the vegan lifestyle.

Vegan Street Food, drinks, beauty, home and lifestyle products.

Lekker Vegan Gourmet junk food.

The Veganary Travelling around the world, the vegan way. Importers and Distributors of Vegan Food Products in South Africa.

Leozette Roode Plant-based blog filled with amazing recipes.

Faithful-to-Nature South Africa’s Favourite Natural Health & Wellness Brand. Online store for supplements, vitamins, superfoods, food, health, baby and kids, lifestyle. They specialize in delivery of clean vegan organic food and nutrition products, locally sourced to the highest standards.

The Vegan Chef They create delectable gourmet and artisanal vegan food that is good for you and great for the planet.

The Plant Based Company Online vegan marketplace from faux meats, frozen and fresh.

Plant Chef Gourmet and healthy plant-based food. Meal prep ready.

The Messy Vegan Pantry, Making living on a whole food, plant-based diet more affordable and therefore more available for people.

Evergreen Vegan Deli Delicious vegan meat free deli food.

Vegan Things Online grocery store filled with everything that you might need in the plant-based world.

Dear Vegan Unique plant-based frozen foods are available at selected stockists in and around Gauteng. Dear Vegan is a brand created by an eco-conscious chef and mom whose goal is to bring you delicious ready to cook plant-based frozen meals.

Green Butler Fresh, delicious, natural fruit and vegetables delivered to your door.

Vegan Capsules Your nutraceuticals source for all supplements and vitamins.

WTF Do Vegans Eat Online vegan food store.

The Fussy Vegan Delicious vegan food.

Irenes Gourmet Food 100% plant based artisanal food. Delicious and nutritious.

Gudness Delightful plant based meat slices.

Urban Vegan A wide range of delicious, artisanal vegan foods that are stocked throughout SA.

Need ideas for your next meal? Try out Yummly!

Yummly The smart cooking sidekick that learns what you like and customizes the experience to your personal tastes, nutritional needs, skill level, and the cooking app for recipes, meal planner, shopping lists and more. It is an APP that you can download onto your phone. Change the dietary requirements to plant-based, vegan etc and simply search any existing meal you enjoy eating and you will get a variety of tried out delicious recipes to use with step by step instructions. Need a cottage pie? Meatloaf? It has it all. Search Yummly on your app store or download the APP from their website

Or try out my vegan chilli recipe,

The question always comes up. Will you get enough protein on a plant based diet?

This one shocks so many people, but yes you can get enough protein on a plant based diet.

If you are trying to build muscle or lose weight or if you are trying to simply be healthier, then your protein consumption should be prioritized. Protein as we know it, is basically a combination of different amino acids. We use roughly 20 different kinds of amino acids that are used for building muscle and keeping our organs functioning. Nine, of these amino acids our body cannot produce and heavily relies on what we eat, to get them through our food.

Getting these nine amino acids is of utmost important for building and repairing of muscle, to have a healthy metabolism and it even helps our genes to function correctly.

If for example, you eat a piece of chicken, you would be getting in all nine in one go. So for a plant-based non-animal source, most plants will be missing one or two of these essential amino acids. So your creativity and education on what you consume are needed here to understand the needs versus what you have available.

So getting creative would mean having a balance of a good diet available.

Beans for example are lower in the amino acid methionine, while high in the amino acid lysine. Conversely. Rice is low in lysing but high in methionine. Eating this combination of rice and beans can have you covered in any amino acid deficiency.

If you simply ensure you eat a variety of plant foods and include some fruits in your diet, you will have enough of the essential amino acids requirements sorted. Variety is the spice of life here. Don’t only consume one thing daily and expect all the needs to be met.

But make sure you understand, plant food is what we are talking about here, legumes, grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds and all of that. NOT COOKIES. Real food. Variety is king. Rice on meal, Legumes the next.

What about sports and building muscle on a plant based diet?

Whenever people (especially men) hear plant based, they think yes but muscles. How do you build muscles?

Education. Education. Education.

You need to educate yourself on the basics and build yourself up.(Just like your muscles!)

Think about famous Vegan athletes like

Nate Diaz UFC Fighter,

or Lewis Hamilton Formula 1 Driver

or what about Danielle Sidell a CrossFit athlete.

They all build muscle without consuming animals.

Let’s look at a typical day for CrossFit Athlete Danielle Sidell:

“Typical breakfast is 2 slices of sprouted bread with vegan butter, half an avocado, mini fruit salad with strawberries, grapes and blackberries with peanut butter drizzled over the top and a cup of coffee.

My snack before lunch is some roasted chickpeas and plain popcorn – it’s a really filling snack.

For lunch I’ll do a serving of Beyond Meat’s chicken or beef crumbles with jasmine rice, a serving of veggies and another half of an avocado.

For afternoon snack I’m typically on my way to the gym so I’ll have a banana, spoonful of peanut butter and a glass of unsweetened soy milk. I like soy and pea milk the most because they have lots of protein.

After I workout I’ll do a shake with pea protein and dextrose. For dinner I’ll have a cup of some sort of beans, hummus for the extra fat, some sweet potato and another serving of something by Beyond Meat.

Then for a snack I’ll do a whole bell pepper with hummus or a serving of beet chips.”

If you compare that to any other athlete you will find a lot of similar strategies, they get the correct amount of calories for their goals and also eat plenty of plants throughout the day. The only difference between Danielle and some omnivore athletes is the protein source. That is all. Protein is how you would be building the muscle.

Just because someone doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t mean they will have less muscle or smaller muscles. To put it another way: eating meat doesn’t necessarily lead to bigger muscles, either!

If you want to discuss seriously ripped vegan bodybuilders then you can also take a look at Korin Sutton, Nimai Delgado, Dominick Thompson, Jon Venus, Torre Washington or Jordan David. These are exceptionally talented and shredded Men who are able to build the muscles some could only dream off purely on a plant-based diet.

What about protein powder for gym purposes?

  • Pea protein. A solid choice for vegan protein powder comes from peas, specifically the high protein yellow split pea. A quarter cup (28 grams) will get you about 21 grams of protein, and run you about 100 calories. There’s some evidence it might be comparable to whey in building muscle.
  • Rice protein. A quarter cup of rice protein will contain 22 grams of protein and run 107 calories. Not too shabby. Plus, when you combine it with pea protein, you’ll end up with a complete amino acid profile needed for human growth.
  • Hemp protein. While it doesn’t have as much protein as pea or rice (one cup will have 12 grams of protein and 108 calories), what it lacks in this department it makes up for in its nutrient profile. Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant, but it’s bred in such a way that it won’t have any THC. What it will provide you with though is a decent source of iron, zinc, and omega-3s.

Common mistakes some people make when starting a plant-based diet.

You understand the differences now between plant-based diets, vegetarian diets and vegan diets. But let’s differentiate a bit here.

Pizza, fettuccine alfredo, bowls of sugary cereal, grilled cheese sandwiches, and calorie-bomb burritos can be vegetarian.

Donuts, pasta, and bread can be vegan.

Plant-based? Technically, sure.

Healthy? Not at all!

If your end result of going plant based is weight loss and to be healthier, you have to eat plants. Full stop. I am not saying never eat pizza and snacks but have things in moderation. You cannot go plant based by only eating take-always daily. That simply cannot work unless your goal is to be as unhealthy as possible. Then sure…

Another big mistake I see many people make, is they think about cutting out meat, but not about replacing it. They are so focused on removing meat but struggle to consider what would be the best replacement. Majority of us were taught that the meat portion is the main portion of a plate of food and the rest becomes the side dishes, now without meat, there isn’t a ‘star’ of the show as they all end up showcasing their own strengths on your plate.

What is (fill in the blank here) ?

Literally, fill in the blank. It seems going plant-based can really send you into a new world with all kinds of new terminologies and products that you might not have ever knew existed. Let me give you a breakdown, of what is what below.

Flaxseed or Linseed. Flaxseeds are one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet. They contain omega-3 fats, lignans, and fiber. Flaxseeds are not specific to a plant-based diet, but many of the healthier plant-based diets make prominent use of flaxseeds.

Nutritional flakes. This is a sort of condiment used by vegans and others who are interested in health foods. It comes as yellow flakes which are fortified with a lot of B vitamins. It has a cheesy, nutty flavour.

Seitan. This is a vegan protein source made from wheat. It is commonly used as the main ingredient in mock meats.

Speciesism. It means discriminating against an individual and their interests due to their species.

Veganize. To make a recipe or meal into a vegan version.

Aquafaba. The thick liquid in a can of chickpeas or other beans/legumes. Often used in recipes, sometimes as an egg replacement.

Hummus. A dip for vegetables, chips, crackers, and more. Hummus is made from ground chickpeas.

Buddha bowl. A bowl of usually rice and beans and other vegetables. This is commonly offered as a vegan option in restaurants. But take notice: Buddha Bowls are not always plant-based. They just often tend to be.

Casein. A protein that comes from dairy. Most vegans try not to consume casein.

Gelatin. A gelling agent made by boiling the bones, skin, and joints of cows, pigs, and other animals. Think about most jelly sweets or even your regular jello – if you read the ingredients you tend to see gelatin (bovine or beef) written on the packet.

Factory farming. This is the method of farming that is common in modern production farms. On animal farms, this includes huge sheds with thousands of animals, often kept in tiny cages and abused in many ways.

But wait, I am scared of Soy!

Going plant-based most meat eaters start with the argument that Soy is bad for you and that men specifically will gain bigger breasts etc. However, when done in moderation. Cooked correctly and consumed correctly you do not have anything to worry about. Think about our Asian counterparts that consume a lot of soy through food and drinks, now think rationally here… do you hear a lot about them having man-boob problems? no? Well there you go. There’s no good medical evidence that consuming soy will cause men’s breast tissue to grow.

Soy is rich in isoflavones, which are plant-based molecules with estrogen-like activity. Estrogen is a female hormone. That, in turn, has raised the fear that eating soy could bring out feminine traits in men, such as breast enlargement.

But whenever researchers have studied the link, they haven’t found any association. In a 2010 review of the medical evidence, researchers wrote that “isoflavones do not exert feminizing effects on men,” at least not when consumed at levels typical of many soy-heavy Asian diets. Another 2004 study, comparing babies who were fed soy milk with a control group, found no “estrogen-like” hormonal effects in the soy drinkers.

Is veganism or plant-based good for the environment?

Factory farming is significantly responsible for deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and water shortages.

  • Livestock and their byproducts are accountable for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide. 
  • To produce 1kg of meat, you require between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water whereas to produce 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres of water. 
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of the Amazon rainforest destruction. 

It is so easy to help the planet – by eating a plant-based diet you will be living a much more sustainable life.

Miscellaneous facts you also might want to know on your journey of being plant-based.

Scientists expect fishless oceans by 2048 unless we change the animal food industries and their practices.

Research also shows that we could feed an additional 4 billion humans, if we grew our crops directly for human consumption instead of feed for animals that later gets slaughtered for us to consume.

a Plant-based diet also increases your metabolism. People who follow a plant-based diet burns calories 16% faster on average than the metabolism of meat-eaters.

a lot of social justice activists throughout our history were plant-based, vegetarian or vegan. Some of them were Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and so many others.

Keen to do some more reading and education? Below are some more resources to take a look at. Be warned, not all of them are family-friendly and might be alarming for sensitive readers.

Carnism Debunked – Humanely slaughtering the arguments for animal exploitation.

Videos to watch on YouTube:

Documentaries to watch:

COWSPIRACY. Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.

WHAT THE HEALTH is a 2017 documentary film which critiques the health impact of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products consumption, and questions the practices of leading health and pharmaceutical organizations. Its primary purpose is to advocate for a plant-based diet.

DOMINION. Filmmakers use hidden cameras and aerial drones to investigate the dark side of animal agriculture.

FORKS OVER KNIVES. Researchers explore the possibility that people changing their diets from animal-based to plant-based can help eliminate or control diseases like cancer and diabetes.

EARTHLINGS is a 2005 American documentary film about humankind’s total dependence on animals for economic purposes.  Presented in five chapters (pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research) the film is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, featuring music by Moby, and was written, produced and directed by Shaun Monson

BLACKFISH. The story of Tilikum, a captive killer whale that has taken the lives of several people, underscores problems within the sea-park industry, man’s relationship to nature, and how little has been learned about these highly intelligent mammals.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Oscar-winning documentary about the environment featuring the unlikeliest of movie stars. Former presidential candidate Al Gore holds this film together as, in front of an audience and with few aids beyond photo slides, he explains how humans have messed up the planet. Gore issues an urgent warning on what must be done, and done quickly, to save the earth.

Give the following social media influencers a follow as well and even reach out to them if you have any questions or needing additional tips.

Lastly, give yourself time. Allow yourself to sometimes make mistakes. Allow yourself the space needed to do the lifestyle and habit change. Educate yourself as much as possible and know that living a life free from eating animals can be done and can be done passionately. It only gets better from here.

If you are enjoying my blog and would love to show support, how about buying me a coffee? Thank you for reading… #TheSomethingGuy #SouthAfrica #Blog


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