New Zealand vegan community offers advice, throws support behind Duncan Garner's year-long plant-based challenge

The New Zealand vegan community has thrown its enthusiastic support behind The AM Show host Duncan Garner following his announcing he's going plant-based for a year. 

In July, Garner promised he would turn vegan for a year if Labour polled high enough to govern alone. On Saturday night, the Jacinda Ardern-led party did just that, gaining a whopping 64 seats in Parliament. 

On Wednesday morning's show and in a subsequent Newshub opinion piece, Garner announced he's sticking to his word. 

"Veganism here I come. I AM going to try this," he wrote.

"A man has nothing more than his word. So, yes, I will be embarking on this terrifying ordeal." 

But it appears he won't be going it alone. Supportive emails flooded into the Newshub inbox on Monday and Tuesday from members of the vegan community offering advice for Garner, with many saying their own decision to go vegan was the best they ever made. 

NZ Vegetarian Society spokesperson Philip McKibbin told Newshub that Garner has made the right choice, and he believes he'll meet the challenge. 

"Veganism is better for the animals, better for the planet, and - of course - better for our health," McKibbin said.

"Fifteen percent of Kiwis are avoiding meat most or all of the time, and that number looks set to rise. The future is vegan. 

"I don't know, I reckon Duncan could probably do it. I guess we'll see if he's up to it, won't we? If he needs any advice, he can always give us a call."

McKibbin even had some tips for Garner. 

"It's mostly a case of cutting out animal products and eating more of the good things - legumes, grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts. It's a good idea to think about B12, too. Veganism is easy once you get the hang of it."

Former Green candidate for Napier and founder of vegan-food company Little Island James Crow also wrote in, saying he has been "vegan for a year seven times now". 

"I'm more than happy to show Duncan the ropes," he added.

Laura Gentle from the 'Eat Kind' team at SAFE, a New Zealand animal rights charity, told Newshub she also wanted to get in touch with best wishes from the team. 

"By going plant-based, you're doing something really positive for your health, our planet and of course, the animals," she wrote in an email directed at Garner. 

"As many new vegans discover, vegan food is readily available in your local supermarkets and can be quick and easy to prepare."

Gentle also promised to send a box of goodies from The Cruelty-Free Shop in Auckland.

Jackie Norman, author of popular vegan cookbook Easy and Delicious: Everyday Vegan, promised to send Garner a copy and provided some words of advice about making the transition. 

"If I can do it, anyone can," said the former dairy farmer of 18 years. 

"One thing we really recommend is to try and stay away from traditional Western or Italian style dishes to start with, as they are often very heavy on cheese and dairy products," Norman advised. 

"Vegan cheeses and other dairy-free products are brilliant but it takes time for your palate to adjust and if you expect them to taste exactly the same from the start, that's not going to be the case. 

"Instead we recommend going for more Asian and Indian style dishes, many of which are already naturally vegan as they use very little in the way of dairy or eggs and can be easily made vegan using coconut milk for example. Easy!"

Vegan Aaron Koolen, who has been plant-based for 30 years - but noted he loves treats like wine and whiskey as much as the next guy - also emailed in with some of his own top tips. 

"You can do it so wrong if you just jump from one to the other," advised Koolen, adding his key piece of advice was to "eat enough calories". 

"Some people who go vegan don't really know what to do so they switch to basically eating salads. That won't fill you up and won't give you the energy you need."

Koolen said if Garner was a "meat and three veg sort of dude" he'll need to make sure he's eating enough and not go "full hippy - it's unsustainable". 

He also added Garner should "avoid going full junk" with vegan confectionery and treats.

"It's easier but you probably won't feel much better," Koolen said.

"He needs to seek out the recipes he likes [and] make it easier on himself with some convenience stuff from the supermarkets. Burger patties and substitutes of varying healthfulness are everywhere." 

With such a strong outpouring of support, Garner can rest assured he has the weight of the country's vegan community behind him. 

Garner's change of diet is a move that will shock many considering The AM Show's tricky history with veganism. 

In an opinion piece last year, fill-in host Ryan Bridge called vegans "treasonous loonies". 

But according to Chef's Pencil, Google Trends data shows that in fact Kiwis now rank fifth in the world for veganism, with numbers still rising.