If you’re feeling overwhelmed by social media posts of plant-based dishes then it’s no wonder, Veganuary is well under way.
More than 440,000 people have already signed-up for the 31-day vegan challenge this year, however, if the thought of cutting out entire food groups scares the bejeebers out of you, that’s totally normal.
‘Going vegan is an incredibly daunting task for most people,’ says Toni Vernelli, international head of communications and marketing for the non-profit organisation Veganuary.
‘We all have favourite foods and comfort foods and the idea of changing your entire diet overnight can feel overwhelming.
‘However, veganism is often defined by what we don’t eat (meat, fish, eggs and dairy etc), rather than all the exciting new foods that vegans do eat.
For example, tempeh (cooked and fermented soybeans) has a real meaty texture and can be marinated and nutritional yeast (the hip kids are calling it Nooch) has a really cheesy flavour and can be included in any dish and sprinkled cold on food.’
These days, for almost every animal-derived ingredient and product, there is a vegan alternative – sausages, chicken, milk, cheese and even chocolate and Haribo sweets.
Vegan meals often look and taste exactly like an omnivore dish, but don’t come with the animal suffering and the environmental impact. It’s also possible to adopt a vegan diet and still wear your beloved leather jacket.
‘Being vegan is not an all-or-nothing life choice,’ says Toni. ‘It would be incredibly wasteful to throw your leather items away. Our big motto of Veganuary is not to let perfection be the enemy of the good. There’s no hypocrisy for eating a plant-based diet and still wearing leather. Start by making the transition to a vegan diet and see what comes next.’
According to market research company Kantar, 1.31million people gave up animal products in the UK in January 2019 which is more than ten times the number of UK sign-ups through the Veganuary website.
Veganuary research also found that 60 per cent who signed up for the challenge said it was easier than they anticipated and 73 per cent of those who maintained a vegan diet throughout January said they now plan to stay vegan.
So what are the benefits? Studies show that a vegan diet can help reduce your chance of developing type 2 diabetes and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
‘Despite some bad publicity a few years back, people now realise it’s healthy to adopt a vegan diet and you can actually excel at sports – some of the top athletes perform on a vegan diet,’ says Toni.
‘However, like anything, you have to make sure you’re eating foods with the vital nutrients and we recommend that everyone supplements with a B12 Vitamin (commonly found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products) and Vitamin D3 in winter.’
So, if you’re thinking about giving it a go, where do you start? Veganuary send out heaps of information, plus there are online recipe creators like So Vegan (@sovegan on Instagram), who post easy meal ideas with few ingredients to inspire you and help you stay on track.
‘When we went vegan we discovered so many new flavours and interesting textures,’ say co-founders Roxy Pope and Ben Pook. ‘There’s definitely a misconception that vegan food is bland. You can create meaty curries and creamy lasagnes thanks to a rise in incredible vegan-friendly staples like cream, chicken and bacon.
‘We are like a couple of mad scientists at home cooking and testing new dishes. For example, a vegan butter chicken dish could use oyster mushrooms as they have an uncanny resemblance to chicken. Marinade them and cook them in the oven until crispy and add in a creamy sauce.
‘For dessert, try chocolate and hazelnut banoffee pie. We create our toffee using coconut milk, which we cook in a saucepan until it’s thick and caramel-like.’
The key is not to put too much pressure on yourself. If you can’t switch overnight, then try transitioning with one or two days a week. The best way to stay on track, is to know why you’re doing it in the first place.
‘If your primary reason is to help the environment do some research into the impact on the planet,’ adds Toni.
‘The UN produced a report a couple of years ago that showed 14.5 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture. That’s a combination of the animals themselves (the methane and the manure they’re producing) but also from the production of food crops we grow to feed them. Adopting a vegan diet will seriously reduce your carbon footprint.
‘If it’s for deforestation, look at the fact we need land for animals to graze on and to grow the crops we feed them. You get far fewer calories in meat and milk back, than the calories you put in to feed these animals.
‘Or you might care that the animals, chickens and pigs live in some of the most intensive and unnatural conditions. The meat industry is like any other, supply and demand, and by not eating animals and dairy products you are sparing animal lives.’
The best vegan-friendly food ideas
Elmlea Plant cream
Elmlea’s Single and Double cream alternatives can be poured, cooked or whipped just like the regular dairy version.
Buy it for 89p from Tesco.
Provamel Organic Oat Drink
Made with organic oats, Provamel has added benefits of inulin, a dietary fibre. Enjoy as an alternative to milk.
Buy it for £1.99 from Holland & Barrett.
Soupologie now has a plant-based range called Foodologie. The five vegan meal pots include the Bountiful Burrito Bowl and are full of vegetables, free from all 14 of the main allergens and come in at under 300 calories.
Shop the range from £2.40 at Tesco.
Dirty Vegan’s home delivery Ultimate Vegan Kit
Rustle up the perfect night in with Dirty Vegan’s home delivery kit. Cook your vegan chilli burgers with fries and vegan-friendly sides and condiments. There’s also bake-at-home cookies and an Espresso Medatini.
Buy it for £42 (feeds two) from Dirty Vegan.
Cake or Death
Whether it’s Sea Salt, Peanut Butter or Biscoff, Cake Or Death deliver delicious brownies nationwide through your letterbox. Vegan-friendly and most are gluten-free.
Brownie Boxes, from £17 (box of six) from Cake Or Death.
Northern Bloc vegan ice cream
Proceeds from every tub sold of this limited-edition vegan ice cream, laced with crunchy honeycomb pieces, go to the Theatre Support Fund+.
Buy it for £4 from Waitrose.
CRACKD – The No-Egg Egg substitute
This plant-based egg substitute has the equivalent of eight eggs in one bottle. It’s rich in protein and has no artificial colours or flavourings.
Buy it for 4.99, available in-store at Whole Foods Market.
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