10 top tips to make Veganuary easier
Every two seconds, someone new is signing up to a meat-and dairy-free month, pledging to undertake Veganuary. Over 250,000 people from 193 countries are taking on the vegan challenge, the most in the Veganuary campaign’s history with many touting 2019 to be “year of the vegan”.
This makes me so incredibly excited. Having been veggie for 14 years, I took the plunge a year and a half ago, despite claiming multiple times “I could never go vegan”, something I’d imagine the majority of vegans have said at one point in their life. It is without doubt THE best lifestyle choice I have ever made, and I now could never imagine going back to dairy, fish or meat. Plus it has NEVER been easier to be a vegan.
While eating a plant-based diet is now relatively second-nature to me, I experienced how daunting it can be, especially with my job on the road at sports events.
So here are my top tips for not only surviving Veganuary, but also continuing to thrive with a vegan lifestyle.
1. Nutritional yeast is your friend
Yeast. I know, it conjures up some pretty grim images, but trust me nutritional yeast flakes are a vegan’s best friend. They have a cheesy, nutty flavour and I sprinkle them on just about anything. Soups, toast (with olive oil – delicious), pasta, quinoa, and so on. They are also the perfect ingredient in homemade sauces to thicken and season. It is a complete and direct source of B12, an essential nutrient that helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy.
2. Most restaurants are now vegan-friendly
Eating out has never been easier if you are a vegan, so don’t worry that you will be difficult to cater for in large group meals. You will now find MOST good restaurants do a vegan option at least, and at best, an entire vegan menu. From The Stable, Pizza Express, Zizzis, Pizza Hut, to Wagamamas, the Ivy, and Wetherspoons, restaurants covering a range of cuisines and prices will cater for vegans. Thai, Japanese and Indian food especially suits vegans. And if you are looking for convenience food - Starbucks, Pret, Costa, Nero and M&S, plus the big supermarkets Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, all offer vegan goodies from wraps and salads to hot porridge and soup, sweets and dairy-free milk. Pret is my absolute fave and way ahead of the curve.
3. Veganism doesn’t have to be expensive
Forget fancy ingredients, meat substitutes and faddy labels, the very foundations of a vegan diet are pulses, grains, oats and vegetables, some of the cheapest food produce on the planet. You can create a banging vegan five bean chilli for a couple of quid, which can feed a family, much cheaper than meat or fish or cheese.
4. Take supplements
If you are worried about a vegan diet supporting a regular and tough training regime, supplements easily bolster a plant-based diet. While a vegan diet should give you all you need, sometimes you may want that little bit more. They are worth the investment. The effects of iron and B12 anaemia are depressing, but certainly not a byproduct of a vegan diet. A good multi-vitamin should cover all bases, but make sure the capsule itself is vegan as many (Wellwoman for example) will use gelatine capsules. If you are worried about symptoms of fatigue or tiredness, speak to your GP and get a baseline blood test so you know where your values are. From there you can buy specific vitamins based on your needs. I take a multi-vitamin every day and an iron tablet (ferrous fumurate) once a week.
I also have a good vegan protein shake after a long, hard bike ride. Plenty of big protein brands cater for vegans now. I mix my protein powder in the Nutribullet with an espresso shot, oats, and frozen berries.
5. Experiment with food
“Well what do you eat!” is the usual ignorance I am faced with when I tell people I am vegan, but I honestly believe I will eat more variety than most omnivores. The possibilities are endless with veganism and it has awoken in me a real love of experimenting in the kitchen and cooking, something I hated doing before. Missing cheese? Just blitz cashew and brazil nuts. Creamy spaghetti? Add coconut yoghurt. Burgers? Quinoa and black beans.
Yes, it does mean a little bit more time in the kitchen, and perhaps worth investing in a Nutribullet or similar food processor. But in this frenetic social media age, where the world never seems to stop, taking a relaxed hour out to prep and cook wholesome, delicious, plant-based food is a joy for me and the sense of satisfaction when the experiment pays off totally worth it.
6. Plant-based or vegan substitutes – it’s up to you!
There is no right or wrong way to eat vegan. Some will tend to eat more naturally – using pulses, grains, vegetables etc, while some may lean towards vegan alternatives, Quorn for example, as an easy way to cut meat out but still feel as though they have a “meaty” source on their plate. For me, I dislike the taste, texture and feel of meat so tend to avoid “fake meat” processed products now, if I don’t want to eat meat, why would I eat something that looks and tastes just like it? But if your reasons for going vegan are environmental or health-based or you perhaps miss meat but can’t support the animal cruelty, then fill your boots with meat substitutes. Luckily supermarkets are now stocking so much more variety. It’s never been easier!
7. Community is vital
There are a plethora of dedicated vegan accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Get searching! You can find hints, tips, and really simple, inexpensive, delicious recipes. Also, if you ever feel like wavering or giving up, there is inspiration galore out there to get you back on track. If you do eat a bit of cheese, or have something with milk in it, DON’T PANIC. It doesn’t matter, it isn’t about being the best vegan, but instead doing the best YOU can. A couple of accounts I love:
@Accidentallyveganuk / @thevegankind on Instagram is brilliant at pointing out new products as well as cupboard favourites that are actually vegan. @AnimalAid and @Peta are sobering accounts that remind you of exactly why you are doing it in the first place and motivate you to do more for our planet and animals.
@weareveganuary – the official charity for Veganuary, giving you tips, advice and motivation.
One of the main reasons I have really enjoyed experimenting more in the kitchen is with the help of cookbooks. I am NO chef. I get flustered in the kitchen, invariably burn or forget an ingredient and produce something I repeatedly apologise for. BUT I am learning to love it. Bosh, Deliciously Ella’s books and Lucy Watson Feed Me Vegan are brilliant guides and the Deliciously Ella app is my go-to. Quick, simple, after-work meals that I can rustle up in 30 mins or less, plus amazing sweet treats, using nuts and dates that taste just like – or even better – than the dairy equivalent.
9. Watch out for MILKFAT
Salt and vinegar pringles, great! They’ll be vegan. BUT NO. Milkfat. In crisps. Absolutely disgusting! Watch out for this pesky product, which is found in many processed goods that could so easily otherwise be vegan. For me, it reinforces the fact that we have been conditioned to eat absolute rubbish for years. Being vegan CAN give you better control over what is on your plate and fuelling your body. Of course there is still plenty of "vegan “junk food” out there - and if you want to eat it, you absolutely can, safe in the knowledge the ingredients have not directly harmed animals.
10. Be prepared and organised
After a long day working at a bike race, I am generally starving and rushing to catch a Eurotunnel home. Stopping at Calais, or a service station however throws up NOTHING by way of a substantial dinner. Even soup has cream in it. Lessons like this taught me to always be prepared. It’s hard when you’ve been on the road for a few days, but carry snacks with you, from vegan bars, to nuts and fruit to keep you going until you find somewhere you can eat properly. This will stop you caving in, and buying something veggie rather than vegan.
There is a huge amount of support out there if you look in the right places, and truly being vegan has never been easier. So what are you waiting for? Make the step, and make a compassionate choice for our planet, for you, and for the animals. You won’t regret it.