Another year and another Veganuary is here. If you’re not sure what it is, it’s a campaign to encourage people to go vegan for 31 days in January. You can find more info here.
Perhaps it’s something that you’re trying this year, as a challenge or maybe for health reasons? If you cater for vegans yourself it can be a great way to understand their needs better.
By trying a different style of eating for a month you may be inspired to continue for another 6 months, a year, or even a lifetime. It has never been so easy to go vegan – there is a vast range of ingredients and replacements available, so do Veganuary your way. Here are my top tips for a great Veganuary and perhaps they’ll inspire you to try something different.
Like any change in your life it will take some time to adjust and gain more knowledge until you feel confident when shopping and preparing food, and don’t need to spend hours reading food labels. At the start it might be a little overwhelming, especially realising that your favourite treats might be off the table. Don’t let this discourage you. You might also have some hiccups along the way. Don’t worry if this happens: you’ll learn from it, and no one is perfect. Go easy on yourself and enjoy your new way of eating.
Don’t overlook this opportunity to widen your knowledge and recipe collection. Many websites offer free recipes and tips for Veganuary. It’s always worth subscribing to some just to see what they offer. Many provide links to free vegan movies to watch or product discount codes. This is a great opportunity to try some new products on the market and to familiarise yourself with what’s available in case your friends would like some advice from an experienced vegan!
You can always take another step further and look at minimising your plastic use or recycle more. Do check TerraCycle in your local shops. And if you’re already doing this, that is amazing – you’re doing a great job.
Swapping the basics
If you are using spreads for toast or for baking check your current brands to see whether or not they contain buttermilk (not vegan). Some brands advertise their products as ‘plant goodness’, but still contain dairy. There are lots of vegan alternatives available such as Pure spread, Naturli, Flora, and supermarket own brands.
There are also lots of milk alternatives, including rice, oat, almond and soya, so get experimenting and find what you like. There are lots of vegan cheeses too, but being a different foodstuff, the taste won't be exactly the same. Try these, or you might prefer to leave cheese off your plate for now until your tastebuds adapt.
There are also many meat alternative products available. You may or may not want to include these. Check out the vegan section in the fridge and freezer section in the supermarket for vegan mince, sausages, steaks, ‘chicken’ pieces, facon (vegan bacon), and more.
Check your pantry
Start with pantry staples. Not only assessing whether your pantry staples are suitable for vegans, but extending your pantry by adding something new. You may find you have lots of vegan products already such as lentils, beans and chickpeas. Also, you may find you have some 'accidentally vegan' items in the cupboard, such as Bisto gravy, Jus-Rol pastry or Bournville chocolate. There may also be items such as pesto that aren’t vegan, which you need to replace with a vegan-friendly version.
For some new additions, try fortified nutritional yeast flakes to add a nutty, cheesy flavour to dishes: great for sprinkling on pasta or using to make a cheese sauce. They also have the added benefit of providing vitamin B12, an essential vitamin for vegans. This needs to be supplemented, or ensure that you include dietary sources daily.
Experiment with tofu. Silken tofu works well for scrambled tofu or mousses, for example. Firm tofu works well in curries and stir-fries. Tofu has no taste so needs to be marinated well or added to a flavoursome dish. If you’d like to add an extra twist to your dishes, try adding coconut aminos or vegan miso paste. Experiment with new ingredients such as canned jackfruit or banana blossom. If you’d like to know more about plant-based protein and calcium sources, have a look at our Vegan Rescue Pack or Nutrition Guide.
Make sure you have a good selection of herbs and spices. If you like curry pastes in jars make sure to carefully find the vegan options, ensuring there is no fish sauce or paste added.
If you like your condiments do check for vegan mayonnaise – there are many own-brand or well-known brand vegan alternatives. Henderson’s relish can replace Worcestershire sauce because it doesn’t contain any anchovies and is vegan. Be aware that some barbecue sauces may contain dairy.
Master the shopping again
You may find that shopping takes you a little longer at first. Do a bit of research so you know what products to look out for and aren’t having to spend hours reading food labels.
Check online. Most supermarkets have a special search section for vegan-friendly options. If possible, shop in larger grocery shops because they will have a wider range of products. You’ll find most supermarkets now have a great range of vegan products. Asda now has a specified vegan aisle.
Take care in ‘free-from’ sections. You will get used to heading for these aisles, but remember not all products here will be vegan-friendly. You may find gluten-free or even dairy-free cakes, for example, but they may still contain egg. In the free-from frozen section you may find that meat products are stored next to vegan meat replacements, because they meet gluten-free or dairy-free criteria.
Make it interesting
Once you’ve got a few shopping trips out of the way you will get the hang of it and your shopping will take much less time than ever before.
For a fun twist, you can download a free app on your phone called ‘Veggie Challenge’. It will count your vegan days and give you daily quizzes to keep you entertained, as well as providing you with some interesting statistics and recipes. There are plenty of Facebook groups for Veganuary. If you want to share your accomplishments or ask for advice, do find the most suitable group for you. You can also find local vegan Facebook groups in your area. There's even a specific Facebook page for mature vegans and veggies in the UK, where vegans over 65 may be able to offer more advice and support while you take on the challenge.
I could go on and on for hours! The most important thing is that you enjoy Veganuary and take advantage of the new product releases and all the new recipes flooding social media.
Check out V for Life's Veganuary cookery demos coming up this month, too. Our first one will be this Friday 15th at 2pm, via Facebook and YouTube. Veganise your brekkie with a tasty pancake and scrambled tofu recipe. Later in the month we’ll have a healthy junk food demo with a vegan burger and tofish.