With Veganuary now having a global reach alongside a corporate strategy, it’s got an attractive and unstoppable momentum. But opting for a plant-based diet for a month (or longer) can seem like a big ask to some people.
Lapsed vegans cite the following reasons for slipping back into old eating habits: dissatisfaction with food; health; social issues; cost. Theyâ€™re all pretty good reasons to try a plant-based diet. But with those in mind, here are my top five tips for making the Veganuary Challenge less challenging, and, long-term, helping you stick to a life without animal products.
1. Donâ€™t worry about protein
It is an absolute myth that we need to eat animal products to get protein! Animal-based proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, making them complete protein, but there are plant-based foods that also contain the full spectrum of amino acids, including tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and chia seeds. However, it is not actually necessary to eat one food that contains everything; you can combine foods to provide a complete protein. And the chances are that you have experienced one of these magical combinations already: beans on toast. Combining grains and pulses give a complete protein, and there are squillions of recipes containing beans or lentils, rice (or other grains) and vegetables. Just about every continent on the planet has its own version.
2. Donâ€™t settle for dull sandwiches
Iâ€™ll be honest with you, itâ€™s great that so many non-vegan establishments now offer more and more plant-based dishes, but for me the bar seems to have been set quite low in terms of taste, texture, and ingredients. Particularly in the grab-and-go sector. They donâ€™t seem to have nailed the vegan sandwich. All too often the default is hummus and roasted veg, or the good old falafel (donâ€™t get me started on what gets called a falafel and shouldn’t be!).
My repertoire includes:
- Wholemeal bread with tofu â€˜eggâ€™ mayo, sun dried tomatoes, tamari toasted seeds.
- Bahn Mi – a crusty baguette with tamari tofu, mushroom pate, sriracha and crunchy pickle.
- Big Breakfast Bap – Large soft bap or burger bun with tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and a bit of cheeky mustard mayo.
- The legendary VLT – simple and delicious – soft bread, tempeh bacon, fresh tomato, lettuce and mayo.
- Crunch wrap – any leftover chilli or curry – in a wrap, with some fresh chopped spinach/avocado/tomato/ with the secret ingredient of some slightly crushed tortilla chips. Works hot or cold – wrap tightly and enjoy toasted or not.
3. Fall in love with lentils!
There is a huge plethora of vegan processed products in the supermarkets now, almost all are highly processed, packed in plastic and quite expensive compared to animal products. Think about it, the meat and dairy industry is so massive, and demand for plant-based is still in its infancy, of course small independent plant-based producers cannot compete on price.
Whilst I do think vegan junk and plant-based meat and cheese does play a role in converting people to veganism, if you want to save money, stop buying it! British grown lentils and peas (yellow or Carlin peas not garden peas) grow well in the UK, cost around Â£4 a kilo. They are extremely versatile and nutritious and yellow peas in particular come as whole peas, split peas and pea flour and can be used in so many different ways from falafels to â€˜meatâ€™ balls, daal, and pancakes.
One cup of dried lentils or peas costs less than Â£1 and will feed four people. Buy these and your veggies from a local small or farm shop and you will save further, not only money, but also packaging. British farming needs and deserves our support. Itâ€™s not an exaggeration to say that farming more and more of these superfoods in the UK holds a lot of the answers to fixing UK agriculture.
4. Seek out vegan restaurants!
There is an ever-growing number of vegan only establishments now, and almost all are independently run (like Stem & Glory). Whilst a great many non-vegan places will now have a vegan menu, you will experience a far greater level of taste and creativity in a fully vegan establishment. Chefs in vegan restaurants cook and experiment with vegan food all day long, and itâ€™s what drives the movement forward. We have had research visits from many non-vegan chefs who are genuinely interested in the space now. I think itâ€™s likely that we will see more and more high-profile chefs and independent non-vegan restaurants taking the plunge and turning their places fully vegan in the near future.
5. Donâ€™t mention your vegan diet
Nothing seems to trigger people more one way or the other than being in the presence of a vegan. Firstly, it triggers a whole load of stereotypical comments and questions, ranging from Where do you get your protein? to What will happen to all the animals if we stop eating them? Trust me, it wonâ€™t take long to become sick of having the same conversations, over, and over, and over again.
It is my view that being in the presence of a vegan triggers some level of guilt, and people trip into all kinds of justifying behaviours and questions to deflect and mitigate this. So, my advice is, if you want a quiet life and to ease the social pressure around this, keep quiet about the food you eat, and just enjoy it â€“ itâ€™s healthy and delicious.