It's Veganuary! How to make it through the month healthy and happy
Vegan-curious, but nervous about going hungry? Here’s my advice for healthy, plant-based food with flavour.
The charity Veganuary is encouraging the ‘vegan-curious’ to eat a completely animal-free diet this month. But a healthy, balanced and flavoursome vegan diet can be a challenge - how can you get through a month, let alone a year? I shared my thoughts on health website Nutritionist Resource - and here's the story in full.
Is it really January again? Traditionally a grey month of abstinence and radical change, fresh-faced health bloggers are dominating our Instagram feeds with #fitspo and #cleaneating. Taking self-improvement to the next level is Veganuary, a charity encouraging the ‘vegan-curious’ to eat a completely animal-free diet this month.
A long-standing way of life for animal lovers, going vegan for health reasons now runs a close second according to Veganuary: and I’m noticing this more in my North London nutrition clinic too. You don't need to go vegan to be healthy, but a well-planned, balanced vegan diet can give you all the nutrients you need.
But while typical new year’s resolutions involve giving up one thing, like alcohol for Dry January, signing up for Veganuary means avoiding meat, fish and dairy, as well as eggs and honey. No matter what your motivations, you might wonder what you can eat – and how you’ll get through a month, let alone a year. My vegan clients tell me that they struggle with eating out, reactions from family and friends, preparing healthy and enjoyable meals and avoiding non-vegan ingredients, with the biggest challenge being giving up cheese! Basing meals around beans, soy and vegetables can also cause wind, bloating and stomach pain for some, and vegans with IBS often find that their digestive symptoms increase.
Still vegan-curious, but nervous about going hungry? My advice is to focus on a whole food, plant-based diet: one that just happens to be animal-free. There are no strict rules, just an emphasis on nutrient-rich vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, and protein-packed nuts and pulses. Ditch the processed junk food piled high in the supermarket ‘free from’ aisle. If you’re driven by health and a love of animals, a whole food, plant-based diet is a win-win. Just choose vegan sources of iron, like cannellini beans and chickpeas; and look for breakfast cereals and dairy alternatives fortified with calcium, vitamin D and B12. If you have IBS or persistent wind and bloating, stick to small quantities of canned, rinsed pulses like lentils, and get your protein from firm tofu, Quorn or tempeh.
Forget vegan pulled ‘pork’ or deep-fried tofish and chips. There’s a whole new world of food to try in Veganuary, both nourishing and exciting! I bet you’ll enjoy my recipe for black bean tempeh with coriander dressing. Tempeh is made from fermented soy beans, and while a mystery to many, it’s easy to cook with, has a nutty taste and is a great source of gut-friendly probiotics. Or jazz up salads and stirfries with tofu puffs: marinate cubes of firm tofu in soy sauce, olive oil, balsamic and a little brown sugar and bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Your favourite high street food chains have enticing plant-powered options, too: from Pret’s falafel, coconut and cashew flat bread to Wagamama’s yasai samla curry, veganism is coming to town and it’s here to stay.