The vegan challenge
Don’t attempt Veganuary until you’ve digested this, writes Flic Everett
The so-called ‘Veganuary’ idea – where you go vegan for the month of January – started five years ago and has boomed around the world.
Research shows veganism can offer protection against heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure.
So, if you’re vegan-curious, or even vegan-determined to give it a try this January, here’s how to do it without losing your motivation or your friends!
Do it properly
A major dietary change needs careful planning, and there are certain vitamins and minerals your body needs that are generally found in animal products, such as vitamin B12. If you don’t have enough, you could suffer anaemia and damage to your nervous system, so make sure you eat foods fortified with B12, such as plant milks, soy and breakfast cereals, or nutritional yeast, which has a cheese-like taste and can be sprinkled on anything savoury.
Or take a supplement (just check it’s vegan, as some multivitamins come in a gelatin shell). You’ll also need Omega-3 and 6 (in nuts, linseeds and rapeseed oil). Try algae supplements instead of fish oil.
If your hair becomes weaker, you’re not getting enough protein, so eat more nuts, pulses, soya and plant oils, or supplement with vegan protein powder.
Don’t get too hung up
Evangelists may insist you can’t eat avocados because they’re pollinated by exploited bees, you can’t have figs because wasps die in the fruits, you can’t have biscuits because they might contain palm oil, and as for soya, the crops are destroying the rainforest. All of this is true, but most vegans stick to a manageable path and just aim to do as little harm as possible.
Your usual shop, just without meat, milk and cheese, won’t cut it. There are certain basics but the initial outlay will pay dividends, as your weekly food bill will drop dramatically.
Stock up on nutritional yeast (fortified with B12) to thicken sauces; plant milks (most find oat or almond milk the nicest); nuts to scatter in salads or stir-fries. Look out for agave nectar instead of honey, tinned or dried beans and puls- es for protein, vegan cheese and yogurt. If you like a “meaty” taste, try brands like Fry’s or Quorn.
If ready meals, spag bol and pizza were your previous goto’s you’ll need to think ahead. Ready-made vegan meals are few and far between, and far from cheap. Find suggestions on the Veganuary website ( veg
Curries, chillies with soya mince and risotto and pizzas with vegan cheese are all simple options. And read labels: a lot of products contain milk powder or whey for no apparent reason.
We’ve all heard the jokes: “How do you know someone is vegan? They’ll tell you.” But there is truth in the cliche. Because when you’ve made a huge lifestyle and ethical commitment, like all new converts, it’s tempting to get evangelical about it By all means explain your reasons when asked. But otherwise, unless you want to lose friends and irritate people, keep your veganism to yourself.
Take-your-own to dinner parties
The invitations dwindle somewhat when you turn vegan, purely because many hosts have no idea what to serve you. Make it easy on them and offer to bring your own food. It works best if you create a vegan version of what they’re having – for instance soya mince chilli instead of beef. It stops them panicking and demystifies veganism.
Check your drinks
Not all alcohol is vegan because some is filtered through finings including isinglass, a gelatin made from fish bladders. Very few wine or beer bottles state whether they’re suitable for vegans, although increasingly breweries and winemakers are providing alternatives.
Do your research
A few years ago, eating out was a nightmare. Now, in bigger cities there are vegan restaurants and cafes, or at least something vegan on the menu at regular restaurants and cafes.
And if you want to double check, call ahead and ask. The chief area that still needs work is plant milk in many independent coffee shops, so take your own in a travel cup. –
HEALTHY OPTION: Nuts, which are a source of protein, and healthier pizza and pasta offerings, right, also make for tasty vegan meals
SCRUMPTIOUS: A good Chinese meal can also be enjoyed as a vegan
PASTA TIME: A vegetable lasagne can also do the trick for vegans