Dominika Piasecka from The Vegan Society explains how to do your vegan New Year’s resolution right.
Whether you’ve chosen to get fit, given up unhealthy habits or simply vowed to learn something new for 2018 – your New Year’s resolutions are probably in full swing by now. If this year you’ve decided to do all of the above and try veganism throughout the month of January (aka Veganuary), you’ve taken up a resolution that not only benefits yourself but also others.
Going vegan is predicted to be the biggest food trend in 2018, meaning more people than ever are now embracing the challenge. The benefits of eating a plant based diet are endless; for example we know that the average vegan lives longer than those following a non-vegan lifestyle and that eating vegan can reduce your food-related emissions by up to 50%.
Celebrities like will.i.am and Lewis Hamilton have recently gone vegan, making fans wonder why they chose this compassionate way of living despite having the money to spend on anything they like. Tesco has just launched a full vegan lunch range while Starbucks offer not one but three plant milks – going vegan is honestly not as difficult as you might think!
Being vegan can be extremely rewarding when done right – so here are my tips how to make this happiness last past Veganuary.
1. Experiment and keep it exciting
The world of vegan food is more exciting than most people think – it’s an amazing opportunity to build on what you consider as food and learn new recipes. As meat-eaters, we probably took food for granted and simply saw it as part of our daily routine but when you go vegan, every new vegan product that comes out will give you unexplainable joy.
If you’re not the cooking type, don’t worry because there are plenty of ready-made quick vegan meals available too. Make sure to look into supermarket frozen sections for burgers and sausages; refrigerated sections for lunch on the go and meat alternatives; and snack aisles for a wide range of vegan friendly products.
On your next trip to the supermarket, why not look out for soya milk instead of cow’s milk? There are lots of different non-dairy milk options these days, trying all the different ones is an exciting experiment. If you don’t like soya or want a change you could always try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice milk next.
2. Make it easy for yourself
Some people see going vegan as a challenge because they think it involves learning a whole lot of new recipes and using a range of new ingredients they don’t have the time to find. But there is a simple and fun shortcut to going vegan – you can just replace the few non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites.
You probably don’t realise this, but you actually eat a lot of vegan food already. The toast and porridge you have in the morning, the pasta salad or crunchy wrap you munch on at lunch, or the bean chili or vegetable stew you serve for dinner may already be vegan – or at least contain a good number of vegan ingredients.
Let me tell you this: anything you eat can be made vegan. There are cruelty-free, delicious alternatives to anything you can think of from dairy-free spreads, to plant milk and yogurt, to vegan meat alternatives and cheeses. Becoming a vegan isn’t about limiting or depriving yourself so make sure you start by replacing animal products; after a couple of weeks it will become as natural as anything.
3. Learn ingredient swapping tricks
Whether at home, at a friend’s, or eating out, meals can often be easily veganised by removing one or two ingredients, or replacing them with their vegan counterparts. It’s handy to know what and how to do this, so here are some ideas:
- Swap the cheese on pizza for vegan cheese (available in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Holland & Barrett) and top with lots of vegetables and olives
- Swap meat, fish or paneer in a curry for chickpeas or lentils
- Cashew nuts can be used to add protein and flavour to stir-fried vegetables and rice noodles
- Dairy-free spread (such as Flora Dairy-free, Pure or Vitalite) and soya milk can be used to make mashed potatoes creamy
- Try houmous instead of butter in sandwiches
- Vegetable soup can be served with a swirl of soya cream, or for an indulgent option, you can create one using coconut milk
- Garlic bread can be created using dairy-free spread or olive oil
- Dairy-free spread and other vegetable fats can be used in baking, and there are many foods that can replace eggs, including banana, jam, apple sauce and tofu
- A lot of ready-made roll-out pastry is accidentally vegan. If you glaze it using soya milk, the dish can easily be turned vegan.
4. Know where to eat out
There’s a good chance these days that the outlet you’re visiting already has vegan options but check online if it’s your first time there. If they don’t have anything exciting, the chef should be happy to prepare something special for you. Make sure to call in advance and request this to make things easier.
Travelling or new to the city? Just download the app HappyCow – an online directory of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, cafés, shops and more – or check their website.
South and East Asian (particularly Thai and Chinese) cuisines are most likely to be rich in vegan options. Being nice to the waiter and explaining what you’re expecting from them can go a long way. Can you spot a menu item that’d be it vegan if it wasn’t for one or two ingredients? Ask them to swap or eliminate it for you and voila, you’ve created yourself a vegan meal. Don’t forget to check all the side dishes too – some may be real gems.
Zizzi, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express serve pizzas topped with vegan cheese, with the former sporting a huge vegan menu, while Carluccio’s, Bella Italia, Prezzo and ASK Italian all provide great options. Wagamama has recently launched an exciting new vegan menu. Even McDonald’s has a vegan burger if you’ve got a junk food craving – just remember to ask for no mayo.
In terms of pubs, Wetherspoons paves the way with its dedicated vegan menu, followed by Loungers, Harvester, Cosy Club, Sizzling Pubs, and even the meat-heavy places like Toby Carvery and Beefeater.
Subway, YO! Sushi, Wasabi, LEON and Bagel Nash are all great for lunch. If you’re looking for something more standard, you can head to Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, The Co-op, WH Smith or Boots as they all offer vegan wraps and sandwiches.
All major cafés and the majority of the independent ones provide plant milk.
5. Make vegan friends
Whether it’s in real life, through Facebook groups, apps, or local vegan meet-ups, making friends with similar interests is important. Why not reach out to that person who keeps posting vegan food on Instagram? They may even be happy to introduce you to their vegan pals.
If you want to be a little more pro-active, you can try searching for local meet-ups and surfing through forums, posting information about the vegan buddy you’re looking for. After all, who best to exchange recipes, ideas and talk about vegan problems with!
6. Find help online
Vegans are a very welcoming and helpful bunch, always ready to answer all the difficult questions or vegan dilemmas. There are online forums and Facebook groups to join – it’s a good idea to search Facebook for a local group in your area, e.g. ‘vegan London’.
There are also a number of great challenges to take and even if you’re already vegan, you can often learn from them. Sign up for free to The Vegan Society’s 30 Day Vegan Pledge at www.vegansociety.com/pledge and you will receive an email every day with tips, advice and vegan recipes to help you ease into vegan living.
Dominika works for The Vegan Society, a faction of which is based in our Branston Court offices. The Vegan Society is a charitable organisation that work towards making veganism an easily adopted and widely recognised lifestyle. Find out more about them and the work they do here.