It’s that time of year when we start to feel (trousers too tight), and see (muffin tops), the result of our over-indulgences during the festive season.
We decide whole heartedly to commit to better ways of living in the new year, which for many will involve some sort of change to eating habits. A survey last year by HelloFresh found the second most popular resolution for us Brits was to eat more healthily (34%).
This week’s guest blog is from Lucy Bridgewater, a local environmental campaigner for Greenpeace + XR, who has spent ‘time in the cells’ for her passion. Lucy has been veggie since a teenager and vegan for a couple of years. She is also a nutritionist who is now trying to get her business off the ground in 2021 focusing on the transition to a plant based diet. Lucy publishes her own blog Mind the Milk , and has kindly shared this one on eating vegan in January, with Sustainable St Albans.
Eating ‘healthily’ means different things to everyone. To some, it’s eating more whole foods, eating organic, eating more vegetables, eating less meat. But for more people than ever before, removing animal products from their diets is the new year’s resolution du jour. In 2020 400,000 people took the Veganuary pledge, a significant increase from 250,000 in 2019, and this year over 440,000 have signed-up – including you? It’s still not too late to get involved .
But we’re all too familiar with how our well-intentioned new year’s resolutions end, aren’t we. There’s even a day to mark the occasion – Quitter’s Day – the day when the majority of people give-up on will power and give-in to their vices. This year it’s January 17th, but Veganuary is much more than a new year’s resolution, it’s about kindness to yourself and all living animals.
Any new habit is difficult to make stick – and sadly the 21-day rule is a load of toot, sorry but I can’t lie to you. It takes hard work to improve yourself. In fact a survey by a UCL professor found the length of time to be much closer to 66 days – which still, in the grand scale of time, isn’t very long; two months. Blink and you miss it.
Don’t give up, be different, show some sticking power. To hopefully help with your Veganuary pledge I’ve included some tips for getting through it.
- Keep your motivation in mind. People do Veganuary for a number of reasons. According to the Veganuary website improving health is the number one motivation (38%), followed by animal welfare (37%), and the environment (18%). When you begin to wobble remind yourself why you signed-up, and that it’s only for one month!
- Know you’re making a difference. It is difficult to appreciate how one person’s actions can make a difference, whether that’s using less plastic, turning the tap off when brushing your teeth, keeping the heating on low, walking rather than driving… But when it comes to being vegan, the impact is huge. In fact, it’s the biggest positive environmental change you can make as an individual. Using a vegan calculator they worked out that the average person who goes vegan for just one month can save the lives of 30 animals, 33,000 gallons of water, 900 sq ft of forest, and 600 lbs of CO2. Regardless of why you signed up, surely everyone can be proud to be helping the planet.
- Treat yourself: You’ll be surprised by the number of ‘naughty’ treats that are accidentally vegan. This article by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was a life-line to me when I first went vegan. Worth noting that ingredients do change so always check the label; dairy products are usually highlighted bold so easy to spot. The reason products won’t always have a vegan approved logo is because they are made in a factory that uses dairy for other products made in the same factory so unable to say it is officially vegan. My go-to snacks are Rich Tea or Oreo biscuits, Green & Blacks chocolate, Hotel Chocolat chocolate, or why not make your own power balls which are perfect with a brew.
- Meal plan. Make a plan for what meals you’re going to eat for the week ahead. It removes all the uncertainty and panic and inevitable reaching for the nearest ingredients which will probably not be vegan, thus blowing your Veganuary. There’s no wizardry involved with a meal plan, just organisation. Every Saturday morning I make my meal plan for the week. I sadly don’t have time to spend hours cooking meals each night so I love a one pot dish – bish bash bosh is my unshameless approach to cooking. Handy then that vegetables are super-fast to cook. On a Monday night we take advantage of the ‘Monday Madness’ offer at our local sushi takeaway, 50% off is too good to pass up – plenty of vegan options which I’ll put into a post in the new year. Tuesday I make a soup which generally lasts three nights, taking us to Friday. Before Vegan (BV) I loved a fish and chip Friday night supper from the local chippie so now I make my own vegan version with these fake fish fillets from Quorn with spicy sweet potato wedges, skins on, and mushy pies out a can. There’s more time on Saturday so sometimes I’ll pull a recipe from a cookbook but 9 times out of 10 I take my inspo from Pinterest. On a Sunday we have vegan pies, the supermarkets have a good range but I like Linda McCartney, Higgidy, and Fry’s. For more info on meal planning this simple guide by Kitchn is worth a read.
- Cheese. This was the hardest thing for me to give up, and still is, but there are good substitutes available now. My go-to is Violife, available in the cheese section of all supermarkets. Even my cat loves this stuff. The slices are good on bread or burgers, the block gives good gooey consistency grated on jacket spuds, and the parmesan is a welcome addition grated on corn on the cobs or a spag bol. The vegan cheese game has come a long way in the last 12 months, praise be.
- Milk. Some of you have probably already made the switch to dairy-free milk. You barely notice the difference – oat and chestnut win on an environment level (Read more about soya and its impacts on rainforests here). Err on the side of caution before ordering almond milk purely because of its environmental impact. The amount of water needed to grow almonds mostly in California makes for bleak reading. But regardless of your choice, all dairy-free milk is a million% better than dairy – both for people and planet.
- Get some perspective. Remember Veganuary is only four weeks. What’s four weeks? It’s nothing. It’s such a short amount of time, you can easily throw yourself into it for four short weeks, surely.
Editor Notes – more information
Vegan recipes are mainstream now; BBC Good Food has 91 listed, and there are loads of great sites/books like Bosh! out there.
Easy swaps: Butter on your toast? Try one of the many spreads, such as Pure. Butter for cooking? Swap to olive or sunflower oil. Yoghurt for breakfast? Swap for Alpro or similar. Ice-cream for the kids? This is one of the easiest swaps, with Alpro and other vegan icecream being just as good. Creme fraiche? Try Oatly or similar. The supermarkets now have vegan substitutes for many, many products and you will often find you don’t notice the difference. With these simple swaps you will find a lot of your family favourites become effortlessly vegan; pesto and pasta, baked potatoes and beans, veggie burgers and fries, margarita pizza, veggie curry, veggie chill.
Eggs: This is a little trickier, but you can swap eggs in cooking for Egg Replacer powder, or one of the many substitutes listed here: https://www.mydarlingvegan.com/replacing-eggs/. Vegan recipes will guide you about what to do. There’s no getting away from the fact that you won’t be eating omelettes during Veganuary though.