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Top 10 tips to get through Veganuary

Have you decided to join the Veganuary revolution as your 2020 new year’s resolution? Check out our 10 top tips to get through the month.

1. Know what you can and can’t eat
As obvious as it sounds, this cannot be overemphasised. If overlooked, it, of course, defeats what Veganuary is about! Being vegan means you can’t eat anything that comes from an animal and that includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, sauces & broths made from bones, honey and foods containing gelatine such as jelly & marshmallows. This does, however, mean you are left with so many plant-based options such as fruit, vegetables, grains (bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, soy), nuts, seeds, oils (olive, rapeseed, avocado etc), meat substitute foods (e.g. Quorn, tofu, tempeh.)

2. Don’t let your diet restrict you 
Focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t eat. There are over 2000 plant foods, but by far much fewer different types of meat & fish, you can eat. Enjoy experimenting with all the different flavours and textures that various plant foods can offer. If you love cream and cheese, don’t feel you have to leave it out. There are lots of decent plant-based alternatives available in most supermarkets. If you wish you can try making your own vegan cream cheese at home by blending cashew nuts/ cashew butter with lemon juice & nutritional yeast and there are so many different recipes available out there. Keep experimenting until you find the recipe that suitably indulges your palate.

If you have any favourite meat recipes don’t be afraid to craft them to make them entirely plant-based. Jackfruit, beans, tofu and tempeh are just a few great examples you can use instead of meat. Most meat recipes have a plant-based hack. The ragu sauce for spag bol and lasagne is one perfect example as all the flavour comes from the rich herby tomatoey sauce. You can always still use your favourite recipe for this but swap out the meat for lentils, whilst adding more veg such as carrots, celery and courgettes for a really appetizing crunch.

Don’t let your vegan diet dictate your social life. Restaurants are increasingly more vegan savvy and most chains have a few vegan options on the menu. If you are however finding your options limited do not be afraid to request if the kitchen can make any simple changes to existing dishes to make them vegan. You may well find yourself in social situations where saboteurs are offering around tempting cakes and biscuits. Try and anticipate these situations ahead of the occasion and come armoured with your own vegan alternatives to snack on instead. Even better, offer them in return to inspire their palates. If you have a sweet tooth, the Deliciously Ella recipes for the vegan chocolate balls, cookies and cakes are most indulgent. You can even access some of these recipes on her YouTube channel.

3. Don’t be tempted to live off crisps & chips!
Oh yes, admittedly it can be all too easy to succumb to a carbs binge in response to going cold turkey from meat & dairy! If you have decided to go plant-based for health benefits, you really don’t want to defeat the whole point of doing this. Always opt for a variety of plant-based whole food on your plate rather than going for processed foods which have often lots of added harmful fats, sugars, salt and chemical preservatives. Get into the habit of conscientiously studying food labels and avoid food products with these added ingredients and unrecognisable chemicals.

4. Make sure you get your daily nutrients
If you eat a large variety of plant foods it is actually quite easy to good amounts of your vital nutrients compared to a diet which is less plant-based.

Protein
Great plant sources of protein include legumes, nuts, whole grains and meat substitute options such as tofu & tempeh. 

Iron
Pulses, dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale, spinach), nuts, dried fruit and wholemeal bread/ flour are decent plant-based sources. Iron from animal products has been known to be more easily absorbed, but equally, it is quite easy to have good iron levels on a vegan diet provided you eat very good amounts of these sources. Vitamin C can help increase iron absorption and some people do find having a glass of fresh orange juice can be helpful.

Calcium
Great plant sources include green leafy veg, watercress, fortified plant milk & tofu.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is needed for a healthy nervous system and red blood cell production from the bone marrow. As it is only found naturally in food from animal sources, it can be difficult for vegans to get enough of it in their diets and it may, therefore, be worthwhile considering supplements. Modest amounts of vitamin B12 can be found in vegan sources such as yeast extract (e.g. Marmite), nutritional yeast and fortified foods such as plant-based milk, tofu and cereals.

Omega 3
Omega 3 is known to be beneficial for a healthy heart and arteries. Good plant sources include walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, rapeseed & linseed oils & soy foods e.g. tofu.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for bone health & deficiencies in this can cause reduced immunity, low energy levels & muscle aches. The best source is from sun exposure which is not that great in the UK, hence both vegans and non-vegans are prone to vitamin D deficiency. Midday sun-exposure for 15-20 mins outside the winter months can suffice, but otherwise, a lot of Brits do need to rely on daily vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D can also be found in small amounts in mushrooms, especially if they have been sundried.

Iodine
Iodine is important for the production of your thyroid hormones. Seaweed is a good plant source. There are also a very few plant-based milks which have been fortified with this and you should look for “potassium iodide” in the ingredients list.

5. Try not to think of vegan products as alternatives to animal products
Your vegan diet will be a lot more enjoyable as soon as you accept you really don’t need to have “fake” versions of foods in your diet. The best way is to judge plant-based alternatives such as milk on their own individual qualities rather than how closely they taste to their animal-based counterparts. Accept that almond milk will never taste like cow’s milk, but it can certainly enhance the flavour of your coffee in a different way. 

6. Appreciate that vegan food doesn’t have to be expensive
There is, unfortunately, a widely accepted belief that veganism is only for those who have lots of money who can afford to buy specialist fine ingredients and exotic fruit & veg from health food shops and posh supermarkets. Pretty much all supermarket chains, including the budget ones have a great range of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and store cupboard staples such as tinned tomatoes, beans, lentils, pasta, rice & grains. You can really keep your costs down by going for seasonal and local produce when it comes to stocking up on fruit & veg. If you stick to this more frugal approach on your vegan shopping list, you may well find yourself spending even less than before.

7. Keep your meals convenient with “fast” vegan food
So just to emphasise this does not mean grabbing some fries from your local fast-food joint! In our busy lives, it is ever so tempting to resort to the most convenient option available out there. After a long day at work, many of us would dread the thought of slaving away in the kitchen to cook dinner from scratch. Fortunately, there are a few options to ensure you can have homecooked vegan food fast. Stir-fries are great as they can be easily be prepared in under 10 minutes. If you are feeling super lazy you can always use the bags of pre-chopped stir fry vegetables from your supermarket. You can try experimenting with simple one-pot vegan cooking recipes which also saves on washing up time. Most of these dishes can be prepped in advance and kept in the fridge to be eaten later in the week or even in the freezer to be eaten a few weeks later. Vegan Bolognese, chickpea curry & bean chilli are just a few good examples that can be made in less than 20 mins and kept well in the fridge or freezer. 

8. Plan ahead with shopping and cooking
Good planning will ensure you really get the most out of your vegan diet, saving you time in your food preparation, keeping costs at a minimum and also ensuring that you get the best nutrition. Before you do your weekly shop plan what you are going to eat during the week, jotting down all the ingredients you need to stock up on.

9. Keep motivated and inspired
You really can keep motivated by enjoying the process of doing your research. There are so many interesting documentaries online and on Netflix to suit everyone. Some well-known examples include Cowspiracy, Land of Hope & Glory, Game Changers, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated. The website, www.nutritionfacts.org by Dr Greger and his books, “How not to Die” and “How not to Diet” have attracted a lot of interest in plant-based enthusiasts. The website, www.plantbasednews.org is a globally renowned online platform. These examples are only a few of many great resources available out there. There are also countless vegan accounts on Instagram & Pinterest for even more inspiration, and you are really spoilt for choice when it comes to decent vegan recipe books.

10. Tell everyone
Don’t be shy to tell all your family, friends and work colleagues that you’re embarking on this challenge and even ask if they wish to join. If they are reluctant, just ask for their moral support. It's so much easier to keep on track when you are surrounded by those who are understanding, and it also helps you keep accountable whenever you are tempted by that cheesecake or bacon sandwich!

If you are taking part in Veganuary this year and want to see the benefit of a meat-free month, our Nutrition Check Blood Test is the perfect test to make sure that your body is getting the important vitamins and minerals it needs for health and well-being. And, until the end of January, we have £10 off. There is no better time to start tracking your key biomarkers for optimal health.