Veganuary started in 2014 and since then has inspired and supported more than half a million people in 178 countries to try vegan for January - and beyond.
So, eating a vegan diet may seem daunting, confusing and outright impossible but it's not. It's really quite simple if you take a step back and actually look at how to do it, simply and easily.
Finding substitutes, alternatives and simple swaps set you up for success when going vegan. Its also important to understand that you need to eat things other than just salad, fruit and vegetables in order to feel more satiated, especially if you are used to eating quantities of animal protein sources.
Mentally, accept that meat is no longer the hero of each meal and start understanding that vegetables and grains are. We are very used to thinking that animal protein has to be the main part of a meal and that salad, vegetables and grains are just complimentary additions. Well, scrap this notion of thinking and start glorifying these so called complimentary additions. Also, these complimentary additions are delicious! Start respecting them and give them some time at the top.
Make these new hero components fun! For example, bake a whole sweet potato and cover it in peanut butter and learn how good something so easy and simple can be! Roast an eggplant with miso paste, soy sauce, ginger and chilli and taste how good eggplant can really be. Fry brussel sprouts with pistachios and maple syrup to learn that these greens can taste delicious! It's all about changing your perspective.
Ok, now that you've learnt to glorify vegetables on the plate lets learn about substituting. Substituting that meat component of the dish!
Every time that you would put a piece of animal protein in a meal replace is with a legume, soy product or mock meat. The legumes I suggest using are black beans, chickpeas, edamame, pinto beans or refried beans. The soy products I suggest are hard tofu or tempeh. The mock meat products I suggest are the ones with the least amount of random ingredients and chemicals, such as Linda McCartney sausages. It's really quite simple, each time you feel like animal protein just reach for one of these recommendations, chuck it onto your meal and bobs your uncle. Dont worry about cooking the substitute in a fancy way just simple put it on the plate and eat it. For legumes you can simple just wash them under warm water and add it to the dish. For soy products I recommend baking it at 200 degrees celsius for 30 minutes and for mock meat products I fry them until brown in a pan. Start becoming comfortable with eating real whole foods that aren't loaded with salt, fat and sugar to make it taste good. Use your food as fuel and nourishment.
Ok now lets move onto those nitty gritty vegan things like not being able to use butter, or milk, or cheese, honey or eggs etc... Whats my recommendation here? The same as above with a tiny bit of harsh reality. That harsh reality is just learning to quit these products.
It takes time but ripping the band aid off is quite simply the easiest solution to the problem. Why? Because as per my previous blogs, our tastebuds change in 21 days, our gut flora needs to repopulate and our hormones will change which impacts on our cravings. These things take time and our bodies have to learn and adapt and the only way they can do this is if they quit the products feeding them.
What do I recommend substituting these things with however? I could go into why dairy is bad for us but we all know how smoking is bad for our health yet people still smoke. Ill also leave the cruelty conversation about dairy for another time too. So instead I'll just explain how substituting these things is easy. Butter can be swapped out for nuttelex, it taste and looks the same as butter. Dairy milk can be swapped for a huge range of plant milks that I have even written a blog on. Cheese, ok well cheese often stumps me as the vegan cheese alternatives in mainstream supermarkets aren't the best. However if you're willing to go out and search, vegan boutique stores often stock delicious and almost identically tasting cheese products. My other recommendation is making nut cheeses at home if you're craving that cheese flavour to add to meals. Honey can be replaced with 100% maple syrup which is another great tasting natural sweetener. Ah, this brings me to eggs. Unfortunately if you're craving a fried or poached egg you're going to have to learn to quit it. Again, I could go into the cruelty of egg farming but I wont. I will instead say that you can make things such as scrambled tofu that mimic scrambled eggs, and you can cook with things like flax, and aqaufaba if you are baking.
The harsh reality of these side animal products is that you have to get used to not having them anymore. Eggs and cheese are usually the hardest to give up as eggs are a staple amongst many peoples diets and cheese, well cheese most people are just addicted to.
Again its learning to eat food for nourishment and not just for taste. These substitutes are healthier, more sustainable and ethical in nature and not to mention, healthy. Learn to appreciate the food and eat mindfully. Its not all about tasty food but how good the food is for us and our planet. Once you take a step back and realise that eating isn't just about you then you can start to understand that re-learn eating habits and behaviours is important. At the beginning scrambled tofu may taste and feel different but getting used to things is apart of the process. Don't worry it still is high in protein like your eggs, but it also comes without the high cholesterol and cruelty. Sorry I told you I wasn't getting into that I know. Also, nut cheeses are packed full of healthy fats and nutrients unlike the over processed, saturated fat laden, hormone and chemical filled dairy cheeses. Again, learning that you're eating out of a place of respect for your body and our planet and animals is an invaluable tool that you learn when going vegan.
I want to tell you one more thing. It is about progress not perfection. If you slip up one day or give into a craving jump back on the bandwagon and keep trying. You can expect to be perfect or be faultless. Its a journey and the fact you're here reading this is the first step. So regardless, well done and thank you.
I hope veganuary 2020 is amazing for you!