Written by Rachael Kelly
Illustrated by Lucy Lorimer
New Year new me? I don’t think so! I’ve never bought into the annual pledge of rejuvenation and self-betterment. January is bad enough with the Christmas comedown and winter blues; why add a new year’s resolution on top of that? For the past few years I’ve successfully ignored the pressures to join a gym, give up takeaways and shave my legs more. However, this 2020 there was one new year’s craze that caught my eye: Veganuary.
Living in the Vegan capital of the world (Bristol), it’s hard to blindsight yourself to the path of environmental destruction left by a carnivorous diet. As much as I love burying my head in the sand, I couldn’t help but look to my own dinner plate and wonder what it’s carbon footprint was.
With every Sunday roast came a healthy dollop of guilt, and this did nothing for my digestion. So, from January 1st I embarked on a vegan journey! It’s now mid-Jan and if you’re struggling to keep up being vegan or never managed to start, below are some tips and tricks I picked up along the way:
- Stock that cupboard up
With a new diet comes new recipes. I love cooking and was more than happy to mix things up in the kitchen, but a diet with limitations like veganism requires some staples in your cupboard. I’d recommend stocking up on:
- Beans and legumes (e.g. kidney, butter, cannellini, chickpeas)
- Peanut butter
- Non-dairy milk, for example, oat (don’t forget what’s going in your tea!)
2. Stay balanced
There are a lot of myths surrounding veganism and whether a vegan diet leaves you nutrient deficient. As with all diets, it’s easy to have too much of the wrong stuff and too little of the right stuff. Take the time to read up on what nutrients you need and what foods provide it. I’d recommend working the following into your diet:
- Fortified nutritional yeast (for B12)
- Nuts (rich in protein and other nutrients)
- Flax, chia and hemp seeds (for omega)
3. Sneaky foods
A lot of processed foods that appear vegan are not – a closer inspection of the ingredient fine print will often reveal an animal product or two. Foods that surprised me are:
- Curry pastes – fish sauce turns up in the strangest of places.
- Vegetable soups – store bought veg soups often contain beef or chicken.
- Wine and beer (gelatin, egg whites and fish bladders are sometimes used in alcohol production).
4. Satisfying those cravings
Cheese. Chocolate. Bacon. These were the cravings I found the most challenging. Below are some vegan alternatives that mean you won’t need to miss out:
- Waitrose ‘This Isn’t Bacon’ Bacon
- Sainsbury’s Plant Pioneers Vegan ‘Fishless Fingers’
- Linda McCartney veggie meatballs and vegan sausages
- Asda’s plant-based range including mince, pizza and burgers
- Alpro Soya and Hazelnut milk
- Oatly Oat milk
- Vitalite butter
- Applewood Vegan cheese
- Sweet treats:
- Deliciously Ella’s Energy Balls
- Fabulous Freedom Dairy’s Free Vanilla Fudge
- Alpro ‘Devlishly Dark Chocolate Dessert’
You might be snacking on vegan foods already! From Oreos to BBQ crisps, there’s plenty of household staples that are surprisingly vegan.
5. Find your tribe
Despite the buzz around veganism, vegans only make up 1.16% of the UK population. Undertaking such a drastic lifestyle change can feel isolating and can leave you with hundreds of unanswered questions about your new diet. Never fear, there are some great online communities ready to support new and aspiring vegans:
- Vegan Food UK Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/VeganFoodUK/
- The Vegan Society https://www.facebook.com/TheVeganSociety/
- Bristol Vegans (if you want to meet people closer to home, there are plenty of local pages) https://www.facebook.com/groups/BristolVegans/
6. Being a vegan social butterfly
Most of my socialising revolves around food. Need a chat? Let’s go for cake/ brunch/ dinner/ snacks. This being said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many vegan-friendly foods there are on your average highstreet. My foodie favourites were:
- Pizza Hut’s ‘Pepperphoni’ pizza. Why not follow it up with a ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheesecake’ cheesecake?
- Costa Coffee’s Caramel and Hazelnut cake – glorious!
- And if you’re on the go, why not grab a vegan Steak Bake from Greggs? Or a ‘No Pork Pie’ from Morrisons?
Eating more vegan meals is always something I’ve aspired to. Once I’d done my research and had a basic understanding of vegan recipes, options and alternatives, the rest was simple! My biggest learning was just how easy it was to make my normal weekly meals vegan. Chilli con carne? Use vegan quorn. Curry? Try a vegetable rogan josh. Spaghetti meatballs? Blend some beans and you’ve got yourself a meatless meatball.
Cutting out all animal products seems like a daunting challenge, but give it a go. You’d be pleasantly surprised at how easy and, more importantly, tasty it is.
Rachael is a Classics Graduate from Bristol University who is now working as a Junior Project Manager at Immediate Media. In her spare time she writes freelance, largely on lifestyle, wellbeing and children’s literature.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous