Do not attempt Veganuary until you’ve digested this …
As a quarter of a million people try veganism for a month, you need to know how to meet the challenge
This Veganuary idea – where you go vegan for the month of January – started five years ago and has boomed, from 3,300 participants to an estimated 300,000 this year.
Research shows veganism can offer protection against heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure. So if you are vegan-curious, or even vegan-determined to give it a try this January, here’s how to do it without losing your motivation. Or your friends.
A major dietary change needs careful planning, and there are certain vitamins and minerals your body needs that are generally found in animal products, such as vitamin B12. If you do not have enough, you could suffer anaemia and damage to your nervous system, so make sure you eat foods fortified with B12, such as plant milks, soy and breakfast cereals, or nutritional yeast, which has a cheese-like taste and can be sprinkled on anything savoury. Or take a supplement (just check it is vegan, as some multivits come in a gelatin shell). You will also need Omega-3 and 6 (in nuts, linseeds and rapeseed oil). Try algae supplements instead of fish oil. If your hair becomes weaker, you are not getting enough protein, so eat more nuts, pulses, soya and plant oils, or supplement with vegan protein powder.
Finally, a discreet word: you may find yourself rushing to the loo more often. That is due to your increased fibre intake, but your digestive system will soon settle down. Don’t get too hung up.
Evangelists may insist you cannot eat avocados because they are pollinated by exploited bees; you cannot have figs because wasps die in the fruits; you cannot have biscuits because they might contain palm oil; and as for soya, the crops are destroying the rain forest. All of this is true, but most vegans stick to a manageable path and just aim to do as little harm as possible.
Your usual shop, just without meat, milk and cheese, will not cut it. There are certain basics but the initial outlay will pay dividends, as your weekly food bill will drop dramatically. Stock up on: nutritional yeast (fortified with B12) to thicken sauces; plant milks (most find oat or almond milk the nicest); nuts to scatter in salads or stir-fries. Buy agave nectar instead of honey, tinned or dried beans and pulses for protein, vegan cheese and yoghurt.
If ready meals, spag bol and pizza were your previous go-tos, you will need to think ahead. There are suggestions on the Veganuary website. Curries, chillies with soya mince and risotto and pizzas with vegan cheese are all simple options. And read labels: a lot of products contain milk powder or whey for no apparent reason.
Don't preach. We’ve all heard the jokes: “How do you know someone is vegan? They’ll tell you.” But there is truth in the cliché. Because when you have made a huge lifestyle and ethical commitment, like all new converts, it is tempting to get evangelical about it. Filled with purpose, one minute you were happily talking house prices and local schools, the next you’re sharing brutal abattoir videos on social media.
By all means, explain your reasons when asked. But otherwise, unless you want to lose friends and irritate people, keep your veganism to yourself.
- © The Daily Telegraph