If you’ve decided to try Veganuary this year, congratulations and thank you. You’ve taken up a resolution that not only benefits yourself but also saves the lives of others.
The Ecologist’s very own editor, Brendan Montague, is currently trying a vegan diet for the month, prompted and helped by wonderful Ecologist readers. He’s not alone – 200,000 people have joined his this year so far, with numbers growing rapidly.
It’s important, particularly for those of us who care about the environment, to really consider the impact that our food choices have on the planet and those living on it – going vegan is one of the most significant actions an individual can take to combat climate change.
Even mainstream retailers like Greggs and McDonald’s have recognised that there is demand for vegan products, with their respective launches of a £1 vegan sausage roll and a vegan Happy Meal last week. No more excuses that vegan living is inconvenient or expensive!
Being vegan can be extremely rewarding when done right – so here are my tips how to make this happiness last beyond Veganuary.
1. Keep it exciting
The world of vegan food is more exciting than most people think – it’s an amazing opportunity to build on what you consider as food and learn new recipes.
As meat-eaters, we probably took food for granted and simply saw it as part of our daily routine but when you go vegan, every meal is a joy.
If you’re not the cooking type, don’t worry because there are plenty of ready-made quick vegan meals available too.
Make sure to look into supermarket frozen sections for burgers and sausages; refrigerated sections for lunch on the go and meat alternatives; and snack aisles for a wide range of vegan friendly products.
On your next trip to the supermarket, why not look out for soya milk instead of cow’s milk? Trying out all the different options is an exciting experiment. If you don’t like soya or want a change you could always try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice milk next.
2. Make it easy
Some people see going vegan as a challenge because they think it involves learning a whole lot of new recipes and using a range of new ingredients they don’t have the time to find.
But there is a simple and fun shortcut to going vegan – you can just replace the few non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites.
You probably don’t realise this, but you actually eat a lot of vegan food already and anything you eat can be made vegan.
There are cruelty-free, delicious alternatives to anything you can think of from dairy-free spreads, to plant milk and yogurt, to vegan meat alternatives and cheeses.
Becoming a vegan isn't about limiting or depriving yourself so make sure you start by replacing animal products; after a couple of weeks it will become as natural as anything.
Whether at home, at a friend’s, or eating out, meals can often be easily veganised by removing one or two ingredients, or replacing them with their vegan counterparts. It’s handy to know what and how to do this, so here are some ideas:
- Swap the cheese on pizza for vegan cheese (available in most supermarkets) and top with lots of vegetables and olives
- Swap meat or seafood in a curry for chickpeas or lentils
- Cashew nuts can be used to add protein and flavour to stir-fried vegetables and rice noodles
- Dairy-free spread (such as Flora, Pure or Vitalite) and soya milk can be used to make mashed potatoes creamy
- Try houmous instead of butter in sandwiches
- Vegetable soup can be served with a swirl of soya cream or coconut milk
- Garlic bread can be created using dairy-free spread or olive oil
- Replace eggs, including banana, jam, apple sauce and tofu
- A lot of ready-made roll-out pastry is accidentally vegan.
4. Know where to eat out
There’s a good chance these days that the outlet you’re visiting already has vegan options but check online if it’s your first time there. If they don’t have anything exciting, the chef should be happy to prepare something for you. Make sure to call in advance and request this to make things easier.
Travelling or new to the city? Just download the app HappyCow - an online directory of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, cafés, shops and more - or check their website.
South and East Asian (particularly Thai, Chinese and Indian) cuisines are most likely to be rich in vegan options. Being nice to the waiter and explaining what you’re expecting from them can go a long way. Can you spot a menu item that’d be it vegan if it wasn’t for an ingredient or two? Ask them to swap or remove it for you and voila, you’ve created yourself a vegan meal. Don’t forget to check all the side dishes too – some may be real gems.
Zizzi, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express serve pizzas topped with vegan cheese, with the former sporting a huge vegan menu, while YO! Sushi, Bella Italia, Prezzo and Pho all provide great options. Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s and ASK Italian all have delicious vegan menus.
In terms of pubs, Wetherspoons paves the way with its dedicated vegan menu, followed by Loungers, Harvester, Cosy Club, Sizzling Pubs, and even the meat-heavy places like Toby Carvery and Beefeater. Subway, YO Sushi, Wasabi, LEON and Bagel Nash are all great for lunch. If you’re looking for something more standard, you can head to coffee chains or supermarkets – every one of them offers vegan lunch options now.
5. Make vegan friends
Whether it’s in real life, through Facebook groups, apps, or local vegan meet-ups, making friends with similar interests is important.
Why not reach out to that person who keeps posting vegan food on Instagram?
They’re likely more than happy to chat to you about veganism.
If you want to be a little more pro-active, you can try searching for local meet-ups and surfing through forums, posting about wanting to meet up.
After all, who best to exchange recipes, ideas and talk about vegan problems with!
6. Find help online
Vegans are a very welcoming and helpful bunch, always ready to answer all the difficult questions or vegan dilemmas.
There are online forums and Facebook groups to join - it’s a good idea to search Facebook for a group in your area, e.g. ‘vegan London’.
There are some great resources out there, such as The Vegan Society’s VeGuide app which is free to download on Android and iOS devices.
Users receive a combination of daily informational videos, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help you ease into vegan living.
If the tips above still leave you puzzled, feel free to contact us at The Vegan Society and we’ll be more than happy to help on your vegan journey – we’re on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0121 523 1730.
Dominika Piasecka is media and PR officer at The Vegan Society and a keen vegan activist. If you care about the environment and want to learn about how veganism benefits it, take our seven-day planet-saving challenge here.