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Tips for a happy Veganuary and a wholesome new year

vegannnVeganuary can seem like a mammoth of a task for those looking to kick the habit of a lifetime.

But unlike most new year’s resolutions, Veganuary should not be a resistance to something you know and love.

Instead, open your mind to a world of discovery, of taste, knowledge and even creativity.

When I first considered the leap from vegetarianism, I thought it impossible.

But the more I researched, the more I planned, the more forums and discussions I delved into, the less intimidating it became.

Most assume it’s a sacrifice.

That I achieve some personal feat everytime I bypass a fast food joint, eat a soy country roast instead of a steak, or order a soya chai latte.

What most people don’t realise, is that I’m enjoying it.

And with today’s wealth of supermarkets and restaurant chains jumping aboard the vegan gravy train, animal-free options are well… optional.

Using my own experience of a beginner vegan as a guide, I’ve thrown together a few useful nuggets (vegan of course) to help those looking to lose the V plates.

One of the genuine reasons holding me back, was soya milk curdling in my coffee.

But today more than ever, the variety of plant milks available means this doesn’t need to be a problem. Alpro-Drink-Roasted-Almond-Unsweetened-1L-edge-UK2_540x576_p

Many prefer different plant milks in tea, coffee and on their cereal. Often people enjoy rice milk in their tea for its sweetness, and creamy oat milk for coffee.

I find oat milk sinks to the bottom so I tend to go for unsweetened almond in coffee which has a neutral taste.

Whereas soya on its own, or in porridge or on cereal can add the creamy factor sought by dairy lovers – and many supermarket brands are cheap too!

As with dairy, there are pros and cons to most if not all, types of milk. You might find this chart useful to weigh up your options.

Sweet treats might constitute another red-alert on your v-dar, making many of your favourites a no-go area.

Check out my chocolate guide to pick me ups, particularly for those not so fond of the dark stuff.

Vego

As for ice cream, there are more and more brands making way for the cold stuff including Alpro, Ben and Jerry’s, Almond Dream and Swedish Glace. The latter is at the cheaper end of the scale, and in my experience the tastiest, with real fruit and vanilla bits adding to  an all-together heavenly experience. Almond Dream is a close second.

Morrisons or an Aldi also do home-brand versions.

As for winter warmers there are a wealth of vegan friendly options including treats from Mr Kipling, Aunt Bessie,  Co-op, Aldi and Asda; brands all which can be teamed with Alpro soya custard – undeniably as good as its dairy counterpart and available for less than a pound from most supermarkets.

Check out the vegan womble to for more details on yumminess.

New vegans are often put off by a ‘May contain traces of milk/egg etc’ message. This doesn’t mean this is an ingredient of the product itself, but usually that it has been produced in a factory using those ingredients. The decision whether to consume is entirely yours. Ethically speaking,  the way I see it is you’re not funding the dairy or animal farming industry in purchasing these products.

For those wondering what on Earth you are going to eat, think of which meals you regularly have and you’ll soon find, it’s not hard to veganise them.

For example, for minced meat based dishes use Linda McCartney mince, and if you’re a bangers and mash fan, sausages from the same eponymous brand also do the trick. For healthier dishes like stir fries, Quorn now do vegan chicken chunks, or experiment with tofu, or heck, just load up on more veggies. Root based veggies like sweet potato or squash are a good staple for winter warmers. Lentils are also a good protein source and can be used in meat heavy dishes such as bolognese and shepherd’s pie.

Frys soy, quinoa and country roast with veg and gravy
Frys soy, quinoa and country roast with veg and gravy

Other protein morsels include nuts, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, bulgur wheat and (shock) even vegetables themselves!

A balanced diet is important but extends well beyond the well-known meat and two veg style dish we all designed in junior school.

Think of this month as a chance to clue up on your diet (if you’re not already). Those who think  their diet is balanced and healthy because they eat meat and dairy, are not necessarily right!

What can distinctly lack in the vegan diet is B12, but this can be easily replaced with a supplement or by fortified foods such as cereal, plant milks and nutritional yeast – a popular condiment on the vegan table.

Eating out with friends was another angst of mine especially since my first experience of vegan dining involved a plate of boiled veg and not much else. But times are changing and those new to the vegan table need not worry as most high street chains now have us covered.

Many pizza chains are offering vegan cheese including Pizza Hut, Zizzi, and Pizza Express while other venues including Wetherspoon, Wagamama, Ask Italian, Carluccios and All Bar One even have a whole separate vegan menu.

brascoe menu3

 

Thai and other curry restaurants can also be a good shout. Veggie options are often animal-free, with many Thai dishes using coconut milk as a main ingredient. But be sure to check whether recipes contain fish sauce.

If you’re worried about a particular venue, Twitter can often be a good way to avoid any awkwardness, and iron out any animal-related worries beforehand. Most places have a twitter handle which you can tweet or private message with questions.

Happy Cow is also a good way to see what an area has to offer. You may be surprised!

As for those fond of a drink, alcohol can be a tricky area to navigate. Some drinks contain isinglass (dried fish bladders) used in a filtration process (feels like mockery yes?). And rumour has it – egg whites (albumen) and gelatine are also commonly added.

But fear not, friendly mainstream beers include Heineken, Sol and Corona, while cider lovers can enjoy Bulmers and pear-flavoured Magners. Unfortunately popular ciders including Kopparberg, Rekorderlig and Strongbow contain gelatine.

For winos, house brands from Co-op, Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are commonly suitable for vegans and for spirit lovers, most can be consumed guilt-free. Search barnivore to find out whether your tipple is vegan-friendly.

How strict you are is up to you, and of course the reasons behind your Veganuary pledge. If you are leaning towards a compassionate lifestyle, try watching the wealth of vegan documentaries available on Netflix et al – particularly Cowspiracy and Earthlings – which can often help nip pesky cravings in the bud.

Whatever your reasons, may your Veganuary be the first step to a happier and healthier future, and to inspire the same in those around you.

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