With each day that goes by, thousands more people sign up to Veganuary, the movement inspiring the vegan-curious to try out a plant-based diet for the month of January.
But you already knew that, because you’ve already taken the pledge.
And now you’re wondering how you’re going to pull it off.
The answer is: easily!*
*(with a bit of homework)
So, brew yourself a tea (with oat milk, of course) and have a read through this comprehensive guide – including staple items to buy in, how to manage on the go, and where to eat out – to make Veganuary the easiest new year’s resolution you’ve ever made.
What do I buy?!
This is a tricky list to put together given that people have such wildly varying tastes, but one piece of advice that goes for everyone is this:
YOU DON’T NEED TO REVOLUTIONISE YOUR WHOLE DIET
There is absolutely no need to throw the entire contents of your kitchen away. So many staple foods are already vegan – lots of breads, dried pastas, rice, and all the fruits and veggies under the sun! Try to focus on the things you already eat which are vegan first, rather than freaking out about new foods you’re unsure of.
That said, making vegan substitutions doesn’t need to freak you out at all. You can eat in a way that you find comfortable and natural with simple swaps.
For example, if you’re a meat and two veg sort of person on December 31st, you can have your veggies on January 1st, alongside one of the many vegan alternatives to meat now available. You could go for a product from tried-and-tested brands like Quorn, Linda McCartney and Fry’s, or you could test out a newer brand like Vivera or THIS.* The vast majority of supermarkets also have their own vegan ranges (in fridge and freezer sections) so if you’re worried about missing meat, simply head out to a supermarket to stock up on an ever-growing range of goodies.
*All of these sorts of products designed to replicate meat will typically be marked very clearly as “vegan” or “plant based”, so you shouldn’t have to do too much label scanning during shopping. Be careful not to buy vegetarian-only products from ranges like Quorn and Linda McCartney.
There are vegan-friendly substitutes for lots of other things, too. There are egg-replacing products like No Egg for baking, plus endless vegan cheese products – from supermarket-own cheddar-like blocks, to artisan offerings like Tyne Chease – and a huge variety of plant-based milks. With any dairy-replacing products, the best advice is to shop around. You might not love the first vegan cheese you try, but another might become a firm favourite. You might find soya milk splits in coffee, but works for baking, and that oat milk is your drink of choice for hot drinks. Experiment!
But how about the stuff you might not be so well acquainted with; all the lentils and beans so long associated with that hippy dippy vegan lot? Well, here are the plant-based whole-foods to stock your cupboard with if Veganuary is all about a healthier diet for you:
- Lentils – red, green, brown, puy – buy these sources of protein dry for cheap and boil them yourself, or buy in tins to save some time.
- Beans – red kidney beans, chickpeas, butter beans – yet another form of plant-based protein, perfect for adding to chillis or stews.
- Brown rice – to make your portion of lentils, beans and pulses a complete protein (containing all 9 amino acids), serve with brown rice, or another wholegrain.
- Quinoa – this grain is a complete protein all on its own, so it’s a really good one to have stocked up in the cupboard.
- Jackfruit – if you want a less processed meat-like substitute, jackfruit is for you. Buy it prepped in a tin from Asian supermarkets, and then slow cook in BBQ sauce to replace pulled pork.
- Frozen fruit – obviously, buy in a range of fruits and veg, but also keep a good supply of fruit – bananas, berries, mango – in the freezer to whizz into smoothies.
But What Do I Cook?!
Okay, so you have your fridge, your freezer, your cupboards, your downstairs loo and your neighbour’s porch stocked up with vegan food, now’s the real question… what do you actually cook with it all?!
Well, there are vegan recipes everywhere. For one, there’s an endless stream of vegan cookbooks coming out now – BOSH! is the highest-selling ever and Vegan One Pound Meals the most frugal. Cookbooks are ideal for giving you a good idea of just how many exciting dishes are available to you, and should give you peace of mind that you’re following a tried-and-tested recipe. Plus, charity shops very often have a few second-hand editions in, if you don’t want to splash out on a copy.
If you don’t want to spend any money on recipes, though, the internet is your best friend! There are plenty of bloggers creating free vegan recipes regularly – two of my favourites are Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker – and a quick google search will present you with thousands of recipes to follow. Either scroll through the recipe section on any number of vegan chef sites, or google specific ingredients/dishes to find a recipe for exactly what you fancy.
If you need a bit more guidance than simply picking out dishes you fancy yourself, you can search up curated lists of vegan recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the Veganuary website itself, you can scroll through recipes filtered by cuisine type, or by which meal of the day you’re cooking. Simply following vegan food accounts on social media sites (like mine on Instagram, wink wink) will also expose you daily to new ideas in the kitchen. All the vegan cooking inspo you need is, quite literally, right at your fingertips.
What Do I Eat On The Go?!
Okay, so it’s all very well and good preparing yourself endlessly within the comfort of your own home, but the vast majority of us spend a good amount of time out and about. What then?
Well, the first course of action is, again, PREPARATION! Pack snacks with you – fruit which keeps nicely like bananas and tangerines; packets of dried fruits and/or nuts; crudites like carrot and cucumber sticks. You can also make yourself a sandwich for a packed lunch – you’ll find an endless array of ideas online – or take dinner leftovers with you in Tupperware. Try to keep a supply of snack foods at home so you can leave the house feeling prepared.
This isn’t always possible to do, but leaving the house with an empty lunch box still doesn’t mean you’ll get caught out. Supermarkets are getting on board with the plant-based trend, so you will be able to find vegan sandwiches in most. If you’re hoping to avoid the typical falafel and hummus, though, I’d recommend Boots, M&S and Tesco, all of which stock more exciting options like the hoisin no-duck at M&S, or the cold-cuts sub at Tesco.
In Supermarkets, you’ll also find plenty of snacks to fill your bag with on the move. More fruit and veg, obviously, but also vegan chocolate bars like Nomo, cereal bars and bliss balls.
To navigate the ingredients list on products like these in the supermarket, look out for ingredients in bold. Manufacturers have to label allergens like milk and eggs in bold, so it should be easy enough for you to scan the list for these. There are, of course, other non-vegan ingredients that could be hidden in the list, like honey, L. Cysteine and gelatin, so turn again to the internet if something isn’t clearly labelled as vegan and you feel unsure. Google is your best friend!
The other option for food on the go is fast food restaurants. Plenty of chains that you’ll find dotted about all over the place now have vegan options, making grabbing a bite in a pinch easier than ever. Greggs has a vegan sausage role, with a ‘steak bake’ on the way. LEON offer up several vegan options, including the LOVE burger, and jackfruit ‘wings’. Subway boasts a vegan patty, and is soon introducing a ‘meatball’ marinara. McDonalds even has a vegan happy meal now, and KFC is introducing a vegan ‘chicken’ burger this month. For full lists of vegan fast food and products, use sites like Vegan Womble.
Where Do I Eat Out?!
The thought of going out to dinner and being stuck with a plate of lettuce tossed in olive oil while your friends dig into piling plates of meat has long put people off from taking the plunge into veganism, but in 2020, this is a concern of a by-gone era. The vast majority of restaurants can no longer afford to skip out on providing a decent vegan option, so you should be fine almost anywhere in the UK.
Obviously, a lot of people’s preferred choice would be to eat out at a fully vegan establishment – and this is more and more possible as plant-based eateries pop up across the country – but these places are typically only in one location, and I’d rather this list apply to the UK as a whole, so we’ll focus here on chain restaurants with solid vegan menus. Do check out apps like Happy Cow to help you find vegan restaurants near you, and around the world, though.
So, here are a few chain restaurants with good vegan menus, to bare in mind for when a friend suggests a bite to eat:
- Zizzi and ASK Italian both offer vegan pizzas, pastas, salads, and dreamy chocolate desserts on a separate vegan menu.
- Bella Italia is also good for pizza and pasta fans, and also offer up a vegan cookie dough dessert which is to die for
- Wagamama has several vegan options, including a dish designed by vegan chef Gaz Oakley, AKA Avant Garde Vegan.
- Byron Burger offer up two vegan burgers and a few sides, and Honest Burgerboast one of the best vegan burgers on the market to my mind.
- Pizza Express and Pizza Hut both have vegan menus including desserts.
To find more vegan-friendly chain restaurants (of which there are very, very many), use resources like those on the Veganuary website or search yourself.
In general when you’re going out for a meal, search for vegan-friendly options online first. If you already know where you’re going, search for the menu in advance so you know what’s available to you, and if the menu isn’t clear to you, call up and ask. Even (independent) places without specific vegan options can and will make you something with a little bit of notice. Preparation, preparation, preparation!
How Do I Make This Permanent?!
With a guide like this and all the plentiful resources out there, you should finish up January realising that a vegan diet doesn’t need to be limiting at all, and perhaps you’ll look for a way to extend the change beyond that one month, so here’s some advice on how to make Veganuary a permanent change:
Make vegan friends!
That way you won’t feel alone in your journey. If you find your support network is slightly lacking in real life, turn yet again to the internet! Join vegan Facebook groups, find fellow vegans on Instagram (find them by searching hashtags like #vegan #veganuk and #plantbased) and connect with like-minded people on Twitter. Build up an online space full of people who hold similar values to you and you’re more likely to continue acting on those values.
Remember what works!
Try to keep track of anything that’s useful to you – bookmark helpful websites, write down recipes you loved, keep lists of your favourite vegan brands and substitutes. This will make it easier to make the plant-based choice again and again, without any mental gymnastics required to get there.
Check on your nutrition!
If you’re going to eat a plant-based diet long term, try to see a nutritionist or talk to your doctor. This can be tricky as not all medical professionals fully understand or support veganism, but you need to find a way to ensure you are looking after your body. You may need to take supplements like B1 and, as with any diet, it is important to understand which nutrients you need to be focusing on.
Consider your lifestyle choices!
Beyond a plant-based diet, veganism is about avoiding harming animals or using their by-products as much as possible in our day-to-day lives. So, after smashing Veganuary, you might want to consider looking into cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics and toiletries, and the materials used in your clothing and shoes.
Be kind to yourself!
For Veganuary, and any time after, don’t beat yourself up too much about mistakes. Now, I’m not telling you to go out and eat meat every other Tuesday lunchtime because you’re ‘imperfect’, but I do mean that if you forgot to double check the ingredients in that sauce, or you didn’t realise your snack contained milk powder, don’t think that all is lost. We all make mistakes, and we are all just trying our best.
So, for Veganuary, and any time beyond, be sure to use all the resources available to you, and remember that you are doing something good for the animals, for the planet, and for your health. Good luck!
Written by Tallie Samuels