January 1st has marked the start of Veganuary since 2014, when the non-profit of the same name started encouraging people to try a plant-based diet each January. During the 2020 campaign, more than 400,000 people signed up to the Veganuary pledge, while more than 600 brands, restaurants, and supermarkets promoted the campaign, and over 1200 new vegan products and menus launching in the UK alone.
In 2019, a scientific report released by over 100 scientists shared that plant-based diets can help fight climate change, showing that the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy is directly fuelling global warming. Diets high in meat and dairy are on average significantly more warming than diets without red meat, diets with no meat at all, and vegan diets. Food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, with meat and other animal products being responsible for more than half of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, despite providing only a fifth of the calories we eat and drink. So for someone looking to reduce their carbon footprint, choosing a more plant-based diet is a great place to start.
Health-wise, vegan diets are richer in many nutrients due to the increased plant matter, and those who choose a plant-based diet (vegetarian or vegan) are less likely to suffer from heart disease. There are lots of other health benefits of veganism too, but also plenty of things to consider, so read on if you’re thinking of going vegan, whether for one month, one year or the rest of your life!
1. Don’t forget supplements
If you’re planning on only being vegan for a month, and already eat a diet heavy in plant-based foods, the chances are you’d be really unlucky to become deficient in anything (unless you already were to start with). However, if you’re looking to become more plant-based over the long-term, it’s important to understand what supplements you need, such as B12, which is recommended for all vegans. Check out this blog post for all the recommended supplements.
2. Consider not doing veganuary….
… But instead moving to a more plant based diet over the course of a few months. It’s not as ‘exciting’ or ‘glamorous’ as a difficult challenge, but it’s my belief that slow change is usually more sustainable and beneficial than immediate change. Unless you ate a diet heavy in plant-matter prior to switching, you may suffer gut issues (thanks to the high-fibre content of most vegan diets), and slowly cutting out various animal products gives you time to reintroduce new foods and meals to your repertoire, reducing the shock to both your body and your culinary skills!
3. It’s not about cutting things out
Many people I know who have struggle with a plant-based diet are those who have seen veganism as a way to cut out half their diet (myself included, when I first tried it aged 15). Cue sluggishness, grumpiness and constant hunger. It’s true that veganism likely isn’t for everyone, but you can avoid the above ailments by introducing, rather than just cutting out, foods. Meat serves as the protein source in many meals, so this must be replaced by a number of other substitutes, such as pulses and/or meat substitutes. There are lots out there, so experiment! Find what works for you, and most of all, make sure you’re eating enough – plants are high in fibre and low in calories, so you’ll likely need to eat more volume to get enough calories from your diet. Don’t let yourself go hungry.
4. Vegan does not necessarily mean healthy
It’s perfectly possible to eat a vegan diet and gain weight. It’s also perfectly possible to eat a vegan diet and end up considerably less healthy than before, because veganism does not equate to health. Nowadays especially, it’s so easy to get confectionary and desserts that are vegan – and despite the fact that they’re vegan, a cake is still a cake. As with any diet, becoming plant-based requires thought, planning and attention to nutrient density of foods. By all means eat the cake, just don’t fool yourself into believing it’s healthy just because it’s vegan.
5. Soy won’t give you moobs/breast cancer
Another concern about turning vegan is that 50% of your diet will be soy, and soy gives you breast cancer. Except it won’t, and it doesn’t. Soy is a common ingredient in a lot of meat substitutes, plant-based milk and foods such as tofu and tempeh. However, it’s not as prevalent in most vegan diets as you might think, and has no link to breast cancer or ‘feminising’ effects on men. There is a lot to be said for varying your diet and mixing up your sources of protein, but in terms of health, soy is a complete protein, low in fat, relatively cheap and pretty damn good for you. Unless you’re allergic, you don’t need to avoid it.
On this note, your environmentalism should not end at changing your diet. Veganism has been co-opted as an extremely white movement, but plant-based diets have existed for centuries in other communities, long before making it to the white mainstream. Don’t let your vegan morals end at Joe and the Juice juices and quinoa – follow BIPOC creators and educators on Instagram and understand how the vegan movement currently benefits white people, often at the expense of its historical originators.
7. Consider why
Going plant-based is a great thing to do for so many reasons, but for some people, it can be exactly the wrong thing to do. For example, if you struggle with restrictive behaviours when it comes to eating, suddenly switching to a vegan diet can be triggering and lead to unhealthy behaviours. If you’re concerned, speak to a dietician before trying anything new. As mentioned above, eating a vegan diet shouldn’t be about restriction – it should be about expanding your diet to incorporate a whole range of delicious plant-based foods.
One of the biggest concerns about veganism (at least among the fitness community) is that it doesn’t allow for ‘gains’ and fitness progress. This couldn’t be further from the truth – a vegan diet can certainly be sufficient and even beneficial for athletes – but it is something that you should consider when making the switch. When I turned plant-based I expected either massive gains at the gym or to lose all my strength and endurance over time. In reality, not much changed at all, and the diet provided enough of everything to take me through 2 boxing fights, a marathon, 2 ultra marathons and all my workouts in between. So long as you eat enough calories, ensure you eat a wide variety of foods and supplement what’s lacking, you may see fitness benefits, or at worst, just stay the same as you were before.
10. Remember, everyone takes their time
Once you’ve made the huge step to becoming plant-based, it can be frustrating to watch others choose not to do the same. When you’ve educated yourself on the myriad benefits and made the effort to switch, it’s easy to get up on your high-horse and judge others who haven’t done the same. Getting angry at people, however, rarely leads to positive, long-lasting change – think back to the number of times someone suggested that you try vegetarianism or veganism. It’s likely you didn’t suddenly change your way of life and immediately turn vegan, so why would you expect the same from someone else? People have their own reasons for living the way they do, and trying to force someone into your way of thinking can have the reverse effect you want it to. By all means educate if someone enquires, but I find living my best life and leading by example is enough.
I feel great eating a plant-based diet. I love it for so many reasons, but that’s because I’ve planned it, researched extensively, listened to my body and learnt over the years. It’s undoubtedly the right thing for me. I’m still learning everyday and wouldn’t dream of considering the way I do things the ‘best way possible’; everyone is unique, everyone moves at their own pace and what works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else.
Making your own peanut butter is so easy and yet so rewarding – I would recommend it to anyone looking who gets through inordinate amounts of peanut butter and wants to reduce the amount they have to buy. This can be made in large batches (I put mine in old 1kg peanut butter tubs) and lasts for a lot time (or not, if you’re anything like me).
I find most recipes on the internet recommend blanched peanuts, peanut oil and honey, but unless you really enjoy ‘Skippy’-style peanut butter, ditch the honey. Vegetable oil works fine – the roasted peanuts is where all the flavour comes from anyway, and using peanuts with skins on gives the peanut butter more texture (not to mention nutrients).
Peanut butter and cinnamon on soda-bread – heavenly!
1kg peanuts (you can use blanched if you prefer a smoother texture, but I like redskin peanuts, or a mix)
2 tbsp Vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C
Pour the peanuts onto 2 baking trays, ensuring they are are evenly spread out. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes.
Check the peanuts after about 6 minutes and give them a stir to ensure none get burned (this can happen very suddenly so watch out!).
When they are cracking and browned, remove them from the oven. The longer you cook the easier it will be to get a smooth nut butter, but you don’t want them burned or it ruins the taste.
Carefully pour 75% of the nuts into a food processor (if you want crunchy peanut butter, otherwise add them all) and blend for around 5 minutes until it is the consistency of couscous.
Pour in the oil and salt, mix around the blended nuts and blend for a further 5 minutes, or until smooth. If need be, add some more oil.
To make crunchy peanut butter, now add the remaining 25% of the peanuts and blend on a low speed until they are roughly chopped – this should take less than a minute.
Spoon out in to a jar and you’re all done! Enjoy 🙂
If you decide to give this recipe a go, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram so I can see!
Lemon drizzle cake was once a staple recipe of mine, but for a long time I didn’t want to make it, because of how ‘unhealthy’ it is. This cake is, however, extremely good for the soul (doctor says so) and cheap and easy to make. Don’t forget to buy unwaxed lemons or you’ll be grating wax into your mixture.
Add in the almond butter and try to mix in evenly. A few lumps aren’t the end of the world but will affect the final cake texture
Add the flour to the mixture and fold in, before adding the zest of both lemons
Pour in the soya milk slowly as you mix, until the mixture is a good consistency. I use the full 50ml.
Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before pouring into a lined loaf tin and placing in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. If the top starts to burn but the insides are still wet, place tinfoil over the cake and continue to cook until a skewer comes out clean.
While the cake is cooking, mix together the juice of 1 lemon and the icing sugar and set aside
Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place the loaf tin on a wire cooling rack. Prick the tip with the skewer or a fork, and pour over the drizzle.
Once totally cool, remove from the cake tin and serve. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to let the cake cool before turning it out of the tin!
This photo was taken for an ad but I liked it enough to post here too!
One of the questions I am asked most frequently when people learn that I am vegan is ‘but how do you get enough protein?’. It’s an understandable query – the last few years have placed so much emphasis on protein as the answer to all our health and fitness queries, it’s hard not to believe that the more protein we eat, the healthier we are.
But is protein really the be-all and end-all of a healthy diet? How much protein do we really need and what are the best sources? Are protein powders good or a waste of money?
Contrary to popular belief, if you eat a wide variety of foods containing plenty of wholegrains, meeting your daily protein requirements as a vegan is not too difficult. One argument against veganism is that there are very few ‘complete protein sources’ (protein sources containing all nine essential amino acids we need in our diet. Whilst complete proteins sources are primarily found in animal products, such as meat and eggs, consuming a mix of plant-based foods means it’s possible to consume all essential amino acids in a vegan meal, e.g. peanut butter on toast, or rice and beans.
It was indeed once thought that vegetarian and vegan diets couldn’t supply adequate amounts of the necessary amino acids, but updated views suggest that “protein from a variety of plant foods eaten during the course of a day typically supplies enough essential amino acids when caloric requirements are met”.
Supplements or food?
Protein supplementation is big business – in the UK we spend more than £66m a year on sports nutrition products, and research suggests that around 25% of us have consumed some sort of sports nutrition product in the last year. Thanks to this market boom, there are plenty of great protein supplements out there (as well as some really, really bad ones), but protein is thought to be best consumed primarily in food rather than supplements for a number of reasons.
According to Euromonitor figures, which cover ready-to-drink beverages, protein powders and protein bars with a minimum of 20g of protein, the sports nutrition market has grown by about 160% since 2011. Another market analyst, Nielsen, said there was a 63% rise in sales of protein bars in 2015, compared with the previous 12 months, while Mintel figures, published in August, said there were 40% more launches of high-protein products in 2016 compared with 2015 – The Guardian.
Protein powders lack vitamins, minerals and fibre that you get from eating food, which are important in every diet
Many protein powders contain artificial chemicals, such as sweetener, which may have some negative health effects if consumed in large quantities, and taste kinda weird.
Excess protein is either excreted in urine or stored as fat and can lead to weight gain. Just because shakes are drinks, it doesn’t mean they don’t contain calories. It is harder to overeat on a meal, which is usually much more satisfying.
Having said that, protein powders can make a quick and easy ‘snack’ after a workout, which is why so many people take them. If you struggle to hit daily calories, they can be a useful way of increasing them, but using them in lieu of a meal, for example, can lead to decreased overall nutrient intake, which is best avoided.
How much protein should I be eating?
The recommended daily allowance of protein is somewhere between 0.8g and 1.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Certain factors can push you towards the higher end of this, such as having a very active lifestyle, and older people also have higher protein requirements, but the majority of people are fine towards the lower end of the scale. In fact, some evidence suggests that reduced protein consumption is linked to increased longevity. However,there is little evidence to suggest that eating excess protein is harmful for an otherwise healthy adult, but excess protein cannot be utilised by the body, which is why protein supplements are possibly more fuss than they are worth: excess protein will go straight though you, so you’re literally flushing money down the drain!
So what are the best plant-based sources of protein?
Tofu is derived from soya (another great source of protein) and can be cooked in many ways, taking on the flavour of whatever it is being cooked in. 100g tofu provides 8g protein and is also incredibly low in fat.
While you may think of oats as a carbohydrate, they are also one of the best vegan protein sources. Oats pack a protein punch at 10g protein per 100g! Buy whole or steel-cut oats rather than instant to get the full benefits.
Whist not extremely high in protein (4g in 100g cooked), quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein. Contrary to its appearance, quinoa is actually a seed, but makes a great alternative to other carbohydrates.
Pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are not only extremely healthy, but also cheap and easy to chuck into any meal. Chickpeas come in at 7g protein per 100g, lentils at 8-9g protein per 100g and peas at 7g per 100g. These should make up a large proportion of any plant-based diet.
Although high in fats and therefore best consumed in moderation, peanut butter contains 25g of protein per 100g, making it also an excellent (and cheap) source of protein. When combined with wholemeal bread, it acts as a complete protein source (i.e. all essential amino acids are present).
What’s important to remember is that you don’t have to eat a steak in order to consume adequate amounts of protein. All foods contain a mixture of fats, protein and carbohydrates in differing ratios. Eating a varied and wholegrain-rich diet is a simple way of ensuring you are consuming enough protein (and vitamins and minerals) everyday.
Eating a healthy plant-based diet doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, and even if you are extremely active, you can rest assured that you are probably consuming enough protein day to day.
For what it’s worth, I consume protein powder from time to time. If there’s a chance it’ll make my DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) better after an intense workout, I’m happy to try it. Having said that, when I run out I rarely bother buying any more, because I know the benefits are marginal. Some protein powders taste great though, so they’re nice as added flavouring in cereal, smoothies etc! Just bear the above in mind if thinking about purchasing some.
What are some of your favourite vegan high protein meals? Do you take protein powders?
I made falafels that ended up looking like ginger nut biscuits and then I wanted ginger nut biscuits so I had to make these. After looking at a few complicated recipes online, I decided just to make my own super easy recipe so here goes! These are the perfect mix of crunchy and chewy – enjoy!
50g vegan margarine
150g muscovado (or dark Demerara) sugar
25g vegetable oil
100g wholemeal flour
150g all purpose flour
1tsp baking powder
3tsp ground ginger
1tsp all spice
Dash almond/soya milk (around 1 – 2 tbsp)
White sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a tray with baking parchment
Put all the dry ingredients (save for the white sugar) in a bowl and mix
Mix together the margarine, oil and muscovado sugar
With your fingers, mix the margarine/sugar mixture into the flour to form crumbs
Add a dash of milk (not too much!) until the mixture starts to stick together. It shouldn’t take more than 2tbsp milk to bind
Make walnut sized balls of mixture and roll in the white sugar. Place on the baking tray and press down with a fork.
Make sure the biscuits are placed evenly apart (they spread during cooking) and place in the oven. Cook for around 12 minutes (a little more if you like them very crunchy)
Once cooked, remove and leave to cool before eating. Enjoy!
With veganuary firmly underway, it’s good to have a little inspiration on your Instagram feed. There are plenty of huge food-based accounts dedicated to sharing vegan recipes, but my favourite accounts are always those with a face behind them. So without further ado here are some of my favourite plant-based instagrammers to follow.
I started following Clare a long time ago for her beautifully colourful feed and excellent restaurant recommendations. If you’re not London based the photos are still beautiful, but if you are London based, her account will provide you with lots of information on the best vegan options around London. Expect plenty of colour, lots of smiles and terrible puns in the captions. Love.
Another great instagram account with a million delicious vegan recipes, as well as plenty of advice for those looking to eat more plant-based. I love her long(ish) captions and friendly feed. This is a frequent go-to for cooking inspiration. Jane is also nut free, so if you’re the same, follow her immediately!
I featured Immy in my ‘eco influencers to follow’ post, for her work with sustainable brands and because she founded the Low Impact Movement (which has plenty of delicious recipes!). However, she fits firmly into the category of excellent plant-based blogger too, and for that she is making a second appearance. Unlike the previous two bloggers, her personal page is not food-based (although does include plenty) but includes lots of advice on how to live a low-impact lifestyle, including being plant-based! Follow both her accounts.
Brett (or Epivegan as I used to know him!) is a vegan chef, cookbook author and podcast host, sharing his activism and recipes. Brett is onmipresent across almost any social media platform you could think of, so there’s no excuse not to give him a follow!
Niki has recently released a beautiful plant-based cookbook, but also continues to share recipes on her beautifully curated Instagram feed and blog. One of my favourite things about her account is the photography, but even if that isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of value on each of her platforms. Use her Instagram to whet your appetite, then visit her blog to make the recipes yourself!
Laura is pretty well known, with over 265k followers taking inspiration from her beautiful looking creations. She has already released a cook book, which is testament to her prowess in the kitchen, but if you don’t want to fork out (no pun intended), she also provides a myriad of recipes, for free, on her blog. So no excuses for hummus and toast everyday (I’m talking as much to myself as anyone else)! Follow for recipes, life inspo and thoughtful microblogging.
Sophia isn’t exactly a well kept secret in the vegan community, but if you’ve never heard of her, get on it now! Whilst most of her images are modelling photos (not that we’re complaining), she also shares some educational posts and stories re the meat/dairy industry. Follow for beautiful photos, animal videos and saving farm animals.
Youtuber and Instagrammer James is no stranger to the limelight, having done speeches to over 30m people on veganism. He has also gone undercover at many farms and slaughterhouses to show exactly what goes on in these places. A lot of it is hard-hitting stuff, between which he often shares recipes (mainly on his YouTube, I believe). Not for the faint hearted, but I do think that anyone who is interested in continuing to eat meat/wear fur etc should at least know where their food is coming from, and James certainly makes that very obvious.
Serena Lee runs an Instagram account called Vegans of LDN which is on of my go-to places to find recommendations of some of the best places for a good plant-based meal in London. Whether you’re vegan or not, the food Serena posts is both delicious-looking and useful to know, especially if you’re London-based!
Is it cheating if I put my own name in here? I asked a friend who their favourite plant-based instagrammer was, and my name was the only one that I’ve not already got on this list, so here I am! My goal is to show that eating a vegan diet doesn’t need to be restrictive, boring or tasteless, and I try to use my blog to share delicious (and easy, and cheap) recipes with you all. Follow on Insta and YouTube for plenty of fitness (yes it is possible to be super fit and eat a vegan diet), recipes and sustainable living inspo.
I hope you found this list helpful! There are so many amazing vegan bloggers/youtubers/instagrammers out there, this is just a little list of a few of them! I would love to hear some of your favourites, as well as how your Veganuary is going, and whether you plan to keep it up! Lots of love 🙂
Pig in blankets are one of the most popular Christmas-time recipes, but are about as un vegan friendly as it gets! For health, environmental and ethical reasons, these could be a better option – whilst they’re essentially nothing like the traditional recipe (hence why I called them pigs in slankets), in my opinion they’re significantly tastier!
I use Linda McCartney sausages for this but use whichever are your favourite. If you’re vegan be careful as some do contain egg!
1 aubergine, thinly sliced
1tbsp sweet chilli sauce
12 vegan sausages (I use Linda McCartney)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees and cook the sausages according to the packet instructions
Place the aubergine slices in a bowl and drizzle in rapeseed oil, sweet chilli sauce, salt and pepper until all the slices are coated
Spray a griddle pan with oil and heat
Place the aubergine on the griddle pan in batches, turning after one side is cooked so both sides are browned
Wrap each sausages in an aubergine slice (you should be able to wrap all 12)
Mix together tahini, salt and pepper and drizzle on top of the sausages
Traditional Christmas recipes are great, but they’re not known for being particularly healthy or vegetarian/vegan friendly! Christmasses gone past I would have just eaten the vegetables in Christmas meal but I’ve really enjoyed creating new recipes this year from scratch, including this delicious one! This is perfect either as a centrepiece to a meal or some additional veg.
The puy lentils add plenty of protein and mixed with the sun-dried tomatoes give an amazing flavour to the squash. Drizzle in as much olive oil as you like!
3-4 butternut squash, halved with seeds removed
180g whole chestnuts
50g sundried tomatoes
250g read to eat puy lentils
drizzle olive oil
50g pitted black olives
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Oil the halved squashes and place in the oven to cook for 45 minutes
Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the packet
When cooked, mix together all the ingredients in a bowl
Remove the squashes from the oven and spoon out some of the insides. Mix these bits into the quinoa and add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon as much quinoa as you can into the holes in the squash halves and place back into the oven for 10 minutes.
This recipe is perfect for Christmas (and honestly any time of year yes please), and is just so easy to make! This makes so many biscuits and they’re perfect for storing and having as a mid-morning snack. Let me know if you make these – I’d love to see your creations!
1tbsp chia seeds
300g plain flour
100g coconut flour
1/2tsp baking powder
150g muscovado sugar
Sprinkle of ground cloves
100g coconut oil
100g dairy free margarine
50ml dairy free milk
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Mix the chia seeds with 3tbsp water and leave to thicken
Mix together the flour, coconut flour, baking powder, sugar and spices in a mixing bowl
Heat the margarine and coconut oil and mix together. Mix in the chia seed mix with a fork until incorporated
Pour oils into the dry mixture and mix.
Add the milk slowly and mix in until the mix is holding together
Leave to thicken before rolling out on top of clingfilm (it will be easier to do in 2 batches)
Cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a tray with baking parchment (or foil)
Place in the oven and cook until browning at the edges, 10-15 minutes (depending how soft you like them)