10 Veganuary myth-busters

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.

When looking across the board, almost all plant-based foods have lower GHG emissions than almost all animal products

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.

The other concern about soy is that it leads to deforestation. While this is true of some soy products (deforestation linked to soy products is responsible for 29% of Brazil’s GHG emissions), it is worth remembering that around 75% of global soy production is actually fed to livestock – in far greater quantities than we consume it. If you want to reduce your contribution to soy deforestation, ironically going vegan could be a pretty effective way to do so. And, of course, vary up your protein sources so you’re not eating it for every meal.

6. Being vegan does not make you the perfect environmentalist

On average, the emissions released by a vegan diet are considerably less than those from an omnivorous diet or vegetarian diet. This is because almost all animal products result in greater emissions than almost all plant-based products, no matter where they’re from. However, some products, namely coffee, chocolate and beer, have differing impacts relating to how they’re farmed (e.g. is the cocoa and coffee grown on deforested land?). In addition, foods such as almonds and avocados are particularly water intensive, contributing to drought in the areas they are grown. However, neither avocados nor almonds are a direct substitute for meat, and vegans and meat-eaters alike are both likely to eat all of the above products – so this isn’t just a vegan issue.

Even environmentally questionable products such as almond milk fare better environmentally when compared to cows milk, so if being eco-friendly is high on your agenda, you’re still better off moving to a more plant-based diet, whilst keeping in mind that not all vegan products are necessarily good for the environment. Bear in mind that eating local and seasonal has numerous benefits and that while very beneficial, going vegan does not magically make you the perfect environmentalist.

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.

A graph showing the comparison between animal products and plant-based products, showing that how your food is grown can vastly alter its environmental impact

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.

8. Look at other areas of your life

Scientists have said that going vegan is the single biggest thing an individual can do to reduce their environmental footprint. However, there are numerous other ways you can also benefit the environment, from consuming fewer goods overall (e.g. not buying new clothes every week), flying considerably less and moving to an ethical bank. Going plant-based was my ‘gateway drug’ to considering my other actions and their impact – and I’m still learning new things every day! Check out my vlog on some of the best ways to reduce your overall environmental impact.

9. You won’t get weak and weedy

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.

This guy was vegan!

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.

Good luck with your Veganuary or the start of your plant-based way of living! I’d love to hear if you found this useful and if you have any pieces of advice of your own! Comment below and don’t forget to share this on Instagram! If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a small contribution to the running of my blog.

Supplements for vegans

As we take the first tentative steps into January, many people will be making their first forays into veganism. And with all the many health benefits, environmental benefits and ethical considerations, it’s not surprising that more and more people are moving towards plant-based diets each year.

However, as with any diet, veganism is one that should be planned, in order to make it as balanced and varied as possible. One of my favourite things about eating plant-based is that it forces me to be more imaginative with my cooking. When I ate a pescatarian diet (no meat, just fish from the age of 5 to around 22 years old), I often cooked the same few meals over and over again. When I started eating plant-based, however, I had to reconsider the flavours, cuisines and types of food I wanted to eat. It was probably one of the better things I ever did for my cooking, but also for my health, as I had to start eating lots of different types of foods to remain healthy.

If you’re considering veganism just for a month and know what you’re doing, the chances are you won’t become deficient in anything. It’s also accepted that well-planned vegan diets are sufficient to get enough nutrients (and more!) into your system. However, if you would like to eat a more plant-based diet more of the time or are just starting out and unsure what you need, taking supplements is highly recommended, as well as aiming to introduce more foods into your diet. It’s not enough to just cut out meat and dairy, and continue eating all the parts of your previous diet, just without these elements with without adding anything new. Not only would it likely be bland and uninspiring, it’d also leave you at risk of deficiencies, and likely swearing you’ll never go vegan again. But alongside extra foods, there are some supplements that it’s recommended that vegans take. Read on for more!

Supplements you should consider as a vegan

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is recommended for all vegetarian and vegans, and if you’re not sure whether you’re deficient you’re unlikely to cause yourself any harm by supplementing. Because of this, it is good to take whether you believe you are deficient or not, as much of the population is lacking B12. Some people suggest that you can get enough from unwashed vegetables, mushrooms, spirulina etc., but there is no scientific evidence for this belief.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is recommended for everyone living in the UK or northern latitude countries due to reduced sunlight hours in winter. It assists with calcium absorption and is vital for healthy bones, so should be supplemented by anyone – vegan or otherwise – living in northern latitudes over winter.

Long-chain Omega 3s

Long-chain omega 3s play a part in brain and eye health, so are pretty important to get right. Reduced levels have been linked with depression, breast cancer and various other conditions. Omegas are mostly found in fish oils, which explains why vegetarians and vegans have up to 50% lower concentrations of EPA and DHA (long chain fatty acids) than omnivores. Because of this, it’s recommended that vegetarians, and vegans especially, supplements with algae oil, high in essential fatty acids, to maintain healthy levels.

Iron

Iron supplementation, especially for women, may be advisable if you don’t eat red meat. Too little iron can lead to anaemia and symptoms such as fatigue and decreased immune function. Vegans can absolutely get enough iron from foods such as cruciferous vegetables, beans, pulses, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, as well as fortified foods such as plant-milks, but if you’re suffering from symptoms of anaemia, consider seeing a doctor to see if iron supplements would help. Don’t take iron supplements if you don’t feel you are deficient – having levels too high can be also harmful, so seek medical advice if you are unsure.

Iodine

Iodine could be beneficial for vegans, especially those who are pregnant. Since iodine is mostly found in seafood and dairy products (due to iodine used to clean farming equipment), vegans are at risk of becoming deficient. Reduced iodine levels can lead to hypothyroidism, so although it is possible to reach the RDA with vegan foods such as seaweed and iodine salt, if you don’t eat these regularly, it may help to take a supplement.

Thankfully, it’s easy to find supplements nowadays containing all the recommended vitamins and minerals required as a vegan so you’re not popping five plus pills each morning. Many non-vegans are also advised to supplement (e.g. for vitamin D) so provided you take supplements as recommended, you’re really not missing out on anything while eating a plant based diet! It can seem daunting having to take supplements, but in reality it’s quite simple – supplements such as Wellwomen Vegan and Boots A-Z contain almost all the required minerals in one capsule and would probably be beneficial for many people to top up their diet.

Of course, supplements should not replace a balanced and varied diet – many things are better absorbed when consumed in food form, not to mention better tasting – but getting any diet right is key to living a healthy, energetic and happy life, and the same goes for veganism, whether just for January or for the rest of your life.

I’d love to hear if you’re giving Veganuary a go, and whether you choose to supplement or not and why! Comment below and share this on Instagram if you found it helpful.

Ten vegan influencers to follow this Veganuary

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.

 

Clare – @Thelittlelondonvegan

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.13.18

Jane – @plantbasedjane

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!

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.19.42

Immy – @sustainably_vegan

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.22.32

Brett – @Brettcobley

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!

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.55.55

Niki – @rebelrecipes

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!

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.47.46

Laura – @thefirstmess

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.23.12

Sophia – @sophiaesperanza

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.35.30

James – @jamesaspey

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.38.18

Serena – @vegansofldn

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!

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 11.01.39

Flora – @foodfitnessflora

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.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 10.39.57

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 🙂

Six reasons to eat plant based

Eating less red meat and focusing on a more plant based diet is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to celebrities, influencers and a better understanding of the benefits of increasing veg protein and reducing red and processed meat. As we have become more educated about the impacts of meat on the environment and the ethics of meat consumption, food providers have followed suit, providing more and more options for those opting for a plant based diet.

This blog post was written in collaboration with Tesco, but as always all opinions are my own. Check out their new Wicked Kitchen range, a collaboration with plant chef Derek Sarno. The range uses plants in a variety of ways, making all the meals taste amazing (trust me, I’ve tried them!) but without the negative effects of meats. Gone are the days of weird-tasting fake meats – this is a real deal. They’re also super convenient, which means that at the end of a long day of work, they’re quick to stick in the oven or on the hob so you can get eating asap. I am unbelievably impressed with the range, and would recommend it to anyone, not just people who are already vegetarian or vegan! If you’ve been considering lowering your meat and dairy consumption for some while, there’s no better time to do it. Here are a few reasons why you should just go for it!

_KJM2935-Edit

It’s good for your health

Increasing the proportion of the diet that is made up of wholefoods such as fruit and vegetables can only improve your health. Multiple studies have also shown significant improvements in health outcomes for those with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, diseases that have exploded in frequency over the last few decades. Red meats, especially those that have been heavily processed, have been liked closely with increased rates of these diseases, and decreasing the amount you eat can only have positive impacts on your health. It is now possible to replace meats with vegan products that have the same flavours but none of the negative impacts, so why not try some vegan alternatives, such as those found in the Wicked kitchen range?

It saves you money

People often complain that eating vegan is more expensive than eating meat, but if you are simply replacing the most expensive part of the diet with more vegetables, grains and pulses, it ends up significantly cheaper than an omnivorous diet. Specialist products such as tofu and meat replacements can sometimes be relatively expensive but are almost always cheaper than meats. Brands such as Tesco have started providing ready meals that are no more expensive than their meat counterparts, meaning that even convenience foods are as cheap or cheaper than the animal product equivalent.

It’s one of the best things you can do to save the planet

There is irrefutable evidence to show that red meat, especially products that come from cattle, have a significant impact on the environment. The livestock industry consumes about 8% of the world’s water, depriving those areas that most need it (Schlink et al., 2010). Whilst it takes 2400 gallons of water to make 1lb of meat, 1lb of wheat can be grown with just 155 gallons of water. Without going into too much depth, using meat for food is less efficient in just about every way, using more land, water, fuel, and using 60% of all the human grade grain grown in the world. By products of the meat industry include greenhouse gases such as methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2. Care about the world we live in? Reducing your consumption of animal products (especially meat) will make a huge difference. Vegan alternatives are also more ethically sound – the more we eat plant based, the less suffering there has to be, and that’s something we can all feel good about.

It’s easy to lose weight… but you don’t have to

Whilst weight loss is by no means the most important thing in the world, the low caloric value of plants means that you can have a lot more volume for your calories! This means more food and who can complain about that?.In addition, by pure correlation, vegans have the lowest BMI, vegetarians second lowest, and meat eaters have the highest. Having said that, if you’re not looking to lose weight, it’s plenty easy enough to find high calorie vegan foods, such as nuts and oils, and dishes can be made to incorporate these to fill you up. Veganism isn’t about being hungry – it’s about being satisfied with delicious plant based foods!

It’s no less convenient

When it comes to cooking, we all want foods that are quick and easy to make, and sadly that often forces us to go for choices we’ve made 100 times before, often incorporating meat as a centrepiece to a meal, just because it’s ‘easy’. However, more and more people are demanding plant-based products that are just as easy to make as meat ones. With a higher demand comes higher supply. Conscientious and influential brands such as Tesco are incorporating more and more vegan foods into their takeaway sections, allowing people to opt for nutritious and delicious vegan foods that are just as convenient to pick up as any other food. Convenience is often cited as a reason for people eating meat, but this reason is becoming less and less relevant. You’d be surprised what you can find!

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

A lot of people are put off the idea of becoming vegan or even vegetarian because of the idea that they have to give up everything they love, or it’s not worth doing. It’s this kind of ‘all or nothing’ attitude that put me off for years, but in reality, every little change helps. If you are vegetarian, try having a couple of vegan days a week, or just reduce dairy consumption if you really love eggs. The chances are that over time, you’ll find that you don’t crave animal products anymore! Products from the Wicked Kitchen range can help you make that transition far easier, swapping out meat products for plant products used in a creative way, meaning you won’t miss meat at all.

 

There is really no reason not to try eating more conscientiously by reducing the amount of animal products you consume. It is often habit that allows us to continue doing things that aren’t in our best interest, but all it takes is a decision to make a change and half the battle is already done. Whatever your reason, there has been no easier time to start eating plant based, so why not give it a try?

I’d love to hear of your experiences with veganuary or your journey to eating less meat – feel free to send me a message on instagram or comment below.

_KJM2960-Edit

This dairy-free caponata pizza has to be one of my favourites from the range!