Everything you need this Veganuary

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Happy new year everyone!

I am so thrilled so many of you have decided to try Veganuary! It’s a great way to start off the year and this blog post is going to give you everything you need to know to absolutely smash being vegan this January!

I have split this blog post into three sections to help you guys read through.

1. Food prep

A shopping list and some kitchen advice for your new lifestyle this January, as well as some tips to ensure you are eating enough of the right foods.

2. Motivation

A few words to help you stay motivated to sticking vegan, and what to do if you slip up!

3. Additional sources

And finally, I am just one human, and there are many more people who have been doing this for much longer than me who I believe are brilliant sources and will help with your new lifestyle!

but firstly...

Why do Veganuary?

Here are three great reasons:

  1. For yourself

  2. For the animals

  3. For the earth

And I will go into these in more detail later because this post is mostly for you guys who have already decided to do Veganuary!

Vegan as a catalyst for change and growth

Going vegan has actually acted as a catalyst for me and I hope this Veganuary you find the same thing. I initially went vegan after watching ‘Earthlings’, and then realising my hypocrisy in ‘loving’ animals and paying for their flesh and by-products. After making the decision, I did research about what I could eat. In doing so, I found so many new recipes, spices, flavours and new food groups that I didn’t even know about before going vegan. It has also helped me realise that living vegan is healthier for my own body, as well as the lowest carbon footprint lifestyle.

What is ‘Healthy’?

  • Loads of veggies

  • Fruit daily

  • Minimally processed starches and wholegrains

  • Lean proteins

  • Minimally processed fats and oils (look for ‘pure oils’ such as olive oil)

  • Drink mainly water - and at least 3 litres of it a day

  • All vegetables (Frozen, canned and fresh) are healthful

  • If in doubt eat more veggies

  • Fill half your plate with veggies in every meal

  • Don't demonise starchy veggies

You Motivation and Inspiration for Veganuary

It is without a doubt that you will learn something new this January.

  • You will probably learn some new recipes and discover new foods that you didn’t like before! Even if you are not fully ready for veganism by the end of January, hopefully you will have some more plant based recipes up your sleeve and this will benefit your health in the long run - as well as reduce your carbon footprint!

  • Hopefully, you might feel healthier - everyone is different, and bodies react differently. I have heard some people feeling low on energy, but this is because your body needs to get used to these new foods - and in the long term it will thank you! Going plant based can help reduce a lot of health issues such as heart and circulatory problems, as well as clear up IBS (again, we are not supposed to eat a lot of things we eat … ahem (dairy!)).

  • You will most likely learn about the health benefits, the environmental damages caused by the meat and dairy industry as well as the ethics of animal agriculture (both to humans and animals).

  • If you slip up - know that it’s ok. But don’t give up. Just keep going.

  • I’ll tell you a secret - we all slip up sometimes, but there is no blame game, everyone should just do what they can. And also don’t just ‘drop out’ because it got hard and you slipped out. Be a trooper and no excuses.

  • This being said, I almost guarantee you, the longer you try veganism, the more you will realise (And not to sound super hippy dippy here but) how wholesome it feels, knowing that your meal caused no harm or damage to the environment, to animals and even to your own body. The amount of times I know when I’ve accidentally eaten something with milk in it because my nose and tummy starts hurting afterwards - your body will thank you for cutting out these foods.

  • You will learn how annoying it is being a vegan when non-vegans ask you all the questions you might not know the answers to yet, but hold tight. These questions will make you curious, and although you might not be able to answer them now, you will probably find out and be surprised yourself (and most likely want to stay vegan).

  • I saw a quote once and I loved it: “There are two types of people in this world. And no, it’s not vegans and meat eaters. It’s those that have done their research, and those that haven’t”.

  • Veganism was hard at first, but it was so worth it. I learned to be positive, I learned the power of motivation and willpower, which I now use in other aspects of my life to live happier and healthier. I used to have the sweetest tooth, literally eating a pack of cookies a day, to now not really needing more than a couple of squares of dark chocolate a week to ease the cravings - also, strawberries are so much sweeter now!

Is veganism expensive?

Is living vegan expensive - mm yes and no, and like any diet, it depends on what you buy. It can be expensive if you buy lots of vegan ‘alternatives’ and ‘fake’ foods - of which are processed and I do not recommend anyway and should be used as a treat. Just the same as buying grass fed local ‘organic’ meat is also really expensive. You should be striving for a whole foods plant based diet, with minimally processed foods - this is much cheaper. When cooking, the more ‘natural’ the food looks, the better it is for you. So when you make your meals, think, ‘how far from the raw ingredients does this look’ - if it still looks very much like the raw product, or plant, then it is much better for you, as it still contains all the nutrients which are lost when processed or over cooked. I started making the transition to a vegan diet in my final masters year of university, I stopped working this year to focus on my studies, so had less money to spend on food, and it should have been the most ‘stressful’ time - probably a ‘bad idea’ if you already have loads of stuff to think about, like exams and keeping on top of things. But honestly, it was surprisingly easy and cheap to go vegan and stick with it once I knew what I needed to eat and learned a few new recipes.

1. Food prep

Now for the foodie bits. A nutritional pit stop, and in the kitchen advice for stocking up for your vegan diet!

Nutritional pit-stop

Firstly, some myth busters to ease any worry's...

  1. You will get enough protein, if you make sure you eat enough of the right foods. Everyone always worry's about this as if they are preparing for battle or something,. you will be fine.

  2. Eating soy products won’t give you man boobs (boys), or make you hormonal (girls). Eating soy products will not cause hormonal imbalance. Soya contains pytho-oestrgoen - a plant based hormone (different to human oestrogen). Studies have shown that eating soya products does not increase oestrogen levels, and do not reduce testosterone and have no effect on fertility.

  3. You can be nutritious on a pbd (plant based diet) and actually healthier (pb foods provide more fibre and less saturated fats than other types of foods).

I’ve made a few extra notes for you on this blog post here.

In the Kitchen

OK so it's time to go shopping and start preparing your kitchen for Veganuary.

There is a huge misconception that vegans only eat salads and vegetables. This is just not true. There are so many more food groups and really important ones too! Use this plant-based whole foods pyramid help:

Veggies and greens that will become your best friend - have 5 a day

  • Potatoes (obviously - sweet and normal)

  • Mushrooms (these are amazing chopped large in curries and stir frys, and cooked with coconut oil tastes so good! They absorb flavours very well) - If you don’t like mushrooms, you could start off cutting them up really tiny and adding to spaghettis to get used to them and make them larger each time. I used to hate mushrooms and now I literally roast them whole and they are delicious!)

  • Broccoli

  • Really nutritious and again, absorb flavours really well

  • Cauliflower

  • Peppers

  • Onions (it's good to alternate between different types, red, white and spring)

  • Butternut squash

  • Green beans

  • Flat beans

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Salad (mixed, iceberg, whatever you want really)

  • Cucumber

  • Courgette

  • Avocado

Fruits - do try and have 3 a day at least

  • Bananas

  • Apples

  • Oranges

  • Tomatoes (can just buy canned but fresh is nice if in season and for some occasions and recipes - is this a veggie?)

  • Berries (Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries - if they are in season)

Nuts and Seeds - try and eat a palmful a day, perfect ‘at work/study’ snacks

  • Almonds

  • Mixed nuts

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Hazelnuts

  • cashew nuts

  • Pistachio nuts

Again, these can be expensive, but you don't need to eat that many of them and you can get cheaper if you buy in bulk or if you go to Aldi.

Canned goods to keep stocked up - throw in with stir frys, curries and chillies, as well as wraps!

  • Butter beans

  • Kidney beans

  • Mixed beans

  • Chickpeas

  • Baked beans

  • Canned tomatoes

  • Canned coconut milk/cream

  • Sweet corn

Also, it is a good tip to know, of course fresh veg is the best, however, any canned, frozen or fresh veg is better than not eating your veg! And any veg is going to be nutritious! So don’t worry if you can't afford to always buy fresh! But these additional canned goods are really good for bulking up meals (especially beans because they have loads of protein!)

Carbs (don’t be scared of them - they are your best friend - high in starch and fibre)

Remember, carbs before exercise, protein after.

  • Rice

  • Potatoes

  • Bulgar wheat

  • Pasta

  • Couscous

  • Bread - don’t go mad/reliant on this

Additional bits for:

... bulking meals and salads (super cheap!!)

  • Lentils

  • Quinoa

  • Chia seeds

...Breakfast cereal and smoothie bowls/drinks:

  • Flaxseeds

  • Cao-cao nibs

...And anything else if you want some extra jazz:

The last four items on this list can seem super expensive, but I have had mine for absolutely ages, and you can actually buy really brilliant packs in Aldi which are way cheaper and just as good!

Spices and Flavours!!

Just a side note - some foods taste great because of the spices and flavouring, not because it is meat - these are SO important in a vegan diet! Make sure you experiment and use lots of different new flavours!

  • Garlic (obviously)

  • Ginger

  • Chilli flakes

  • Paprika

  • Oregano

  • Thyme

  • Turmeric

  • Cumin

  • Soy sauce

  • Italian mixed herbs

  • Garam masala

  • Salt and Pepper (lol)

Vitamins and Minerals to look out for

There is one huge misconception which actually does really annoy me. And that is regarding B12.

Yes, going vegan you will have to take a B12 supplement. However, this is not because animals ‘naturally have B12’ - they are also given it as a supplement. Farming techniques are turned over too fast to keep up with demand and so B12 is not naturally found in animal foods anymore and thus, animals don’t get their natural source either. So don’t worry about having to take this as a supplement, the animals do too, and you may as well cut out the middle man.

For the other sources: please go to this website...

Simple Happy Kitchen

...and download the pages for plant based sources that are naturally high in iron, calcium and protein, and stick this in your cupboards or fridge as a gentle reminder.

Lastly, if you are really concerned, there are so many supplements you can take to ensure you get enough of the right foods. I’m no expert and if you feel you will be lacking in these then you can always ask your GP about advice or pop into a health or wellbeing shop (Holland & Barretts for example) and ask them for honest suggestions.

Milk Alternatives

Find the right one that suits you.

Everyone has different taste buds and preferences. From my experience, Oat milk (OATLY Whole milk) for coffee and tea as it is the most creamy one and does not curdle in coffee, and then almond or soya milk for cereal or other things like cooking (soya is cheaper so this is my go-to - again, the one from Aldi is absolutely lush - my mum actually prefers it to the sainsburys own which is twice the price!)

Again, these milks tend to be a little bit more expensive, so you might want to train your taste buds to enjoy the cheaper types, such as soya milk and only use oat milk for special occasions such as in your morning coffee. Also, it does depend on your mind set - hopefully now you’ve decided to go vegan, you will find out that actually, although these are more expensive at the moment, it is because these products are new to the market, and dairy is still subsidised hugely - when considering environmental and impacts on animal well-being, you will find that choosing the milk alternatives is actually not as expensive as you think. Also, this might even inspire you to start drinking your coffee black - I am very basic when it comes to my coffee, that meaning, not basic at all and actually very specific. Literally ‘Please can I have a caramel oat milk Latte’ just rolls off the tongue way too easily these days, and I used to make my own home-made ‘oat-a-chinno’ (a black coffee with oat milk which I frothed by literally shaking the carton lol) - but now I am proud to say I can take my coffee black - less sugar and fat, and also saving me loads of money on buying alternative milks. See, veganism is a catalyst for your health.

Here are some important notes from my nutrition course when deciding on what milk to get:

The most competitive ones at the moment are oat, soya, coconut and almond milk.

Notes whilst shopping\choosing

  1. Look at protein and energy content before you buy - these will vary for each type and brand.

  2. Most alternatives are mostly made of water, low in protein and energy e.g. oat and almond milk, however some are fortified to help people on vegan diets, so read the contents and be aware of how much protein you actually need (it’s probably not as much as you might like to think). If you have sufficient energy and protein intake, then these are great alternatives.

  3. Coconut milk has very little or no protein in it, and is very high in energy! So remember, a little can go a long way.

  4. Soya milk usually has a higher protein content than any other and is normally cheaper!

  5. Most alternatives are sweetened so you will need to look for unsweetened versions to take care of your sugar intake.

  6. Alternatives don't normally naturally contain significant amounts of Calcium so are normally fortified (tricalcium phosphate).

  7. Important to remember only 75% of this calcium is absorbed compared to the calcium in cow's milk so ensure you are getting some calcium from other sources (you will naturally do this now you are going plant based, because a lot of plants contain a lot of calcium! Not just cows milk - which for the record is for baby cows..)

  8. Try a few different ones and see what you like the most!

I hope you have noticed that apart from the milk, I haven’t mentioned many processed foods - this is because although I am not yet myself, but am striving to live on a wholefoods plant based diet - so no processed foods, and to be cooked as minimally as possible. I feel this is the healthiest option and those processed bits are expensive and are not always super healthy, even with ‘vegan’ stamped all over it. Just like a non-pbd, processed foods are normally bad news, so try and stay away from these.

This being said, it is important to treat yourself and not be too strict. Everyone deserves a treat and vegan foods can be delicious, and sometimes it's nice to have something a little extra so feel free to try vegan ‘meat’ alternatives. I hear people ask me - ‘why eat something that tastes and feels like meat but isn't meat’, and they have already answered the question. Because it's not meat, which is the point. Different people have different reasons for going vegan, and they might not be doing it for the animals or the environment, but for their own health. They may not care about killing animals and might like and actually miss eating them. These products are perfect for those people who may be really struggling to make the transition. And I think it is absolutely brilliant that these options are available for these people!

Additional Sources:

Here are some additional sources to help you with Veganuary.

  1. Earthing ed

  2. Plant Based News (also follow their instagram pages)

  3. Veganuary (obvs lol)

  4. Forks over Knives

  5. Simple Happy Kitchen

  6. BBC Plant based recipes

  7. A couple cooks - 12 recipes

  8. Taste of home - 55 recipes

A little thank you

Just a little thank you from me for trying Veganuary. It means you are open minded to change, which is essential. Perhaps you have clocked on to the industry that is taking advantage of the lack of education on health and diet in the general public. Maybe you are more aware of the damages to the environment caused by agriculture, and how the majority of it is due to livestock. Lastly, the poor animals who face death for absolutely no reason other than for culture and taste.

Thank you for having the awareness that change needs to be made, motivation to make the change and the willpower and confidence to follow through.

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Alice Eleanor Matthews Blog @astroally.co.uk

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