Writing

Veganuary

Thinking of trying vegan for the month of January? Or going vegan full time? Here are my top tips on how to go about it.

1 – Sign up to Veganuary, where you’ll receive a 31 day e-cookbook with lots of recipes and nutritional advice.

2 – Sign up to The Vegan Society which is packed full of information on how veganism came about, what it means to be vegan, research, campaigns etc.

3 – Invest in some decent cookbooks. This is a bit of a minefield, as there are hundreds to choose from, covering everything from budget vegans to those who consider themselves a bit of a chef in the kitchen. My go to’s are Chloe Coscarelli, Bosh, and So Vegan. Bosh and So Vegan are very popular as they appeal to the mainstream, and both are good places to start as they make vegan cooking fun and informative.

4 – Join a Facebook group for support and encouragement. I’m a member of non-Judgy Vegans UK, which is a fantastic group, not just about food, but for all aspects of veganism.

5 – Don’t just cut meat and dairy out, and eat nothing but vegetables. As healthy as vegetables are, you need to ensure you are still eating all the food groups. Lentils, beans, and pulses contain lots of fibre, minerals and vitamins. Dark, leafy greens such as Cavolo Nero and Kale are excellent sources of vitamins K, A, B6, manganese and calcium as well as a whole host of essential nutrients. Mushrooms are a typical meat replacement, forming the basis for many dishes and items from burgers and sausages to the mince in a shepherd’s pie. They’re versatile, highly nutritious, low in fat, and highly sustainable (you can grow them yourself using kits or go foraging).

6 – Dairy

  • Cheese – Everyone loves cheese, right? Did you know, cheese contains casein which has an opiate effect on the brain? It’s why it’s one of the hardest foods to give up. Many vegans advise to give it a few months before trying vegan cheese in order to allow tastebuds to adjust. For cheese fiends, the supermarket choices will probably disappoint; they’re predominantly coconut oil based, can be too sweet, chalky, flavourless, bad at melting etc etc. It really is trial and error to find one you’ll like. In my house, we have Applewood, my other half eats it in sandwiches or on toast (it melts beautifully), I prefer to use it in cooking. You can always splash the cash of course, and try the many artisanal vegan cheeses on the market such as Tyne Chease where you’ll find specialist flavours and combinations to suit the fussiest tastes!
  • Milk – I found milk the easiest to give up. Before going fully vegan, I’d already made the switch to soya eventually transitioning to oat. In terms of sustainability, oat is the best, almond is the worst. Almond milk has the same environmental impact as dairy. There is a huge variety of blends and brands available; from cashew to hemp to oat, and even pea milk. I find soya is great for cooking, but barista edition oat is more versatile as it works in tea, coffee and cereal. Make sure your milk is fortified for extra nutrition.
  • Eggs – A poached egg on potato cake at the weekend used to be one of my favourite things. I have since swapped this treat for a yummy tofu scramble every Sunday. If you like your eggs savoury, there are lots of ways to achieve the alternative. For the bakers amongst you, you’d be surprised at the number of vegan friendly alternatives that work just as well in cakes.

7 – Honey – also a no-no. Bees do not make honey for us, they make it for their Queen and their colony. Honey is their food, they need it to survive.

8 – Clothing – vegans do not wear wool, silk or leather as these are animal byproducts. Some vegans give old items to charity, or continue to wear them until they’ve worn out. It’s a personal decision, I’ve still some old leather shoes in my wardrobe. Haven’t worn them in years, won’t wear them again, just need to decide what to do with them. Clothing is usually where there is a dividing line between someone who is vegan and someone who is plant based. One follows the lifestyle, the other follows the diet.

9 – Convenience foods. The rise in veganism has led to an amazing range of convenience foods in the supermarkets. No longer faced with a paltry selection of nut roasts and veggie burgers, we have sausages, pies, nuggets, roast “joints”, pasties, plant-based pieces to use in stir-fries, stews and casseroles. There is so much more choice now. These are great if you don’t have much time or inclination for cooking from scratch, but beware, these items are likely more expensive than their meat-based counterparts (£5 for a 2 pack of Beyond Sausage is a good example; I don’t care how good they are, I’m not spending that kind of money!). It’s a good idea to shop around, bulk buy when things are on offer, and compare prices (my shops take twice as long now, as I scrutinise everything!). I always have a few freezer items for those days when I simply want to just bung something in the oven. Veganism doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can be if you rely on convenience foods all the time. Miguel Barclay has a popular cookbook for vegan meals coming in at £1 per person.

10 – Batch cook – got some time at the weekend? It’s a great time to batch cook, and freeze meals for the week ahead. I only cook for two people, but as most recipes cater for four or more, I freeze the additional portions. It saves money on the weekly shop, and it’s a quick solution for dinner on those days when you simply can’t be bothered.

11 – Household products, toiletries and cosmetics – A product maybe vegan, but isn’t necessarily cruelty-free. Yet another minefield to negotiate! These shopping guides from Cruelty Free International and Naturewatch will help you make the right choices to avoid products that have been tested on animals.

Here are some links to additional resources:

Vegan for the animals

Earthlings or Dominion – warning – these films are incredibly graphic, and not for the faint of heart.

Vegan for the environment

Cowspiracy looks at the impact of animal agriculture on the planet, does contain some graphic imagery.

Vegan for health

Forks Over Knives goes into the science of following a whole food plant based diet in tackling a variety of health conditions.

The Game Changers veganism through the eyes of some of the world’s top endurance athletes.

What The Health looks at the links between the modern, western diet, disease and the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.

Earthling Ed is a vegan educator and activist who believes in power through knowledge. His channel is definitely worth a watch as he delivers his message in a calm, measured way.

Barnivore is a useful little app for checking beer, wines and spirits for their suitability.

Phew!

Remember – there is no such thing as the perfect vegan, our presence on this planet alone has an impact, from the houses we live in to the cars we drive, and the jobs we do. We do the best we can to reduce our impact through the actions we take. Your vegan journey is a personal one, go at your own pace, and ignore the haters.

From my own personal experience, veganism has given me a new love of food, a better connection to the environment, and a love and respect for all animals. I once said, “I couldn’t go vegetarian.” I went vegetarian Christmas 2014. I followed that up by saying, “I couldn’t go vegan, that’s a full lifestyle.” I went vegan 31/03/17, and I haven’t looked back since.

My only wish? That I’d done it sooner.

Food, Life, Veganism

It’s All A Bit Woolly.

Having been vegan for more than three years now, I consider myself, if not an expert, at least well informed on the subject.

What amazes me though, is how many vegans are still ok with wearing wool. I use wool as an example due to a recent post I made on Facebook that sparked a debate amongst some members of the group about wool.

Citing wool then, why is it not ok for humans to use this product?

1 – This goes against the very first rule of veganism as defined by The Vegan Society: Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose

2 – Sheep are being raised in ways to produce more wool, their coats end up causing them pain, their skin can get infected so they “need” shearing. This is a direct link to the farming industry, if sheep weren’t being raised this way, the “need” for shearing wouldn’t be there. And why do humans keep sheep? So we can eat their babies.

3 – To ensure a high turnover of wool, sheep are not treated gently, they are thrown about, manhandled, pinned down, cut and hurt throughout the shearing process. If a farmer can shear 10 sheep in 10 minutes , why would he take time being gentle with just one sheep for 10 minutes? (I don’t know how long the shearing process takes, I’m using these for illustrative purposes). This would impact directly on any profits to be made.

4 – Supply and demand. Keeping up the demand for wool for clothing perpetuates the supply chain. Sheep will continue to be farmed, their babies will continue to be taken from them, murdered at just a few months old for humans to eat.

5 – Alternatives. There are lots of great alternatives to wool out there, it’s wrong to assume that just because something is natural, it doesn’t have some kind of environmental impact. In fact, wool is pretty bad for the planet according to The Ecologist.

I guess it boils down to your reasons for going vegan. For me, it was always about the animals. I love animals more than people, they have more right to live on this Earth than we do. For one thing, animals don’t destroy their environment in the name of progress, and they don’t exploit and enslave others in horrific conditions for food or entertainment. Only humans commit those sorts of acts.

If you eat a vegan diet, but wear any animal byproduct such as wool, silk or leather, you cannot call yourself a vegan. This is not my opinion, but a simple fact. You are plant based because your clothing choice still links to the very industries veganism is against. Like vegetarianism, going plant based is a step in the right direction, but as I realised a few years ago, it’s not enough. If you are comfortable with your choices, good for you, some contribution is better than none at all.

I see a lot of new vegans cropping up, which is fantastic. Lots of questions being asked, and guidance sought. What strikes me about some (not all) new vegans is the lack of research undertaken into what veganism is about. There is a bit of a misconception that it is simply about the diet, when it is so much more than that. To be a true vegan is to adhere to the guidelines as set out by The Vegan Society. This is a lifestyle, and a commitment.

Of course, we all make mistakes, none of us are perfect and occasionally, you’ll fall off the wagon. I did. I bought Kellogg’s Cornflakes a while back, and completely forgot that the Vitamin D in the ingredients comes from sheep’s wool. The packet was already open when my boyfriend said “are you sure they’re vegan? I thought we’d stopped buying them?” That was a proper Homer d’oh! moment right there. Should I flagellate myself with a bunch of asparagus as penance? Of course not, it was a little blip, not done on purpose. I haven’t made the same mistake since though. One of the benefits of veganism is the opportunity for education.

I’ve used wool as an example in this post, just to maybe make you think about or question your current choices. There are so many more examples I could use. Are you a new vegan, still finding your way or are you more plant based, comfortable with your choices? If you’re looking for guidance, feel free to comment with any questions, I’ll be happy to reply to the best of my knowledge. 🌱