Veganuary for beginners.

Chances are, if you're reading this post, you are fairly new to Veganuary. 

So firstly, I'd like to thank you. Thank you, for making a difference. Whether your reason is being more ethical, combating climate change, challenging yourself or a healthier you: it's a big step forward.

Tricolour quinoa salad

Why go vegan?

A good question and worth taking the time to think about, as it will help you find a true reason, providing the basis for a long term plant based lifestyle. I've been a long time vegetarian for health reasons but recently I became more and more conscious about how the meat and dairy industry contributes to climate change.

It's well documented that intensive animal farming requires massive amounts of crops and water - 1500 litres of water is required to produce 1kg of beef, compared to just 250 litres for 1kg of potatoes. The processing, transporting, and storing of animals, crops and water is also extremely carbon and energy intensive with forests and woodland often cleared to make way for arable land, which has to be irrigated to make it agriculturally viable and to improve crop yields. Did you know the land footprint used to produce the UK food supply is made up of 63% grasslands for animal agriculture, 22% cropland grown for animal feed and just 15% for crops grown for direct human consumption? Meaning animal based food takes up 85% of the land footprint and food supply. Perhaps less well known, is that animals particularly ruminants such as cows, belch vast amounts of methane a greenhouse gas far worse than carbon dioxide at accelerating climate change. A global shift toward plant-based food is vital if we are to combat the worst effects of climate change..Simply, eating vegetables produces lower greenhouse gas emissions as it's more efficient to grow crops to eat than to feed an animal to build muscle mass and then eat that animal.

Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined!  

Ethical reasons can also play a big part on why you should go vegan. Eating meat can often mean supporting cruelty to animals. Now, forget about the lovely play farms you visit with the children. On today's factory farms, intensively reared animals can be kept in cruel and oppressive conditions. Global WAKEcup is a vegan company but we understand that for many people Veganuary is the first step towards reducing their meat intake rather than cutting it out entirely, much like 'Dry January' is for those looking to cut back on the booze after the excesses of Christmas and New Year. So, for those of you who will go back to eating meat after Jan, we highly recommend you find out where and how the animal you are eating is reared. Understanding the provenance of all the food you eat (animal and vegetable) is essential. 

And of course it's healthier for you. You can get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet. Research has shown that the average vegan diet is higher in vitamin C and fibre, and lower in saturated fat (which is related to increased cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease) than one containing meat, all of which are beneficial. In addition, statistics show that vegans have a lower BMI (height-to-weight ratio).

For a healthy vegan diet:

- Eat a good variety of fruit and vegetables every day, 5 portions is the recommenced daily amount.

- Base your meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starch based carbs choose wholegrain where possible.

- Choose healthy dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts. Ideally these should be low in sugar and fat

- Include protein such as beans or pulses in your meal planning

- Cook, marinade and dress salads etc with unsaturated fats, oils and spreads, and eat these in small amount

- Insure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, it's recommended to drink 6-8 cups a day.

Do your research on nutrients

Pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas) are rich in protein, as well as tofu and soya products, nuts, seeds, and nut butters, whole grains. Pulses are also rich in iron, just like green leafy veg (spinach and kale), fortified cereals and bread, nuts and seeds, and dried fruit. Zinc can be found in beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds and certain fortified breakfast cereals. Find omega 3 in flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seed, some nuts and some vegetable oils.

 The only group a vegan diet is not suitable for, is children under the age of two, as they have different dietary needs.

fruits

Here's a few tips for you to make it easier:

I think the best way to overcome the initial difficulties of a lifestyle change, is to find your own reason within yourself: why are you doing this? A conscious shift in the mind is needed to make it work. But it's also super empowering and uplifting: a few days in and you'll feel ready to take on the whole world. Even completing the first few days feel rewarding, like you've won a gold medal. All, because you set a goal and work towards a greater good, a reason that is bigger than you. This will also help you to fight off the haters turned into a nutritionist expert when they come along with their protein deficiency theories.

Whilst I normally won't promote meat or dairy substitutions, if you feel more comfortable to have them around, then stock up on meat-free balls and shroom dogs. If you are feeling hungry, then just eat. Forget about the calorie intake and don't let the carbs make you feel guilty: you have to enjoy what you eat. The transition is not easy, make sure your food is flavoursome and filling. You can also turn meaty favourites into vegan ones. Lots of good recipes are available for vegan lasagne, bolognese, chilli sin carne. They are perfect for those meat craving days.

Going cold turkey is not for everyone. Whilst a commitment to making it through the whole month is the best motivation, make sure that if you fail for a meal or two, you don't give up. Be kind to yourself... Pick yourself up and try again tomorrow. Even trying and reducing is way better than not trying at all! 

Find support. Surround yourself both in real and online life with people who can inspire you throughout your journey. I follow lots of blogs and people on instagram and twitter who create easy and simple vegan meals. The Veganuary website is a great source of information and support.

Be creative and adventurous... Who said we can't have pineapple or broccoli on pizza? Half of the people love it, just like Marmite! Sometimes it's trial and error, but one thing is for sure, there's no standard path. Get ready to enjoy trying new foods, flavour combinations, ingredients and learn to cook in different ways. The good news is that the journey is both fun and not hard at all! 

A huge positive that you'll notice almost immediately, is that once you're on a plant based diet you'll produce much less food waste. If you have a few pieces of different types of veggies hanging around, a soup is always a good idea. Add coconut milk, spices, pasta, quinoa to it - a perfect meal to use up pretty much anything. Other ideas are: make them into mash, dumpling filling or vegetable tempura (this is always a winner in our house). With veggies and fruits you don't have to take expiry dates too strictly. Unless the fruit or vegetable seemingly gone off (not very hard to tell), regardless of their "expire date" on the packaging, they are fine and safe to eat and cook. Fresh, in season and local produce last longer as well as contain more nutrients and vitamins.

vegetables

My vegan, zero waste cooking tips 

Between 33-50% of all food produced globally is never eaten and that is a staggering figure. Which means that we waste lots of energy, resources and of course it’s also a moral problem. So, I've collected a few tips how to make delicious vegan food and waste none of it. This way, your new vegan diet will even save you money!

First of all, you'll find it easier if you cook for yourself. Initially, it's totally ok to eat out or try a fair amount of the packaged vegan meals that have flooded the market in the last couple of years but in the longer run, you want to limit them. I personally like a few of them, but most of them are quite boring and tasteless. To do that, you might want to explore meal planning. It will make your life a whole lot easier and will help you to stick to your new lifestyle. It also saves you money! Just pick a recipe for every day of the week by checking out our delicious suggestions below... It makes shopping and cooking so much easier, rather than the other way around: working with what you have.

Packing lunch for yourself, partner or children is the best way to help you and your family stick to your new vegan diet. It's also a lot cheaper and nutritious then buying lunch in a supermarket and let's be honest prepacked sandwiches are gross! By packing your own lunch, over the course of your lifetime It's estimated by the Guardian newspaper that you will save ten's of thousands of single-use cutlery, bottles and other pieces of plastic from going to landfill not to mention a staggering £50,000!

To help you on your way, we've put together a brand new Zero Waste Lunch Kit saving you 25% off individual prices. Each kit contains a reusable lunch bag, bamboo water bottle and cutlery set which contains a bamboo knife, fork, spoon, chopsticks, stainless steel straw and straw cleaner. If you invest in these in 2020 and pack delicious, homemade vegan food you've already done an awful lot for your health, the environment and your bank balance!

 

 

For a little food inspiration, here's some vegan lunch ideas, that are super simple and nutritious but first a a favourite vegan comfort recipe of Global WAKEcup's founder Nick that will get you through January and the colder months. If you try just one of our recipes give this one a go, it'a an absolute winner!

 

SPICY POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE

Ingredients: 800g Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes, cubed with the skin on. 50g Harissa, 1 clove of garlic, sesame seeds, olive oil, coriander or chives, salt, pepper, 

Tahini Sauce: 60g Tahini, mixed with two tablespoons each of soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar and water.

Method: Mix the potatoes, harissa, garlic, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Transfer to a hot oven (240C fan) with the potatoes spread out on a large tray. Cover with foil for 15mins, then remove the foil, stir the mixture and reduce the heat to 200C fan, roasting for 20 mins more. Meanwhile, whisk all the sauce ingredients until smooth. Pour the sauce all over the crisped up potatoes and finish with sesame seeds and the herb of your choice. Simply delicious!

 

Delicious Vegan Lunch Inspiration

sweet potato gnocchi

 Many thanks to Eva a great friend of Global WAKEcup, who we've collaborated with from pretty much the beginning for writing this post, with recipe contributions and stats from Nick.