Pro tips for plant-based probationers

by Sarah ▪ 08 Jan, 2021

Why do Veganuary?

You’d need to have been living a hermit’s existence not to have heard of Veganuary (Veganuary | Home | The Go Vegan 31 Day Challenge) by now – a worldwide non-profit campaign that encourages people to give up all animal products for the month of January. And it’s working: since starting in 2014, more than a million people have tried a plant-based diet for 31 days. But for those of us who love steak frites, or think the best part of any meal is the cheeseboard, how would we even start – and what’s in it for us?

For your health
A plant-based diet offers a host of health benefits. For a start, studies show that a vegan lifestyle lowers your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes – two of the most common chronic conditions, both of which are entirely manmade and avoidable. Vegans also experience lower rates of other conditions and diseases, ranging from cancer and strokes to Alzheimer’s. The WHO has designated processed meat as a carcinogen, and the evidence that red meat is too is compelling.
If that wasn’t enough, a plant-based diet has been found to have a positive impact on your mood, your digestion and your skin. Finally, vegans are the only group who average a normal, healthy BMI – it’s easier to overeat animal products and their calories are quickly converted into body fat.
For the animals
How many of us would see lambs leaping in a field on a sunny spring walk and coo at their adorable antics and frantically wagging tails? And how many would also order a lamb shank at the pub that evening? (If you’re looking, I’m raising a hypocritical hand over here.) This isn’t a place of judgement – it’s easy to be an animal lover and turn away from the grim reality of animal-based food industries. But even if we decide, on balance, to continue eating any or all of dairy, eggs, fish or meat, it’s good to know and weigh the facts.
As humans, most of us are able (in modern society at least) to fulfil our nutritional needs without animal products. And, while we tend to group farm animals in a separate category to our pets, in whom we see definite personalities, the truth is they are sentient beings capable of suffering.
The meat, fishing, egg and dairy industries are brutal in various ways – many animals are kept in appalling conditions for their whole lives and even those which don’t end their lives in fear at the abbatoir. For many people, making this connection is enough, because otherwise they are unable to balance their morals and their actions. For others, it may mean making other choices such as becoming pescatarian, meat-free Mondays, or only buying organic meat from local farm shops.
For the planet
The meat industry is not good for our planet. In fact, it actively contributes to pressing global issues such as hunger and climate change. It contributes more than the transport industries to global warming. Knock-on effects include the mass extinction of species the planet is experiencing – some from the changing climate, others from habitat loss caused by deforestation to grow enough grain to feed the animals we consume – and the starvation of impoverished peoples whose land is no longer used to feed their populations. A plant-based diet is a sustainable diet.
For fantastic food
Maybe you’ve got a vision of plant-based eating as a miserable affair, of endless plates of cucumber sticks and fruit salad. If so, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Not only are there some amazing alternatives to animal products available, but these are actually the least exciting of plant-based meals. Vegan food does not have to be boring. From butternut biryanis and black bean burgers to buddha bowls, there is a plethora of options before you. This is an opportunity to discover new cuisines and spice up your cooking routine.
Even when it comes to cakes and biscuits, you’ll find wonderful alternatives to the classic butter and egg based goodies.
For friends
Veganuary is the ideal time to try plant-based eating for the first time – there are lots of forums and online communities because so many people are trying something new together. That feeling of solidarity and community can be a huge boost.
So, there are many compelling reasons to give plant-based eating a whirl. But we get that it can be daunting, especially if you’re used to cooking meals with a meat or dairy element as the star of the show. So we’ve pulled together some tips to make your Veganuary challenge a smooth one.

How to survive Veganuary

This is a top search term for Veganuary, but we don’t believe this is an experience to be endured, but enjoyed. How? Read on.
Get inspired

One way to rev up for a challenge is to hear the success stories of others who have taken a similar leap. EAT.PLNT has many inspiring plant journeys to encourage you. Take Hannah who impulsively decided to sign up to Veganuary on New Year’s Eve 2016. Despite being unprepared she said it was ‘way easier’ than she had imagined and that her ‘only regret is not going vegan sooner’. Her advice is to use the power of the internet! ‘Just google your favourite dishes but with the word “vegan” (such as “vegan spag bol”) and I guarantee someone will have made a recipe for it.’ Meanwhile, Rhys became vegan upon watching a documentary. He recommends this to maintain motivation, saying: ‘Educate yourself so you have the impetus behind you to want to keep making that change. When you’re driven by your convictions, it makes it a lot easier to keep on track!’

There are also hundreds of creative plant-based cooks online – fill your feed with their ideas and recipes. The photos alone will have you reaching for your chef’s hat. Some of our favourites are @nora_cooks_vegan_ (easy and accessible) @thelittleblogofvegan (you’ll want to recreate the pictures!) and @earthlinged (inspiring activism).

Get back on the (vegan) horse
One thing nearly everyone featured in EAT.PLNT’s Plant Journeys says is not to worry if you slip up. As Hannah says, ‘everyone’s done it!’ Just try again – you’re still making a difference to your health and the planet with every plant-based choice you make. Don’t beat yourself up – congratulate yourself on what you’ve achieved so far.

Alternatively, you may feel you don’t want to leap straight into veganism, but you would like to eat more plant-based meals, or cut out more animal products. That’s great! I’m certainly the same. Sammy suggests taking it slowly. ‘Try replacing one animal product such a milk. Try lots of different plant-based mills until you find one you love and stick with that and then continue with other animal products.’

Go cold turkey-alternative
If you really love the flavour and texture of a particular food, it may be best not to reach straight for an alternative as you may well feel disappointed. Let your tastebuds adjust and experiment with some new recipes instead, or meals that easily lend themselves to plant-based eating, like stir fries, soups or pasta in a veggie-based sauce.

Even some long-term plant-based eaters advise avoiding cheese for a while. But if (like me!) you can’t see a future without fromage, don’t despair. The 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational was won by a non-dairy cheese, and there are some great options (Emma suggests Applewood’s Smoked Vegan cheese).

Slices of raw tofu
Eat your way

You may, however, discover that the opposite tack works better – that finding a substitute for your go-to meals is what keeps you going at the start. You wouldn’t be alone. Jess advises people to ‘recreate your fave meals because it’ll really help make you feel like you’ve not really changed anything’.

You’re in luck, as there are now fabulous meat-free alternatives for almost any food you can think of. The much-publicised Gregg’s vegan sausage roll is the tip of a very large iceberg.
Slow cook, batch cook

One of the faffs of plant-based cooking can be the prep. There’s no denying it. But slow cookers and batch cooking are your friends. A slow cooker is fab for stews and casseroles – and a surprising amount more besides – the beauty being that you pop in all your ingredients in the morning and come home to the aroma of a hearty plant-based dinner. Batch cooking may involve more slog at the start with all the slicing and dicing, but you’ll have food to go for weeks to come. Check out our blog for advice on how to get started.

Treat yourself

Take the pressure off and give yourself a break from the recipe book by stocking your freezer with some delicious plant-based ready meals. With the code PLANTPOWER20 you will receive 20% off and free delivery when you spend £50 or more on our vegan range. This offer even includes our fantastic EAT.PLNT hamper, and is valid until 31 January.

Go for it!

Whether you go the whole hog for 31 days or just try going plant-based once a week, you’re sure to discover some wonderful new flavours, and be doing some good for yourself and the world at the same time. And whether or not you decide to make the change permanent, there’s always room for the odd vegan meal in your life. I’ll be starting with Moroccan Style Chickpea Pie. Good luck!