Do you think that one more person going vegan won’t make a difference? Well, the vegans of this world beg to differ... Just by taking part in Veganuary this month, one person can save 33,000 litres of water, 900 square feet of forest and 30 animals!
To start this year on top form, some of us in the BLANC team have decided to participate in Veganuary. We were not only inspired by the full-time vegans and vegetarians at BLANC, but also by all the benefits a plant-based diet has to offer, for both our personal health - and that of the environment.
So, whether you are considering going vegan, or simply looking to incorporate some aspects of the plant-based diet into your lifestyle, these 7 simple tips will provide you with all the vegan life hacks and recipes you will need to embark upon your plant-based journey.
If going plant-based is not for you at this moment in time, we are the biggest believers in “every little helps” at BLANC - so do read on anyway! You might find that one or several of these tips aren’t that hard for you to implement in your daily life and help you to form good habits - so even if you’re not (completely!) convinced about going vegan, you could already be making a huge difference. Here goes!
Take your time
You don’t need to go vegan overnight! Cutting out food groups can be very daunting, (dairy alone takes up a large proportion!) but the most important is to keep your end goal in mind and take as much time as you need to make this transition. Some people manage to go vegan very quickly - and if you feel that it’s the right way, then go for it.
However, don't worry if you feel you need more time. Like any other lifestyle change, adapting to a plant-based diet not only takes time getting used to, but you need to find out what works best for you. This is a journey and it’s not a one size fits all experience.
Get your staple foods ready
Milk alternatives (Soya, Almond, Oat), Hummus and pita, pasta with marinara sauce, apple and cinnamon oatmeal, bean and rice burritos, one-pot pasta, avocado toast - have these staples on speed dial in your brain for the beginning of your plant-based journey! They will be your best friends when time is in short supply and you need to cook something up. There’s a time and place for making Instagram-worthy acai bowls and plant-based sushi-rolls as well, but that time is not after a full day of meetings, when you only have five minutes to prepare your lunch before collapsing, exhausted in your bed.
“Is that vegan?”
It may feel like you’re checking the label of every food product and ‘dairy’ ‘egg’ and ‘milk’ just keep popping up. But, there are actually a lot of vegan foods that you can find in almost all UK supermarkets, and you might already be eating them on a daily basis. Look out for the ingredients highlighted in bold on food labels to uncover a whole new world of (accidentally) vegan foods. Take a look at the genius Instagram account Accidentally Vegan for more finds!
Go vegan and don’t break the bank
A common belief about going vegan is that it’s quite expensive to make the plant-based transition, and it definitely can be, but it doesn’t have to! When shopping, you will probably notice certain products, like vegan cheese or chocolate, are generally more expensive. If you’re on a budget, the trick is to avoid the highly processed and sugary vegan foods and batch-cook most of your meals instead.
A great money-saver when you’re on a plant-based diet is to subscribe to a fruit & veg box (and a great life hack in general if you’re short on time). If you’re based in London, Morrisons wonky fruit & veg box is only £3.50. Have a look at Find Local Produce for farmer’s markets and veg scheme boxes near you!
Documentaries to keep the motivation levels up
Be prepared: at the beginning of your journey towards a plant-based diet, the cheat days will probably come - that’s just a natural part of the process! When they do, a little reminder of why you embarked on this journey to begin with, may help! Usually, people who go vegan don’t do it because it’s fun (even though it is!) but have a reason for their choice: it can be to stop animal cruelty, to have a smaller impact on the environment and climate change, for their own personal health reasons (often those who complain of digestive issues say a vegan diet helped massively!) or maybe a combination of the above.
These documentaries are sure to bring back your vegan spark:
Focus on the environment: Food, Inc, Cowspiracy
Focus on personal health: What the health! The game changers, Forks over knives
Focus on animal welfare: Live and let live, Dominion
The Deficiency Drama!
Since everyone will want to talk to you about vitamins and mineral deficiencies (more specifically in B12, omega-3’s and protein), you might as well know the facts!
Let’s start with protein: where will you be getting your nutrients from? Protein is found in things like lentils, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, nuts, buckwheat, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower, just to mention a few of its plant-based sources. Protein deficiencies are actually very rare in the western world and as long as your diet is varied and includes a combination of grains, pulses and vegetables, you shouldn’t be worried - just don’t depend on the processed vegan foods!
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the estimated need for men and women aged 19-50 years old is 45g-56g of protein per day (depending on your body weight). To get some perspective on where you can get these amounts from, we compared some plant proteins to beef:
- 100g of beef equals 26.6g of protein
- 100g of black beans equals 22g of protein
- 100g of almonds equals 21.15g of protein
- 100g of oats equals 10.3 g of protein
As for the omega-3’s: the nutrient rich, omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for human health and affect our immune system, brain, nerves and eye functions. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t produce these fats and so we need to find a way to consume them.
The fundamental omega-3 fat is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the fundamental omega-6 fat is linolenic acid (LA). LA is quite simple to replace just by eating a varied and balanced diet.You can find it in hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Getting a healthy amount of ALA can be a bit more tricky. ALA can be found in chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil. An easy swap to make to establish a safe source of ALA is to permanently swap your cooking oil to rapeseed oil. The Vegan Society has a great sheet of what you need to know about omega-3 and omega-6 on a plant-based diet.
As for the B12: this vitamin is naturally found in the soil and helps keep our energy levels up, but due to chemically intensive practices and over-farming, soil quality is declining. This makes it hard to depend on getting B12 from the soil (and because of the chemically intensive process, it’s not your best option either). It’s true that you can easily get deficient in B12 on a vegan diet, but there are lots of supplements to be found in wellness stores, like Holland and Barrett.
However, be careful with what type of supplements you buy - the quality of the supplement is key to making sure your body can absorb the B12. Taking a B12 supplement is not only important for people on a plant-based diet though but for meat-eaters as well.
Research shows that 39% of people eating meat are also deficient in B12. A reason could be that animals, as well as humans, get B12 from healthy soil, but because a lot of farmed animals are caged or simply never get to feed on nutritious soil, they don’t get in contact with B12 in the same way they used to. To make sure the meat still contains B12, farmers have started to give supplements directly to the animals - the majority of B12 supplements produced are actually made for farmed animals. As mentioned in the documentary Game Changers, the best way to make sure you get a healthy amount of B12 is to cut out the middleman (in this case the animals) and start taking a good quality supplement.
Recipes you need to try...
Lucy, our People and Sustainability Manager - and also one of the full-time vegans at the BLANC office - was kind enough to share some of her best and easiest vegan recipe tips to cook. Lucy: Two years of plant-based eating got me back to cooking from scratch. I have a subscription to Riverford’s veg box which is what decides what I make on a weekly basis.
I have a few recipes that I usually get back to week on week, but if I receive a bit of unusual veg that I wouldn’t pick up from a supermarket shelf, a recipe index always comes with the box. There is always something on there that sounds really tasty.
Here are my go-to plant-based recipes:
1. Once a week I cook a one-pot pasta, a recipe I got from The Happy Pear that I adapt to whatever veg I have in the fridge.
3. For those nights I don’t feel like cooking, I will put together a jacket potato and fancy beans. A can of kidney beans and chopped tomatoes, paprika, chilli and then add any veg that you like. Spinach, onions and carrots would normally do for me.
4. To end on a sweet note, I recently made this lemon cake and it was absolutely delicious.
You can take a look at some vegan restaurants in your area for some inspiration too - if you’re London based, there is probably one in your neighbourhood!