6 top tips to stay vegan after Veganuary

Dominika Piasecka from The Vegan Society explains how to do your vegan New Year’s resolution right.

New Year’s resolutions are in full swing now, but not everyone sticks to them as rigidly as they’d like. If this year you’ve decided try veganism through Veganuary, it means you took up a resolution to not only benefit yourself but also others – and you hopefully want your January experiment to last forever.

We know that the average vegan lives longer than someone who eats animal products; that eating vegan can reduce your food-related emissions by up to 50%; and of course that vegans don’t contribute to the exploitation of billions of animals worldwide. Going vegan is predicted to be the biggest food trend in 2018, meaning more people than ever are now embracing the challenge.

Celebrities like will.i.am, Jermain Defoe and Lewis Hamilton have recently gone vegan, making fans wonder why they chose this compassionate way of living despite having the money to spend on anything they like. Tesco has just launched a full vegan lunch range while Starbucks is offering not one but three plant milks. No more excuses that vegan living is difficult!

Being vegan can be extremely rewarding when done right – so here are my tips how to make this happiness last.

1. Experiment and keep it exciting

The world of vegan food is more exciting than most people think – it’s an amazing opportunity to build on what you consider as food and learn new recipes. As meat-eaters, we probably took food for granted and simply saw it as part of our daily routine but when you go vegan, every new vegan product that comes out will give you unexplainable joy.

If you’re not a cooking type, don’t worry because there are plenty of ready-made quick vegan meals available too. Make sure to look into supermarket frozen sections for burgers and sausages; refrigerated sections for lunch on the go and meat alternatives; and snack isles for a wide range of vegan friendly products.

On your next trip to the supermarket, why not look out for soya milk instead? You can gradually try all the different brands to find your favourite – it will take a while because there are lots of options these days but it’s an exciting experiment. If you don’t like soya or want a change, try almond, coconut, oat, hemp, hazelnut or rice milk next.

2. Make it easy for yourself

Some people see going vegan as a challenge because they think it involves learning a whole lot of new recipes and using a range of new ingredients they don’t have the time to find. But there is a simple and fun shortcut to going vegan – you can just replace the few non-vegan ingredients in your recipes to still enjoy the good old favourites.

You probably don’t realise this, but you actually eat a lot of vegan food already. The toast and porridge you have in the morning, the pasta salad or crunchy wrap you munch on at lunch, or the bean chili or vegetable stew you serve for dinner may already be vegan – or at least contain a good number of vegan ingredients.

Let me tell you this: anything you eat can be made vegan. There are cruelty-free, delicious alternatives to anything you can think of from dairy-free spreads, to plant milk and yogurt, to vegan meat alternatives and cheeses. Becoming a vegan isn't about limiting or depriving yourself so make sure you start by replacing animal products; after a couple of weeks it will become as natural as anything.

3. Learn ingredient swapping tricks

Whether at home, at a friend’s, or eating out, meals can often be easily veganised by removing one or two ingredients, or replacing them with their vegan counterparts. It’s handy to know what and how to do this, so here are some ideas:

  • Swap the cheese on pizza for vegan cheese (available in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Holland & Barrett) and top with lots of vegetables and olives
  • Swap meat, fish or paneer in a curry for chickpeas or lentils
  • Cashew nuts can be used to add protein and flavour to stir-fried vegetables and rice noodles
  • Dairy-free spread (such as Flora Dairy-free, Pure or Vitalite) and soya milk can be used to make mashed potatoes creamy
  • Try houmous instead of butter in sandwiches
  • Vegetable soup can be served with a swirl of soya cream, or for an indulgent option, you can create one using coconut milk
  • Garlic bread can be created using dairy-free spread or olive oil
  • Dairy-free spread and other vegetable fats can be used in baking, and there are many foods that can replace eggs, including banana, jam, apple sauce and tofu
  • A lot of ready-made roll-out pastry is accidentally vegan. If you glaze it using soya milk, the dish can easily be turned vegan.

4. Know where to eat out

There’s a good chance these days that the outlet you’re visiting already has vegan options but check online if it’s your first time there. If they don’t have anything exciting, the chef should be happy to prepare something special for you. Make sure to call in advance and request this to make things easier.

Travelling or new to the city? Just download the app HappyCow - an online directory of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, cafés, shops and more - or check their website.

Indian and oriental (particularly Thai and Chinese) cuisines are most likely to be rich in vegan options. Being nice to the waiter and explaining what you’re expecting from them can go a long way. Can you spot a menu item that’d be it vegan if it wasn’t for one or two ingredients? Ask them to swap or eliminate it for you and voila, you’ve created yourself a vegan meal. Don’t forget to check all the side dishes too – some may be real gems.

Zizzi, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express serve pizzas topped with vegan cheese, with the former sporting a huge vegan menu, while Carluccio’s, Bella Italia, Prezzo and ASK Italian all provide great options. Wagamama has recently launched an exciting new vegan menu. Even McDonald’s has a vegan burger in case you’re stuck in the middle of the night with nothing to eat – just remember to ask for no mayo.

In terms of pubs, Wetherspoons paves the way with its dedicated vegan menu, followed by Loungers, Harvester, Cosy Club, Sizzling Pubs, and even the meat-heavy places like Toby Carvery and Beefeater.

Subway, YO Sushi, Wasabi, LEON and Bagel Nash are all great for lunch. If you’re looking for something more standard, head to Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, The Co-op, WH Smith or Boots as they all offer vegan wraps and sandwiches.

All major cafés and the majority of the independent ones provide plant milk.

5. Make vegan friends

Whether it’s in real life, through Facebook groups, apps, or local vegan meet-ups, making friends with similar interests is important. Why not reach out to that person who keeps posting vegan food on Instagram? They may even be happy to introduce you to their vegan friends circle.

If you want to be a little more pro-active, you can try searching for local meet-ups and surfing through forums, posting information about the vegan buddy you’re looking for. After all, who best to exchange recipes, ideas and talk about vegan problems with!

6. Find help online

Vegans are a very welcoming and helpful bunch, always ready to answer all the difficult questions or vegan dilemmas. There are online forums and Facebook groups to join - it’s a good idea to search Facebook for a local group in your area, e.g. ‘vegan London’.

There are also a number of great challenges to take and even if you’re already vegan, you can often learn from them. Sign up for free to The Vegan Society’s 30 Day Vegan Pledge at www.vegansociety.com/pledge and you will receive an email every day with tips, advice and vegan recipes to help you ease into vegan living.

By Dominika Piasecka, The Vegan Society

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