Lakeland’s guide to veganuary

Move over dry January, Veganuary has taken over! Whether you want to fully embrace veganism, try it for a month to undo the indulgences of the festive season or are simply curious as to what it’s all about, read on. We have everything you need, from hints and tips to cookbooks and ingenious kitchen tools to help you create deliciously nutritious meat-free meals.

What is Veganuary?
A good question! Veganuary is a movement, and a charity, that encourages people to try out veganism for the month of January, and then permanently if the fancy takes them. Veganuary began in 2014, with 3,300 people signing up worldwide; by 2016, there were 23,000 participants; 59,500 in 2017, and a staggering 168,000 in 2018. This year, the charity have estimated that at least 300,000 will sign up, with perhaps 10 times that amount of people trying veganism for a month without officially signing up. That’s a huge jump, showing just how popular veganism is becoming in the mainstream. And with more and more restaurants introducing vegan-friendly menus and supermarkets providing a wider range of vegan products than ever before, it’s never been easier to follow a vegan diet.

Why go vegan?
People choose to go vegan for many reasons, with the main motivations being animal welfare, the environment and their health. If it’s not a permanent lifestyle choice you want to make, or you’re just curious to give it a go, a vegan diet is a great way to detox following the excess of heavy food consumed over the festive period. For those looking to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases, or wanting to improve their health, part-time veganism has become very popular, with people taking on a vegan diet for a certain day of the week, or particular weeks or months of the year. And since January is traditionally the time of fresh starts and resolutions, it’s the ideal time to give it a go.

Is vegan food bland?
Definitely not! Vegan food has a bad rep for being difficult to prepare, or bland and boring, but this is far from true. Katy Beskow’s 15 Minute Vegan is packed full of delicious, flavourful recipes to ensure meal times are never dull, with suggestions for breakfast, light bites, main meals and desserts. The best part? They all use ingredients you’re likely to have at home, you can easily switch the vegetables suggested for ones you might want to use up and each dish should take only 15 minutes to prepare – amazing! They’re super-delicious too – even the meat eaters in our office wanted to take the book home to give the recipes a try. There’s indulgent comfort food like Butternut Squash and Sage Macaroni, perfect for the end of a busy day, or Sweet and Sour With Cashews for a vegan twist on a takeaway favourite. The book includes an array of sweet treats too, with scrumptious Traditional Sultana Scones, a decadent Salted Chocolate Mousse and the uniquely delicious Raspberry, Rose and Pistachio Crumble. If you’re worried about the extra time spent preparing so many veggies, we have a wide range of spiralizers and choppers to help you whizz through that chopping and prepping in no time.

What about cheese?
If you’re thinking it might be too difficult to try a diet without cheese (a fair concern!), you needn’t worry about depriving yourself, as there are many vegan cheeses available. And making your own couldn’t be easier with Mad Millie’s Vegan Cheese Kit, which enables you to make a wide variety of cheese, including soft and firm mozzarella, halloumi, marinated feta, ricotta, cream cheese and even mascarpone. So fear not, you can still enjoy joyous foodie treats like fried halloumi, creamy mascarpone pasta sauces and pizza, as well as having the satisfaction of creating your own cheese.

Will I get enough protein on a vegan diet?
One of the biggest worries people have when considering a vegan diet is lack of protein (often gained from meat and eggs as part of a traditional diet), as well as lack of calcium (from dairy), iron (usually from red meat) and vitamin B12 (from meat). There are many vegan-friendly sources of protein, the best being legumes and tofu, both of which also provide generous amounts of iron. If you’re new to the world of tofu, this wonderfully versatile food is made from soy bean curd and comes in a variety of forms. Bursting with goodness, tofu is low in calories and rich in iron, calcium and protein as well as other nutrients, making it a great choice not only for vegans but everyone – check out Lucy Bee’s delicious Tofu Stir-Fry with Kelp Noodles & Asian Greens for inspiration. Other sources of calcium include leafy greens, while many dairy-free milks are fortified with calcium too. Vitamin B12 is trickier – it’s vital for healthy blood cells and nerve function, but the only natural source is meat. The good news is that our liver stores vitamin B12 and it takes a long time for our reserves to run low, so if you are simply partaking in Veganuary, you will be fine. However, if you are planning to make a more permanent change, you will need to take a supplement to avoid becoming vitamin B12-deficient.

What are the benefits of a vegan diet?
Some people who have tried or converted to a vegan diet have reported improved skin, weight loss and more energy; this is likely due to a decrease in saturated fats and an increase in vitamin and mineral intake. In an omnivorous diet, meat is often the centrepiece of a meal, with the remaining ingredients a side show. Take away the meat and you become more creative, and naturally eat more fruit and veg, adding a wider range of vitamins and minerals to your diet. However, it is important to remember that a vegan diet doesn’t automatically mean a healthier diet – many varieties of crisps, as well as chips and pasta, are vegan, but if you only ate them you certainly wouldn’t be healthy! It’s all about getting your fruit, veg, seeds and grains in, which should exist in any healthy, balanced diet.

So good luck this Veganuary. You’ll find plenty of recipe ideas here on our blog should you need some extra inspiration, but why not share your own vegan creations with us? We’d love to see what you’ve cooked up this January – and beyond!