We are halfway through January and, as always, it’s the month for resolutions, healthy habits, fresh ideas and reforming our December selves. I’m not really a fan of January resolutions, but something I am a huge fan of is Veganuary!
The plant-based-for-a-month initiative has taken the world by storm, recently gracing the front pages of the Guardian and securing high-profile celebs such as Vivienne Westwood to take on a month of vegan eating. It’s a fantastic concept that apparently keeps 50% of participants vegan.
Here at Vilda, we are passionate about cruelty-free living and believe that, with the right guidance, anyone can easily stay vegan for life. As it’s both a new year and the month of Veganuary, today we wanted to share some tips and guidance from seasoned vegans about how to make the most of your plant-based month and, hopefully, stay the adventure long beyond January 31st.
So, whether your a seasoned veggie or dipping your toes into Veganuary, here are some healthy, sustainable tips that will keep you inspired to stay on your plant-based adventure long after January 31st.
1) Whole foods are your best friend
The downfall of every new vegan: Oreos, vegan peanut butter ice cream, sourdough bread slathered with peanut butter, vegan brownies… I could go on and on. These foods are delicious and I am so happy they exist. But mark my words – you do NOT want to rely on these products. These are treats. Do not replace chicken breast with chips and tomato sauce. Do not replace cheese with vegan mayonnaise. Replace your meats with vegetables, grains, potatoes and greens. Replace cheese with toasted almonds, flaxseeds and salads. Make the majority of your foods wholesome fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds. This is the key to success for staying vegan, not just engaging in a fad. If you want all those benefits people talk of – high energy, glowing skin, great digestion – you have to create a relatively clean diet for yourself. Not to worry, there is still room for brownies; just not every day. Also, make sure you’re supplementing vitamin B12.
2) Get in fast and pick the restaurants!
An enormous barrier for people going vegan is eating out in restaurants. “What about my social life?! What about going out with friends?”. Well, I assure you this is nowhere near as hard as it seems. I have been vegan for nearly five years and so rarely have I been out in a restaurant with NOTHING that I could eat. My first tip would be to try and pick the restaurant yourself. Get in first and suggest where to go. Your friends will probably be relieved because most people don’t like planning. Pick a place you know has good vegan options, but also serves great food for everyone. If this fails and you end up in the complete unknown, here are five easy steps:
- Menu scouting. The best case scenario is that there IS a vegan option. Usually there will be if if you live in a city and the restaurant is remotely good.
- Menu scouting take two. Okay, there’s no vegan options. Now check for “accidentally vegan options”. Can you take the cheese and dressing off the salad? Take the cheese off the veggie burger? Ask for the soup without the cream drizzle finish?
- Check the side dishes. Sides are my best friend – ‘ I’ll take the bread and olive oil please, with the seasoned greens and the butternut wedges?’ – and everyone ends up jealous.
- Make friends with the waiter. Be honest. Say you’re vegan and ask if there is anything they can do for you. If you’re nice, polite, warm and friendly, they will usually be nice back. Don’t be entitled. Be nice.
- Okay that’s it, you tried everything and there’s no vegan food. I can’t believe this would ever happen (it never has to me) order a black coffee and get excited about grabbing a falafel wrap on the way home. Have a great time with your friends and request an Indian restaurant next time.
3) Avoid eating late at night
Late-night eating should always be a last resort. It’s a cliche, but I highly recommend finishing dinner a good three hours before going to bed. Lying in bed full and still digesting will interrupt your sleep and sleep is as important for you as good food. Eat nice and early, eat a satisfying amount and then get into bed a good few hours later. Happy body, happy belly, happy sleep.
4) EAT ENOUGH!
Please, please, please, please if you’re going to be vegan, make sure you eat enough food. No piddly portions, no teeny salads for dinner, no piece of fruit for breakfast. NO. If you are a woman, you need about 2000 calories a day. This isn’t a rule, it’s a guideline. Everyone’s body is different, but most young women need about 2000 calories a day to stay active, awake and healthy. When it comes to vegan foods, that’s a lot of eating! Eat nice heaping bowls of porridge with fruit, have big salads with avocado and good starches like potatoes. Have big dinners with plenty of beans and veggies and pasta. These foods will only do you good and you have to make sure you eat enough of them.
5) Ponder your liquid calories
Do you love a beer? Love a night out with the girls downing bottles of wine? I know I do sometimes. Well, I have good news and bad news. Bad news is: a lot of alcohol is not vegan. Good news is? A lot of alcohol is not vegan. This simple fact makes it very easy to have a dry(ish), healthier lifestyle. There is vegan alcohol out there and it’s not hard to find – most organic wines are guaranteed to be vegan, most ciders and some spirits – so don’t worry that your drinking days are over. For info on which alcohols are vegan, check Barnivore. But drinking should definitely not be a regular habit in any healthy lifestyle. Alcohol is high in calories, makes us drowsy, kills off cells and much, much more. For your January, try to be careful with your liquid calories. Drink all the water, juices, smoothies and herbal teas you desire, but be more careful with alcohol, cut out sugary soft drinks completely and maybe even watch the caffeine too. I love coffee, but I know that for a healthier lifestyle, I’m sharper and better without it.
If you are trying Veganuary and having any struggles, cravings or difficulties please don’t hesitate to reach out @vildamagazine or @oopsimavegan for help and advice. Veganism can be a life-changing journey, the best decision of your life. If you are finding it difficult, feeling low on energy or having doubts about the validity of this cause, never hesitate to reach out to our compassionate community and ask for help.
To sign off – here is my favourite breakfast recipe.
3 large ripe bananas (yes three!)
1/2 cup of soft pitted dates
1 tbsp organic peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup soy/almond milk
Blend together and devour! You can have a little more/less milk depending on the consistency you like. This smoothie will change your life. It’s incredible.