Make the Change to Veganism Beyond Veganuary
The reduction in eating animal products has increasingly gained popularity over the years due to a variety of reasons. A significant amount of people credit their shift to improving health, wanting to lose weight, animal welfare, environmental concerns or completing Veganuary.
So, what is Veganuary? It is a trend that began in 2014 and seeks to promote and educate people about veganism. The term Veganuary is simply a mash-up of vegan and January and challenges individuals to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January. Whatever the reason, the potential health benefits of following a plant-based diet are well-documented.
There is a positive correlation between eating no animal products and a reduction in diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Research suggests that the lower incidences of illness are due to a combination of eating little or no animal-based foods, and increased consumption of whole-foods, fruits and vegetables.
Plant-based foods are rich in phytochemicals, which are found in edible parts of a plant, especially the skin or peel. They give whole-foods, fruits and vegetables their bright colours (orange in carrots) aromas (nutty smell of coffee beans) and taste (bitterness in Brussels sprouts). There are thousands of different phytochemicals which work together to provide different health benefits. For example:
- Anthocyanins in berries are associated with lowering blood pressure.
- Carotenoids in red, orange, yellow, and green plants can reduce cardiovascular disease, and maintain immunity.
- Flavonoids in apples, berries, onions and soybeans can fight inflammation and tumour growth.
- Lutein in dark, leafy greens is linked to good eye health.
- Sulphides in onions, garlic, leeks and scallions can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Terpenes in cherries and citrus fruits can help slow cancer cell growth and fight viruses.
Although, following a vegan diet does not guarantee a prolonged life or weight loss. You can easily eat a meat-free diet that consists of high amounts of sugars, fats and salts and fake meats, which can lead to weight gain and illness. Eating varied plant-based foods is still the gold standard recommendation in terms of consuming the array nature’s medicines and reducing the risk of illnesses and maintaining good health.
Getting back to Veganuary. Here are 4 steps to Veganism Beyond Veganuary
- Slowly cut out meat.
Start by gradually cutting out red meat, then poultry, followed by seafood. There is no need to rush. Do it at a pace that suits you. An important point to make is that as you eliminate meat from your diet don’t just fill it with starchy foods. Try to introduce new recipes and explore different cuisines as you make these changes.
- Eliminate eggs.
After you cut out meat and poultry, you’ll be pescatarian (seafood). When you exclude seafood, you are a vegetarian. If you are eating eggs and dairy, you are a “Lacto-ovo” vegetarian. To take the next step in becoming a vegan you need to stop eating eggs and dairy. If scrambled eggs are your breakfast choice, try our Breakfast Tofu recipe. If you require eggs for baking purposes (binding, leavening, moisture, appearance) try mashed banana, applesauce, silken tofu or the variety of commercial egg replacements (Bob’s Red Mill, Ener-G and Organ) on the market.
- The gradual removal of dairy.
This tends to be the hardest step for most people because of the addictive nature of cheese. What makes cheese so addictive is the milk protein casein, when digested it converts to casomorphins. Casomorphins are opioids, belonging to the same addictive family of morphine and opium. If you suddenly stop eating cheese, you might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings. Try slowly weaning yourself off cheese and pick a few days where you’ll go without cheese. I suppose it helps that there are some good cheese alternatives (Yeast flakes and Tesco Free-from Range). Gradually, increase these days over a period of time and eventually you’ll be cheese-free!
- Eat whole-foods.
Ensuring you have whole-food cupboard essentials will prevent you from slipping back to eating non-vegan produce. Here is an essential shopping list:
Fruits: Berries, citrus fruits, peaches, pineapple.
Vegetables: Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale, peppers, tomatoes.
Starchy vegetables: Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, yams
Whole grains: Wholegrain rice, rolled oats, quinoa, bulgur wheat.
Healthy fats: Coconut oil, flaxseed, olive oil.
Legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, peas.
Seeds and nuts: Cashews, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, tahini, walnuts.
Plant-based kinds of milk: Almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk.
Spices, herbs and seasonings: Basil, black pepper, chilli, cumin, rosemary, thyme, turmeric.
Condiments: Lemon juice mustard, nutritional yeast, salsa, tomato puree.
Plant-based protein: Beans, nuts, peas, seitan, tofu.
In conclusion, if you want to make the transition beyond Veganuary you can make the change in small steps by taking time to absorb the new flavours and textures. Try and include more plant-based foods gradually cutting out potentially harmful unhealthy foods. Regardless if you can make it beyond Veganuary, including more plant-based foods in your weekly food choices is a sure way to maintain your health and reduce your risk to illness.
Don’t focus on what you are giving up, but on the new foods, you can enjoy!
It is crucial that healthy eating is maintained during exam time. The stress and lack of spare time can often result in bad food choices such as fast food and energy drinks that can be detrimental to your studies as they can leave you feeling sluggish and tired.
Following these simple steps can you achieve your maximum potential!
Don’t skip meals!
Keeping a steady supply of energy helps keep up your levels of concentration. Although being one of the smallest organs in your body- your brain uses 20% of your energy so it’s highly important to eat regularly.
After waking your body hasn’t had any food for several hours so breakfast is crucial as it gives your body the energy it needs to start the day.
Little planning and consideration are all it takes to help maintain healthy eating through the day.
While time is precious- choose healthy meals that are quick!
The key to healthy eating is balance, as there’s no single food that can provide you with all the essential nutrients.
During exam time this can often be overlooked as you may turn to fast foods or highly processed convenience foods with little or no nutritional value.
Here are some basic, easy meal plan ideas to get you through this busy period:
Always start with a glass of water and a small glass of fresh fruit juice.
–Our Oaty Fruit Rumbler
-Wholemeal toast topped with tinned tomatoes or beans.
-Wholegrain cereal with honey and frozen berries.
-Wholemeal toast with boiled or scrambled eggs followed by a piece of fruit.
-Porridge with chopped banana and honey.
–Quick butternut squash, carrot and sweet potato soup
-Jacket sweet potato with baked beans and cheese.
-Smashed avocado and cherry tomatoes on wholemeal toast.
-Vegetable stir fry with a protein source such as tofu or chicken.
-Veggie omelette with a side salad and wholemeal bread.
–Wholemeal pasta with a hidden veg tomato sauce and cheese.
-Homemade pizza with mozzarella and veggies served with potato wedges.
–Honey and oat energy balls.
-Mixed nuts with blueberries, raspberries, dark chocolate chips.
-Grapes with apple chunks.
-Veggies such as peppers, cucumber, carrot or celery sticks paired with a dip such as hummus, cottage cheese topped with chilli flakes or homemade guacamole.
Stay hydrated, aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water per day
Dehydration can make you feel irritable and tired. Worst of all, it highly affects your concentration which can be detrimental at exam time. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.
Try to reduce your consumption of caffeinated drinks eg. tea, coffee and of course energy drinks. Excess caffeine can upset our blood sugars which can affect your concentration levels, disrupt your sleep pattern and cause mood highs/lows.
-Frozen smoothie packs are affordable and nutritious!
-Tinned, dried and frozen veg all count towards your 5 a day.
-Turn off devices that will distract your studies.
-Adequate sleep is essential to keep your body functioning properly.