Food

Going vegan for January – Veganuary

Vegan chocolate from Raw Chocolate Pie

Vegan chocolate from Raw Chocolate Pie

I have been vegan for four days now. It’s not a permanent lifestyle choice, more something I wanted to do to satisfy my curiosity. I know a few vegans and they seem to be happy, healthy souls who eat nice food with a clear conscience.

Like lots of people I’ve decided to try going a month without any animal products in my diet – I’m joining some 50,000 others in doing ‘Veganuary‘.

Awful name, but great concept, so stick with me!

As a lapsed vegetarian who once earned the nickname ‘the vegan’ while on a holiday with die-hard carnivores, I don’t imagine renouncing all animal products for one month to be too hard. Instead I’m hoping it will force me into taking more time to prepare my food, think about what I eat and making healthier, more nutritious choices. Not difficult after a few weeks of Christmas indulgence, but putting my own needs first seems like something I don’t often do when it comes to food.

I’m a single parent whose main role in the kitchen is to serve up meals which appeal to two children and to me. I rarely have time to prepare two separate dinners, so end up making food which my kids will eat but can be adapted for me – usually by adding more veggies. It usually ends up being pretty plain and unadventurous.

Shopping order for veganuary

Lentil dahl made by me

The meals that everyone likes are chilli, pasta with pesto or passata, chicken and cous cous, anything with oven chips, toasties and baked beans. Ok, so I know the last two are not strictly meals but they are quick crowd pleasers.

When my husband was here (if you’re new to my blog, Roger very sadly passed away in 2015) he did most of the cooking. He was a vegetarian, a great cook and an organised shopper – and to be honest I’m not really any of these things. But I’m trying!

I should also add that I’m only trying the food side of being vegan, I’m not ready to give up leather shoes just yet and I am still taking my daily omega 3 and fish oils. Oh and alcohol – well I know some alcohol is not vegan-friendly but I haven’t really checked that out yet, instead taking a more ‘head in the sand’ approach to the booze aspect. Dry January, this is not!

Peeled veg

Let’s cut to the chase as I know you’ll be thinking – what have I actually eaten?

Breakfast

Porridge made with almond milk and frozen rasperries. I usually have this anyway but with skimmed cow’s milk, and found I really liked the sweetness of almond milk in porridge.

Toast and peanut butter.

Lunch

Pasta salad made with fresh veg and a small amount of vegan cheese.

Jacket potato and hummus.

Pitta bread with vegan cheese.

Homemade vegetable soup.

Dinner

Lentil dahl with rice (one of my favourite recipes anyway, and the kids like it)

Pasta with vegan-friendly pesto and tomato sauce, sweetcorn and a veg sausage (Fry’s Family, which I’ve never tried before but it was nice, and again the kid loved it).

Roasted vegetables (red onion, sweet potato, pepper, garlic, tomato) with cous cous.

Vege-burger style small patties called Biona Little Stars, which I bought to appeal to Sam and Flo, with cous cous and some slow-cooked black turtle beans.

Snacks and desserts

Stewed plums.

Fruit – satsumas, bananas, apples, raspberries.

Vegan marshmallows (these are so good but cost a fortune, £3 for a small bag!)

Vegan chocolate made by a Cornish firm called Raw Chocolate Pie, which was amazing. Really dark and rich tasting.

Nakd fruit and nut bars – the cashew is a personal favourite.

Stewed plums

So far it has been pretty similar to my usual diet, only when I’m being good and not snacking on biscuits and chocolate between meals. I usually eat the fruit, but with a Milky Way chaser, you know what I mean?

On my last working day of the year I spent my lunch break browsing a health food shop in Leeds, picking up a few things to help keep me on track from New Year’s Day. My usual cure for a late night is a boiled egg and toast, so I knew I had to be prepared! I stocked up on some Vegan-friendly milk, butter (or should I say spread), cheese, milk and (ahem) chocolate.

So far I have found the Suma Soya Spread to be really good, just as tasty as butter, and the Violife cheddar ‘flavour’ cheese much nicer than I imagined. What on earth is vegan cheese made from you might ask. Well, it seems it’s mostly coconut oil, water and flavouring, but for me it’s better than going without and I am actually growing quite fond of it.

The tofu sausages you can see in the photo I didn’t buy, they just amused me. I’m sure my son would devour them, real meat or not.

Tofu sausages

The milk, well that is a minefield. I started with the almond milk, which is great in porridge but not so great in tea. I am getting used to it, but I think as I like my tea fairly pale I need to add more of the almond milk than I would the usual dairy.

I’ve been told that oat milk is good in tea, as is soya and Koko dairy free milk, so these are on my list to try too.

Coffee I have been drinking black which I like anyway so I haven’t really missed milk there.

I listened to an interview on BBC 5 Live today in which Clea Grady from the Veganuary campaign said: ‘It’s a marathon not a sprint – it’s about intention – not perfection’.

That kind of made me feel better about the odd glass of (probably) non-vegan wine.

She also spoke about how you could easily be a ‘junk food vegan’, which sounded like the ultimate put-down to me but I did see where she was coming from. If you’re not careful, I could see how you could not be bothered to make your own healthy vegan food and live on toast, crisps (I’m sure some are vegan) and stodge. It does seem pretty high-carb, but there are so many ways of making your vegan diet an intensely healthy one too.

Beans and pulses for example are all great, as are foods like tofu and grains. So far for me it’s been about getting back to cooking real, tasty and nutritious food from scratch, and feeling good about it.

I’m trying to avoid posting too many photos of food on instagram, or talking about it too much to anyone who’ll listen. Honest! I don’t want to be preachy or a food bore, I just want to give it a go. If you have any tips or advice I would love to hear them.

I’ll update you soon,

Julia x

PS My children are definitely not going vegan for January, but I’m trying to get them to try some more foods along the way.

Fiona Little stars, beans and cous cous

Mini bananas from Marks and Spencer

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Paul Cockerton
    January 5, 2017 at 2:55 am

    Nice one Julia.

    I’m also trying Veganuary, though only committing to the first week for now.

    My first impressions are that you really need to cook – it’s easy just grabbing a sandwich of takeaway when you’re eating meat or even veggie, but there are very options for vegans. Though there are some!

    So it’s going to be a good exercise to get me to cook more often.

    I’ve definitely also eaten more fruit and veg and less processed stuff.

  • Reply
    Megan - Truly Madly Kids
    January 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I’m a week day vegetarian (Much to my carnivore husband’s disgust!) and I did it as meat isn’t great for the environment. I do find it tricky finding new recipes that are quite easy to get together and don’t contain eggs and cheese! Will be watching your journey with interest, and good luck!!

  • Reply
    Anne
    January 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    What a great thing to try. I’d be quite happy to live without meat or fish, but I’d find it hard to give up dairy too. Milk yes, but I love cheese and eggs. I love tofu and we often have that, also qourn, but I live with a big family and they are all meat eaters so it’s difficult cooking separate meals. I have Vegan friends and we recently had a ‘night in’ at mine. I managed to find lots of Vegan snacks, even Rocky Road! We drank mostly vodka with melon juice, but I think drinks are ok so long as they don’t have additives and you have to be careful what you mix them with. I’m not expert though. Good luck with the rest of the month x

  • Reply
    Natalie
    January 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    I am impressed Julia. Good work! I thought about trying this but wasn’t sure how easy it would be to do whilst also on Slimming World, so that was as far as the idea went! I am however a vegetarian and have had thoughts about incorporating a vegan meal into my meal planned week. Good luck with the rest of Veganuary! xx

  • Reply
    Vicki
    January 5, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    You are off to an incredible start Julia – much better that when I went Vegan. John was the main man in the kitchen in our house but because I was championing going Vegan I felt like I needed to step up and cook more and 4 years later I’m still learning & quite often still terrible at cooking.
    A few things I can recommend is the Tesco Free From Soft Cheese – delicious on crackers etc as a cheeky snack with wine, Aldi do incredible affordable dark chocolate. Quinoa is a fab complete protein and if you cook a big batch you can add it to so many meals, like curry, salads, I even substitute pasta for it in most dishes.
    I always carry snacks like banana’s, nuts, rice cakes and hummus makes everything taste amazing. Let me know if you need anything xx

  • Reply
    Everything Mummy
    January 5, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Well done hun I tired it for a week and lasted two days so you have beaten me already! I would love to know what you think of vegan cheese, I’ve heard such mixed reviews? x
    Everything Mummy recently posted…Designer Wood Watch from JORDMy Profile

  • Reply
    Hayley @hayleyfromhome
    January 6, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    We talked about doing it again this year and in the end I wasn’t prepared and we still had too much cheese left..haha, I do think it’s great though. We still have almond and soya milk four years later after doing ‘veganary’ (I don’t think it was called that then) I made my own vegan brownies (with black beans but they are surprisingly good) and vegan banana bread for snacks and I do think it made us think more about what we eat. Sounds like your doing great Julia, I was never going to be a full time vegan but I’d think a good 80% of my diet is vegan now…when I’m being good of course and not eating the kids selection boxes. I like that ‘it’s about intention’ quote, looking forward to seeing how you find the month! xx
    Hayley @hayleyfromhome recently posted…2017 – Come What MayMy Profile

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