What is veganism?
So what does veganism or ‘going vegan’ mean? Well, veganism essentially means embracing a lifestyle that tries to eliminate all animal cruelty or exploitation. Therefore a vegan or a plant-based diet avoids all meat and seafood and other animal produced products, such as dairy, honey and eggs.
This lifestyle choice is becoming more and more popular all over the world, not only as a way of ensuring animal welfare, but also as a way of combating climate change and the impact humans are having on the environment. If managed properly, a vegan diet can also contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Have a look at our Veganuary tips for more information on this!
We all know that changing what you eat can be really difficult, so participating in Veganuary is a great way to get your head (and your stomach) around a whole new diet. Be inspired and sustained by fellow Veganuarians, as you learn to embrace a plant-based diet.
Stick to your favourites
Just because you’re eating vegan food, doesn’t mean you need to give up your favourite dishes. Adore mac and cheese? Try a vegan mac and cheese with cashew cream. Got a sweet tooth? Soothe the craving with a flourless chocolate cake. There are tons of delicious vegan options for all your favourite comfort foods.
Don’t turn down dinner dates
Don’t turn down an invite out because you’re eating vegan – your diet doesn’t have to impact your socialising. Lots of restaurants offer vegan dishes on their menu (you can find them over at Happy Cow), and even if they don’t, most are really accommodating, and can substitute items for you to make it vegan friendly.
Scope your local shops and cafés
If you’re in a pinch or simply don’t feel like cooking, it pays to know where you can easily pick up a vegan snack or a vegan meal. All the major supermarkets in the UK offer comprehensive pre-prepared vegan selections, from burgers to sausage rolls, pizzas to curries, so you can enjoy a full meal on short notice.
Discover a whole new world of ‘dairy’
One of the best things about going vegan is being introduced to all new and ridiculously tasty foodstuffs. You can try soy ice cream, oat milk coffee, coconut whipped cream, and almond milk cake – believe us when we say any foodie would be more than delighted by the milk substitutes on offer.
Visit an animal sanctuary
Animal rescue sanctuaries are a great pick me up if you feel like you’re struggling and need the motivation to keep going. Unlike zoos, sanctuaries rescue and rehabilitate local animals, and by visiting, not only do you help support their organisation, but you will be reminded why you’re participating in Veganuary.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you make a mistake, don’t worry! This is all new, and it will take time to adjust to. Veganuary is supposed to be about trial and error, and if you accidentally eat something you’re not supposed to, or fall of the wagon, be kind to yourself, as there’s always tomorrow to get it right.
Choose the right fats
Fat contains more than double the calories of carbs but all fats are not created equal. A low-fat label may not equate to healthier food, so check the label and choose foods low in saturated fats. “Better for you” fats are found in foods such as rapeseed oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Also, you need fat to absorb beta-carotene from fruit and vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes. So, enjoy a little olive oil dressing on salad as the oil will help your body make use of the beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A.
Read the small print
Processed foods with a vegan label may be packed with salt or added sugar. So, don’t automatically reach for a meal or snack that has a vegan label on it. Check out the small print for artificial ingredients, added salt and sugar. Also, think about whether there is extra goodness coming from the ingredients. (Perfect opportunity to tell you that our yummy LÄRABARS™ have no added salt or sugar and are made from only real ingredients).
Coconut oil is higher in saturated fats than butter or lard. Leading organisations recommend we cut down on our saturated fats. It’s fine to use it, just be mindful not to smother your food in coconut oil.
You need calories to build muscles. But people on vegan diets tend to have fewer calories as the diet is rich in high fibre veggies and pulses that fill you up. If you don’t have enough calories, your body will use protein for energy, so it won’t be available to help build muscles.
Nutrients such as biotin, selenium and zinc contribute to the maintenance of normal hair. You can easily get a supply of these nutrients from a varied vegan diet. Vegan sources of selenium include brazil nuts, mushrooms, beans and sunflower seeds. Get your zinc from breads, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals and nuts.
Using nutrition to stay energised
If your ‘get up and go’ just got up and went, it may be because you’re not getting enough iron. Without adequate iron, your body can't produce enough haemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells and is needed to carry oxygen. Thus, you can feel tired and out of breath.
The richest sources of iron are red meat and liver, but you can get iron from plant foods such as pulses, dark green vegetables, wholemeal bread, iron-fortified breakfast cereals and dried fruit, such as apricots.
Iron from plants is less well absorbed than iron from animal products. But, here are 3 quick and easy tips to help you get the best out of your vegan iron sources:
- Avoid drinking tea with any meal that contains iron. Tannins in tea reduce iron absorption from vegetarian meals, so wait an hour either side of your meal before having a cuppa.
- Have a source of vitamin C with your iron-containing meal to enhance absorption. For example, have a small glass of fruit juice when you eat dark green leafy veg, add a side salad to meals such as green mung dhal or vegan kidney bean chilli, or serve fresh citrus fruit after meals.
- Cooking a red lentil curry? Try using a cast iron wok as you can actually absorb some iron from cast iron pots and pans!
A good gut from good nutrition
You need calcium for normal functioning of your digestive enzymes and to maintain your bones and teeth. Missing out on dairy foods could compromise your calcium intake, so make sure you have enough of these foods:
- Greens such as kale, watercress, spring greens, pak choi
- Vegetables such as broccoli, okra
- Calcium-set tofu
- Fortified plant drinks
- Soy yogurt alternative
- Dried figs
Just like tea inhibiting absorption of iron from vegan meals, a substance called oxalates, which is found in spinach, rhubarb and beetroot, inhibits the absorption of calcium. So, make sure you choose a variety of the above foods to ensure your body is making maximum use of the nutrients in your diet. And take some time in the supermarket to check labels and buy calcium-fortified daily alternatives and calcium-set tofu. A 200ml glass of fortified soya drink will give you about a third of your daily calcium needs.
Getting your Omegas
We all need a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. One of the richest sources of omega-3 fats is oily fish, and you get omega-6 fats from oils such as corn oil and sunflower oil and seeds such as hemp and sunflower seeds, and walnuts. If you’re eating a varied vegan diet, you’re probably getting more than enough omega-6 fats. Because you need to keep these fats in your diet delicately balanced, it’s better to avoid very rich sources of omega-6 fats and instead choose oils like rapeseed (often called vegetable oil, check the label) instead of corn or sunflower oil.
Your body can convert the vegan omega-3 fat called ALA into the type of omega-3 fats that are found in oily fish (EPA and DHA). You can find ALA in chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil. Speak to a registered dietitian if you want to know if you need to take a supplement.
Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, which is important for heart health and metabolism, as well as for foetal brain development during pregnancy. The World Health Organization now classes the UK as mildly deficient in iodine. Over a third of the iodine we eat comes from milk and dairy foods, so a vegan diet can be low in iodine.
Seaweed is a rich source of iodine but too much of a good thing is not necessarily good for you and the amounts in seaweed are variable, so you may find you’re having too much if you regularly include seaweed or kelp in your diet. Best to make sure you choose fortified sources of milk alternatives so you’re getting some iodine daily.
Top up your B12
You will need to take a supplement of vitamin B12 as it is mainly found in foods of animal origin. Yeast is a natural non-animal source of vitamin B12, so you will get some from yeast extract and vitamin B12 savoury flakes which you can add to soups and stews. Vitamin B12 is also added to many fortified breakfast cereals and to some dairy alternatives.
Plant Based Protein Power
The science behind protein power
Protein helps muscle growth and is needed for normal bone maintenance. All proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. Nine of these are essential, which means the body can’t manufacture these amino acids and so we must get a supply of them from food. High quality proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids. The digestibility of a protein is also an important aspect of its quality.
Animal-based proteins are more digestible than plant-based sources, which means that the protein from meat and dairy foods is typically more “bio-available” to your body than that from some plant-based foods. So, when you’re planning plant-based meals, consider getting a good mix of healthy foods to get the best power from your protein.
Planning your proteins
A varied vegan diet can give you all the essential amino acids you need. High quality proteins include soy, mycoprotein (QuornTM), chickpeas, beans, lentils and nuts. Make sure you always have a protein source at each meal. Simply having soups and salads that are oozing with colourful vegetables might sound virtuous but they won’t necessarily give you enough protein.
Check out this protein chart adapted from the British Nutrition Foundation: the higher up on the list the greater the protein content per 100 grams.
- Other nuts
- Whole wheat
- Chick peas
- Red lentils
- Wholemeal or white bread
- Kidney beans
More Ideas for your Vegan Lifestyle
What Is Veganuary?
Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that started a campaign in 2014 with the primary aim of encouraging and supporting people to try a vegan diet for the month of January. Every year, participation in this event grows, and in 2019, more than a quarter of a million people pledged to go vegan for January.
Veganuary for LÄRABAR™ doesn’t just represent one month, it is something that represents our brand values all year round. Our bars were founded almost 20 years ago from the passion of creating delicious, vegan snacks that are made from just a few, simple ingredients for everyone to enjoy.
We know making better choices throughout January isn’t always easy – especially with the cold weather and post-Christmas blues. Thankfully with LÄRABAR™, we can have more moreish deliciousness instead of less. Because, not only is LÄRABAR™ a vegan food - it's also ridiculously tasty.
What we’re doing:
That’s why at LÄRABAR™ we want to make it the most joyful month of the year, and support everyone in embracing a plant-based lifestyle.
For the next month, everyday we’ll be bringing you the best tips, sharing real experiences and offering great rewards available to everyone across our website and Instagram page, so don’t miss a day!
Together, let’s make Veganuary moreish!
If you’ve decided to continue being vegan after Veganuary, you may be feeling the need to veganise the rest of your life. This is great, but take baby steps. Replace your items, like toiletries and leather goods, over time so you don’t feel too overwhelmed, financially or emotionally.
There are a whole host of incredible vegan cookbooks that would make even the fussiest foodie happy. From fifteen-minute meals, to lavish gourmet dishes and guilty fast food treats, there’s a vegan cookbook for every craving, and they are well worth your time.
If you know you’re going to be socialising with friends and family members that aren’t vegan, you can be pro-active and choose the restaurant or bar. Many will cater to both vegans and omnivores, so everyone can have fun, and you won’t miss out.
Just like a gym buddy, a shopping pal, or a dungeons and dragons squad, friends make our lives better, and having vegan friends can really help you get to grips with your new diet. Swap tips, favourite vegan snack foods, and recipes with your new vegan tribemates.
Eat wise snacks like edamame, a handful of unsalted nuts, peanut butter on whole grain crackers or oat cakes, hummus with wholemeal pitta, no added sugar fruit and nut bars, lower sugar yogurt or fortified yogurt alternative and fresh fruit.
Check food labels
Check labels for dairy alternatives and choose those that are fortified in iodine, calcium and vitamin B12 if possible.
Vegan meal enhancements
Get into the habit of naturally enriching your meals with foods high in "good fats", such as avocado, almonds and other nuts, and seeds. Try adding them to salads or soups. Choose a good source of protein at each meal (e.g. beans, lentils, eggs, calcium-set tofu) and have some vitamin C with iron-containing vegan foods to enhance absorption.
Keeping it up in the long term
Support from friends and family can help to keep you motivated. You could exchange recipes, share successes and give each other a boost when your inspiration needs a helping hand. Make a list of your achievements and keep it handy. This could be a simple positive act like climbing up the stairs more often or avoiding a takeaway. However small it may seem to you, enjoy the success and note it down so when you are feeling low, you can look at your list and feel better.