Top tips for Veganuary

By Kedesha Vassell and Madeleine Fowler

For many people, the Christmas holidays can be an indulgent period. We typically shop more, eat more animal products and consume more alcohol. January, is therefore seen as the ideal opportunity to reset, adopt healthier habits and challenge ourselves to do something we’ve never done before.

Veganuary has become a buzz word in recent years. Most of us would have heard of the term or seen it as a hashtag on social media. But what exactly is Veganuary? Veganuary is a non-profit organisation that encourages people to adopt a vegan diet for the month of January, with the aim of achieving sustained change to their lifestyle and eating habits in the long-run. A vegan diet consists of plant-based foods and excludes all foods that come from animals. Most of the nutrients you need, can come from a balanced vegan diet. Eating a plant-based diet can help to protect the environment, prevent animal suffering, and improve your overall health.

Here are some top tips for Veganuary:

Essential vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential in our diet, and they can be found in many different types of food. When going vegan or vegetarian, you have to remember to include certain vitamins and minerals that would typically be found in animal products. Calcium is generally found in dairy products such as cows milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter. Even though vegetarians still include these in their diet, vegans entirely cut out all animal products from their diet. Therefore they need to source it from elsewhere. Plant-based calcium can be found in fortified plant-based milks, tofu, dried fruits, broccoli and pulses. The recommendation for calcium is 700mg a day for 19 – 64 year-olds. For example, 100g of broccoli would give you 47mg of calcium, whereas tofu has 350mg in 100g. It is good to plan ahead when it comes to having a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Vitamin B12 is normally found in meat and fish. The recommendation is 2.4mg a day. Plant-based sources are rare but can be found in fortified products and yeast extract (marmite or nutritional yeast). This is the only vitamin you may have to supplement but always ask a dietitian for extra advice.

Iron is also an important mineral which helps produce haemoglobin allowing oxygen to be carried around the body to the muscles. The recommendation for men is 8.7mg a day and for women, its 14.8mg a day. This difference is due to iron losses during periods. If periods are particularly heavy, they may need more iron than this. Iron is found in high amounts in red meat. Some iron plant-based sources are green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, nuts, dried fruits, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Protein

Protein is a macronutrient meaning its needed in larger amounts in the diet. To work out your protein intake, you need to multiple your body weight in kgs by 0.75g (0.75g x bodyweight (kg)). Animal sources of protein consist of lean meats (chicken and turkey), dairy products (cheese and yoghurt), and eggs. Plant sources of protein included beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and tofu.

If at first you do not succeed try and try again

This is a big move. Do not be disheartened when you eat a piece of meat or have a cheese sandwich. It is tough to cut whole food types out of your diet completely, so take it slow. Plan for a setback and carry on.

Planning mode

If you are deciding to turn vegan or vegetarian for a month or forever, you need to plan to get there. You need to make sure you are having three meals a day, including all the nutrients above. Meal planning is the best way to include all your essential nutrients. Plan for a setback, how will you deal with it?

Set goals, for example, I am going to have three meat meals a week. That’s 3/21 meals that include meat or dairy a week. This allows you to gradually reduce the intake of meat until you don’t need it anymore.

Think about adding not removing

Keep focussed. Try to think about what you can add to your diet and enhance it rather than what you are removing. It’s not about restricting what your eating, it’s about opening your eyes to new foods.

For those of you who are trying out Veganuary, here are some more resources.

Resources:

References

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