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How to go vegan this January and stay vegan for life

If you are thinking of taking the Veganuary pledge, how do you stick with it and continue the vegan pledge into the rest of the year and beyond? Some of the main reasons vegans cite for lapsing are dissatisfaction with food, health, social issues, inconvenience, as well as cost. Louise Palmer-Masterton from Stem & Glory is here to tackle each of these to make this Veganuary and beyond easy, with the art of the vegan sandwich, how to deal with cravings for meat and dairy and why protein is not what you’re craving; keep quiet about being vegan; seek out vegan restaurants; and stop buying processed vegan products (and what to use instead). Also included is an easy recipe for the VLT.

Vegan Lettuce and tomato club sandwich.
Stem & Glory Picnic VLT Vegan BLT ©Stem & Glory

How To Go Vegan This January And Stay Vegan For Life

During the 2021 Veganuary campaign, more than half a million people took the pledge to try a plant-based diet. Participants provide an impressive range of statistics:

· 98% of participants say they would ‘recommend Veganuary to others

· 40% of participants remain vegan after the month of January

· 75% of those who won’t be staying vegan say they will reduce their meat consumption by 50% or more.

That has a significant impact on both the actual reduction in consumption of animal products and the conversion of people to a flexitarian mindset, intentionally eating fewer animal products.

So, if you are thinking of taking the Veganuary pledge, how do you stick with it and perhaps continue the vegan pledge for the rest of the year and beyond?

Here are my top five tips:

1. Stop buying processed vegan products and fall in love with lentils!

There is a huge plethora of vegan processed products in the supermarkets now, almost all are highly processed, packed in plastic and quite expensive compared to animal products. Think about it, the meat and dairy industry is so massive, and demand for plant-based is still in its infancy, of course small independent plant-based producers cannot compete on price.

Whilst I do think vegan junk and plant-based meat and cheese does play a role in converting people to veganism, if you want to save money, stop buying it! British grown lentils and peas (yellow or Carlin peas not garden peas) grow well in the UK, cost around £4 a kilo. They are extremely versatile and nutritious and yellow peas in particular come as whole peas, split peas and pea flour and can be used in so many different ways from falafels to ‘meat’ balls, daal, and pancakes.

One cup of dried lentils or peas costs less than £1 and will feed four people. Buy these and your veggies from a local small or farm shop and you will save further, not only money, but also packaging. British farming needs and deserves our support. It’s not an exaggeration to say that farming more and more of these superfoods in the UK holds a lot of the answers to fixing UK agriculture.

Moving to wholefoods from processed products requires us all to just slow down. It’s convenience that drives processed and packaged foods, and in such a time-pressed society, it’s easy to default to grab and go. Building some time into your schedule for making your own lunch and cooking from scratch does require a change in your schedule, but it really doesn't need to be onerous.

2. Make yourself a decent vegan sandwich

I’ll be honest with you, it’s great that so many non-vegan establishments now offer more and more plant-based dishes, but for me the bar seems to have been set quite low in terms of taste, texture, and ingredients. Particularly in the grab and go sector. We don’t seem to have nailed the vegan sandwich. All too often the default is hummus and roasted veg, or the good old falafel (don’t get me started on what gets called a falafel and shouldn't be!).

My repertoire includes:

· Wholemeal bread with tofu ‘egg’ mayo, sun dried tomatoes, tamari toasted seeds.

· Bahn Mi - a crusty baguette with tamari tofu, mushroom pate, sriracha and crunchy pickle.

· Big Breakfast Bap - Large soft bap or burger bun with tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and a bit of cheeky mustard mayo.

· The legendary VLT - simple and delicious - soft bread, tempeh bacon, fresh tomato, lettuce and mayo.

· Crunch wrap - any leftover chilli or curry - in a wrap, with some fresh chopped spinach/avocado/tomato/ with the secret ingredient of some slightly crushed tortilla chips. Works hot or cold - wrap tightly and enjoy toasted or not.

3. If you start craving cheese/meat/dairy - do not assume your body is telling you to stop being vegan. Think about this: if you have been eating these products all your life and you suddenly cut them out, your body will react. You need to give it time. Craving meat or eggs for example is likely to be a craving for protein, so the solution is to eat a high protein vegan food such as tofu. Your average pork chop contains approximately 20g of protein. This is exactly the same amount of protein as 1/2 cup tofu, or 1 cup cooked beans.

Ask any vegan the most common question they get a