Welcome to Veganuary

Veganuary began back in 2014 and the concept simply encourages people to try and adopt a vegan diet during the month of January. This feels perfectly timed, as we transition from the festive season, shifting our focus from indulgent, treat-filled fun to more nourishing food choices that support our health goals for the year ahead. If you are joining in for the first time and looking for inspiration and guidance, here are some useful nutrition-based tips to see you through the month.

How can veganism benefit my health?

Research shows that plant-based diets have been associated with supporting weight management, reducing inflammation, lowering the need for medications and reducing the risk of developing conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and imbalanced blood sugar levels. However, being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthily. Vegan junk food has also grown in popularity, and simply switching your meat for a ready-made and processed alternative doesn’t mean it’s a healthy choice. These ‘mock-meats’ can be full of additives, colourings, bulking agents and genetically modified and carcinogenic ingredients that can have an inflammatory and detrimental effect on the body. The reason a vegan diet is more likely to have a positive impact on your health is due to the increased intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans and pulses), nuts and seeds.

So, what should I eat instead?

If you typically build your meal around meat or fish, rather than replacing that food source with a ‘meat-free’ product, try using the following instead; swap mince in chillies for sweet potato and carrots, switch out meat in curries for cauliflower and chickpeas, top salads with falafel, roasted chickpeas or toasted pumpkin seeds (they taste a bit like bacon-bits), or create your meal around something meatier in texture like mushrooms, organic tofu, banana blossom or jackfruit.

Top tips:

It’s good to plan ahead and stock up on recipes so that you’re not trying to think of something to make last minute while a growling stomach relentlessly protests. Google websites for recipe inspiration and buy the ingredients ahead of time so you have everything you need.

Take an inventory of your cupboards and see what you already have in stock, especially tins of legumes, or herb and spices you may not have used for a while. Seasoning can make or break a vegan dish.

Experiment with different milks and cheeses. Plant-based milks taste very different from each other; oat milks are quite creamy, almond milk can taste nuttier and coconut tastes, well, like coconut! Try a few and see which one you prefer. The same goes with vegan cheeses. The coconut-based ones can sometimes taste a bit synthetic. I would personally recommend Nush, an almond-based cream cheese or Mouse’s Favourite for a cashew-nut based version of Camembert. 

Am I missing vital nutrients?

A plant-based diet can potentially lead to deficiencies of some nutrients including B12, Zinc and Omega 3. Boost your intake by eating the following foods, either by incorporating them into your meals or having as snacks. Flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts are full of anti-inflammatory omega 3, while pumpkin seeds, legumes, radishes, artichokes and onions contain immune boosting zinc. When it comes to B12, look for fortified foods such as marmite or plant-based milks. Alternatively, it is recommended to supplement B12 daily to help keep your levels optimal. Sublingual (under the tongue) is best as it bypasses the stomach, meaning you absorb it faster. Iodine is also crucial for vegans as it plays an intricate role in the proper functioning of the thyroid and a deficiency could lead to thyroid issues later. Food sources of iodine include sea vegetables like kelp, dulse and nori as well as spirulina.

Should I be worried about my protein intake?

The short answer is no.  Protein has become something of a food industry buzz word convincing the consumer that they need more of it. Unfortunately, a high-protein diet can equate to a high-fat diet, and even though protein can be satiating you are likely getting adequate amounts, without reaching for the protein powder. There are healthier alternatives of protein including green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables, and even though their protein content isn’t as high as other foods, they are packed full of critical nutrients and contain good amounts of protein relative to their calorie content. 

Spirulina is a nutrient-dense, blue-green algae that is not only a powerful multi-vitamin and rich in antioxidants but also helps the body detox heavy metals. It also happens to be full of protein with 57g protein per 100g. It is best added to smoothies to disguise its potent ‘pond-like’ taste or add a teaspoon to coconut water and drink quickly! Oats are considered a carbohydrate, but they are also a quality source of protein (higher than other grains) with 17g protein per 100g. Where possible opt for gluten-free oats to lower your intake of gluten, which by nature is inflammatory and can lead to other health conditions. Hemp seeds are another good quality source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids making them a ‘complete protein’. Try a handful as a snack or sprinkle on top of your porridge.

Recipe inspiration:

Try to avoid processed junk food and instead focus on more nutritious home-made recipes. Here are a couple of recipes to help get you started! Good luck and I wish you well on your Veganuary journey.

Black Bean Burgers

2 cups cooked black beans (approximately 1 can)
1 cup grated courgette
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup ground chia seeds
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 tbsp each: thyme leaves, sage leaves, vegetable seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp. olive oil

Topping Ideas:
tomato slices
cucumber slices
avocado slices
grilled onions


Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

Fry the onions and garlic in oil, until cooked through

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, ground chia seeds, parsley, thyme, sage, vegetable seasoning, paprika and sea salt into small pieces (not fully ground). Set aside in a medium mixing bowl.

Place black beans, garlic and onions in the food processor and pulse until roughly combined. Add the grated courgette and pulse again. Add to the contents of the mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients together until well combined.

Form into small patties and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve in either gluten free buns with the toppings of your choice or with a salad.

Sweet Potato, Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

1 kg Sweet Potato (peeled and cubed)
½ head cauliflower (cut in to bite sized chunks)
1 can chickpeas (drained)
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
200ml vegetable broth
200ml water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion (chopped)
1 medium red onion (chopped)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
Handful of coriander


Preheat the oven to 190 °F.

Coat the cauliflower florets in 1 tsp turmeric. Add to a roasting tin with the sweet potato and roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok, add the onion and sauté until golden brown.

Add the garlic, chilli flakes, garam masala, turmeric, coconut milk, chopped tomatoes and chickpeas and 200ml water. Bring to a gentle simmer and then lower the heat for 10 minutes.

Remove the sweet potato and cauliflower from the oven and add to the wok along with the vegetable broth.

Continue to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Serve on a bed of rice and garnish with coriander to serve.