/ Food & Drink

Veganuary: have you gone vegan for January?

vegan

It’s Veganuary and supermarkets and restaurant chains are steadily picking up on the growing trend for plant-based eating. Our guest author, Hannah Jolliffe, asks if you’ve been tempted?

January is fast replacing Lent as the time to cut things out of our diets. First was ‘Dry January’, encouraging us to purge our bodies of alcohol after the excesses of Christmas, and then came Veganuary, a time to turn our diets to plant-based meals.

What’s the point of Veganuary?

Slightly off-putting name aside, I like the idea of Veganuary. While I enjoy eating meat, I am mindful not to have it every day and generally consume a much higher proportion of vegetarian food. I guess that makes me a ‘flexitarian’.

However, my flexitarian diet goes out of the window at Christmas, and by January, I often feel bloated by too many roasts, cold meat platters and sausage rolls. Plus, I fear what all this meat-eating is doing to the environment.

That’s why I’ve gone vegetarian for January this year – I’d like to smugly say I’ve gone vegan, but the thought of a whole month without cheese is too much.

Supermarkets go vegan

But with veganism seemingly going mainstream, I’m now wondering if I could have managed it after all.

Supermarkets, in particular, have expanded their range of vegan products. Tesco has just launched a ‘Wicked Kitchen’ range of 18 vegan-friendly ready meals including a ‘naked’ burrito, mushroom Bolognese and a carrot pastrami-spiced wrap. Ocado has also added 90 vegan products to its dedicated vegan site this month.

But it isn’t just food that can catch you out when cutting animal products from your diet – veganism also involves careful research of drinks, including alcohol.

Luckily, supermarkets have this one covered, too – Co-op is expanding its vegan wine range to 100 products by the end of the year, with eight due to launch next month.

Restaurant chains are also getting in on the vegan act, with Pizza Express and Pizza Hut both selling vegan-friendly cheese toppings, and Wagamama offering several vegan dishes. London has even just seen the first 100% vegan pub open its doors to the public.

This vegan malarkey is sounding easier by the minute.

Cashing-in on the vegan trend?

According to The Vegan Society, there were over half a million vegans in Great Britain in 2016: three-and-a-half times as many as estimated in 2006. And last year, one in three people said they were trying to reduce their meat intake leading to more than half of UK adults adopting ‘vegan-buying behaviour’.

Clearly, these are statistics that are making supermarkets rub their hands together with glee – and, in my opinion, some appear to be taking advantage.

Take the Marks & Spencer cauliflower ‘steak’, which has now been withdrawn from sale. Priced at £2, it was essentially a slice of cauliflower with a bit of dressing and came in a lot of unnecessary packaging. A whole cauliflower generally costs a quid or less… the words rip and off spring to mind.

Going vegan

To me, eating vegan or veggie foods isn’t necessarily about dedicating our whole lives to diets free of animal products, but about reducing the amount of meat we eat and being more selective about its origin when we do.

If new vegan products on supermarket shelves help move us in this direction, then I’m all for it (minus the cauliflower steaks, of course).

This is a guest contribution by Hannah Jolliffe. All views expressed here are Hannah’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?.

Have you gone vegan for January? Are you or have you been tempted by vegan products? How do you rate them? Could they persuade you to go wholly vegan?

Comments
Member

I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I don’t eat a great deal of meat compared with many people. I do eat fish and had a very nice fish pie for Sunday lunch. I have not bought chicken for a few years.

I am not ready for vegan but very happy to eat vegetarian meals. I actually enjoy eating lots of vegetables, cereals etc, but milk, cheese and eggs are still essentials for me.

Member

Since working in London I have found I am eating a lot less meat. I think this is due to the vast amount of choice – compared to my small town, which has limited choices, but a lot of butchers.

I am fascinated to learn more about vegan-friendly foods and like to try new things where possible, but I am not sure I am ready to make the full commitment. Cheese would be the hardest to give up, for me.

Member

We do seem to have a fixation about meat. Maybe that will change. Cheese if one of the reasons that I’m not planning to go vegan.

Member
Adrian Bryce says:
28 January 2018

That’s because it’s addictive due to Casomorphin which is one of the opioid compounds formed in our stomachs when we drink milk.
The reason I stopped consuming dairy products, is the unconscionable cruelty that vulnerable innocent beings have to suffer for something as trivial as palate pleasure, I couldn’t allow animals to suffer for something so selfish on my part.

Member

The reason I consume milk is not because it is addictive but because it makes a useful contribution to my nutrient intake. I would be happy to pay more for milk if that would mean better animal husbandry. I drink milk but would not buy veal because of concern about animal welfare.

Member

I’ve been vegetarian for 25 years so thought I would take the vegan challenge for January this year. It’s been pretty easy to follow at home, less so when eating out. The only thing I’ve really missed is halloumi and paneer, but other than that I’ve found that avoiding eggs, milk, chocolate and cheese has been relatively easy. The most frustrating thing is that lots of products contain milk or eggs unexpectedly hidden in their ingredients. I never usually eat ready meals but I did treat myself to one of Tesco’s new Wicked meals last week (masala curry with chickpeas, cauliflower, bhajis, spinach and coconut rice), and it was delicious! I also recommend Pret’s curried chickpea and mango chutney sandwich.

Member

They sound delicious! I went to Krakow last year and there was a lot of vegan restaurants. One chain of vegan burger restaurants were very common, I saw them more than I saw McDonald’s or Burger King, which I thought was great.

If there were more eating out options for vegans,do you think you could make the switch full-time?

Member

That’s interesting to hear about Krakow, Alex. I think availability and ease are big issues when it comes to convincing people. We’ve got used to convenience and if it’s more readily available then people will try vegan without even realising. Like MJM says, it’s still quite hard eating out as a vegan in the UK – but things are definitely shifting.

Member
Patricia says:
27 January 2018

There’s no reason not to eat chocolate since many are vegan. The Coop’s own-brand orange-flavoured is my favourite, even better than Ritter Sport Halbbitter, which is no longer available in the UK.
Just read the label and watch out for butterfat as well as milk.
There’s also Booja Booja & Plamil ……

Member

I haven’t taken on the ‘veganuary’ challenge, but I have cut back on meat consumption. I thought it would help save a bit of money on my weekly shop, instead, I’ve seen my shop go up with the extra spending on fruit and veg. I meal plan for the week so my shopping list ensures there’s no waste, but the consequence of this is that I need to go to a supermarket where I can buy individual items and not have to buy everything pre-packaged – it makes it slightly more expensive not being able to shop in Aldi 🙁

Member
Lessismore says:
22 January 2018

I’ve tried several times to change our diet slightly. Firstly I tried to move away from the cheese sauce with everything – macaroni, potatoes and onions, cauliflower which I inherited as easy meals to make when I left home from my mother (meat was expensive) by making more tomato and onion based sauces so that I could still enjoy cheese and biscuits. We also cut out 100 things to do with mince when there was Mad Cow Disease and became more careful and thoughtful about the meat we ate. Then I tried cooking more pulses – it’s amazing how many Italian and Indian and other countries’ meals use these sometimes on their own but also sometimes with meat.

I agree that curried chickpeas are brilliant – I like them with spinach and brown basmati rice. The Eden Project have a really good version of a Middle Eastern soup with chickpeas which is made from store cupboard ingredients (and I then add spinach to wilt into it at the end – making it a meal in a bowl). I recently got around to making a lamb, flageolet beans and cherry tomato casserole that I’d been planning for months. Having followed the recipe practically to the letter I can now fiddle with it and re-write it making it simpler (putting all time it takes on the top) and taking shortcuts. Life’s too short to skin tomatoes!

There is a movement called Meat Free Mondays and I’ve found some good recipes there.. I’d find it difficult to give up roast dinners and chops with three vegetables completely. although we eat them a lot less often!

Member

Thanks for all the great suggestions – I also use pulses a lot when cooking vegetarian, they’re a great way to still feel full and they soak up lots of flavour! Meat Free Monday is a brilliant concept and I think it helps people to remember they don’t need meat everyday – there are some really inspiring stats on their website to see how important it is for the environment to cut out just a bit of meat from your diet. Here are a couple of my fave’s:
– If you ate one less burger a week, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles.
– Skip steak once a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months.

Member
Patricia says:
27 January 2018

[Sorry, your comment has been removed to align with our community guidelines. As a quick reminder, we do not allow promotional content https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

Member

I have no intention at present to become vegetarian or vegan. I would be too worried about ending up with lacking in some essential vitamin/mineral/you name it, and I don’t have the patience or inclination to become ultra careful about my diet. It doesn’t include much meat anyway (average a wee bit over once a week). If I were to change anything it would be to eat more fish. We (hubby and I) started to follow the fast diet (https://thefastdiet.co.uk/) just before Christmas, so no need to change anything in January (aren’t we smug).

I do intend, however, to forego chocolate, cheese, sweets things and alcohol (perhaps meat too, haven’t decided yet) for Lent to raise funds for mental health (not mine at the end of Lent). It will be good for me and good for the charity. (Nothing to do with Lent in particular, I’ve done this during Ramadan before, and during the month of October.)

Years ago hubby and I went to http://www.el-piano.com/ , a vegan restaurant in York and we loved it. We opted for a taster platter and everything was delicious. I wish there were an equivalent up here in Edinburgh.

Member

I think you are right to be concerned about getting sufficient nutrients, Sophie, particularly with a vegan diet. However those who follow these diets often seem to pay attention to what they are eating, than many people.

Member
Patricia says:
27 January 2018

The only thing you’re likely to be lacking is B12, which is easily obtainable from food fortified with it (e.g. yeast extract and some breakfast cereals) or from supplements.
Otherwise there’s not a single nutrient that you get from meat that you can’t get from plant-based food.
If in doubt have a look at the website of The Vegan Society – http://www.vegansociety.com

Member
Adrian Bryce says:
28 January 2018

It’s not really a matter of intention to become Vegetarian or Vegan, it’s giving notice when faced with the unconscionable cruelty and eventual slaughter of vulnerable innocent sentient beings, that their lives are less important than palate pleasure, consider Veganism was founded in 1944 & there hasn’t been a mass extinction of Vegans, adding the vast resource of the internet & written publication, only a vegetable could effectively lack some essential vitamins/minerals, just wondered, do you actually measure & calculate your intake of nutrients/minerals/vitamins now? if you think it’s unhealthy look at the state of the health service which is overloaded with people who consume “a balanced diet” T2 D crippling the NHS basically Fat Lazy people. Processed meats (animal corpses) classed as Class 1 Carnicogen,

Vegan for Ethical reasons to prevent violence & exploitation of Vulnerable Species reducing Destruction of Marine eco systems Global Environmental Degradation including climate change, drought, deforestation, mass extinction, pollution, human poverty, antibiotic resistance

Vegans are people who align their actions with our stance against animal cruelty. Vegan activists also spread the word with the hope that compassionate & critically thinking people will value the truth enough to change for the animals.

While there are countless nuanced elements worth addressing & evaluating, the message at the heart of the vegan ideology is simple: animals are feeling & intelligent beings, not consumable objects or products—where possible, humans should strive to respect their right to life.

There’s a lot to evaluate, but for those whose moral compass is true, there is only one way to combat the injustice that’s currently meted out to animals, & even a slight amount of critical thinking aligned with compassion should lead anyone to the only ethical conclusion.

Member

A lot of people I know who have decided to follow a vegan diet do it for health reasons, as well moral reasons, but if you are looking to improve your health this year we’ve got a guide on how to boost your heart health: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/01/six-ways-to-boost-your-heart-health-in-2018/

Member
Lessismore says:
25 January 2018

I’ve had a look at your link to boosting heart health and it is useful to check our family’s progress on these dietary changes. By not eating much processed food we have reduced our salt intake a lot. I think that may have been where we started as we then simplified what we ate to avoid it. Like sugar it is better left out or limited in lots of things as extra can be added at the table – but it can’t be taken out!

One question though – I wonder what your dietitian’s actual definition of “sweets” is? Does she mean puddings and desserts by this? We only eat those in a blue moon and they are easier to avoid than the confectionery that anyone else has brought into the house! We tend to have a piece of fruit.

Member
Lessismore says:
25 January 2018

Oh I forgot how wearisome it is to have to be unBritish and speak out and say that there is something wrong when trailing kids in a gastropub/restaurant when the French fries are too salty and the butter salty but it is worse later when you regret not having said something. I’ll now have to remember next time to say something before it arrives at the table (for the French fries!). You can bet that our party was not alone in finding this.

Member

I attended an event at an expensive venue and the soup was very salty, probably more noticeable because I don’t use a lot of salt. What matters more is overall intake and I expect that all of us will eat unhealthy food from time to time. I wonder if as a nation we are eating out more than is good for our health.