The new year can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but there’s one New Year’s resolution that’s becoming ever more popular: Veganuary. These days, more and more people are pledging to go vegan for the whole month of January, giving them an opportunity to incorporate plant-based food into their diets and prove to themselves that a vegan lifestyle really is right for them.
Whether it’s for animal welfare or health concerns, there are plenty of reasons for you and your family to consider going vegan, or at least cut down on meat and up your intake of delicious vegan dishes.
However, as someone who gave up meat for good after a farewell Christmas meal back in 2017, Rachel Brownstein knows just how daunting it can be to go from omnivore to vegan in one fell swoop. Now, three years later, she has her own vegan cooking channel on YouTube, on which she shares both the successes and failures of her playful, creative approach to cooking plant-based food.
She has learned a lot over the years about how to make a vegan lifestyle as straightforward as possible, and her top tips can help you make the switch super simple and accessible for the whole family.
“Start shopping now”
It might sound a little premature to stock up now, but Rachel explains that you can really help yourself out by adding bits to your shopping basket before Veganuary begins in earnest. That way, you won’t have to spend a whole lot of time and money all in one go.
It’s also worth noting that many of the pantry items you buy will last for months (if not years!) because you only use a little for each meal, so there’s no need to worry about things like chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and spices going bad before you get the chance to use them.
“Batch cooking is your friend”
This principle applies for people of all diets, but perhaps more so when you’re making the big switch from meat-eater to vegan. Batch cooking will mean you don’t have to overwhelm yourself by trying out new recipes for lunch and dinner every single day. Instead, you can whip up a batch of something you’re sure to love, and simply warm it up when you want a tasty, nutritious meal.
It can also be really therapeutic to potter around the kitchen for a couple of hours on a Sunday making something for later in the week, because there’s no pressure to immediately deliver a meal for the whole family. Some of Rachel’s favourite dishes to cook in batches include pasta sauces and Not Shepherd’s Pie, which can then be reheated in just a few minutes:
“Make smart swaps”
One of the best ways to go vegan is to swap out some staple foods and bring in a vegan alternative. Among the easiest things to bring in are plant milks and yoghurts because there’s just so many to choose from. Rachel’s favourite is the Alpro yoghurt, but she says that when it comes to choosing the best milk for a hot drink or cereal, it’s all about personal preference.
It’s definitely worth trying a few to find what works best for you and your family’s needs. For example, you might like soya milk in your coffee and almond milk in your tea, but your kids might prefer oat milk for their cereal and in their hot chocolates.
“Try meat substitutes”
You can also swap out meat products and replace them with vegan-friendly alternatives, says Rachel. And it won’t be too hard to find ones that are good for the whole family, because there are so many wonderful choices in the shops these days. The UK alone has Vivera, Quorn and Linda McCartney, to name just a few of the bigger brands, and many supermarkets now sell their own vegan products.
Those further afield can try Tofurkey, too, and Gardein have plenty of like-for-like substitutes that can be swapped in for the real thing.
“Move away from ‘meat and two veg’”
One of the biggest lessons Rachel has learned about going vegan is that in order to do it successfully, you need to move away from “meat and two veg” dinners and towards a more mezze-style of eating. She personally likes to pull meals together from a wide range of different dishes, ensuring she includes essential macronutrients like carbs and protein in each of her main meals.
“Explore the world of carbs”
I think most people get a little stuck in their ways with staple food stuffs like carbs. But eating more plant-based meals will give you the opportunity to start exploring the world of carbohydrates beyond your standard rice and pasta.
Rachel suggests experimenting with wholegrains such as pearl barley and spelt, which have a lovely, chewy texture and go great with a grated mushroom Bolognese and vegetable casserole. Polenta and grits are some of Rachel’s other store cupboard staples, and they can be served soft like mashed potatoes or made firm and then cut into chips.
“Always have pâté in the fridge”
Pâté is something you and your family can eat as a healthy snack or part of a main meal. Mushroom, onion and tequila is Rachel’s favourite because of its lusciously deep and meaty flavour, but she also loves sweet potato pâté with onion and spices, which makes for a sticky and rich spread that’s surprisingly filling.
It’s not too difficult to knock up a no-knead bread to go with it, too, and if you make it in the morning it should be ready in time for lunch or dinner.
“Add sweet potatoes to your sweet treats”
Sweet potatoes aren’t just great in savoury foods – they are also a fantastic way to add sweetness to a dessert without relying on refined sugar. Plus, adding sweet potato into your home baking is a fun way to get your kids involved, because you can let them think up different flavours and experiment with making things like Rachel’s sweet potato fudge:
“Airfrying is the way forwards”
For delicious, nutritious food, Rachel truly believes there is no better appliance than an airfryer, and she uses hers several times a week. They can very quickly roast vegetables, heat through pastries, and give your food that golden, deep fried crunchiness that everyone in the family is sure to adore, without the whole mess of calories that usually comes with it.
If you’ve got one but aren’t quite sure what to do with it, Rachel recommends roasting up a whole cauliflower and some carrots and onions, liberally sprinkled with olive oil and spices.