Like most of the people I know, I started January with a long list of new year resolutions. Drink less booze; eat healthier; exercise more; save money. Oh, and I also promised to drink more water, and to always take my make-up off before I went to bed.
So far, I’ve joined the gym, been 4 whole times, and… that’s about it. It’s pretty pathetic. But the one thing I did manage to stick to, for four and a bit whole weeks, was eating vegan for Veganuary.
It was a big learning curve and a massive challenge, (more about that in my final Veganuary blog post later in the week) but overall I really enjoyed it, and I think it’s something I’m going to do every year as a way of making myself feel better after all the booze, meat and cheese-related excesses of Christmas. In the first week I even managed to drop 6lbs (which I was super happy about)!
Moving forwards now that Veganuary has finished, and I am not a newly converted vegan, but I am going to continue with some of the really simple ‘food swaps’ which I started incorporating as part of the challenge. I started thinking about the longer term changes I could keep after reading about Waitrose’s Healthy Food Swaps on Twitter. The premise is that making small dietary changes can add up to a healthier lifestyle – but I thought that I could give it a twist by swapping not only unhealthy for healthy, but non-vegan foods for vegan ones.
To make sure I had all the info I needed, I also emailed their resident nutritionist to ask for advice that was specific to someone on a vegan diet, and she gave me loads of info on how to get the right balance of nutrients and protein while eating vegan – which is something that a lot of people worry about when you tell them you’re cutting out the meat (Hi, Mum)!
The 8 easy, healthy, vegan food-swaps I’ll be keeping forever:
- Honey / Fruit – You might be spreading this on toast right now, or drizzling it on your Weetabix. Sorry, not vegan! Instead, I’ve been mashing banana and peanut butter on to my toast, and adding blueberries cereal.
- Cow’s milk / Almond milk – Make sure you get the unsweetened version, and that the almonds come from the Med, or basically anywhere that isn’t California, where they use so much water and so many pesticides on their plantations.
- Meat / Beans – This was by far the easiest swap for me. You can make curry, chilli, soup, burgers, dips – practically anything with a tin of humble beans and a few spices and utensils. Low in fat, high in fibre and loads better for you than a diet heavy in meat (which I will continue to see as a treat – rather than a staple – of my diet). Lentils are also great!
- Mayo / Avocado – Avocoado is high in calories, but they come from good fats, which helps lower cholesterol. So at least you can feel good about pigging out. Alternatively, you could knock up a white bean dip!
- Croutons / Nuts – Croutons are usually made with butter (meaning they are not suitable for vegans), but they do a job that the humble nut can do better. Sprinkle on soups and salads for a crunch!
- Biscuits / Oatcakes with nut butter spread – If you haven’t discovered nut butter yet (I’m not talking about Sunpat here), you need to get involved. Cashew, almond, peanut – all of these make amazing ‘butters’ when blended – don’t worry you can buy these ready made. Make sure you get the no added sugar versions – the less ingredients the better.
- Ice cream / Frozen bananas – A friend on a diet told me to try this a while ago, and I’m so glad I did. Either freeze chunks of banana for bite-size nibbles, or whiz the whole ones up in a blender and freeze in moulds. Somehow the humble banana becomes an amazingly creamy, sweet treat – and it’s bloody lush smothered in vegan chocolate sauce. It’s also great bung ing over-ripe bananas in the freezer to stop them going off, and knowing they’ll still make a lovely, no-effort dessert.
- Fruit juice / Whole fruit – not technically a vegan swap but worth mentioning, as it’s amazing how many people still think glugging fruit juice is really healthy. Too much sugar and too much acid! I’ve embraced chewing my fruits, and it’s helped me feel fuller too.
Whether you feel like incorporating more vegan foods in to your diet or just trying to eat a bit healthier in 2015, it’s worth checking out the rest of the Waitrose Healthy Food Swaps website for more ideas – including simple swaps, recipes and specialist nutritionist advice.