Welcome to January! Christmas was certainly a different affair for most of us this year, And, for obvious reasons, there’s every chance the months ahead will be similarly uncertain. But, even amongst all the havoc caused by COVID-19, some things stayed the same: the festive feasting! It’s so easy to overindulge at Christmas, and I certainly enjoyed sampling all the traditional Yuletide dishes. However, all that rich food can have a number of undesirable effects on weight, mood and energy levels.
If, like me, you’re keen to make some changes to your diet this month, why not try Veganuary? Launched in 2014 by a non-profit organisation of the same name, Veganuary’s mission is simple. They aim to encourage people to consume only plant-based foods for a month. During the 2020 campaign alone, more than 400,000 people pledged to try a vegan diet. Since its inception, over 1m people have participated.
Why eat vegan?
Veganuary’s vision is driven by animal welfare and environmental concerns. The organisation is committed to championing compassionate food choices, with the aim of ending animal farming and protecting the planet. But there are other advantages of eating vegan. Certain research has linked vegan diets with lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer. Vegan diets are often associated with lower blood pressure and lower rates of cholesterol. And if your waistbands are feeling a tad tight after all that Christmas excess, following a vegan diet can even help you lose a significant amount of weight.
Despite all these benefits, embarking on a vegan diet can seem intimidating – especially if you’re a committed carnivore. And it’s important to realise that not all vegan food is automatically healthy! To get the most from your vegan eating experience, in addition to plants, it’s important to include wholefoods, legumes, nuts (if non-allergic), fruits and spices. To give you some inspiration I’ve put together a selection of easy vegan recipes to try. They’re nutritious, delicious and filling – bon appétit!
Avocado & basil pesto bruschetta
I adore all variations of bruschetta. But I think this recipe, from Tideford Organics, for Veganuary is one of my favourites. Nutrient-dense avocados are packed full of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. This recipe features basil pesto, which traditionally includes some form of hard cheese. In this version, the vegan pesto is made with chickpeas instead, and is suitable for coeliacs as well as vegans. In terms of method, it really couldn’t be simpler: you simply mash, mix and enjoy! It’s a great ‘light bite’ option when you fancy something flavourful, or the perfect weekend brunch.
Top tip: Italian bruschetta is the ideal way to give stale bread a second chance! Toasting it with olive oil really does make it taste as good as new.
Vegan maple dahl soup
As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of soup. So this warming, spicy dahl recipe, courtesy of Maple from Canada, is the perfect antidote to cold, grey winter days. A key legume, lentils are high in protein and fibre – but low in fat – which makes them a very healthy substitute for meat. The inclusion of maple syrup adds a really lovely delicate sweetness to this dish for Veganuary.
Top tip: For a more filling dish, serve with naan bread, roti or flatbread
Brussels sprouts pad thai
Think Brussels sprouts are just for Christmas Dinner? Think again! They’re one of my favourite vegetables, so while this dish (from BBC Good Food) is a great Boxing Day option to use up leftovers, I’ll happily eat it at any time. This really does make a fantastic main for Veganuary. Brussels sprouts are high in fibre and Vitamin C, and are full of antioxidants, which help to protect your cells against free radical damage. This fast, filling dish takes just 10 minutes to cook, so it’s ideal for a speedy mid-week supper.
Top tip: You can use any type of flat rice noodles for this recipe – just check the ingredients to make sure they are vegan, as some versions do include egg.
Lemony peas & radish with ChicP herby hummus
If you’re keen to give your taste buds a treat, this ChicP recipe is fast, flavourful and oh-so-easy to assemble. Peas and mint is a tried and tested combination, and adding radishes to the mix adds a subtle peppery kick. For this Veganuary dish, you basically mix the main ingredients together in a bowl, heat the flat breads and spread generously with the topping. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil for some added deliciousness.
Vegan spaghetti Bolognese
If you enjoy the traditional meat-based dish, you’re sure to love this vegan twist from FullGreen. Low in calories, this recipe works with both keto and paleo meal plans, and it’s even diabetic-friendly, thanks to the inclusion of riced sweet potato. It’s a great staple, filling vegan dish that’s perfect for feeding a hungry family. In addition to the sweet potato, this sauce includes chestnut mushrooms, tomatoes, red pepper and onion, so it’s packed full of potassium, vitamins and magnesium.
Top tip: Serve with courgette noodles instead of traditional spaghetti for a lower carb option.
Crème caramels with caramel oranges
A vegan diet doesn’t have to mean deprivation and/or a dearth of desserts. This recipe for vegan crème caramels with caramelised orange slices, from Delicious Magazine, does involve a little effort, but believe me, it’s worth it! It features a clever combination of vegan cream cheese, vegan cream and unsweetened almond milk. Cardamom is one of my favourite spices, and here it adds some extra oomph to the citrus zing of the oranges. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for the prettiest of pudding plates.
Top tip: Before serving, dip the bases of the ramekins into a bowl of just-boiled water, to help them ‘turn out’ more easily.
Vegan sticky toffee pudding
Sticky toffee pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts. It’s such an indulgent comfort food – and who doesn’t enjoy a little of that at this time of the year? The good news is, I’ve found a vegan version from Olive Magazine that’s every bit as delicious as its dairy-filled counterpart. The delicate sponge is packed with spices, and the toffee sauce features rich, dark brown sugar. Just like traditional sticky toffee pudding recipes, this Veganuary option features dates, for natural sweetness. Dates also contain a selection of vitamins and minerals including calcium, vitamin K and magnesium – all vital for healthy bones.
Please don’t be put off by the long(ish) ingredients list! The method takes a while, but there’s nothing too complex to overcome, and after less than an hour and a half (plus cooling) you’ll have a Veganuary dessert to die for.
Top tip: If you’re allergic to nuts, exchange the cashews for sunflower seeds.
Interested in finding out more about how to extend vegan principles to other areas of your life? Click here to read my round-up of the best vegan and cruelty-free skincare options.