Do it well: 10 simple Veganuary tips from a nutritionist

10 tips for Veganuary by Porter Nutrition

Following Veganuary? I’ve been sharing tips throughout January on Instagram and Facebook about how to do this safely and well. Here they are in one place to refer back to. Don’t forget to give me a follow on social media for more food tips throughout the year.

Tip 1 – Myth Bust

Myth – a vegan diet is healthier than a diet which includes animal products. Both diets can be healthy and both can be unhealthy. Lots of vegan products are high in added salt, fat and sugar so watch out for those. And you need to make sure your diet is properly balanced either way (more info to come)

Myth – it’s easier to get variety into a vegan diet. Not necessarily. It depends on whether you are open to eating lots of different foods or whether you are a creature of habit. It can be more restrictive.

Myth – a vegan diet is cheaper than one which includes meat. Vegan products can be more expensive. However if you opt for naturally vegan foods such as potatoes, rice, legumes, seeds and fruit and veg it can be a cheaper way to eat.

Tip 2 – Plan

Sounds boring doesn’t it?! But planning your menu is important to check you get what you need, you know what you are doing when you are tired AND you don’t spend more than you need to on food.

Plan to have all the food groups. Watch the video below and read on to get more tips to help with the planning. We’ll look in more detail at each of the aspects of the vegan diet and what’s important to keep healthy and enjoy the process.

Tip 3 – hydrate

What colour is your pee? Yes, I said it!

Hydration is so important but why is it a tip especially for Veganuary? Well, chances are, if you are following Veganuary you are increasing the amount of fruit, veg, beans, peas and lentils you are eating (well hopefully you are!). That means you are increasing your fibre intake.

In order for your body to process the fibre properly so you get the benefit you need to be well hydrated. Otherwise the extra fibre could cause you with more gut issues in the short term.

How much should we have? That’s different for each person but for adults it’s between 1.5 and 2 litres a day generally. The best thing to do is check your pee. It should be pale yellow.

If you don’t drink much water now, increase slowly to avoiding increasing urgency and to help your body recalibrate.

Tip 4 – fortify

Do you know what fortify means?

Fortification is what is added to foods to improve their nutritional value. With all the focus on clean eating and unprocessed foods it can be easy to think that things added to food are not a good idea BUT that’s not true.

If you drink cow’s milk you get a whole range of nutrients including calcium, iodine and vitamin B12. If you drink plant milks they don’t contain the same nutrients naturally, so these nutrients are added by manufacturers. Look out for plant milks which contain all 3 additional nutrients.

Breakfast cereals are also often fortified. Folate, iron and vitamin B12 are good additions which can be helpful for vegans to include.

How do you know if it is fortified – check the ingredients list. And if you can’t understand the jargon, don’t worry, legally if a product is fortified the nutrients it is fortified with have to be added into the nutrition information table too so check there.

Tip 5 – Think Whole

This is not some meditation thing, I am talking about whole foods.

Especially in the early days of including more plant based foods it can be easy to end up buying lots of processed foods – especially as all the supermarkets seem to be pushing the Veganuary products.

Try and focus on having whole foods. That doesn’t mean you can’t have prepared things but, where possible, opt for beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, peas etc rather than processed meat replacements. If you are stuck for ideas, I’d be happy to help.

Save this post and share it with your friends. More tips are coming to help you this month and beyond.

And if you are not following Veganuary, including these whole plant foods is great for meat eaters too. The extra fibre can help our heart health and reduce our risk of certain cancers too.

Tip 6 – Balance

You might think, well that’s what manufacturers put on food labels to make out their product is ok. Well, that’s kind of the truth. No food is banned unless it is going to make you ill (like if you have an allergy or have been advised by a medical or nutrition professional to avoid a food, or it’s standard advice for your age, or if it’s going to cause food poisoning).

Balance in the vegan diet is really important because you can actually be on a vegan diet and not have your 5 a day. So many vegan dishes fail to get the balance. They just remove the meat and say it’s vegan. Well it is but it’s not healthy. Often that leaves a dish lacking protein.

And there are more and more vegan products which fit into the eat sometimes category. Things like snack bars, cakes, biscuits or pastries. The balance is important here too.

Lots of this applies to meat eaters too but in order to ensure you get the nutrients you need in a vegan diet, that balance is SO important.

Check out the video below for more info

Tip 7 – Vary

Do you get stuck in a rut with the food you eat?

The vegan diet needs variety. You could say that’s true for all our diets however it’s even more important for vegans. Each different ingredients has a different nutritional value so having a variety helps you the nutrition you need.

There are SO many different types of plant – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, peas, beans and lentils. Why don’t you write a list of the ones you currently include and then have a think about the other ones you could try. If you aren’t sure of the options, pop a question below.

I’ll start us off with seeds – sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds…..

There will be more information coming about key nutrients to make sure you are getting.

Tip 8 – Learn

Learning is good for our mental health but it’s also good for helping us understand what’s needed. I have a blog article on my website with more information about vegan diets (search vegan under the blog tab) but you can also go back through the tips to learn more.

Some things I have learnt about the vegan diet:

  • it takes quite a bit of planning to get everything in
  • there is a lot of marketing around products and they aren’t always what they seem
  • vegan ‘cheese’ ingredients list is a bit scary!
  • soaking and rinsing beans before you use them increases the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients
  • iodine is a nutrient not often discussed but can be a problem in vegan diets
  • the Vegan Society is a great source of information

Do you have a question, get in touch

Tip 9 – Share

Do you eat alone?

One of the things people say about being vegan is that they can feel excluded because people think their dietary needs are too complicated. It can be really hard to cater for lots of different tastes but food is meant to be social.

  • Try inviting people over for a vegan meal?
  • Offer to bring something you can have so it’s not a barrier for socialising with other people
  • Look for restaurant options with good meat and vegan choices so everyone is happy
  • Talk. Share how you feel.

And don’t forget to share your vegan recipe tips too. Most of us could benefit from eating more plant based meals.

Tip 10 – Supplement

Should we all take a supplement?

Most people expect nutritionists to recommend supplements but most of the time I limit this to vitamin D (for all in the autumn and winter and for the under 5s, over 65s and some other groups all year round), and folic acid (for women trying for a baby and pregnant women).

BUT for vegans, vitamin B12 and iodine may need to be given as a supplement unless you have enough from fortified products.

  • Vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal foods but as a vegan you can get it from nutritional yeast and fortified products like breakfast cereals (always check the label – more details in the fortify tip).
  • Iodine is found mainly in meat and dairy products, although you can also get it from seaweed and fortified plant milks (again check the label). The amount in seaweed varies massively and pregnant women need to be careful about having too much.

Opting for a supplement can be help. It’s good to check with a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian first, or your GP. Supplements aren’t regulated as closely as medication so look for a reputable brand. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or the supplement is for a child, make sure you opt for a suitable product.

What’s next?

Veganuary doesn’t have to be the end of your eating more plant based foods. Even if you decide to reintroduce meat, make a note of the things you have learnt and enjoyed about Veganuary and build on these. As we go through life we develop habits, perhaps doing Veganuary was a bit of a reset for you. Will you go back to normal or will you take forward the positive.

We are always learning, if you would like to have a chat about making sure your diet and your relationship with food is the best it can be, drop me a line.

Published by Aliya Porter

An experienced Registered Nutritionist helping you to live healthily without breaking the bank or chaining you to the kitchen.

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