Veganuary tips: How to make vegan food exciting and manage social situations

Rachel Hosie
allplants

If you're halfway through Veganuary, you may be struggling.

The initial New Year enthusiasm and desire to purge your body of all the chocolate and cheese you consumed over Christmas may be waning, and all you really want is a big, juicy cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake.

But stay strong. You can do it. Yes, vegan.

If you think you’ll throw up if you see another chickpea, fear not - there are ways to make vegan cooking interesting, exciting and delicious, you just have to know how.

There’s also the dilemma of eating out with friends. Although restaurants are increasingly catering for vegans, it can be really hard when all your friends want to go out for pizza.

Fortunately we spoke to the brother duo behind vegan food delivery service allplants, JP and Alex Petrides, to find out both how to make vegan meals tasty and how to survive social situations as a vegan.

How to make vegan meals exciting

Still make your favourites

(allplants)

“There’s a hack to every recipe,” JP and Alex say. “We’ve always loved a rich bolognese sauce to top a bowl of spaghetti.”

So if you’re making a vegan ragu, for example, remember the flavour all comes from the rich sauce. You can still use your favourite recipe but swap out the meat for a blend of 50 per cent walnuts, 25 per cent carrot and 25 per cent courgette.

“This simple tweak will give a delicious, indulgent blend of crunch and chew, while delivering way beyond your protein needs,” the brothers say.

Experiment experiment experiment

(allplants)

From spices, to grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts, there are 400,000 plant species and probably about eight types of meat or fish you regularly eat, JP and Alex point out.

“Put aside your meat and two veg for endless, limitless experimentation,” they recommend, suggesting you branch out and try ingredients such as kimchi, jackfruit and bamboo.

Don’t sacrifice on cream.

Whether on pasta or potatoes, a creamy sauce is hard to beat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make tasty alternatives on a plant-based diet.

The brothers suggest blitzing two cups of cashews, one cup of water, half the juice of a lemon, two cloves of garlic and a sprinkle of salt in a blender. “You’ll be salivating in no time,” they say.

Use nutritional yeast

“This is an all natural way of bringing nutty, cheesy savoury flavour to any sauce, soup or salad,” JP and Alex explain. “A little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it when adding your first sprinkles. It’s also loaded with vitamin B12.”

If you have some, add a little to the creamy sauce recipe above.

How to survive social situations as a vegan

No one wants their diet to affect their social life, so what do you do if you’re vegan and your friends want to go out for burgers? You may have to be a bit difficult, but there are ways.

“Every restaurant - burger shack or not - can make an all plants dish,” JP and Alex say. “Rather than telling the waiter you’re vegan, challenge the kitchen to make something from nothing but plants, without the sacrifice on flavour. They’ll know what to do.”

Another minefield is social situations where boxes of chocolate, cakes and biscuits are being offered around - saying no is hard. But according to the Petrides brothers, you needn’t be too hard on yourself if you have one.

“Once your habits are set, you’ll probably keep a backup of Ombars [vegan chocolates] in your drawer,” they say. “No brainer.”

Whether vegan or otherwise, when you embark on a new diet, there are always saboteurs in the shape of family or friends who conveniently invite you over and “forget” about your new eating regime. Which puts you in an awkward situation.

What do you do? “Just smile and eat the veg,” say JP and Alex. “They probably think you’re just being difficult, but will learn to respect your decision and as they get more interested in your reasons, and see your health boost, they’ll provide the goods.”

Don’t be afraid to eat more when trying Veganuary either, especially if you’re feeling tired. “Not many people realise, but when eating plant-powered, you can really load your plate-up at every meal,” the brothers say.

“That’s because the calories are less densely packed than in meat or fish, but it’s a lot cleaner and lighter, and you’ll soon find yourself full of energy.”

(allplants)

However as leading Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert points out, “vegans can run a danger of being deficient in omega-3, B12, protein and much more.

“This is purely as a result of animal products containing a lot of important micronutrients that are otherwise never consumed.”

But if you make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients, go forth and be vegan, whether for life or just for January.