How to stay plant-based this Veganuary By Louise Palmer-Masterton, Stem & Glory

How to stay plant-based this Veganuary By Louise Palmer-Masterton, Stem & Glory

It’s time for the healthiest portmanteau of the year: Veganuary. It began in 2014 and has been going from strength to strength every year since.


Lapsed vegans cite the following five reasons for slipping:

  1. Dissatisfaction with food
  2. Health
  3. Social issues
  4. Inconvenience
  5. Cost

So, with those in mind, if you are thinking of taking the Veganuary pledge, here are my top five tips to stay the course of the month, and perhaps beyond.

1. Don’t be concerned about protein
Think about this: if you have been eating animal products all your life and you suddenly cut them out, your body will react. You need to give it time. Craving meat or eggs for example is likely to be a craving for protein, so the solution is to eat a high protein vegan food such as tofu. Your average pork chop contains approximately 20g of protein. This is exactly the same amount of protein as 1/2 cup tofu, or 1 cup cooked beans.

Ask any vegan about the most common question they get asked, and they will most probably say top of the list is: ‘Where do you get your protein from?’. It is an absolute myth that we need to eat animal products to get protein! Animal-based proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, making them complete protein, but there are plant-based foods that also contain the full spectrum of amino acids, including tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and chia seeds. However, it is not actually necessary to eat one food that contains everything; you can combine foods to provide a complete protein. And the chances are that you have experienced one of these magical combinations already: beans on toast. Combining grains and pulses give a complete protein, and there are squillions of recipes containing beans or lentils, rice (or other grains) and vegetables. Just about every continent on the planet has its own version.

2. Don’t settle for a dull sandwich

I’ll be honest with you, it’s great that so many non-vegan establishments now offer more and more plant-based dishes, but for me the bar seems to have been set quite low in terms of taste, texture, and ingredients. Particularly in the grab and go sector. We don’t seem to have nailed the vegan sandwich. All too often the default is hummus and roasted veg, or the good old falafel (don’t get me started on what gets called a falafel and shouldn’t be!).

My repertoire includes:

  • Wholemeal bread with tofu ‘egg’ mayo, sun dried tomatoes, tamari toasted seeds.
  • Bahn Mi – a crusty baguette with tamari tofu, mushroom pate, sriracha and crunchy pickle.
  • Big Breakfast Bap – Large soft bap or burger bun with tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and a bit of cheeky mustard mayo.
  • The legendary VLT – simple and delicious – soft bread, tempeh bacon, fresh tomato, lettuce and mayo.
  • Crunch wrap – any leftover chilli or curry – in a wrap, with some fresh chopped spinach/avocado/tomato/ with the secret ingredient of some slightly crushed tortilla chips. Works hot or cold – wrap tightly and enjoy toasted or not.

3. Seek out vegan restaurants!

There is an ever-growing number of vegan only establishments now, and almost all are independently run (like Stem & Glory). Whilst a great many non-vegan places will now have a vegan menu, you will experience a far greater level of taste and creativity in a fully vegan establishment. Chefs in vegan restaurants cook and experiment with vegan food all day long, and it’s what drives the movement forward. We have had research visits from many non-vegan chefs who are genuinely interested in the space now. I think it’s likely that we will see more and more high-profile chefs and independent non-vegan restaurants taking the plunge and turning their places fully vegan in the near future. For many chefs, it’s too hard to ignore animal cruelty now – if they handle meat, it is very in their face.

4. Learn to love lentils!

There is a huge plethora of vegan processed products in the supermarkets now, almost all are highly processed, packed in plastic and quite expensive compared to animal products. Think about it, the meat and dairy industry is so massive, and demand for plant-based is still in its infancy, of course small independent plant-based producers cannot compete on price.

Whilst I do think vegan junk and plant-based meat and cheese does play a role in converting people to veganism, if you want to save money, stop buying it! British grown lentils and peas (yellow or Carlin peas not garden peas) grow well in the UK, cost around £4 a kilo. They are extremely versatile and nutritious and yellow peas in particular come as whole peas, split peas and pea flour and can be used in so many different ways from falafels to ‘meat’ balls, daal, and pancakes.

One cup of dried lentils or peas costs less than £1 and will feed four people. Buy these and your veggies from a local small or farm shop and you will save further, not only money, but also packaging. British farming needs and deserves our support. It’s not an exaggeration to say that farming more and more of these superfoods in the UK holds a lot of the answers to fixing UK agriculture.

Moving to wholefoods from processed products requires us all to just slow down. It’s convenience that drives processed and packaged foods, and in such a time-pressed society, it’s easy to default to grab and go. Building some time into your schedule for making your own lunch and cooking from scratch does require a change in your schedule, but it really doesn’t need to be onerous.

5. Being vegan is your business – don’t feel the need to share

It’s likely that you’ve heard this joke:

‘How do you know if someone is vegan?’

‘They tell you.’

Nothing seems to trigger people more one way or the other than being in the presence of a vegan. Firstly, it prompts a whole load of stereotypical comments ranging from the protein question above to comments about what will happen to all the animals if we stop eating them. If you are not sick of these already, then you soon will be.

Being in the presence of a vegan provokes a lot of people into all kinds of justifying behaviours and questions to deflect and mitigate what is almost certainly a deep-down acknowledgement that there are very good reasons (be they animal welfare, environmental or health) to reduce or remove animal products from our diets. So, my advice is, if you want a quiet life and to ease the social pressure around this, keep quiet about it. Just enjoy your food – it’s healthy and delicious.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning, plant-based restaurants Stem & Glory. With established sites in London and Cambridge, and a third site planned for London’s Broadgate in 2022, Stem & Glory offers eat-in, click-and-collect and local delivery, as well as a well-stocked vegan bar. Stem & Glory is also the first UK restaurant to pledge to be carbon negative by end of 2021 and was recently celebrated as one of the UK Governments ‘Heroes of Net Zero’ at a COP26 awards ceremony. www.stemandglory.uk

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