|By Joanne Kwok
Dietitian and Nutritionist
Across the world, people are spending more money on vegan products, and plant-based diets are trending online with the annual event: 'Veganuary'.
According to The Vegan Society, in Great Britain alone the number of vegans quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. While not everyone has transition into a full vegan lifestyle, over half of Brits also adopted vegan buying behaviours such as buying vegan products and checking if their toiletries are cruelty-free. By now, at least half of Brits know someone who is vegan.
The impact of this is profound. If the world went vegan it could save 8 million human lives by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds.
However, is going Vegan as easy and healthy as we would like to think? How do you turn it into a lifestyle rather than just a yearly event? We spoke to our in-house expert Dietitian and Nutritionist Joanne Kwok to find out.
What constitutes a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet, as suggested by its name, is essentially meals that are composed of mainly plants. A plant-based diet is not a plant-only diet, meaning that you can still eat a plant-based diet even if you don’t consider yourself a vegan or a vegetarian. However, veganism takes it a step further by cutting out meat and dairy completely.
Why is a plant-based diet good for you?
This is because you eat more vegetables and less red meat! Most vegetables are high in dietary fibre which helps regulate our blood sugar and makes us feel fuller longer (so less snacking involved!). Eating enough fibre also help with digestion and prevents constipation.
Red meat (and processed meats such as sausages) are high in saturated fat (or ‘bad’ fats). Eating too much saturated fat increases our blood cholesterol, hence increases the risk of heart conditions and stroke.
A diet rich in fibre and limited in saturated fat is associated with lower risks of some medical conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, and some cancers such as colorectal cancer.
Here are some simple strategies to help you easily transition to a wholesome, plant-based diet:
If you do eat meat, you will just need to find plant-based protein or vegetarian protein and substitute that with your meat, poultry, or fish. For example, we can modify a beef lasagne recipe to a plant-based one by swapping the beef mince for plant protein such as lentils and chickpeas and the cream for a plant-based option.
All other ingredients remain the same, and so you will be able to enjoy a classic lasagne - this time with a twist.
Should it be a slow transition?
This doesn’t have to be a slow transition, and you don’t have to necessarily follow a plant-based diet for all your meals at first. Perhaps you could start with plant-based Mondays, or maybe plant-based dinners while allowing yourself to enjoy your usual lunch routines. You can than increase these to become completely plant-based and adopt the vegan diet as a whole.
How do you make sure you have all the protein you need?
There are many protein-rich foods besides meat! This includes lentils and beans, tofu, eggs, seeds, nuts and nut butters. Some wholegrains are also high in protein, including quinoa, buckwheat, spelt and amaranth. Find the protein that best suits your taste and build your meals around it.
To help you on your way, here's our Dietician's sample meal plan for a healthy and balanced vegan diet.
Click here to book a FREE virtual dietetic consultation with our Dietitian & Nutritionist Joanne Kwok.