Many people have just finished doing Veganuary, many might also be continuing to do Veganuary or follow the vegan diet in some shape or form. I’ve just finished doing Veganuary, following a vegan diet for the month of January, and the big question on everyone’s lips I’ve spoken to is how did it go and will I stay vegan as a result?
Firstly, let’s rewind, why did I do this, and why are many other people doing this?
I decided to do Veganuary to experience what a full vegan diet felt like. As a nutritionist, I had never followed this diet for such a length of time despite advising vegan, vegetarian and a variety of plant-based clients in my work as a coach. So I decided to go ‘all in’ so I could comment with more authority and experience first-hand what it was like following a full vegan diet.
It wasn’t easy, the transition to new protein sources and knowing how to cook them in interesting ways was often a challenge, so you have to be aware of how you’re going to make these changes and get more creative in the kitchen, or if coaching a client who’s vegan, or vegetarian, help them be creative and interesting with their food. Not many want to eat tofu plain!
From a gym and performance point of view I personally also felt low on energy starting out, as if I was lacking something, so ensuring I was eating enough total calories, getting enough protein in general, and getting creative with my protein sources was key. My diet focused a lot on porridge bowl combinations with Awesome Vegan Protein, chickpea & lentil curries, tofu in stir fry’s & Asian dishes, protein smoothies with fruit & awesome vegan protein powder, lots of fruits and vegetables as per my usual diet with a few meat replacements like vegan sausages and mince.
Will I stay vegan, no, but I will be meeting my normal diet and a vegan diet halfway and focusing more of my future meals exclusively around plants, adopting a more flexitarian approach, if you want to coin it with a term. A mixture of tofu, pulses, nuts and meat replacements will have a larger place in my diet in replacement of some of my usual animal protein intake, likely reducing my meat and dairy intake by half, and to be frank I think many should do the same, there is no reason why not.
This brings to question is the vegan diet the new fad? In my opinion, no.
Will people do it thinking it’s a quick fix to their health and dieting woes, of course, that’s just the diet industry and as a collective, we need to be fighting the change and educating people in the right way!
The vegan diet is about a set of principal’s people believe in. That the meat industry has become damaging to animal welfare and our food network, that it is unnecessary to eat animal protein with every meal, that the food system is heavily contributing to climate change, and I have to agree with many of the arguments. There is no reason why more of us cannot eat more plant-based foods. Before I did Veganuary I would say 70% of my diet was from plants, which is why I didn’t have any radical health shifts during Veganuary, I was already very healthy from my diet, it was just my protein sources that were changing.
If we can reduce the stress on the planet by not letting intensive farming become the dominant farming method (because we are choosing cheap and processed meats), and broaden our nutrient intake by eating more plant-based foods and protein sources, win-win! I don’t see the downside to a more plant-based diet.
Our health wins, the planet wins, and we get to see more variety on the shop shelves. I’ll still continue to eat meat and a little dairy, but it will be far less. And I think it is important for everyone to engage in this conversation as it’s the future of our health, the planets sustainability and our food environment at stake.
Want to learn more from me? Here is our latest nutrition report, careful, it’s deep, but that’s what we do: https://btn.academy/nutrition-report
Ben Coomber is a Performance Nutritionist, Author & Speaker with the UKs #1 rated podcast ‘Ben Coomber Radio’. Ben teaches Personal Trainers to become nutrition coaches on The BTN Academy, and owns Awesome Supplements.
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