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How to join the Veganuary food movement

If you are planning to participate in the month-long vegan challenge, here’s what you need to keep in mind

To make the switch to a vegan diet, make a list of alternatives. (Photo: Ella Olsson, Unsplash)
To make the switch to a vegan diet, make a list of alternatives. (Photo: Ella Olsson, Unsplash)

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Yesterday KFC brought back their vegan burger and launched it in the United Kingdom. They got the timing right for it’s Veganuary—portmanteau of vegan and January—a month-long movement to switch to a completely vegan diet.

The global challenge is an initiative of the UK-based charity organisation, that goes by the same name, and aims to promote plant-based diets for a better planet. The first month of the year acts like a prompt to make conscious choices and food is one way to do so. Prashanth Vishwanath, Country Manager at Veganuary India says, “Once you decide to transition to a vegan diet, don’t be hard on yourself. Know your calorie needs and you will be surprised how easily it can be met from plant-based foods. If you lead an active lifestyle, ensure you get enough protein. Consider choosing from the variety of tasty plant protein options in the market.”

It’s still not too late to sign up for the challenge on, and if you decide to make the switch, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

Start with a list of alternatives

What can substitute the creaminess of dairy, or the succulent texture of meat? There are a whole host of options for mock meat with brands such as Good dot, Hello Tempayy, Blue Tribe, Vezlay and Imagine Meats. But, beloved dairy products like milk, curd and ghee are indispensable in the Indian kitchen. While nut milks from almond, coconut and peanuts are the obvious options, there are ways to add a creamy mouthfeel with a few tricks.

Mumbai-based Culinary Nutrionist Raveena Taurani says adding frozen fruits to smoothies makes them creamier. She also uses the flesh of tender coconut and adds chilled coconut water: “Apart from being refreshing, coconut water provides electrolytes and makes the smoothies sweeter. Also, I don’t have to worry about making nut milks.” 

The nutrition factor

While making the switch and drawing up a list of alternatives, account for nutrition. Bengaluru-based nutritionist, Dr Priyanka Marakini says, "Nutrition is present in all foods, whether it is vegan, vegetarian, non vegetarian, but knowing what sort of nutrition comes from which foods and including them in your diet is important.”

To replace your morning omelette with a protein-rich substitute, she recommends mixed beans and whole lentils which are rich in protein, amino acids, fibre and complex carbohydrates. For breakfast, hummus can be spread on a sourdough with a sprinkling of micro greens.

The protein fallacy

Most soy-based products that mimic the flavour and texture of meat, don’t offer the same quality or quantity of protein—a fundamental nutrient in our diet.

Instead of sticking to just faux meats as a protein source, expand your choices. Bengaluru-based nutritionist Dr. Sowmya Bharani explains, “Although we have a wide variety of proteins available, India is one of the countries where our protein intake is very less. Indians love experimenting with foods, so the more options we have, the better. There are plant-based protein options like tempeh which is also fermented; it not only gives you protein, but also it’s good for the gut.” To know whether there's a lack of protein in your diet, it is recommended to visit a dietician. But, there are simpler ways to keep a tab on your nutrition count. Bharani suggests apps, like Healthify me and My Fitness Plan, for logging your meals and finding ways to make them more nutrient rich. 

A Lounge story titled, Making protein sexy again, points out that India has a ‘huge protein deficient population’ and several start-ups are now trying to fill this gap.

Falter and forgive

At the start of something new, leave room for a few mistakes. “If you do falter, accept it. Nothing should start like a mammoth task, then we are not motivated to do it,” notes Taurani. Marakini says it's better to take it slow and not make the switch overnight. 

“If you are eating with guilt, your body reacts completely differently. It senses guilt and stress and starts storing most of the food as fat. Whereas when you relish your meals, it stimulates your digestive and immune systems,” explains Dr Bharani, and adds, “Food is one of the greatest joys in life: Enjoy it.”

Recipe: Sprouted mung bean stir fry by Raveena Taurani

150 grams mung beans, sprouted
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large carrots, peeled with a julienne peeler
3 cloves garlic, chopped
12 fresh curry leaves
3 tsp mustard seeds
1 and half tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
4 tsp toasted cumin powder (ground from whole spices)
2 tsp toasted coriander powder (ground from whole spices)
Juice of half lemon
Red chilli flakes to your taste
200 grams spinach leaves
Handful coriander to garnish
3 tbsp freshly grated coconut to garnish

1.  Heat the oil in a wok and ensure you have all the other ingredients close to hand.
2.   Check to see if the oil is hot. To do so, drop in a mustard seed, if it sizzles and pops, then the oil is ready. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds, let them sizzle for a few seconds and quickly add quarter of the carrots. Stir fry for a few seconds. Tip in garlic and sprouted mung. Mix in the remaining carrots.
3.  Add salt, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli flakes and lemon juice. Stir to mix well and ensure that the spices are well cooked. Add spinach and stir till it wilts.
4.  Serve garnished with fresh coriander and coconut with some wedges of lemon on the side.
5.  Add water if the mixture dries up.

Also read | A recipe for the creamiest vegan potato salad

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