Veganuary is a charity inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year. We’ve got on touch with Elspeth Humm from Norty Puds and Elspeth’s Kitchen and asked about Veganism and how to get started:
What is the difference between a vegan, vegetarian, and a plant-based diet?
Many different terms are batted around nowadays for different diets and lifestyles styles which can get really confusing. For those that follow a vegetarian diet, it means that they don’t eat meat, fish and seafood but still eat dairy, eggs and honey whereas vegans eat none of the above, basically no animal products whatsoever.
Plant-based eating is a relatively new term and is normally used to refer to people who eat mostly plants or let’s say base their meals around plants but will still eat meat, fish, dairy etc.
Is a vegan diet healthy and complete nutritionally speaking?
Absolutely, though there are plenty of people that will tell you it’s not! The main vitamin that can become depleted on a vegan diet is B12 but those who eat meat, fish and dairy can also find that they have low levels of B12 as well. This is the one thing that I supplement with sometimes when I remember, but am not completely obsessed about!
Isn’t eating vegan too extreme or radical?
I would say that it’s extreme to kill billions of harmless animals when there is no need. Many things in history have been seen as radical for their time and now when we look back we can’t believe that something was ever the way it was, for example, slavery, equal rights, the electoral system.
Is it expensive to eat a vegan diet?
Quite the opposite. Meat, fish, dairy, seafood, eggs and honey all have quite a high price tag. Eating an abundance of fruit, vegetables, grains and beans is a lot cheaper, quicker and easier!
Do you need special equipment or fancy and expensive ingredients to be vegan?
A great kitchen knife always helps for some fast chopping but no, not at all, all basic kitchen equipment will do. It’s nice to invest in a few good items such as a Magimix but it’s not needed at all. I started with my Nutri Ninja for making smoothies which are super quick and convenient and doesn’t cost the earth.
What even are the health benefits?
There are many many health benefits including some that you might not think of such as your mental wellbeing. When I first went vegan and remember suddenly feeling a lot more connected with my body and everything around me, I felt like my eyes had been opened and I was seeing the world for the first time, it was magical.
You feel a lot cleaner inside and your body digests everything so much better and faster, it’s great.
Are there any supplements or vitamins that are required when it comes to a plant-based diet?
As I mentioned before the one that most vegans tend to take is B12. When you first go vegan you normally have a 4/5 year reserve so it’s not something that you really need to worry about immediately.
In the winter I tend to take Vitamin D3 and K2 together, but that’s because of a lack of sunlight and living in England!
A lot of people might assume that plant-based foods are automatically healthy.
Unfortunately, I think that this was the case in the past but not anymore. With the rise of plant-based eating and veganism, there are so many more companies now offering vegan junk food alternatives which most of the time are not much healthier than the non-vegan alternative.
It is possible to be an unhealthy vegan if you choose to consist of your diet of chips, tomato ketchup, crisps and vegan chocolates and burgers!
What is your guidance for people trying to navigate vegan junk food from healthy eating? Can processed foods be healthy?
My advice if you are transitioning to a vegan diet would be to limit your fast food options and focus more on what beautiful fruit and vegetables you can centre your meals around. For example, I made a beetroot and mushroom wellington on the weekend so there was some shop bought pastry but it was stuffed full of mushrooms, beetroots and spinach which helps balance everything out.
What are some simple hacks you suggest to add more plant-based foods to your diet?
I would say you can start by making some small changes such as switching dairy milk in your tea to a non-dairy alternative, Oatly Barsita is my favourite go-to option for tea and coffee and then I love the Provamel Coconut and Rice Milk to go with a Turmeric or Matcha Latte.
Other small changes can be switching from using butter to a dairy-free one or I love personally using coconut oil (you can get deodorised if you don’t like the taste) or Extra Virgin Olive Oil.