Diet swap could save the planet

20,000 people have signed up to take part in Veganuary this year
20,000 people have signed up to take part in Veganuary this year

We have all heard about the growing list of months you’re supposed to give something up.

Whether it’s for charity or a health initiative, campaigns like Movember – the month when men are asked to give up shaving in aid of men’s health problems, or Stoptober – when extra moral support is given to those trying to quit smoking, or Dryanuary – the detox after partying too hard over Christmas and people sign up to a month free of alcohol, are becoming ever more popular.

Vegan pizza was a good alternative

Vegan pizza was a good alternative

Knowing that Dryanuary just wasn’t for me, I decided to give Veganuary a go. I got a vegan cook book for Christmas and was quite intrigued to give some of the recipes a try so I made the pledge to give up all animal products for the entire month of January.

I must confess, this wasn’t going to be as difficult for me as it would be for most as I’ve been vegetarian for around 20 years but after a ropey couple of days at the start of the month, I managed to cut out all animal based products completely. This includes milk, cheese, butter, eggs, honey and even chocolate.

Most supermarkets offer a range of substitutes like soya or almond milk, olive spread and some even stock dairy free cheese. Soya-based proteins like Quorn are also widely available in most shops and offer replacements to chicken, mince and cold meats.

Going vegan is said to reduce your carbon footprint and if done correctly, can be a healthier diet. Just recently we were told that consumption of processed red meats like sausages was dangerous to humans, and the World Health Organisation classified them as carcinogenic, or cancer causing.

There is a wide range of vegan products available

There is a wide range of vegan products available

This didn’t play too heavily on my mind as I haven’t eaten red meat since I was a child but cutting out things like fatty cheeses and sugary chocolate could only be a positive move for anyone.

A whole host of stars have signed up to the vegan lifestyle. Beyonce famously gave it her seal of approval, Jared Leto was voted sexiest vegan by PETA in 2014 and Liam Hemsworth has recently turned to veganism. Prince and Brad Pitt are also examples of famous vegans.

Becoming a vegan is more mainstream now than ever thanks to campaigns like Vegnauary and through the use of social media, it’s easier than ever before to share your recipe ideas and offer support to those giving it a try.

The Tartan Carrot is a website run by Falkirk–based Liz Johnstone and John Rodger, who host meetings for local vegans and people who are curious about trying out the diet. They regularly share recipes on social media and point out special deals on vegan products to be found in the local area, as well as across Scotland.

Liz became a vegan in 2014 and said she felt quite isolated at the time because she never knew any other vegans, which is why she started the website. She said: “I believe if more people knew the facts they might consider becoming vegan or vegetarian.

“Although my main focus for becoming vegan was for the animals, as a Registered General Nurse I am also very interested in the health benefits of the plant based diet.”

John said he feels the food we eat should be simple and light. He said: “I’d like to make it as easy as possible to find good vegan and vegetarian food.

“I want to encourage wherever possible that we try and make the transition to a plant based diet, even if we can do this for just one day per week, it can make a big difference.”

Liz is hosting a meet up at Coffee on Wooer this Sunday, January 17 at 1.30pm and anyone who wants to give veganism a try is encouraged to go along for a New Year lunch and the chance to network with people who can offer advice and tips.

After doing a spot of research with my fellow vegans on social media, I decided to make vegan pizza. On one of the ropey days at the beginning of January, I caved in to a slice of cheesy pizza and I was curious to find out if there was a good alternative.

Bute Island Foods make a mozzarella–style dairy free cheese and I picked up a pack, along with some fresh tomatoes and basil. The base was bought from Wholefoods in Giffnock, which is a great place to pick up some healthy new ingredients, whether you’re vegan or not.

I can’t lie, it wasn’t really the same and although the cheese tasted fine, it wasn’t as gooey as you expect mozzarella to be. Maybe my cooking skills just weren’t up to scratch though. The pizza turned out well, and I even convinced my family to try some.

I’m still going strong with the vegan diet, feel healthier and I’m learning more about food by trying new recipes. Planning meals is half the battle as when you’re not prepared is when it gets difficult to come up with vegan options quickly.

I can’t say I’ll stay vegan forever but I’ll work to reduce my consumption of animal products permanently. If not for the planet or the animals, then definitely for me.