Many people have the misconception that a vegan lifestyle is too hard; taking this 30-day challenge is a way to educate ourselves about the lifestyle and understand that it is actually quite easy to make the shift. There are some incredible vegan alternatives to pretty much everything. This is an opportunity to explore these alternatives and maybe even come to the realisation that vegan food is just as diverse and delicious!”
One Of The Most Frequently Asked Questions Is About Where Vegans Get Their Protein…
“There is a lot of confusion around this topic; I would say the most important thing would be to stock up your pantry with plant-based protein. This can be anything from lentils, pulses, chickpeas and kidney beans to tempeh, tofu and mock meat. All of these are excellent sources of protein. Look at it as replacing your current animal-based product with a plant-based alternative. If you are someone who loves paneer, try using tempeh or tofu instead. If you feel that it would be difficult to give up meat, give mock meats a go. If you feel that you can’t survive the day without a cup of coffee, make sure you have plant-based milk in your pantry.”
Namita Satheesh’s Personal Favourite Plant-Based Ingredient Is…
“Nutritional yeast (above) – though it is not a pantry staple, it is a fascinating ingredient to experiment with. Unlike other kinds of yeast, nutritional yeast is not used for baking bread or making beer. It is found in the form of yellow flakes and lends a cheesy, savoury flavour to any dish, making it perfect for making vegan cheese. Additionally, nutritional yeast is the only source of naturally-available B12 in a plant-based diet (if consumed in the right amount daily), making it a nutritional powerhouse. Nutritional yeast is great on everything from popcorn and pasta sauce to pizza cheese.”
Her Personal Quick Way To Enjoy This Ingredient?
“I love adding a generous helping of nutritional yeast to my homemade basil pesto or my white sauce pasta to kick up the flavour a notch.”
Good To Know
“Eating a balanced meal is key on any diet,” Satheesh emphasises. “You can still be a vegan while eating junk food, so make sure you’re eating lots of fresh vegetables, enough protein, carbs and fats. Start your day with a nutritious, high-protein breakfast, which is the perfect fuel to get you going.”
Veganism Is More Affordable And Doable Than You Think
“Since the onset of the practice of Veganuary in 2014, the audience has doubled throughout the globe,” reveals Rashmi Cherian. “We are now aware of the challenges we face for a sustainable vegan lifestyle, but, as they say, you don’t know it until you face it. January is a perfect time to start something new, and one can start with a plant-based diet, whether one wants to be kinder to the earth or improve one’s health. A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Planet Earth. Not only do vegan diets produce fewer greenhouse gases, but they also conserve essential resources such as water and land. And this, I think, is the need of the hour. Switching to a plant-based diet rich in phytonutrients, fibre, vitamins and minerals definitely has its own perks. But, ultimately, it is more about personal choices and preferences. Someone who is always up for new excitement would be keener to try out a new practice right at the beginning of the year, while others might find it considerably harder.”
Rashmi Cherian’s Advice On Stocking Your Pantry To Ensure A Successful Veganuary…
Cherian would first like to refute the preconceived notion that being vegan is expensive, reserved only for celebrities or people who can spend on exotic meals and ingredients. “This is not the case,” she emphasises. “Veganism is simply excluding all animal products, which means you have all the plant products to eat in hand. There is no need to chase products that say ‘Vegan’ or ‘Suitable for Vegans’, or, for that matter, to opt for fancy concentrates or powders in the form of supplements. Just ensure you stick to minimally-processed foods.”
Cherian advocates choosing local produce – lentils, pulses, vegetables, tubers, fruits, nuts, nut butter, seeds, tempeh, tofu, cereals, millets… “All these can form the staples for following a vegan diet,” she points out. “One thing you must take care of, however, is planning your meals wisely in order to ensure an adequate nutrient intake and, thus, avoid any nutritional deficiencies. Personally, I enjoy a variety. So, a rainbow plate with a number of ingredients rather than just one would be an ideal meal. But, if I have to pick a combination, I like to keep it very simple.”
Veganism And Her Fave Ingredients…
“The foods I enjoy the most are sweet potato and broccoli with some tofu or tempeh.
“Sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, the B vitamins, and vitamin E. Beta-carotene and vitamin C act as antioxidants, whereas potassium and magnesium help in various chemical reactions in the body for muscle and nerve health. Sweet potato is also rich in fibre, which helps in gut health.
“Broccoli is the only vegetable with amino acids in it, hence enhances the amino acid profile of the diet along with offering fibre and vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, tofu and tempeh are high in protein and contain all of the essential amino acids along with fats, carbs, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. They also contain isoflavones, which are a powerful antioxidant. So, a combination of these three provides a meal with all the macro and micronutrients.”
Cherian likes to keep her recipes very simple. “Baked broccoli with sweet potato, with the tanginess of lemon and herbs, is my go-to comfort food – this is the easiest and the quickest meal for me with no compromise on the nutrition density. On top, I add lightly-sauteed tofu or tempeh pieces. I also enjoy crunchy broccoli with capsicum, baby corn and mushrooms in my pasta. Undoubtedly, you can add your twists, opt for different preparation methods, and every time you will see that you have come up with a whole new set of flavours just using the same ingredients.”
Baked Sweet Potato, Mushroom and Broccoli
1 medium sweet potato
100 g broccoli
100 g mushrooms
4 t0 5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 to 2 tsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Herbs and spices (oregano, rosemary, chilli flakes, black pepper), to taste
- Chop the sweet potato, broccoli and mushrooms to equal sizes for uniform baking. Coat them with the oil, herbs and spices, and salt, and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Grease two oven trays with olive oil. Place the sweet potato in one and the broccoli and mushrooms in the other, because sweet potato takes a longer time to cook. (If you have only one tray, cook the sweet potato first for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the other veggies to the tray, and cook them together for another 15 to 20 minutes.)
- Place the crushed garlic in between the veggies.
- Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes, then bake the veggies at 220° Celsius (sweet potato for 30 to 40 minute and other veggies just 15 minutes).
- Stir the vegetables in between so that they are thoroughly cooked on all sides.
Tip: Other veggies such as carrot, capsicum and zucchini can also be used.
Good To Know
Cherian points out that following any diet, trend, suggestion or change will only be beneficial when you are dedicated and consistent with it. “No diet, whether vegan or non-vegan or any other dietary preference kind, will bring you results overnight. It is food after all; you need to be patient enough for your body to adapt and assimilate the change before you come to any conclusion. Secondly, before hopping on to any particular and strict regimen, you must be medically fit (unless your aim with the regimen is to be medically fit) and you need to be in touch with a qualified subject expert who can guide you well. Everything available on the internet is not worth a try; don’t play around with your body.
“Remember that 2021 was all about how healthy you were and the immunity you had.
“Eat local, fresh, and seasonal. Remember ‘nutrients over calories’.”