Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution that will benefit your health, the planet, and animals?
You may be surprised to learn that by making one change, you can achieve these win-win-win results. That change is veganism.
As people become more aware of the devastating effects animal-based diets have on our bodies and the environment, and the underlying cruelty of eating animals, they are finding veganism an effective and meaningful solution. Veganism doesn’t require legislation, capital investments or personal sacrifices. It only takes a decision to start, a little planning, and some relatively simple changes to develop new and better habits.
If you’re open to the idea but not sure where to start, this article offers some tips and suggestions.
January offers a great time to dip your toes in veganism, particularly through the Veganuary challenge. Veganuary started in 2014 in the United Kingdom and has expanded to more than 200 countries and territories.
More than 500,000 people participated in Veganuary last year, with 98% of respondents reporting they would recommend it to a friend. The idea is simple — to encourage people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January … and beyond.
Veganuary is a non-profit organization, and its resources are free. You can go online and sign up for its 31 coaching emails with tips, delicious recipes, easy meal plans and more. We have one of the recipes here so you can get an idea on how delicious, easy and affordable eating vegan can be.
Another helpful program is 10 Weeks to Vegan from Vegan Outreach, which is also a nonprofit organization offering free resources. The 10 Week program sends one email each week with tips, recipes and information.
The program is offered in multiple languages and for different countries. It also has 10 Weeks to Vegan Facebook groups and a free mentoring program. If you go to the Vegan Outreach website, you can sign up and get connected via email with a volunteer mentor who’ll help you with anything from navigating the grocery store aisles to figuring out how to respond when people ask you questions, like “where do you get your protein?”
The hardest part is making the decision to try. The rest is a learning process and gets easy over time.
When you give a plant-based diet a try, you’ll learn about all the new products that are coming out each day and find new creative recipes online. Don’t think going vegan means just fruits and vegetables; you can still eat a lot of your favorite foods and snacks. Did you know that Oreos are vegan? Yes, they are.
When it comes to vegan food, there is an endless variety of options. If you prefer to stick with the flavors you grew up with, a range of commercial products can easily be used to make vegan versions of traditional recipes.
Alternatively, you can go for the super healthy whole-food, plant-based diet that focuses on unprocessed plant-based foods. Or you may discover hidden gems in plant-based recipes from other cultures and even your own.
For example, beans, rice and grains have been food staples for centuries. Not only are these foods nutritious, but they are quite affordable.
And if you think beans and rice are boring — just stop by The Full Bowl at NewBo Market in Cedar Rapids and try one of its globally inspired rice and bean bowls. The No Coast Bowl and the Chana Masala are on the permanent menu, and there is an option that changes every week.
If you worry that you won’t be able to eat out if you go vegan, most of the restaurants in the area offer vegan options and these are expanding quickly. If you don’t find a vegan option on the menu, the wait staff or chef can often offer great suggestions.
You can also check out happycow.net, which offers a list of some of the vegan-friendly restaurants near you. This app/website is very useful, especially when traveling.
You don’t have to travel far to find a great vegan restaurant. We have Trumpet Blossom Café in Iowa City, which specializes in creative dishes while focusing on sustainability by using no animal products and sourcing as many local ingredients as possible.
If you are unsure and need more information about veganism, there are several great documentaries to check out. If you are interested in health or losing weight is one of your New Year’s resolutions, try watching “What the Health,” “Game Changers” or “Forks Over Knives,” all available on Netflix.
These documentaries teach you how your food choices have a huge impact on your health and body. If one of your resolutions is to help the planet, “Cowspiracy” is an eye-opening documentary you will not want to miss.
Something else that will help you stay motivated is to visit Iowa Farm Sanctuary in Oxford and Hercules’ Haven in Springville. In the winter months, you can follow them on social media or visit their websites to see their latest rescues.
They are both open in spring and summer, so keep your eyes open for their opening dates and events. These two nonprofit organizations are saving animals and providing them a forever safe home.
Iowa Farm Sanctuary and Hercules’ Haven help make the connection that animals often labeled as “farm animals” are sentient beings whose lives have value beyond the way they taste on our plates. There is often a particularly strong disconnect when it comes to food. To see where you stand in your relationship with animals, you can ask yourself: who do you love, who do you eat, and why?
Once you make the decision to try veganism, you’ll discover that there are tools and resources out there to help you with the transition. And if making the change overnight is not for you, that’s OK.
You can start by replacing one animal product each week. By the end of the year, you would have removed 52 animal products from your kitchen. We are just starting 2022 — let the adventure begin.
Check out the Egg Substitutes for Baking from Vegan Outreach shown in the article, and use these simple replacements to veganize your favorite cake or cookie recipe. Here are a couple of easy recipes from Veganuary and Vegan Outreach that don’t need eggs or dairy at all.
By Sally Thompson taken from Veganuary.com
- 1 ripe banana
- ⅓ cup sunflower/canola oil
- ⅔ cup unrefined sugar OR ⅓ cup agave
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¾ cup plain flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups rolled oats
- Cinnamon and nutmeg (to your taste, I used ¼ tsp of each, optional)
- ½ cup mixed nuts
- ¼ cup mixed seeds
- ½ cup dried fruit
- ¼ cup of your favorite vegan protein bar (optional)
Makes 10-12 cookies.
Preheat the oven to 390 degrees F.
Using a mixing bowl, mash the banana well with a fork.
Add the oil and sugar and mix well with a fork.
Add the flour, baking soda, salt and any vegan powdered spice/flavor you like (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.).
Mix these ingredients well, until the mixture is quite moist.
Now it’s time to add the oats, any nuts, seeds and protein bar chunks you have chosen to put in and to mix really well with your hands to make sure it is all distributed and stuck together.
Make small balls with the dough and place on an oiled baking tray.
Flatten the balls with the palm of your hand, making sure there is a reasonable gap between each disc shape.
Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on how browned you would like your cookies) in a preheated oven (200 degrees Celsius).
Leave to cool on the baking trays once finished in the oven and once they are slightly hardened, twist and lift to remove them from the tray and place on a cooling tray for a further 10 minutes.
If your dough mixture is too greasy, add a few more teaspoons of flour. If your dough mixture is too dry and not sticking, add a little more oil or banana until the mixture holds better.
Instead of a protein bar you can add more nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.
You can reduce the oil and add another banana to make it healthier.
If you don’t like banana, you can replace it with ¾ cup of apple sauce.
Adapted from original recipe:
VEGAN BANANA BREAD
- ½ C non-dairy milk (almond, soy, oat)
- ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 C all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ C vegetable oil
- 1 C mashed banana
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ C walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Lightly oil a standard size bread loaf pan. You can also use parchment paper.
Pour the non-dairy milk into a bowl and add apple cider vinegar.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
Add oil, sugar, mashed banana and vanilla extract to non-dairy milk and vinegar.
Whisk to combine.
Add walnuts (optional)
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until evenly combined. Don’t overmix — some clumps are OK.
Pour the batter into loaf pan.
Bake bread for 38-45 minutes.
Adapted from original recipe Vegan Outreach Guide to Animal-Free Eating
Maria Mendizabal has been vegetarian for 14 years and vegan for five. She is from Guatemala and lives in Marion. She is president of the Vegan Community of Eastern Iowa’s Board of Directors.
For any questions or comments, send an email to [email protected] Visit the VCEI website at https://www.veganeasterniowa.org/ or join the group on Facebook and Meetup.