‘Veganuary’ is an annual challenge, popular in the UK, which invites people to become vegan for the month of January.
Teresa Filipponi, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition, is a Dietitian and registered Public Health Practitioner. Her expertise lies within public health and specifically in the areas of global, maternal and child health and nutrition:
What are your thoughts on ‘Veganuary’?
Being a vegetarian myself, I fully support the intentions of ‘Veganuary’ and the opportunities it offers to raise awareness. However, rather than make substantial changes for one month and then return to normal, I would encourage people to think about making a shift towards a more sustainable diet on a gradual basis.
We all recycle and reuse but shifting your diet to consume more non-animal protein than animal protein is just as important for the environment.
Why is eating meat bad for the environment?
A recent study that assessed the impact of several foods commonly consumed on land use, climate change emissions, water and air pollution identified that removing animal protein is the most effective way to reduce the impact on greenhouses gases, water, and air pollution as well as land and water use.
Is this shift towards a more sustainable diet expensive?
Absolutely not. You don’t need to buy fancy marketed vegan products. Small changes, like switching meat for beans or pulses and increasing locally sourced and seasonal fruit and vegetable intake, can make a big difference to your health, but not to your pocket.
What tips can you give us to do this?
If you don’t already, you could try ‘cooking from scratch’ more often, a great stress reliever too. We can also be quite monotonous in the way we eat our food - perhaps try a new recipe once a week?
As I mentioned, you can switch meat in recipes for pulses or beans, which can be bought raw or cooked (tinned) and are inexpensive and work well in soups, salads, or stir-fried dishes. Beans are a good source of protein but very low in fat, high in fibre, and low cost so you are helping the environment and your family economy.
I appreciate that not everyone likes beans and pulses but it’s just about trying to shift very gradually away from meat, especially processed meat.
If you are removing meat from your diet, should you supplement elsewhere?
My message is not about removing meat but substituting some meals.
However, this is very difficult to answer because everyone’s diet is different. If you have varied diet, reducing meat will not have a negative impact. Eat leafy green veg to top up iron levels and combine with vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits to help the iron absorb.
Keep in the mind the NHS ‘Eat Well’ guide, which encourages eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, eating sustainable fish and complex carbs, and eating less processed and red meat.