Members of UCSB’s Health, Environment, and Animal Rights (HEAR) club are sharing tips to continue eating plant-based foods past the month of Veganuary, better known as January.
Veganuary is an annual, worldwide challenge, launched in 2014 by a U.K. nonprofit of the same name, which encourages people to try eating vegan for a month. Since the campaign began, the nonprofit reports that participation has grown significantly each year.
“I definitely struggled in the beginning,” said UCSB’s HEAR club co-president Bella Niven. Niven became vegetarian at the age of 14 and vegan at 17. “What worked for me was slowly integrating recipes and products I liked without thinking of myself as strictly vegan.”
This year, more than 500,000 people took the Veganuary pledge, but what will happen in February? Niven hopes that community members and restaurants will continue to consciously seek out more vegan-centered meals.
“I’m very upset by the ‘hipster vegan’ stereotype,” said HEAR co-president Varun Iyer. “We eat more than just kale, quinoa, and smoothies.” Iyer’s comfort food staples are Mesa Verde’s cashew cheese board and tiramisu.
Other members’ favorites include Natural Café’s Hungry Planet burger, Vegan GreenGo’s nachos with carne asada and chipotle crema, and the veggie burrito at Freebirds, where, according to Niven, the vegetarian option comes with free guacamole.
Buying delicious vegan food is easy, but what about cooking it at home? HEAR members recommend testing out ingredient substitutes to see what works best.
“The most surprising one for me was aquafaba,” Alex Pigeon said. Aquafaba is the liquid leftover from cooked chickpeas. It acts as an egg white replacement and makes for a good whipped cream substitute.
Justin Huitema recommends using coconut cream to replace dairy cream. “From fettuccine alfredo sauces to buttercream frosting on cakes, it’s a versatile ingredient,” Huitema said.
Anyone who has eaten Savoy Café & Deli’s dairy-free options knows you don’t need cow’s milk to make delicious baked goods, but HEAR member Caroline Baldan says it might be tough to cut out this so-called pantry staple.
“For about six months, I would go a week at a time without eating dairy and then give up,” Baldan said. “The best tip I received was to just try new vegan foods instead of focusing on the foods I was eliminating.” Baldan has been vegan since June 2018.
Since it began, the nonprofit reports that the Veganuary campaign has saved 6.2 million liters of water, 103,840 tons of CO2 Eq, and spared 3.4 million animals. Whether your Veganuary lasts for one month or 12, HEAR members hope these tips provide guidance to both those just trying to reduce their meat intake and those embracing a vegan lifestyle for the first (or 15th) time.
For more meal inspiration, visit them at @hearucsb on Instagram.
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