Doing the Veganuary thing this year? You’ve come to the right place, because this dietitian has a ton of tasty and healthy veganuary recipes to help you love what you’re eating this month plus the Veganuary tips you NEED to have fun and feel your best!
As a plant-based dietitian who has also written a plant-based cookbook, I know a thing or two about making healthy plant-based recipes that are also really yummy and fun to eat. And with all of the awful fad diets out there at this time of year, it makes me so excited to see folks choose a positive and non-restrictive start to a new year. Eating a vegan or plant-based diet is filled with flavour and possibility and it helps make a positive impact on the environment as well as animals.
I’ve got everything you need to get started here in this blog post…so let’s do it!
- What is Veganuary?
- Vegan vs Plant-based
- Health Benefits of Going Vegan or Plant-based
- Veganuary Tips + Tricks
- 21+ Veganuary Recipes
What is Veganuary?
Veganuary is a month-long vegan challenge each January, created by a non-profit organization to help encourage folks to give vegan living a try. It’s a great way to dip a toe into the world of plant-based eating in a fun and supported way even if you’re not ready to go vegan long term.
Vegan vs Plant-based
I get a lot of questions about what a vegan diet is versus a plant-based diet and I have to admit that the words get used so interchangeably that it is kind of confusing. People also define them differently (ARGH!) which makes things worse. So here’s my two cents!
- Vegan: A vegan diet is 100% free of animal products, including honey. Some folks choose to just eat a vegan diet but more often, folks adhere to a fully vegan lifestyle, eliminating wool, leather and other animal derived ingredients from their home and personal care products.
- Plant-based: In my opinion, there are two main ways to look at a plant-based diet. The first is someone who eats mostly plants – perhaps 80% or more – but also still includes some animal products such as the occasional fish or honey. The other popular definition is derived from the whole food plant based movement, which means that while the diet is 100% free of animal products, there is a focus on eating actual whole plant foods for health.
As an example, oreos are vegan…but they aren’t really plant-based. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to the word vegan for non-vegan consumers, a lot of vegan products are now simply referred to as plant-based even though they aren’t whole foods.
I’m not much of a fan of labels, because we each get to define the best way for us to eat. Myself? I like the plant-based label for a couple of reasons: the first, was that it took me a long time to transition from vegetarian to vegan so plant-based felt inclusive to me. And I like inclusive. Secondly, while I don’t adhere rigidly to whole food plant based (and I’m not sure that most people should) I do focus on eating mostly actual whole plant foods.
Listen to the Allsorts Podcast!
I talk with Catherine Perez RD AKA The Plant-based RD about how to transition to a fully plant-based or vegan diet, including meal planning, enjoying your cultural foods and which nutrients to watch out for.
Health Benefits of Going Vegan or Plant-based
There are so many reasons why someone might want to go vegan or plant-based…and not all of them have to do with nutrition! You might want to do your part for climate change or help animals. Of course, regardless of your why, there real health benefits to taking the plant-based path.
- Improved gut health Plant foods are high in not just fibre, but indigestible carbohydrates such as FODMAPs and resistant starch that help feed the gut microbiome and improve digestive health.
- Improved energy levels When you are eating nutrient-dense whole foods, your body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs to help it thrive, while also getting supportive phytonutrients that help squelch oxidative damage and fight inflammation.
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease Plant-based diets contain fewer saturated fats and added sugars, more fibre and more naturally occurring phytochemicals and appear to help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease in the research. A healthy plant-based diet may also decrease your risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.
- May improve blood sugars and diabetes Whole food-focused plant-based diets have been associated with a lower risk of diabetes, as well as potentially improving blood sugar control with diabetes.
- Decreased risk of certain cancers Plant-based diets are associated with decreased risk of some cancers, such as prostate and breast cancer
Veganuary Tips + Tricks
I know you’re stoked on getting started, but a month is a long time…so let’s set ourselves up for success, shall we? In addition to saving all your fave veganuary recipes, you’re going to need a little advice on how to make these changes stick. Read on for some veganuary tips from an actual registered dietitian who knows her lentils from her chickpeas..
- Stock your pantry before the month starts If it’s not in your cupboard or fridge, how are you going to eat it? Check out this list of plant-based proteins, because it’s probably going to be the biggest change to how you eat (assuming you already eat fruits and veg of course!). Ensure that you always have 3-4 different protein sources on hand for easy meals. Choose a few whole grains to have on hand. And, stock your pantry with some easy quick meals like whole wheat pasta with a marinara sauce or baked beans in tomato sauce.
- Do some batch prep Don’t have much time to cook? Not to worry! Set aside a bit of time on the weekend to cook 1-2 whole grains, 1-2 proteins and chop up some fruit and veg to make weeknight cooking easier. Cooked legumes and whole grains can be frozen, so cook in large batches so you’ll have weeks of supplies. If you prefer, you could batch prep whole meals instead – I have some recipes below.
- Look for plant-based versions of your everyday favourites You don’t have to remake how you eat this month! Instead, find plant-based recipes for the foods you already love, such as burgers, curries or pizza. You’ll also want to find non-dairy milks, cheese and meat alternatives that suit your taste buds and your budget.
- Create a balanced plant-based plate to cover your nutritional bases A healthy vegan meal has the same components as an omnivore meal…we just get our nutrients from plants! As a simple formula, think of covering half of your plate in fruits and vegetables; a quarter of your plate in whole grains and the last quarter of your plate in protein foods like lentils. When you go vegan, you’ll also need a B12 supplement and we all need to take our vitamin D. This post tells you everything you need to know about vegan nutrition.
- Sign up for a supportive community this month Each January, I do a non-restrictive challenge called Eat More Plants…so if you are looking for a dietitian-led, diet free community to support you through Veganuary, why don’t you join us? You’ll be prompted to sign up for the Nutrition with Desiree community on Mighty Networks (it’s free) and then the month-long challenge is just $10 because I want to make supportive evidence-informed nutrition available to all.
21+ Healthy Veganuary Recipes
Now the best part: what to eat!!! This blog is filled with tons of healthy vegan recipes that are super tasty, but I wanted to create this little collection of veganuary recipes so you could easily bookmark it to use all month long.
Veganuary Breakfast Ideas
- Healthy Homemade Cinnamon Sugar Nut Butter Toast and nut butter can be an awesome, nutrient-dense breakfast! Treat yourself to this incredibly delicious – and low sugar – nut butter inspired by cinnamon toast cereal.
- Easy Vegan French Toast with Caramelized Bananas and Walnuts Love french toast? Try this high fibre and higher protein version that will help you feel full and satisfied.
- Blushing Beet Smoothie Bowl Beets? In a smoothie? This sweet-tart treat is bursting with juicy flavour.
Vegan Soups and Stews
- Spicy Vegan Pozole Verde with Jackfruit This hearty vegan stew, inspired by the flavours of pozole verde, has a meaty texture thanks to jackfruit.
- Sunchoke Soup with Cilantro Pesto Sunchokes are incredibly high in prebiotic fructans to boost your gut microbiota.
- Roasted Tomato Soup with Sunflower Fennel Gremolata This creamy soup gets a little lift from crunchy and citrusy sunflower seed gremolata. Seems fancy, really easy to make!
- Eggplant and Chickpea Curry from Amelia Freer this crowd pleasing curry is simple and super flavourful.
Protein-rich Vegan Meals
- Homemade Vegan Pot Pie Recipe This pot pie gets a double dose of protein from a savoury chickpea flour crust.
- 10 Minute Mexican Tostadas with Black Beans and Squash Short on time? These easy black bean tostadas are a light yet satisfying meal.
- Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili one of the most popular recipes on my website, this family favourite is always a hit.
- Not Your Mama’s Casserole: Swiss Chard and White Bean Gratin (Vegan) This one pot wonder is creamy, sweet, savoury and back with protein-rich white beans
Vegan Meal Prep Recipes
- Introducing the un-recipe: perfect grain bowls The easiest way to bust boredom and streamline lunches? Sunday grain bowl prep!
- 5-Minute Vegan Chickpea Tuna If you haven’t tried chickpea tuna, you will be SHOCKED at what a good dupe it is
- Healthy Vegan Black Bean Breakfast Burrito not just for breakfast, these hearty burritos can be prepped and frozen!
- Vegan Egg Salad Sandwich (low FODMAP) relax, it’s tofu…not egg! But every bit as good as the classic.
Whole Food Plant based Snacks
- Trader Joe’s Trail Mix (Copycat Recipe) This Omega Trek mix dupe is even better than the original and really filling!
- Za’atar Spiced Roasted Almonds with Dates One of my fave snacks ever
21+ Veganuary Recipes: Cilantro Walnut Pesto
- Food Processor
- 1 cup curly parsley, leaves and tender stems lightly packed
- 1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems lightly packed
- ¼ cup walnut halves
- ¼ large lemon skin on, seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- In a small food processor or large cup for blending, add the parsley, cilantro, walnuts, lemon, hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt. Pulse until finely chopped and uniform – or puree if using an immersion blender.
- Next, drizzle in olive oil while pulsing the mixture, to emulsify the pesto. If using an immersion blender, the mixture will have a creamier consistency when you blend.
- If adding pesto directly to pasta, toss pasta with a tiny drizzle of olive oil first to coat the strands so the pesto spreads a bit easier. Or store pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to three days…if it lasts that long!