Vegan know-how

Amanda Ursell, consultant nutritionist for CH&CO Independent, gives sound advice for Veganuary 2020

January used to be a time in the media dominated by weight loss diets and ‘detox’. In recent years this has been increasingly usurped by news of the ‘Veganuary’ campaign.

According to The Vegan Society in the UK, the campaign, which asks people to eat vegan for the month of January, saw sign-ups nearly double in 2019. Over a quarter of a million people committed to the cause, up from 168,500 in 2018 and just 3,300 five years previously. 

What particularly caught our eye was the statistic that 10% of British children aged eight to 16 are now vegan or vegetarian, with 44% trying to eat less meat, dairy and eggs.

Any change in diet should be undertaken armed with some basic facts about nutrition. Any style of eating whether it contains milk and eggs, meat and fish, lentils and nuts, or fruit and vegetables, can vary in its degree of ‘healthiness’ and veganism is no exception.

According to The Vegan Society in the UK, the campaign, which asks people to eat vegan for the month of January, saw sign-ups nearly double in 2019

While it’s absolutely possible to have a nutritionally replete vegan diet, it’s also a fact that when not adopted with insight, knowledge and care, a switch to veganism may lead to dips in nutritional intakes, with particularly concerning implications for young people.

Affects could be both short and long term, with potential consequences on physical, emotional and psychological health, impacting on learning and behaviour both in the home and school environment. The message is, as with any style of eating, do it healthily to help keep energy levels up and to feel happy, balanced and able to enjoy life to the full. 

We’ve created a 10-point checklist for our chefs, schools and parents, to help understand the importance of nutrition for anyone adopting a vegan lifestyle.

Credit: The Vegan Plate by dietitians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina

(Click on image to enlarge)

1. The vegan plate

Above is a great visual way of seeing the types and proportions of foods to aim for in daily meals and snacks*. Supplementation is an important part of the vegan lifestyle (see

2. Strong bones

Bones need the mineral calcium to grow in length and strength. Try fortified soya milk, tofu, figs and apricots, dark green vegetables and breads.

3. Vitamin D

Without vitamin D, calcium can’t be absorbed. We’re all advised to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily in a supplement in the UK in winter, vegan or not.

3. Loads of energy

We need iron for energy and focus. Peas and other pulses like lentils and baked beans, as well as seeds, dried fruits, dark green vegetables and some fortified breakfast cereals, give us iron.

4. Regular protein

You need protein at every meal for your body to grow and thrive. Soya milk and yoghurt, tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas and seeds give us protein.

5. Brain power

Brains need energy, oxygen and nutrients throughout the day to help you to concentrate and feel balanced in yourself so eating regularly is important. The brain also loves omega 3 fats, found in flaxseeds and chia seeds.

6. Spread the veg

Spread your net wide when it comes to your choice of fruit and vegetables. Every single one brings its own special nutritional plus points.

7. Vital vitamin

When eating vegan, ‘B12’ supplementation is a must. Ignoring this advice can lead to nerve damage, which can’t be reversed. Check out for more information.

8. Mighty mineral

We usually get iodine from milk and fish in the UK. It’s crucial for a healthy metabolism. Have fortified soya milk and/or supplementation.

9. Have ‘treats’ as treats

It doesn’t matter which style of eating you opt for, snacks packed with sugars, fats and salt are for special occasions, not everyday staples!

10. Water

Water from the tap avoids plastics, is free and tops up your fluids to help keep you active and focused throughout your busy days.



*Nuts also provide protein and other vitamins and minerals. CH&CO Independent does not include nuts on its menus.

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