This January is Veganuary. In this blog, senior editor Tess explains the benefits of eating less red and processed meat, and shares some of Macmillan’s vegan-friendly recipes.

Veganism is more talked about now than ever before in the UK. And because this month is Veganuary, lots of people are starting 2019 by trying out a vegan diet for a few weeks. Maybe you’re a fully-fledged vegan yourself. Maybe you’re just giving it a go for a month, following in the footsteps of Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Or maybe you’re curious about veganism but unsure what you can eat. 

Eating a healthy diet

We advise that for a healthy, balanced diet, you should eat all the nutrients you need to keep your body working well. You can usually get these nutrients from the main food groups – fruit and vegetables, starchy foods (carbohydrates), proteins, some fats and dairy.

Vegan diet

Vegans eat a plant-based diet. They avoid meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey. If you are trying this, you can still choose some things from the main food groups or substitute other things. Some examples of this are:

  • Fruit and veg – these all count as one of your five a day: an apple or banana, a handful of berries, a pepper or courgette, or three heaped tablespoons of frozen peas.
  • Starchy foods (carbohydrates) – plain rice, some wholemeal breads, dry (not fresh) pasta, noodles (not egg noodles) and potatoes can all be vegan.
  • Proteins – vegan options include nuts, beans and lentils.
  • Fats – these can be found in some nuts and seeds (unsaturated fats) or coconut oil (saturated fat).
  • Dairy – vegans can have soya cheese and soya milk instead of dairy products.

Even if you are only trying a vegan diet for a month, it is important to include foods from all the main food groups to get the nutrients you need for a balanced diet.

No meat?

Several studies suggest that eating lots of red and processed meat can increase the risk of some cancers. Red meat is beef, pork, lamb and veal. Processed meats include sausages, bacon, salami, tinned meats and packet meats like sandwich ham.

The greatest risk seems to be for people who eat two or more portions of red or processed meat a day. This does not mean that you have to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet though. People who eat less than two portions a week seem to have the lowest risk. And no link has been found between eating poultry, such as turkey and chicken, and the risk of developing cancer.

Whether you are doing Veganuary or not, you could try eating less red and processed meat. Try to avoid sausages, burgers, pies and sausage rolls. You can replace the space on your plate with more vegetables, beans and lentils. Or why not try some new recipes? You might like the ones we’ve suggested below….

Vegan recipe ideas

So now you know what’s in a vegan diet, and the benefits of cutting down on red and processed meat. Stuck for inspiration? We have lots of quick and easy recipes you could try. Below are some that are suitable for vegans. All our recipes are on our website, and they’re also in our free recipe book.

Mixed bean Mexican chilli

a bowl of vegetarian chilli

Thought chocolate wasn’t vegan? Think again! Dark chocolate can be vegan if it doesn’t contain milk. Check the label for details. Our bean chilli recipe has a bit of dark chocolate in it, to add extra richness.

This recipe works well for people with cancer who have problems chewing or loss of taste or smell. It also freezes well, which means it’s great for people with fatigue who prefer to make meals when they have more energy and then pop them in the freezer to reheat another time.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • Cajun seasoning (1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tin of kidney beans (400g), rinsed and drained
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans (400g), rinsed and drained
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • Vegetable stock (150ml)
  • 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate, chopped
  • Handful of chopped coriander

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic, onion and peppers for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the Cajun seasoning, beans, tomatoes and stock. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted.
  4. Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, tortilla chips or potato wedges.

Hearty vegetable soup

a vegetable market stall

This really is hearty – it’s more of a casserole than a soup, so it’s perfect for cold January days. And if you like things spicy, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of curry powder along with the tomatoes.

This recipe is great for people with cancer who have problems chewing, a dry or sore mouth, or nausea. It’s also a healthier-eating recipe, which means it’s lower in calories. Thanks to the NHS for contributing this recipe.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil (half a tablespoon)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 sticks of celery, sliced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • Vegetable stock (1 litre/2 pints)
  • Tomato puree (1 and a half tablespoons)
  • Green beans (80g)
  • Frozen peas (80g)
  • Dry pasta (50g)
  • Dried mixed herbs (1 and a half teaspoons)
  • Black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, carrots, leek and celery and fry until sizzling. Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring if needed.
  2. Add the tomatoes, stock, tomato puree, beans and frozen peas. Raise the heat to the maximum to continue boiling. Add the pasta, herbs and pepper.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked, stirring frequently to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick.
  4. If you have problems chewing or swallowing, try blending the soup. And enjoy!
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