WE’RE well into January now, and even though the days are getting fractionally longer and lighter this is still the season for feeling more tired and sluggish than is usual.

Spending more time indoors, cold and flu bugs, and cold wet weather conspire to make us want to huddle down till spring.

Another factor for this New Year lethargy may be Veganuary (going vegan for January). If you’re unused to meal planning, or feel out of your depth with lentils and beans, switching to a vegan way of eating can pose some challenges.

One of the common pitfalls is eating too many carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, bread, and potato, and not making enough good use of the many and varied vegan proteins (pulses, beans, quinoa, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds) and sources of fats like coconut, olive, flax, hemp, avocado and pumpkinseed oil.

When we digest and metabolise food, it’s like building a fire. Carbohydrates act as kindling: they burn up quickly giving a burst of energy that’s relatively short lived. Proteins are the larger sticks; they ignite with the kindling and burn for longer. Fats are the big heavy logs, smouldering away for hours, giving a slow release of energy.

Combining all three macronutrients in each meal keeps us sated and energised for several hours. This guideline applies whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or meat-lover.

Eat plenty of carbohydrates and not enough protein and fat and you’ll be reaching for the snacks within an hour or so. The key to an energising vegan diet is to include plenty of protein sources and some fats with each meal alongside starchier foods. Plant-based proteins are classed as ‘incomplete’ because no one single plant protein contains the ratios of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that humans need. So, it’s important to mix and match different plant proteins over the course of the day to get a complete amount; for example, beans with rice, or quinoa with nuts and seeds.

Drizzle flax, hemp, or pumpkinseed oils over cooked foods and salads (mix with lemon juice and fresh herbs to make a delicious dressing) and use coconut or olive oil for cooking, and you’ve got all the ingredients for your energising vegan fire covered.

Sally Duffin is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT). Find her online at nutritioninyork.co.uk or join the Facebook group ‘Nutrition in York’.