Long, cold winters pose some challenges to anyone maintaining a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle. The abundance of fresh summer produce has dwindled away, leaving you to face the twin necessities of staying warm while discovering new foods to eat. But the descent into winter also brings some real opportunities to experience new sources of enjoyment. On a sweltering July afternoon hot mulled cider and a steamy pot of soup wouldn’t be the least bit appealing, but deep in winter they’ll nourish body and soul like nothing else.
So let’s take a look at what you need to know to stay vegan through the winter while keeping well-fed and warm as toast.
In temperate climates, all fresh local fruit disappears in the winter, with the exception of apples which are harvested through the late autumn and can stay fresh until spring. You can also buy citrus fruits trucked in from tropical climates. And bananas are widely available year-round, although these are monocultured crops and that don’t hold a candle to bananas eaten locally in the tropics.
Three of the most important vegan foods for a cold winter are winter squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Not only are they widely available, they’ll help you stay warm because they’re almost invariably baked or made into soups. And don’t forget all the other root vegetables, each of which is amazing when roasted: parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, beets, and turnips. These are incredibly nourishing and satisfying foods to eat, particularly in the dead of winter. And since they’re harvested in the autumn and can stay fresh all winter long, they’re the perfect way to keep vegetables in your diet long after all the fresh local greens have gone away.
Boosting your fat intake will also keep you warm, since fat is your body’s most concentrated form of energy. Just like squirrels survive winter by digging up the acorns they’ve stashed away, you’ll find that nuts are the perfect winter snack. Walnuts will add some omega 3s to your life. And your body’s increased need for fat gives you a handy excuse to eat more chocolate, as if you ever needed one.
Finally, keep in mind the warming properties of pepper. If you can tolerate spicy dishes, you’ll find that anything made with hot pepper will cause your whole body to feel warmer. So spicy vegan chili or a hot Thai curry are phenomenal cold weather meals.
Kitchen Gear for Winter
There are a few kitchen appliances that can make all the difference when it comes to comfortably making it through the winter. A pressure cooker will enable you to cook a big pot of beans in under 30 minutes, as opposed to the hours dried beans would require if cooked on a stovetop. And a slow-cooker is the ultimate way to turn five minutes of preparation into a piping-hot meal that tastes like you’ve slaved away the entire afternoon in the kitchen. There are vegan cookbooks devoted exclusively to pressure cookers and to slow-cookers, in which you’ll find an unimaginably diverse variety of recipes to choose from. You can check out our pages on pressure cookers and on slow-cookers for recommended models and vegan cookbooks.
One last tip for a super-cheap kitchen appliance that’s ideal for cold weather: an electric kettle. If you’ve never owned one of these appliances before you have no idea what you’re missing. They’ll heat water in a fraction of the time of a stove-top kettle, with far less energy waste. They’re obviously great for coffee and tea, and during the winter you can also use them to gently warm all your water before drinking. The difference between drinking room temperature water in a chilly house and drinking warm water is that one is making you colder, and the other is giving you more body heat. In a cold house, warm water is a seemingly small thing that makes a big difference.
Cruelty-Free Winter Clothes and Bedding
There are two animal products that many people turn to for warmth during the winter: wool for socks and sweaters, and down for jackets and bedding. It’s tempting to think that these products don’t entail much ethical compromise, since they seemingly don’t require animal cruelty or slaughter. But the reality is that the farming practices for producing both wool and down are shockingly heartless. And nearly all of these animals are ultimately slaughtered. We’ve created pages for wool and down that detail the ethical objections to these fibers.
Additionally, some people wear thermal underwear made from silk during the winter, although the majority of thermal underwear is made from cotton. Silk underwear has a smoother and more comfortable feel than cotton garments. But just as the invention of nylon rendered silk stockings obsolete in the 1940s, you can now buy silk-like thermal underwear made from polyester blends that will let you enjoy all the warmth and comfort of silk.
Embrace the Season
There’s no doubt that winter poses special challenges for vegans, but these are easily surmounted. You’ll find the cold weather offers special satisfactions when it comes to food if you plan accordingly. So embrace all the season has to offer by investing in the garments, appliances, and cookbooks that will carry you through the cold weather in style. Then get yourself a big fat book, make yourself a pot of vegan hot chocolate, and enjoy this time of introspection and renewal.