As Veganuary draws to a close, vegan fitness influencer and model, Leila Hannoun, shares her top tips for anyone looking to cut down on meat or follow a vegan lifestyle…
When and why did you go vegan?
Leila Hannoun: ‘I’ve been vegan for seven years, but my veganism has really progressed over the past two. Initially, I misused being vegan to give me another way to restrict my diet and eat less. I’d say, “I can’t have that pizza because it has cheese on it”, for example. I was influenced by magazines and social media at the time, and my goals were about aesthetics rather than leading a healthy lifestyle. Now, I love being vegan. It allows me to be creative with my food, plus it’s great for the planet. Although it started out as a negative, veganism has become a positive in my life.’
You’re incredibly honest! Why?
‘In the past, I wasn’t honest about my health, and people saw through that. Now, I try to be as transparent as I can be so no women or girls can be confused by what I’m saying. I’ve been living healthily for about two years now, and I achieved that by decreasing my training – because I hadn’t had a period for five years, which isn’t healthy at all – and increasing my food intake.’
How did you up your dietary intake?
‘I increased the variety of food I ate and incorporated more carbs into my diet, because I also went through a phase of thinking carbs were the enemy, even though they’re vital for helping your body to function effectively. I’d say, I’m more of an indulgent vegan now. I eat fruit and vegetables, of course, along with lots of rice, pasta, quinoa, chickpeas, beans and polenta. Oh, and lots of Biscoff. Biscoff is part of me – it’s in my blood! Hence why I created the Speculoos Soya Protein powder with Myvegan [see below], which tastes of caramelised biscuit.’
Tell us about your collaboration with Myvegan…
‘As a Myvegan ambassador, I was invited to enter the brand’s “flavour creator” competition during World Vegan Month in 2021. It involved doing a live Instagram cook-off against other ambassadors, and my Biscoff doughnut protein balls won the public vote. My Speculoos Soya Protein powder launched a few months ago, and my DMs are full of messages from people telling me how much they love it. Obviously, I’m biased, but it does taste amazing. And it’s really smooth, unlike some vegan protein powders which can be quite chalky or gritty.’
Leila Hannoun, what’s your advice for readers looking to cut down on meat or go vegan?
‘Nothing has to be extreme. You don’t have to completely cut out everything in one go. Slowly introducing meat and dairy alternatives into your diet is the best route, or you can try Meat-free Mondays, because little changes can make a big difference to the environment. Looking after your protein intake is vital if you’re into fitness. If I need a quick fix, I’ll have a vegan protein shake, but I prefer to use protein powder in my cooking. I’ll mix it in oats, smoothie bowls, waffles and brownies, and my Instagram feed is packed with different recipes. You can enjoy a healthy, high-protein diet and still have all the things you love.’
The Myvegan Speculoos Soya Protein (£13.99 for 500g) contains the nine essential amino acids needed for a complete amino acid profile. A 30g zero-fat, zero-sugar serving provides 23g protein and 112 calories.
Words: Joanna Ebsworth | Images: Myvegan