How should you approach going vegan this Veganuary?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


19 December 2018

What is Veganuary?

January has always been a time to make amends for all the food sins committed in December and many of us will embark on new fitness regimes or diets to help us start off the New Year as we hope to go on. Not so long ago, abstaining from alcohol during ‘Dry January’ used to be all the rage but, since 2014, a new trend has arisen.

Veganuary has enjoyed enormous success in the last four years – it’s estimated that last year alone, 168, 542 people joined the movement, a 183% growth.1  This sudden popularity does make sense though, as veganism is the fastest growing food movement in the UK, with 2% of the population making the switch and many people viewing Veganuary as a gateway into the lifestyle.2 

While veganism undoubtedly offers many health benefits, it definitely isn’t a lifestyle you should enter into without some careful consideration first, even if you only plan on adopting the diet for a month. That’s why today, whether you plan on going vegan for a month or a lifetime, I’m here to help offer some advice and suggestions for approaching the lifestyle!

Make small changes before you attempt giant leaps

Veganism can be an empowering lifestyle choice but, if you’re thinking of joining the movement it’s important you don’t do it on a whim. If you’re used to eating animal-derived foods then abruptly jettisoning them from your diet can be a difficult and challenging leap to make and the chances are you’ll fall off the wagon at some point. 

Instead, you’ll need to do your research first – seriously investigate the alternatives that are available to you. This will probably involve doing some experimenting in the kitchen but this can be a fun opportunity. The idea that preparing vegan food is complicated and time consuming is largely based in myth – the truth is that vegan cooking can be fuss-free and incredibly tasty.

Once you’ve thoroughly familiarised yourself with your options gradually start to implement small, manageable changes. This could be something as simple as exchanging the milk in your morning cuppa for a dairy-free alternative or replacing chicken in your stir fry with tofu.

When you’re comfortable with these small changes, you could start setting aside certain days in the week as being ‘vegan.’ This should stand you in good stead when it comes to January 1st and means that, in the long-run, you’ll be less likely to falter. 

Plan meals around your budget

Vegan food has a reputation for being quite pricey, which isn’t always true. I mean when you think about the staples of a vegan diet – chickpeas, lentils, beans and quinoa – these food products are usually more cost effective than meat and last a lot longer too! 

However, if you go in blind, the chances are you could wind up making some expensive mistakes. Blowing your entire weekly shopping budget on fancy vegan chocolates or using a vegan cheese alternative in every meal definitely won’t result in a happy bank balance. 

That’s why, once again, organisation is your friend. If you have an understanding of vegan alternatives and have attempted recipes in the past, you will be more likely to succeed in planning meals around your budget.

Not all vegan food is healthy

 There’s a persisting myth that because something’s vegan, it must be innately good for you. Enjoying a lavish slice of vegan chocolate cake? It’s okay, after all, it’s vegan so it can’t be that bad for you, right? 

Sorry to burst your bubble but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Veganism has its fair share of junk food and trust me, vegan-friendly cakes, pastries and crisps can sometimes contain just as much sugar and additives as their animal-derived alternatives! That’s why it’s still important to keep healthy eating in mind when it comes to vegan food and to be prepared to apply some moderation when it comes to eating all those sweet treats you enjoy so much!

Be open minded about supplements

If you’re new to veganism, sourcing all the nutrients your body needs from plant-based foods can be tricky and something that even more experienced advocates of the lifestyle can struggle with. The best sources of nutrients like vitamin B12, omega-3 and vitamin D are still predominantly animal-derived foods so, as I discuss in my blog ‘What nutrients you should be focusing on if you’re vegan’, at some point you may want to consider using supplements.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting a helping hand in this way, you’ll just need to be careful about the supplements that you choose. Fortunately, many high-quality, natural brands are starting to offer more vegan-friendly options, with BioCare taking the lead with their vegan-friendly omega-3 supplement Phytomega-3. Unlike most vegan-friendly omega-3 supplements which tend to only offer ALA fatty acids, Phytomega-3 is a more complete option, providing algae-derived DHA and EPA fatty acids too!

Remember that veganism isn’t just about your diet

When it comes to veganism, most of us tend to hone in on the dietary side of things without considering the lifestyle as a whole. If you are committed to going vegan in January, it isn’t just dairy products and meat that you need to consider. What you wear and what you put on your skin matters too which means you may need to re-examine your wardrobe and your make-up bag. 

This might sound a bit overwhelming – how on earth are you meant to find out if your shampoo is vegan-friendly or if your clothes are cruelty-free? The good news is that with the rise of veganism more and more brands are trying to cater to the movement. Beauty brands like Lush, PHB Beauty, Inika and Urban Decay all offer skincare and cosmetic products that are cruelty-free and vegan friendly.  

If you are concerned about what you’re buying, the best thing you can do is consult the Vegan Society. They have a list of high-street clothing and beauty brands that provide ethical, cruelty-free options that are suitable for vegans.

Accidents happen

Veganism can be a rewarding lifestyle choice but if you’re new, you might feel as though you have to live up to the expectation of being the ‘perfect vegan’ which can create quite a bit of stress when slip ups do happen.

Instead of striving for some abstract ideal of veganism that probably doesn’t exist, accept that slip ups can and will happen at some point. Even the most experienced vegans sometimes get caught out either by accident or because of a moment of indulgence and this is okay. Don’t take all of your slip ups to heart and become despondent, instead accept that mistakes happen and, if you’re still committed, keep going!

Well that’s my top tips to prepare for Veganuary! Hopefully, with some organisation you will achieve your goal, whether it’s staying vegan for a month or embarking on a more permanent change. If you’re looking for some tasty, vegan-friendly recipes to get you inspired, our food hub is just the place to go as it has a whole host of sweet and savoury vegan recipes

1https://veganuary.com/blog/a-record-breaking-veganuary-2018/

2https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/healthy-eating-vegetarians-vegans/

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