Firstly, What is veganism?
In short form, veganism is an extreme extension of vegetarianism; it’s a diet and lifestyle that doesn’t consist of any animal products or by-products. A lot has changed in terms of the vegan diet, lifestyle and history over the last couple of centuries. Let’s take a look back in time and explore exactly what it is that Veganuary celebrates, and how you can get involved.
And what is Veganuary?
Veganuary is a UK not-for-profit organisation which aims to promote and encourage veganism by encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the entirety of January. The prime focus of the 31-day challenge is to ask people to only consume vegan produce, but some take it further and also make adjustments to the clothes they purchase.
This year in 2021, a record 500,000 people have pledged to take part in Veganuary, 100,000 up from 2020. Many fast food outlets also tend to launch new offerings during Veganuary, including the famous Greggs vegan sausage roll in 2019, and Subway, which launched its new ‘Tastes Like Chicken’ meat-free sub this month.
What year did Veganuary start?
The Veganuary organisation launched in 2014. Since then, more than one million people in 192 countries have tried going vegan for January. For some, the choice leads to a full change in lifestyle - continuing their veganism for the duration of the year.
What does Veganuary support?
The work that Veganuary does far surpasses the month of January. Throughout the year, the non-profit supports people and businesses as they move to a plant-based diet. It works with brands, restaurants and supermarkets to create, launch and promote new vegan items to help people move to veganism to protect the environment, animals, and the health of millions of people. It also raises awareness of animal suffering, by working with a number of campaigners to spread awareness.
Why would you do Veganuary?
With so many health benefits of going vegan, trying out Veganuary could be just what your lifestyle needs. Research shows that people who have vegan or vegetarian diets are at much lower risk of various illnesses including diabetes and heart disease.
What’s more, Veganuary is also a great way to become healthier and lose weight after the festive period as vegan diets naturally tend to reduce your calorie intake, promoting healthy weight loss. Veganuary has so many advantages, so why not make it part of your lifestyle, even if it is just for a month.
There are many reasons why people opt for a vegan life and choose to adapt their day-to-day actions and behaviours to fit the bill. Whether it’s for the exceptional health benefits of the vegan diet or the moral stance it holds over animal cruelty, being vegan can be incredibly positive and often only requires small changes.
How to do Veganuary in a way that works for you
If you decided to go from meat eater on New Year's Eve to vegan on January 1st, you don’t have the luxury of doing what we usually suggest - easing yourself in via vegetarianism first. But there are many ways to stay on track with Veganuary and stick to your New Year goal.
1. Get Creative With Recipes
Do not stick to the same three recipes day in, day out. You’ll get bored and be more likely to quit.
Take a look on Instagram and search the abundance of vegan recipes there are on there for inspiration. From #Vegan, #VeganInspo, #VeganFood, #VeganRecipes, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Why not invest in a new piece of kitchen equipment, or create an Instagram food account to mark the occasion? And if you want to focus on helping to support small businesses, Deliveroo now has a section which you can filter by vegan - takeaway food does no longer have to be tricky!
2. Don’t punish yourself over setbacks
It can take, on average, between 21 and 66 days to fully change our behaviour cycles and turn them into natural habits. Slipping up is part of human nature, especially when you’re trying something new. The important thing is to get back on the saddle and continue. Remember – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
3. Keep it Fun
If you’re finding it hard to stick to a new way of eating and living, why not ask your friends to take part with you? They don’t have to change their entire diet, but it’s always more fun when you’re together – there’s a reason people suggest having an accountability buddy. You can have Zoom cookery classes or a Zoom version of Come Dine With Me. It certainly makes a change from the thousands of Zoom quizzes!
4. Cook in Bulk
Creating three plant-based meals a day with hefty amounts of cooking time can be hard to plan, especially if most of your meals were meat-based in December.
Cooking in bulk is perfect for anyone, not just vegans. Whether you’re wanting to meet your macronutrients, cut down spending pennies on takeaway or reduce the time spent cooking, having a freezer full of meals ready for the week is super satisfying, and you’re more likely to stick to it. You don’t have to worry about marinating tofu every night or having enough vegetables when you log off from work – you just need to spend a few evenings a week cooking up a storm. If you’re doing Veganuary solo, you could just cook a meal according to two or four portion sizes, which most recipes usually are. Then, split it between a number of tupperware boxes. Just try not to eat all the yummy food at once!
5. Know what you can eat
Did you know that Oreos and Jammy Dodgers are vegan? And, if you’re not doing dry January, were you aware that most wines aren’t vegan?
Possibly one most of the challenging aspects of vegan life is knowing exactly what you can and can’t eat. Becoming a master label reader will quickly fall into your bank of natural talents when doing the weekly shop.
Preparing yourself with the skill set of being able to identify what makes a product vegan or not is something you will quickly get used to. However, don’t be afraid to use the internet to your advantage.
There are hundreds of social media pages, websites and forums that give you a rundown of what you can and can’t eat as a vegan, making shopping simple. Try out the app Is it Vegan? which lets you scan the barcode to find out if the item is, in fact, vegan.
6. Know what products you can use
Many perceive going vegan as being all about changing up your diet, however, cutting out meat and animal by-products reaches so much further than what we have for each meal.
There are heaps of non-food products on the market that are made in unethical ways and use animal products. Identifying and subsequently not using these products is a big part of vegan life.
Beauty products, fashion items and everyday materials aren’t always cruelty-free or vegan-friendly. Making sure you know exactly what’s in your moisturiser, what your jumper is made out of and the tattoo you’re considering is vegan-friendly can be tedious, but putting animals at the heart of your life and your choices is what vegan life is all about. Check out Bunny Free which lets you search for companies by name to tell you whether or not they test on animals.
Most importantly, don’t compare your vegan transition to anybody else’s. Just like everything in life, we all take on changes at different paces and in our own unique way. Your vegan journey is personal to you, so doing things in your own time and on your own terms will help make the transition to vegan life much easier.
However, there are still a lot of factors that put people off trying the vegan lifestyle, even if it is just for Veganuary. Let’s take a look at some of the top vegan myths and how we can help you know the rights from the wrongs.
Common Vegan myths
Don’t vegan diets lack protein?
Even though Veganuary is inspiring more people to change their ways, one of the most common misconceptions that stops people from altering their lifestyle choices is the fear that vegan diets don’t offer enough protein.
Whilst meat is considered the main source of protein for many, it isn’t the only option. You can make your Veganuary a successful one by finding your protein from the same source as animals; plant-based foods.
Green vegetables, beans and pulses, grains and nuts are all great sources of protein that are both meat-free and full of flavour. Your Veganuary can also look at everyday foods that you already have in your pantry for protein, such as pasta and potatoes.
Other vegan protein alternatives include seitan, tempeh, quinoa and nut butters. The dishes you plate up for Veganuary don’t have to lack protein, it’s just about knowing which foods you can source it from.
Isn’t a vegan diet restrictive?
Many shy away from committing to Veganuary thinking that the vegan diet is too restrictive, but it’s far from it. Many households are already stocked up with lots of vegan-friendly foods making your shot at Veganuary seem a little less daunting.
Most jams, cereals, herbs, sauces, biscuits and tinned goods are vegan-friendly, making the store-cupboard essentials in your kitchen only the beginning of your vegan food adventure.
If you’re one to enjoy home cooked meals, the internet is the best tool that you can rely on. Vegan-focused websites, forums and social media all make great Veganuary resources; they’re home to endless recipes and ideas that are bursting with inspiration for your Veganuary.
If you’re not so interested in eating at home during your Veganuary, you don’t need to worry, many restaurants now offer vegan dishes and alternatives, making eating out during Veganuary less of an impossible task.
Restrictions only exist in a vegan diet if you’re not open to trying a few new things. Experimenting with vegan-friendly ingredients will open your diet up to a world of food and flavour opportunities this Veganuary.
Isn’t honey suitable for vegans?
Taking on Veganuary can leave you struggling to understand what does and what doesn’t constitute as vegan, with one of the most common confusions being around products that are derived from bees.
As we know, bees make honey naturally, which is where a lot of people tackling this alternative lifestyle become a bit morally confused. The reason bees produce honey naturally is that they need it, though the process is incredibly hard work. Bees exert exceptional effort when it comes to collecting nectar, making the honey and storing it, only for it all to be taken away and replaced with a human-derived sugar water substitute when farmed.
Factors like this are leading to a decline in the bee population, consequently making any bee products or by-products unsuitable for vegans. Ruling out any bee products from your lifestyle during Veganuary is just one great way you can help animals, try new alternatives and help to do your bit for the bees.