Veganuary - what you need to know to succeed
It's that time of year again.
January is in full swing and with it comes the annual challenge of Veganuary, where people embark on a journey to ditch meat and dairy for a month.
Veganism is everywhere these days and it's clear that more and more people are hopping on the bandwagon in search of a healthier and more sustainable life - but why should you join in? And what should you prepare for?
There's plenty of reasons to give it a go, and yes, it can seem daunting, but as a vegan of almost seven years I'm here to tell you - it's way easier than you think.
What is Veganuary?
The Veganuary challenge started in the UK eight years ago, when a non-profit organisation by the same name encouraged people to try going vegan for a month. Since then, the number of people taking part in the campaign has risen every year and 2022 is no exception.
"Veganuary is on course to have another record breaking year and we have already hit the huge milestone of a total two million official sign-ups since our pledge began in 2014," Dr Toni Vernelli, Veganuary's head of communications, told Her.
"With everyone becoming increasingly aware of the huge negative impact animal agriculture has on the planet – particularly from it’s contribution to climate change, forest loss and water pollution – it’s no surprise that more and more people want to try vegan every year.
"This desire to change is made much easier by the ever increasing availability of delicious vegan options in shops and restaurants. Now, no one needs to sacrifice on taste or convenience in order to put their values into action."
Why should I go vegan?
To put it simply, people typically adapt a vegan diet for ethical, environmental and health reasons. The most popular reason is ethical - to combat animal cruelty. No matter how much the meat and dairy industry like to dress it up, the bottom line is eating meat means animals are exploited and ultimately suffer. And more and more people just don't want to support that.
A vegan lifestyle is also one of the single biggest ways to reduce one's environmental impact and help save the planet. According to the UN, mass animal farming is one of the leading contributors to the destruction of the environment and climate change. It's also the leading cause of deforestation.
What are the health benefits?
Numerous studies show vegans have a much lower risk of getting heart disease due to lower cholesterol levels. The diet has also been linked to preventing type two diabetes and certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer.
Clearer skin may be a potential benefit too, as one of the main culprits when it comes to skin issues tends to be dairy. Plus, let's be honest, introducing more fruit and veg into your diet is never a bad thing, is it?
How do I start?
Ease yourself into it. Going vegan doesn't mean giving up your favourite meals, it just means swapping your protein sources for something plant-based. For example, swap the chicken in your stir fry for crispy tofu, the mince meat in your spaghetti for lentil bolognese, or the beef in your burger for a vegan patty. Beyond burgers are a super popular choice and the most realistic - trust me, you won't be able to tell the difference.
More and more fast food restaurants are hopping on the vegan bandwagon too, from McDonalds to Burger King to Dominos, which makes the initial transition a lot easier. And while there is some debate from hardcore vegans around the ethics of supporting such companies, they are great options for those starting out.
How do I stick to it?
It’s all about eating a balanced vegan diet. We've heard the horror stories about those who adapted a vegan diet and got so weak they simply had to eat meat again. And maybe that's how it feels for some - but if you plunge straight into a vegan lifestyle and live off Quorn chicken nuggets, what the hell did you expect?
Well-planned vegan diets contain all the nutrients needed for the body to thrive - believe it or not, no one has ever died of a protein deficiency brought on by a vegan diet.
A good bit of experimenting, meal prep and planning is essential at first but after a while, it's not something you'll even have to think about.
Following vegan influencers and educators online is another great way to stay on track. Theres a plethora of social media accounts you can follow to inspire you to stay information and yummy recipes.
And speaking of education, there are several documentaries to check out that will tell you all you need to know about why going vegan is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, the animals and the planet. Often referred to as 'The Vegan Holy Trinity' are Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Forks Over Knives.
Feeling ready? Everything you need to know about signing up for Veganuary can be found here.