Veganuary: 10 tips for going vegan
Learn from my mistakes – these 10 tips will mean that taking the Veganuary challenge is easy-peasy! Who know’s maybe you’ll stick with it and never turn back!
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Second time lucky?
This year marks my second attempt at Veganuary. Jon and I took the challenge last year for a couple of different reasons (you can read about them here) but didn’t necessarily intend to stay vegan. It was a fun experiment but nothing more. 11 months on and I am still vegetarian rather than vegan but I’m cutting more and more dairy out of my diet. This Veganuary the aim is not just to get to the end of the month and go back to my old ways, but to use the month as a way to consciously change our purchasing habits so that come February I am fully committed to being vegan for as long as I can.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the mantra “failure to prepare is preparation to fail” so, with the start of the challenge just over a month away I decided to sit down and think about the main challenges I faced last year and to get a bit of a plan together. The result is this handy list of 10 tips for anyone who is embarking on the Veganuary challenge!
Good luck – I’d love to hear how you get on and any particular struggles you have along the way. I’ll do my best to help.
10 tips for taking on the Veganuary challenge
1. Be honest with yourself about your current diet and the changes you will have to make
Before you start Veganuary sit down and think about when you currently consume meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and other animal products. Did you know for example that there is often milk powder in crisps! Animal products can find their way into all sorts of foods that you wouldn’t expect. If you identify all of these foodstuffs in advance its easier to avoid them when you’re hitting the shops.
2. Buy a vegan cookbook
If you like eating the same things every day then great! Find a couple of vegan meals you like and stick to them. But if like me you like a bit of variety in your life then buy a decent vegan cookbook to give you some inspiration! I can recommend the following:
3. Plan your meals and snacks
This was my downfall last year. As boring as it is, it will make your life a whole lot easier. In the last 12 months there has been a massive boom in vegan options in supermarkets and fast food joints but trust me you don’t want to be stuck reading the back of packets at lunchtime when you could have planned ahead and made yourself a tasty lunch at home. It will save you money and your sanity. Plus if you’ve already bought a vegan cookbook you won’t have to do too much thinking. Just pick a new recipe for every day of the week!
Throughout January I will be sharing my meal plan for the week on my Instagram stories. Follow me for some vegan inspiration!
4. Be willing to try new things
This one particularly applies to things like tofu, tempeh, egg substitutes and nutritional yeast. You have to get quite creative when cooking vegan food and you will come across a wide range of different ingredients you may not have eaten before.
Tofu and tempeh can be a bit of an acquired taste but they are a fantastic source of protein and are a good meat substitute in a wide range of dishes from stir-fries and ramen to “fake” scrambled eggs. If you are into your baking then you’re probably going to try a few different egg substitutes. But perhaps the weirdest one which people get very excited about is nutritional yeast. The name is hardly appetising and when you first open a tub of the cheesey smelling stuff you will be convinced that you’ve just bought a tub of fish food… That’s right, its flaky just like the food your pet goldfish enjoys! By the end of the month you’ll be using it to make vegan mac and cheese and sprinkling it on every pasta dish you make. Th stuff really is addictive (and you can buy it in bulk!) I’ve even been known to eat it straight from the tub…but then again I’m pretty weird!
5. Treat yourself!
For the most part, being vegan is pretty cheap. If you’re following a whole foods diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies you shouldn’t find your food bills sky rocketing. That being said, there are so many new plant based ready meals, pizzas, desserts, chocolate bars, sweet and more that you should definitely treat yourself to during the challenge. are a particular favourite of mine, as is vegan Ben and Jerry’s. The vegan mozzarella sticks and coleslaw in M&S are also seriously good!
Every time I go into a supermarket I look to see what the “new” product is and 9 times out of 10 I will buy it. It is a bit of an expensive way of food shopping but a treat every now and then is well worth it if it means I keep moving closer to being vegan full time.
6. Get social!
The most useful social account to follow is the Veganuary Facebook Group. It’s particularly handy if you are doing the challenge by yourself. The community is super friendly and supportive. I’ve found them an invaluable source of advice over the last 11 months and they are partly the reason why I’ve decided this year I’m going vegan and not looking back. They also will tell you about the latest product releases and where to find the best vegan products!
There are also tonnes of useful Instagram accounts to follow – not just for recipe inspiration – but for tips on “accidental” vegan products and information on new product launches! My favourites are @accidentallyveganUK and @veganfoodandliving.
7. Try to ignore the haters
I got so much crap from family and friends when I decided to go veggie. I was always an adventurous eater and I’ve tried all manner of weird and wonderful foods (including insects and tripe). I’ve also been on a butchery course. So you can imagine everyone’s shock when my vegetarianism wasn’t just a “phase” and I told them I was moving from veggie to vegan.
You will hear all sorts of nonsense over the month, including generic statements like “humans need meat to survive” (not true) as well as really specific concerns such as “you risk becoming deficient in B-12” (though so are many meat eaters…) When you tell people you’re going vegan suddenly EVERYONE is a nutritionist or an expert in humane slaughter and environmental friendly farming methods. Just wait for all the “infographics” about how much water almond farming requires and how avocados “aren’t really vegan”.
Some people will be well meaning but for every well meaning person there will be at least 2 people who just hate vegans… These people love to share memes about how boring vegans are, or how they are all liberal whack jobs. My only advice is to just laugh and move on. If you don’t laugh you will cry. And there’s no point arguing with these people. Keep focused on the challenge in hand!
8. Remember why you’re doing it
This gets easier and easier the longer you immerse yourself in the vegan community. Watch Netflix documentaries, by vegan magazines, talk to people who have been vegan longer than you. All of these things will help to remind you why you’re going vegan. It’s a fantastic motivator and will help when the going gets tough.
I also found it incredibly helpful reading the . It’s a great read, really engaging and jam packed full of facts!
9. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
This is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of Veganuary – it’s such a short amount of time and you are making a radical change in the way you live your life. If you slip up, that’s fine! Pick yourself up and try again tomorrow. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. The definition of being vegan is avoiding animal products where possible – that doesn’t mean 100% of the time!
It’s also easy to convince yourself that you’re going to feel better overnight and that you’re going to drop a tonne of weight. This doesn’t happen for everyone but that’s OK too. We are all different. Last year I ate a TONNE of vegan junk food. And you know what, that’s a perfectly acceptable way of doing it. London has great vegan options and it being my birthday month I ate out a lot. Does that mean I didn’t do the challenge as well as someone who cooked whole foods from scratch every day? No, of course not! However you decide to approach Veganuary is up to you. It can be hard but try not to compare your Veganuary journey with anyone else.
10. Consider weaning yourself off some of your favourite dairy products before Veganuary
This is perhaps the hardest piece of advice to take so I’ve left it until last… Long-term vegans always say that you should leave MONTHS between your last piece of regular cheese and trying vegan cheese. The reason? If you expect vegan cheese to look and taste like regular cheese you’re going to be disappointed.
I think that’s a little extreme and I’ve really gotten a taste for vegan cheese over the last 11 months, despite still eating the regular kind. But, I don’t think it would do any harm to wean yourself off regularly dairy as soon as possible before starting the challenge. Similarly, if you currently eat meat and fish then I’d try to reduce your meat and fish consumption as much as possible before going fully vegan.
Still looking for more advice? Head over to my Veganuary resources page for recipes and links to some of the resources I found most helpful on my Veganuary journey.