Okay so I have a confession.
I didn’t actually complete Veganuary in January.
Last January I celebrated not only my birthday, but an engagement, so the only thing really on my mind was champagne (lots of it) and cake.
Fast forward to October and I decided it was time to go full throttle on the Vegan living and attempt a full month- my own Veganuary… you know, just in October.
The upshot? It was easier than I expected and I learnt a lot. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of trying it & why I’ll be doing it again… (yes, in January this time):
1.Know what you’re getting into
I recently tried to convince my mother to complete Veganuary and her response was:
“I’d love to do Vegan January. You can still eat fish and eggs right?”
Before you start your Vegan January take a bit of time to work out what you can (and can’t eat). I wouldn’t get too bogged down and scare yourself off, scanning every single ingredient in your favourite foods. Just know the basics: no products that come from an animal.
2. Prep is key
This is especially true if you’re trying the Vegan lifestyle for the first time. The last thing you want to do is get to lunchtime on January 1st, panicked about what to eat for lunch and end up with your usual chicken and avocado salad. Scout out your usual lunch haunts for the Vegan options or spend a Sunday in the kitchen, filling your freezer with soups and stews to keep you on track.
3. Experiment with new ingredients and recipes
One of my most misguided ideas about being Vegan was that being Vegan= boring food. Actually, eating Vegan is a great opportunity to experiment with new ingredients and combinations to discover delicious food. A few of my favourite books for amazing Vegan food include Deliciously Ella (also check out her app for on the go dinner suggestions- no more wondering around Waitrose confused), Keep It Vegan and Vegan Street Food. If you aren’t ready to invest in a book, google is full of suggestions. Another tip I have would be to get experimenting with your favourite recipes, substituting the animal products for Vegan alternatives.
4. Don’t think being Vegan = eating all the junk food
I’ve met a few people now who moved towards Vegan living only to put on weight. This wasn’t the Vegan food itself, but because it’s very tempting to think being Vegan means eating all the Vegan fake fried chicken and raw brownies under the sun. I actually found going Vegan I could eat more (wholesome) meals, and put on less weight. More food, less fat? Winning. Bulk up recipes with vegetables to keep you from turning to the junk food options.
5. That said, know your weaknesses and have an alternative ready….
At the end of the day we’re all human and sometimes those cravings just have to be fulfillied. Think about what your weaknesses are and have an alternative in preparation. Some of my favourites? For cheese, try Violife. Just try not to eat the whole packet like I do… Chocolates or Ice Cream? Booja Booja is so good you’ll forget the original. If you fancy something a little naughtier, Ben & Jerry’s now do dairy free ice cream and Oreos are Vegan. Combine the two for a double whammy. In desperate need of your usual flat white? Rebel Mylk has created full fat, semi skimmed and skimmed mylk that you can use just the way you would normal milk. Missing meat? Try Seitan, pulled Jackfruit (like pulled pork, just Vegan), Tofu and Tempeh.
6. Focus on the things you can eat, instead of the things you can’t
It’s the key to staying sane. The reality is, when you think about all the food out there, you aren’t cutting much out by going Vegan. If you’re constantly focusing on what you can’t eat, you’ll only end up miserable.
7. Educate yourself whilst you’re at it for extra motivation
Everyone has different reasons why they became Vegan (or more plant based at least). By becoming more educated around these reasons you can make your own informed decisions in the future. My initial purpose was around the health benefits and yet with more research climate change has become a key reason why I say no to meat more often. Some of the best?
- The China Study (book)– the most comprehensive study on nutrition, that shows that plant based is best.
- What the health (documentary)– studying the links between chronic diseases and the meat and dairy industry. Available on Netflix.
- Cowspiracy (documentary)– a documentary that blew my mind, looking at the links between climate change and eating meat. Available on Netflix.
- Vegucated (documentary)– this takes 6 New Yorkers and challenges them to live a Vegan lifestyle. Old school- but effective. Available on Netflix.
- Skinny Bitch (book)– okay, I don’t really like the title of this book, but I can’t deny how powerful it is when it comes to advocating a Vegan diet, and unveiling some of the truths behind the corrupt meat industry.
- How Not To Die (book)– a book revealing the foods which help you live longer (and disease free)
8. Discover new restaurants
Going Vegan is a great excuse to get out and try places you’ve never tried before. My favourites? For fine dining, try The Gate. For a catch up with friends, try Mildred’s. For a cosy breakfast or lunch, head to a Deliciously Ella Deli. Got a naughty craving? Temple of Hackney has your fake fried chicken needs covered, and Naked Dough now has a Vegan cookie dough option. And my favourite when I’m back home? The Garden, Hale.
9. Read the ingredients
One of the most shocking things I found about going Vegan for a month was the amount of crap in stuff I usually ate… and how unnecessary it seemed. Realising how much rubbish is in stuff makes you reform your diet (Vegan or not) and your body feels much better for it.
10. Don’t be too hard on yourself, be proud of yourself, and keep it up
Being hard on yourself is not the way to make positive changes. If you slip up, don’t just give up. Realise your human and carry on.
Despite advocating a Vegan lifestyle, I don’t label myself Vegan or stick to it 100% of the time (wrongly or rightly). But doing something is always better than doing nothing at all.
If you’re feeling good after your month of being Vegan, keep those positive changes going. Simple swaps such as plant milk in your porridge are easy to stick to and can help have a positive impact on your health and the environment over time.
If you’re interested in joining me in Veganuary, sign up here for support, recipes and guides to eating out: https://veganuary.com