Veganuary: How To Go Vegan for the New Year Challenge
My tips for sticking to a plant-based diet through the month of January.
Veganuary is a challenge that has gained popularity each year with the rise of veganism. So what is it? It’s a New Year’s resolution to cut all animal products out of your diet (aka, “go vegan”) for the 31 days of January.
First Things First, What is veganism?
To summarize, the simplest definition of a “vegan” is someone who has vowed to cause as little harm as is possible and practicable to the other living species on this planet. (Vegan Society) Typically this includes anything that uses animals like food, clothing, makeup, home furnishings, etc.
The veganuary challenge, however, is focused only on food — cutting animal products from your diet.
How do I “go vegan”?
As someone who made the change to a plant-based diet cold turkey several years ago, I have a few tips to offer that will help you do the same. I hope you read this and feel empowered to give it a go!
1. Educate Yourself. My first and biggest tip for succeeding in the change to a plant-based diet is to have a strong reason why you’re doing it.
Take the time to watch a few documentaries, read books, browse articles, check out others online who think and eat this way, and understand why you want to try it. I’ll link a few of my favorite free resources down below.
2. Count Calories. Not for the reason you think. When you remove the cheese, butter, meat, or eggs from a meal, you need to make sure you’re replacing those calories.
One of the biggest reasons people fail on a vegan diet is because they feel hungry all the time. This does not need to be you!
Use a free tool like Cronometer to make sure you’re getting the proper balance of calories from good sources and replacing the calories you’re removing.
Just one slice of cheese has ~110 calories. You’d need to eat about 30 strawberries to replace that calorie deficit. That volume of strawberries would likely make you feel full before you finished, (calorie density is typically lower in plant foods).
Instead of letting that deficit add up until you accidentally binge on Cheetos, just keep track!
3. Increase Your Fiber Slowly. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is notoriously low in fiber (Source: USDA).
If you move straight to a whole food plant-based diet, you may surprise your system with an amount of fiber you’re not used to. This can lead to bloating and a lot of extra time in the bathroom.
If you find it unpleasant, dial your efforts back a bit and give your body a day or two to adjust.
4. Plan out a few “fall back” meals in advance. This challenge will likely have you cooking a bit more than you’re used to, so I’d recommend cooking in bulk and saving leftovers for a lazy meal option.
I also have a few lazy go-to meals I like to make at home when I can’t be bothered (like bean burritos, overnight oats, or whole-grain pasta with marinara sauce and frozen veggies).
If you’re lucky, your grocery store may have premade frozen vegan meals you can keep on hand. There will be a night you don’t want to think about the challenge or cook, so prepare for it.
5. Be flexible — go into it looking for a new experience. There are loads of fun vegan options to try at grocery stores and restaurants, and I recommend you give them a go.
There are just a few things I want you to keep in mind when you do.
First, vegan fake meats and cheeses are why the vegan diet has a reputation for being expensive. They come at a premium price and are a treat — if you’re on a budget please rest assured that you don’t need them to eat delicious vegan food.
Second, anything that is a vegan version of something you love will not taste identical to the non-vegan version. It just won’t — it’s a different thing altogether.
That’s why I want you to think of it as a new experience. Trying something you’ve never had before. With that mentality, you’ll have a much better chance of enjoying it (in my opinion).
An example I’ll use to illustrate this is that if someone took you to an Indian restaurant for the first time and told you “it’s similar to Mexican food — spicy and delicious,” you would eat it expecting Mexican food.
There’s a good chance you wouldn’t like Indian food because it’s nothing like Mexican food (of course).
If instead, you had gone into this experience expecting something you’d never tried before, you would have a much better chance at realizing it is delicious.
6. Try new recipes and restaurants. This challenge is meant to get you out of your comfort zone and trying something new. If you have a vegan restaurant in your area, why not give it a try? It’s way more fun to have a full menu of food to choose from (trust me) so bring your friends and family to try your local vegan restaurant.
There are also thousands of free recipes on YouTube or Instagram you can pick through — try something new! I’ll link some of my favorite resources below.
7. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes. I am willing to bet that there is not a single person who switched to a plant-based diet that nailed it perfectly the first time.
There are hidden animal products all over the place, (I’m looking at you, whey powder!).
If you make a mistake, learn and laugh it off. It’s the intention and the effort that matters, not perfection.
I’d much rather have millions of imperfect vegans doing their best than a few perfect ones laughing at everyone from the top of their high horse.
8. Have fun with it. This challenge is meant to be fun and create a sense of community. Don’t put too much pressure on it or yourself!
I hope you feel armed with the knowledge you need to give this challenge a go.
Final Thoughts & Resources
Veganism is growing in popularity and attracting new interest all the time.
I originally switched my diet after watching the documentary, Cowspiracy on Netflix, but over time continued to educate myself on the impact my dietary choices had on the planet, the animals, and my own body.
I found the switch to a plant-based diet much simpler than most people and realized that my body felt better every day. I hope my tips help you beat the odds this Veganuary as well.
Resources: (Note, these are all just resources I enjoy — I have no formal relationship with any of the mentioned resources.)
NutritionFacts.org (https://nutritionfacts.org/) is a great place for nutrition research. It’s a library of information that summarizes every single nutrition study published each year into bite-sized information chunks surrounding specific topics (like disease prevention, optimal health, trending topics, etc.).
The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear (Note: not my title, on YouTube).
Game Changers (on Netflix).
Forks Over Knives (on Netflix).
Earthlings (on Netflix).
Okja (not a documentary, but widely seen as a vegan resource — on Netflix).
Recipes (YouTube Channels linked below):
Cheap Lazy Vegan. This channel is great for quick, easy, tasty meals.
Hot for Food. This channel is great for comfort foods.
Pick up Limes. This channel is great for healthy & nutritious whole-food plant-based recipes.
Edgy Veg. This channel is great for “veganizing” fast food at home.