Tomorrow marks the start of Veganuary – a month-long pledge to avoid consuming animal products.
And if you’re one of the tens of thousands who has signed up or is thinking of doing so, then you’re probably feeling a little apprehensive about the next 30 days.
If you’re new to veganism, it can be daunting.
After all, the vast majority of us have been raised on diets chock with dairy, meat and fish. We’re kitted out in wool and leather. We use products that have probably been tested on animals without our knowledge.
But friends, you’re not alone and veganism doesn’t have to be difficult.
Have you ever met a vegan who regrets going vegan? No – everyone bloody loves it!
Our consumption habits are just that – habits. Give yourself enough time and they become easy to break or change.
Why try Veganuary?
There are a whole host of reasons to try and go vegan.
Here are just a few:
- A 2016 study from Oxford says that a mass-adoption of a vegan diet could cut 8.1 million deaths a year.
- Apparently, herbivores smell better (?!). A recent study found that those who eat mainly fruit and veg had better-smelling sweat than those on other diets.
- While 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transport (including road, rail, air and marine), a whopping 51% are from livestock and their byproducts.
- A vegan diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50%.
- To feed one person for one year, a meat eater needs 18 times as much land as a vegan person.
- For every 1 pound of fish caught, 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.
So, we asked our pals from London Vegans and Vegans UK to give us their top tips for getting started in the plant-based world and they did not disappoint:
Know what’s accidentally vegan
Before you do ANYTHING, get on Instagram and follow Accidentally Vegan UK – your guide to all things mainstream and accidentally vegan. Absolute LIFESAVER.
Try not to think of vegan products as alternatives
Judge plant-based alternatives such as milks on their own merits rather than how they taste compared to their animal-derived counterparts; soya milk doesn’t taste like cows milk, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you accept that you don’t really need ‘fake versions’ of things in your diet, life becomes a whole load easier. Vegan cheese does not taste like cheese, but there are amazing nut cheeses which taste like heaven.
Veganism doesn’t have to be elitist or expensive
If you’re not going to insist on eating stuff like seitan and moringa powder every day, vegan grub can be incredibly cheap. You don’t need to shop in health food shops and Whole Foods to get by – the Free From aisle in regular supermarkets are lifesavers.
Cheaper chains like Aldi are also great for fruit, veg, nuts and non-specialist cupboard stables like tinned tomatoes, olive oil, coconut milk, rice and pasta.
Use your leftovers
You’re going to get through a lot of veg and rather than binning odds and ends, use them for a pot-luck soup at the end of the week. Just add a bit of coconut milk, some lemon juice and some red lentils and then chuck all those vegetable bits in. Bingo – delicious, hearty soup and no waste. Economical and healthy. Who said veganism needs to be expensive?
Plan, plan and plan some more
Plan ahead with your shopping and cooking – follow vegan accounts on Instagram (and save them into a vegan folder), find recipes on Pinterest and other platforms so you always have inspiration. Our favourite is the Minimalist Baker who’s recipes are made with 10 ingredients or fewer and are always incredible.
Oh, and always have food in the house. Ain’t nothing like a starving vegan in an empty house to spike temptation.
There’s more to veganism than carbs
It’s easy to go on a carb binge when you give up meat and dairy – it’s so easy to live off crisps and chips! But you know, it’s so so simple to be healthy on a vegan diet. All you’ve got to do is opt for whole foods and limit the amount of pre-prepared stuff you buy. Those meat-free sausages might be delicious but you don’t need to eat them every day.
Do your research
There are countless documentaries online and on Netflix that will spur you on. Earthlings is the most persuasive (if you like animals) but there are films to suit every temperament.
Concerned about the environment? Watch Cowspiracy. Worried about your own health? You need to watch What the Health. Not sure veganism is that relevant in Britain? Stop what you’re doing and find Land of Hope and Glory immediately.
Get the HappyCow app
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HappyCow is an app/search engine which will find all the vegan and veggie restaurants near you. It’s worldwide so perfect for when you go off on your hols too.
Remember that loads of chains now offer vegan menus, from Carluccio to Pizza Express, so you don’t have to give up your social life just because you’re ethically minded.
Accept that you’re probably not going to get it 100% perfect
Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake and buy something with hidden ingredients or simply can’t resist a Snickers bar. We’ve all been there and it’s probably going to happen to you while you’re still adjusting.
There are so many vegan support and community groups online and they’re super keen to help newbies. Go on Facebook and find your local vegan group and you’ll find out about vegan places and events in your area you had no idea existed.
Ask for recipe ideas if you’re stuck – members will be only too happy to tell you how to veganise the meals that you’d normally cook.
And they often have meet-ups which can be useful if you’re the only one in your social circle who’s trying out plant-based life. It’s like anything – the more support you have, the more likely you are to keep with it.
You could also join Challenge 22+ – a free 22-day guide put together by a network of vegans, seasoned cooks and clinical dietitians to help you navigate the change.
Don’t let the haters get you down
Veganism gets a bad rap and yep, you probably will get a bit of slack from your pals or family. But remember why you’re doing Veganuary – they’re impossible to argue against. Don’t let some small minded jerk dampen your spirits.
And don’t let militant vegans put you off
Spend enough time on online vegan forums and you’ll find that there are some plant-based folk who are just interested in putting others down. Oneupmanship is as prolific in the vegan world as in others.
Just like omnivores, all vegans are different – some are more mean/pious/narrow-minded than others, so don’t let a bad experience stop you from wanting to be a part of the movement.
We’ve been doing stacks of vegan content for ages now because we’re passionate about it. And throughout January, we’ll be doing loads of interviews, cheat sheets and discussions on the subject. From vegan fitness to vegan booze and various moral conundrums, we’ve got you covered.
Got other tips? Comment below!
GOOD LUCK FRIENDS!
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