Another year is coming to an end, so for many people, this means prepping for veganuary! Which is great! While veganuary wasn’t my intro to veganism, it’s a wonderful initiative and I love how there has been so many exciting new vegan foods launched every January. However, one thing I will always emphasis to everyone going vegan to to prep for it. So here is a guide to veganuary.
How To Survive Veganuary Guide:
Incorporate Plant Based Foods Before Removing Anything
While it’s not January 1st yet, and you’re free to continue to eat animal products, a good tip is to get used to plant-based foods before you start removing animal products. Start trying vegan snacks, putting some soya milk in your coffee etc. That way when the time comes to remove animal products, you’re already used to a lot of vegan alternatives and know what you like.
I started my vegan journey by just trying a lot of vegan foods before I removed anything!
Ease Into Veganism Before Jan 1
The point of veganuary is that you wake up January 1st and go cold turkey, but I would really urge easying into veganism if you plan to stay vegan after the month is up. In the weeks and days leading up to January, slowly start to take out some animals products and replace them with vegan ones. Maybe stop using dairy milk in tea and coffee, then stop in your cereal or cut out beef, then try tofu instead of chicken. That way it wont be such a shock to the system when you officially start veganuary as you’ll already be at least somewhat flexitarian.
A lot of the people I know who struggled with going vegan or vegetarian did because they just went cold turkey and didn’t plan in advance. This is also why a lot of people go back to their regular diet, because the first few weeks were more miserable than the expected. As much as you might want to be vegan, it can be hard to stick to if it was a spontaneous decision and you don’t know what to eat, what you like, and still crave animal products.
Educate Yourself On Nutrition (Or See A Nutritionist/Dietian)
Eating healthy as a vegan isn’t as simple as just swapping milk for soya milk or chicken for tofu, and one of the most important parts of this guide to veganuary and what it means if you want to know how to survive veganuary is to make sure you know how to keep yourself well healthy! The nutritional breakdown of a lot of vegan foods is not the same as animal products. So you ready need to read up on plant-based nutrition or see a nutritionist or dietaian before you switch.
You can meet all your needs on a vegan diet, but it takes a little work, planning and knowledge.
Vegan Nutrition in Brief
Plant proteins like chicken are pretty much made up of just protein and a little fat, but something like chickpeas or tofu are carbs, protein, and fat so you won’t get the same amount of protein in a meal if you just swap out the chicken for tofu, so there’s a lot of reworking your diet to make sure you’re macronutrients are balanced. You should also note that soya and quinoa are the only “complete” plant-based proteins, as in, they have all the essential amino acids. Other plant-proteins such as chickpeas, beans, seaweed, nuts, seeds, and lentils are incomplete proteins, so they don’t have all the essential amino acids. If you’re allergic to or don’t like soy and quinoa then you can combine these other proteins to make sure you get all your amino acids. Mixing isn’t that hard as even beans on toast makes it up! Just make sure you’re getting your protein from a big range of foods.
Keep and eye on your carbs and fats too! Carbs are very much our friends but it can be easy to have too much carbs and not enough protein, which will leave you feeling weak. A lot of fake meats have little to no protein because they’re for people who like the taste of meat, and are just made up of carbs and fats (and jackfruit which is a popular natural meat-alternative has almost no protein in it) so try not to rely on some of these as a main source of protein.
- Sources of plant-based iron are not absorbed as easily as animal sources. Non-heme iron isn’t just found in leafy greens; dark chocolate, tahini, and oats are your friends too!
- People talk about B-12 all the time which is very important (vitamin B-12 is in fortified foods and nutritional yeast) but no one ever mentions vitamin A!
- There is no vegan source of vitamin A. Instead there is beta-carotene which is a compound found in food such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and apricots. The body converts it into vitamin A in the body.
The rule of thumb is basically to eat a lot of (and a wide range of) fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds to ensure you don’t become deficent in anything. As some plant-based sources of vitamins and minerals are poorly absorbed, then you might have to eat a lot of some foods to cover yourself. Speak to your GP and have a blood test if you think you might be deficient in something – and be careful with supplements so you don’t end up exceeding the daily dose by too much either.
There’s also nothing wrong with taking supplements if you feel you need them!
Double Check Ingredients
Sometimes you might look at a label and it seems vegan because there’s nothing obviously animal based like milk, however, a lot of ingredients that come from animals have tricky names that are easy to mistake as plant-based for new vegans, so an important part of this guide to survive veganuary to is to look closer at labels. Here are some popular ones, but this is not a complete list, so a tip is to google the ingredient if a product looks vegan but isn’t marked with a vegan label.
A lot of products now are also marketed to look vegan or to appeal to vegans, and then it turns out they’re not so always read the ingredients.
- Castoreum: an anal secretion from beavers (ew) which is used as a perfume or in vanilla flavourings.
- Casein: a protein found in milk (I was also a bit too old when I learned that whey is from milk too!)
- Confectioner’s Glaze: is made from crushed bugs!
- Cochineal/carmine: made from crushed bugs and is used as red colouring in food and make-up!
- Isinglass: fish bladder which is used to clarify some alcohol like beer, wine, and spirits.
- Oleic Acid/Oleinic Acid: is used in synethic butters and oils, it comes from animal fat.
- Vitamin D3: can be added to foods and vitamins but comes from wool, so opt for products marked as vegan, or vitamin D2 instead.
Ingredients that can be both vegan and not vegan, so maybe put down or google if the box isn’t marked with a vegan label:
- Lactic Acid
- Sugar – some sugar is filtered through bone char, but organic sugar isn’t.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you buy something that turns out to not be vegan, we’ve all done it! One thing to remember if you’re wondering how to survive veganuary is that it’s about doing your best!
It’s A Lifestyle, Not Just A Diet
A vegan diet is a plant-based diet, but there’s more to being vegan than what you eat! It’s your lifestyle, and is about avoiding and minimizing harm to animals in every aspect of your life. This means:
- Using cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics (just because a product wasn’t tested on animals, doesn’t mean the ingredients are vegan)
- Not buying leather, suede or other clothing made from animals
- Not exploiting animals (eg, riding a camel on a holiday).
- Using vegan household products, eg soap, washing up liquid, shampoo.
Recipe Ideas for Veganuary:
What would this guide to veganuary be without some ideas on what to eat!? Here are my favourite foods and recipe ideas for veganuary.
EXTRA-CHOCOLATELY VEGAN AVOCADO MOUSSE
So there, we have it, a brief guide on how to survive veganuary.
I don’t mean to sound negative about veganism – it is possible and easy to thrive but I want to help. All my blood tests come back perfect! However, I think the way social media portrays it is misleading sometimes. It’s not always easy switches from a plant-based food to a vegan one, and your health is too important to trust people on Instagram with it (who have 0 qualifications in nutrition) with, so please do your research and make sure you’re eating properly.