Are you planning to take part in Veganuary this year? If trying out a plant-based diet is something you’ve been thinking about, Veganuary is a really good time to give it a go. Blogs and social media are full of support and resources, and supermarket shelves are filled with new and fun vegan products (thank you, marketing world, I guess?). But it can be a bit daunting and overwhelming, too. Especially if you’re the only person in your family or circle ditching the meat this month! I really want to help you make Veganuary a fun and positive experience, so I’ve put together a list of things you should think about before starting the challenge.
1. There is no such thing as failing at Veganuary
Seriously. It doesn’t matter if you ‘slip up’, or make a mistake when reading labels, or just flat out can’t be bothered for a few days. Every single time you choose to eat a plant-based meal or snack, you are make a difference – to the planet, to the animals, to yourself. Lots of Instagram comments will try to tell you differently, but don’t let them. The entire point of Veganuary is to give it a go, and to find small changes that you can stick with. Being perfect isn’t on the list. And like so many wise people have said – the world needs lots of imperfect vegans, not a small number of perfect ones.
2. You don’t have to change your entire diet
Chances are, you already eat a lot of vegan foods. Oats – vegan. Fruit and vegetables – vegan. Pasta – vegan! Make a list of the things you eat regularly, and take note of how many of them are totally plant-based already. Transitioning to a vegan diet is not about a complete overhaul of your eating habits, it’s about making small but effective tweaks. So for instance, if you’re used to porridge every morning, stick with it, but make it with non-dairy milk. If you eat a lot of chicken, switch it up by using meat alternatives, chickpeas, or tofu – the trick is to find the right way to prepare them for each dish you make!
3. Find simple Veganuary swaps – and make the matter
This is an interesting one. There are vegan versions of more or less everything on the market these days. You could probably replace all your non-vegan staples with vegan version. BUT – and it’s important to be honest here – that’ll get really expensive really quickly. If you want to do this and you have the cash, cool, go for it. But if there’s a balance you need to strike and a budget that’s demanding to be maintained, this is one to be strategic about.
Personally, the specifically vegan products I buy most are dairy alternatives (milk, yoghurt, some sort of cheese), proteins (vegan sausages and pieces) and chocolate (obvs). Things I buy less frequently are vegan ready meals and puddings, and bakery items. Although I’ll probably be picking up a few more just because of all the options we’ll have during Veganuary! The bottom line is to find the things that are going to be worth spending slightly more on for you, and saving on the rest. Using more legumes and veggies instead of meat alternatives, baking your own desserts, and skipping the branded read meals where you can will all save you some change.
Bonus tip: It can be useful to do your first couple of shops online, so you can see exactly how much your tweaked grocery shop is costing you before you check out. If it adds up too quickly, you then also have the option to chop and change before paying!
4. Figure out the best shops for you
Ideally, we all want to shop locally and seasonally, but I have to be honest and say that that’s a real challenge for me. I rely on supermarkets as much as the next girl. And I can assure you that all the big UK supermarkets have everything you need to put together a diet that’s both nutritious and delicious. At the same time though, I do really want to support vegan and sustainable business, and I absolutely want to try ALL the vegan treats. I’m lucky to be able to access a fair few plant-based stores in Liverpool, and I also do the odd online order. To get you started, some online recommendations are Green Bay Supermarket, who have more or less everything you could want. Tinned goods, spices, and dry staples get ordered monthly from Dizzie, who are a zero waste (although not fully vegan) online store. Other great online retailers are Ethical Superstore for staples (again, not fully vegan, so check for their handy symbols), allplants for frozen ready meals (lifesaver for really busy days), and Vegan Town for chocolate and sweets!
Do some research, have a look at the vegan offerings on different supermarket websites as well as what’s accessible to you in your area, and just roll with what’s going to work best for you!
5. Supplement Wisely
I’m all for the fun stuff, but the boring buts are important too! In the 12 years I’ve been vegan, information and misinformation about supplementing a vegan diet has snowballed. Amusing but also scary anecdote – when I first researched what I should be supplementing, vegan forums were rife with posts saying that B12 supplementation isn’t necessary as long as you eat plenty of unwashed fruit and vegetables – please don’t do that!! Personally, I take a couple of different things to suit my needs – Veg-1 for general supplementation, and then a few additional things like Vitamin D and Iron.
Generally, it’s accepted that B12 is the most important thing to supplement, but everyone’s needs are different. Since I have exactly 0 qualification in nutrition and you should NEVER listen to someone with no qualifications giving advice on the internet (or elsewhere, really), I’m going to refer you to this Veganuary nutrition guide instead and encourage you to think about what you might need to supplement, with actual qualified medical advice if needed.
All-in-all, taking part in Veganuary should be fun and interesting. There are no rules, there should be no stress, but there ARE a lot of social media trolls so I am urging you again to ignore, block delete. Do your thing and remember what I said at the beginning of this post – every single choice matters. I’m so excited to hear everyone’s Veganuary experiences. If you have any questions at all, you can ALWAYS reach out to me on instagram. Unless you’re an MLM, in which case, go away.
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