How to stay vegan: Veganuary 2021
12 January 2021 • 6 Minute Read
Since 2014, over one million people have gone vegan for January. This year, record-breaking numbers of people have vowed to take part in Veganuary, and the movement has definitely gained momentum. In every supermarket, there's now a huge range of plant-based foods, making it easier than ever to undertake the challenge. Food giants such as Heinz, Dominos, Bisto, Richmond and Galaxy have all released new products to get in on the action. There's never been a better time to be a vegan! It's not too hard going vegan. The tricky part is staying vegan.
I still remember around three years ago, when I was just starting to dip my toes in the meat-free waters, just how overwhelming it can be. Each supermarket trip takes twice as long just looking at the ingredients, picking up a meal deal is no longer the one minute trip it used to be and it definitely gets you down.
As a relatively long-term vegan, here are some of my go-to tips and advice for those of you who are starting to feel the strain, almost two weeks into the month!
Tip 1: The first month is the hardest
Alright, so some fo you may only be doing this for January, and that's absolutely amazing. However, for those of you who are hoping to stick it out for as long as you can, this piece of advice is for you. When you're a new vegan, every single purchase takes an age. You need to look at the back of every piece of food, all the E-numbers are so confusing and SO MUCH food IS NOT LABELLED AS VEGAN!!!! I want to reassure you. The first month is the hardest time. Once you've got into your vegan groove, shopping is easy. You start to know what's vegan and what's not. You know the chains to become a regular at, and the ones to avoid. You get into a routine. So yes, the moral of tip number one; it only gets better.
Tip 2: Find a community
When I first went vegan, I knew no-one else who was vegan. My friends, family and peers all ate meat and so I was pretty alone. I had no clue where to start and it was very disorientating and scary. Because of this, I slipped up quite a few times (more on this later) and struggled a lot. When I started university, I was on the edge, unsure how long I would maintain my plant-based lifestyle and quite unsure where to go next. Forcing myself to go along to some of the Vegsoc (University of Birmingham's Vegetarian and Vegan Society) events, opened my eyes up to the social life that being vegan could have.
I met so many people and everyone shared their favourite foods, their go-to restaurants, vegan hacks and top tips. I've got to say, this society stopped me from heading back to a meatier diet. Alongside these tips, they reminded me of the reasons that I went vegan and all the benefits that a plant-based diet has, to myself, the environment and the community.\
So, whilst I'm not saying that everyone needs to have a group of vegan peers (although it is amazing), finding a support network is so important. There are so many vegan groups on Facebook who will help and support you and there are vegan influencers on Instagram and TikTok. When everything is back open, there are local vegan markets and events that are great for building a network. However you do it, knowing other vegans is really important to help your journey, especially in the beginning.
Tip 3: Be kind to yourself
I mean, aside from this being a great tip for everyday life, this is an extremely important tip when you're making such a drastic change to your diet. I lost count of the number of times I crumbled at the start. Whether it was not having the heart to tell my friend's mum that I couldn't eat the chocolate cake she'd made me or grabbing some cheese and onion crisps from the cupboard and completely forgetting I'd gone vegan, I slipped up a lot. And, to be honest with you, I still do, every now and then.
When you slip up, what you've got to remember is that any change is better than none. For some people, it's not sustainable to be 100% vegan and steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all. Although the vegan police will tell you otherwise, being an imperfect vegan is OK (and quite common, really). If everyone had one vegan day a week, the world would be a much better place.
So, remember, the next time you slip up, it's fine, learn from the mistake, give yourself some leeway and you're doing amazing.
Tip 4: Take supplements
Before anyone says it, yes you can get everything you need from a vegan diet, I know. But. For a new vegan (and an old one), it's enough to think about making sure everything you eat is vegan, let alone that you're getting all the nutrients that you need. The two main supplements that I would suggest are B12 and Omegas. Aside from this, multi-vitamins are always a great shout as well, especially if you're worried about it.
Alongside this, always trying to reach your 5-a-day is a good piece of advice, although I find that it's pretty easy on a vegan diet. Where you can, add nuts and seeds to your meals for healthy fats and omegas. Try wholemeal bread and pasta for fibre. Lastly, lots of tofu, beans and pulses are great for protein! However, more often than not, vegetarians and vegans consume enough protein (Mariotti & Gardner, 2019).
Tip 5: Learn to cook
The best tip for making veganism healthy, affordable and tasty is to cook your own meals. Dishes like lentil bolognaise, daal, vegetable curry, tofu stir fry and bean burgers have so much flavour and made being vegan so easy. Below, I've linked some useful websites with some great meals that are tasty, healthy and cheap.
Tip 6: Try all the new foods
My last tip is to try everything! The more new foods that you try, the more likely you are to find something you love, or a bacon replacement that tastes good enough to swap. From using oyster mushrooms as scallops or squid, to making your own meat substitute using Seitan, vegans really do get creative, and you should too!
If you don't want to try loads of different brands, here are my favourite brands as replacements...
Sausages: Richmond Meat-Free Sausages
Cheese: Applewood Vegan Smoked Cheese
Chocolate: NOMO Caramel Bar
Pizza: Own Brand Margerita Pizza
Chicken: Squeaky Bean BBQ Chicken Pieces
Milk: Oat Milk (any brand)
If you're looking to find replacements to your favourite meals, there's so many options out there. At first, it may not taste the exact same as meat or dairy, but your taste buds slowly change, and companies develop new vegan foods all the time now!
Mariotti, F., & Gardner, C. D. (2019). Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets-A Review. Nutrients, 11(11), 2661. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112661