The start of the new year is filled with many challenges, like Dry January, RED January and Veganuary. The latter, Veganuary, has become increasingly popular since it was founded in 2014, meaning this year marks its 10 year anniversary.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, Veganuary is a challenge that promotes a vegan diet and lifestyle by encouraging people to go vegan for the entire month of January. Most people who follow this challenge remove meat, dairy and other animal products from their meals, while others take it a step further and remove non-vegan ingredients from their homes, like shampoos, razors and toothpastes.
If you’re a meat eater or a vegetarian who relies on eggs and dairy as big components in their diet, it can be hard to go from having meat or dairy every day to cutting it out completely for 31 days. To help you achieve a successful vegan month, here are five mistakes everyone makes with Veganuary and how to avoid them so you can complete and enjoy the challenge.
1. Keeping non-vegan food in the house
The biggest mistake everyone makes during Veganuary is keeping non-vegan food, drink and other products in the house. Having non-vegan ingredients in your fridge or cupboards gives you the temptation to reach for the things you’re trying not to eat for the month. Instead, remove all obstacles from your home so you’re less likely to slip up during the challenge. To minimise food waste, store leftover meat and cheeses in the best freezer for the month while you conquer Veganuary.
2. Not stocking up on vegan essentials
For a successful Veganuary, it’s important to stock your kitchen with basic vegan and plant-based ingredients so you always have something to hand to prepare your meals. Keep your best fridge and shelves stocked with ingredients like oats, rice, lentils, beans, nut butters, sauces and fresh fruits and vegetables. Most products that make vegan cooking easier have a long shelf life, so you can use them at all times, whether you’re vegan or not. To make your life easier (and tastier), it’s also good to have vegan snacks available, especially at the beginning of the challenge when you might feel hungrier than normal as you figure out how to properly follow a vegan diet.
3. Expecting vegan alternatives to taste the same as meat
There are some amazing vegan alternatives out there and eating vegan meats and cheeses can make switching to a vegan diet much easier. But something that some Veganuary challengers falter with is expecting vegan alternatives to taste the same as the animal product it’s inspired by. Sorry to break it to you, but vegan sausages aren’t going to taste the same as regular sausages… shocking, I know. To remove disappointment and the temptation to go back to ‘real’ sausages, try not to put all your vegan eggs in one basket. Have fun testing vegan alternatives but don’t put all your hopes on them. Instead, experiment by making your favourite meat-heavy meals vegan. Seasoning and condiments will also be your best friend so don’t forget to add flavour to your food, too.
4. Forgetting about vitamins and supplements
As you’ve removed something from your diet that your body is used to having, you might feel sluggish or weak for the first few days or weeks of Veganuary. As long as you’re eating enough food and a balanced diet, the right vegan foods will give your body all the protein, iron, calcium and other nutrients it needs. However, there are some vitamins that are harder to get when following a vegan diet. According to Healthline, vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega 3 are often lacking in a vegan diet. Taking supplements with these in can help ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need (although I’d encourage you to speak to a healthcare professional first).
5. Not being adventurous with your meals
With any diet or lifestyle, it’s easy to get lazy with your meals, especially if you’ve never cooked vegan food before. But rather than sticking to the same vegan foods every day, get adventurous by looking up vegan recipes. Veganuary may be a challenge but it’s supposed to be fun and open you up to a different lifestyle, so try to embrace it and experiment with your meals. If you like to eat out or get a takeaway, look up vegan restaurants in your area so you can really see how easy it is to eat vegan food.
BONUS: Beating yourself up if you fail
If you’re struggling with Veganuary or you’ve accidentally eaten mayonnaise without realising it’s not vegan, it’s important to not beat yourself up if you fail. It’s a hard challenge if you’re used to consuming animal products regularly, so rather than completely give up, accept the slip and carry on as best you can until the 1st February. If you’ve found that you can’t do Veganuary in its entirety, tweak the challenge to your needs and preferences, for example, have a vegan meal a day or an entirely vegan day once or twice a week.