The Non-Vegan’s Guide To Your First Veganuary

It’s Veganuary! Every new year, hundreds of thousands of people join in on this annual month-long vegan challenge and try to live a vegan lifestyle for the month of January. The charity event originally started back in 2014, and since then, participation has more than doubled every single year. 

In celebration of Veganuary, we’ll be looking at three big benefits that can come from going vegan for as little as one month.

For those new to veganism, we’ll also reveal our favorite vegan meals, food swaps, and more to make your first Veganuary as delicious and successful as possible. 

3 Reasons to Go Vegan

Going vegan is more than just a dietary choice. It’s a lifestyle that can benefit the planet, relieve animal suffering, and improve your holistic health. 

Let’s take a closer look at three ways Veganuary can benefit your health and the world at large:

Reason #1. The Planet & Climate Change

Veganism has a wide range of benefits for the environment and can even help fight climate change. 

Some of the environmental benefits of veganism include:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and livestock emissions
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Conserving water
  • Preserving habitats and protecting wildlife

The exact impact of these benefits is hard to measure and varies across studies. For example, studies have shown reduced emissions ranging all the way from 3-30% as a result of reducing meat consumption. So while we don’t know the specific impact, it’s clear that vegan eating certainly makes a net positive impact on the environment. 

Reason #2. Animals

Going vegan, even for as little as one month, is one of the best ways to reduce animal suffering and promote animal welfare. Some research suggests 95 animal lives would be spared by just one person eating vegan for a year.

When you purchase food, you are voting with your dollars. By refusing to purchase animal products, you vote against factory farming and other hotbeds of animal suffering. 

And it’s not just farm animals you’re helping. Vegan diets also produce less carbon dioxide, which helps preserve natural habitats and the lives of wild animals too. 

Reason #3. Health

Vegan eating is known to help people lose weight, but it also offers several more specific health benefits. Vegan diets can help support a healthy heart, and may even protect against cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Going vegan may also reduce blood sugar levels, improve kidney function, and reduce pain from arthritis.

Of course, all these benefits are reliant on eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet. The best way to do this is by having some go-to vegan meals and food swaps in place before you get started, which is what we’ll jump into now.

Veganuary Meal Tips & Swaps for Non-Vegans

Some people switch to veganism before they know what a well-rounded vegan diet looks like. This makes it difficult to put meals and snacks together, and easy to under eat key nutrients like protein. Eventually, this can even influence your mood and health and make it hard to continue your diet. 

To avoid all that and have a strong Veganuary, here are a few tips for vegan meals if you’re new to vegan eating. 

Tip #1. You Still Need Protein

Many of us are used to relying on animal products (eggs, yogurt, meat, etc) for our protein. When you first switch to vegan eating, it can be hard to find a substitute. However, protein is extremely important for health and for any diet, as is actually the most satiating macronutrient. Complete proteins can be formed by combining foods like rice and beans. 

So if you’re a meat and potatoes person, maybe don’t jump right into exclusively eating spirulina smoothies and kale salads. Instead, foods like tofu, tempeh, and mushrooms can be helpful if you still find yourself wanting something with a meat-like texture.

You can also try Hilary’s Burgers (these aren’t a “substitute,” but that’s what makes them great. They aren’t trying to be a burger - just delicious little patties that make a good lunch.

vegan protein guide

Graphic from Life Bistro
"How To Get Enough Protein As a Vegan: The Complete Guide"

Tip #2. Keep Things Easy & Interesting

A new diet or lifestyle can feel overwhelming, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to ease in and learn the ropes. Also, there’s no need to feel like you have to do everything yourself. There are a lot of high quality vegan meal delivery services to keep your meals both easy and inspiring. We like Purple Carrot, Thistle, and Veestro for this.

Another quick tip to keep things interesting: explore the cuisine of other cultures. For example, a lot of Thai cuisine is vegan.

Tip #3. Follow Other Vegans for Ideas

You can also look around to see what others are doing for their own vegan eating. If you know other vegans or vegetarians in real life, you can swap recipes or go out to vegan-friendly restaurants together. 

There are also a lot of great vegans to follow online. For example @iamtabithabrown is not only entertaining, but also makes a lot of really fun vegan recipes. We also like The Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows - two  really well known food bloggers who put out great vegan meals and recipes.

Tip #4. Incorporate Essential Vegan Swaps 

Butters, salad dressings, milk and other kitchen staples are some of the biggest things that keep people from switching to veganism. The good news is that it’s never been easier to find healthy, delicious swaps for all these things. 

Here are some of our favorite vegan swaps :

  • Butter & Oils - There are plenty of vegan butters out there, but you can also use oils like coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil. They’re especially great to cook with.
  • Dips & Dressings - Mother Raw makes an excellent replacement for condiments, dips, and salad dressings. Plus, even if you don’t stay vegan, it’s good to find healthier swaps for condiments, as many of them - like ketchup - have high fructose corn syrup or sugar. 
  • Milk & Cream - Oatly makes some of the best milk alternatives, especially if you like milk in your coffee.
  • Cheese - If you’re in LA, make sure to grab some Blode Kuh at a local farmers market. Their cheesy dips are amazing. Miyoko’s and Kite Hill are also well known for their vegan cheeses.
  • Cookies - Maxine’s Heavenly cookies make a great vegan-friendly alternative to brands like Pepperidge Farm or Chips Ahoy. Not only are our cookies made with wholesome vegan ingredients, they also have the decadent taste of homemade, fresh-baked cookies.
  • Cripsy, Crunchy Snacks - Beanfields, Peatos, iWon Organics, Vegan Rob’s, and Pulp Chips all make great crispy and crunchy snacks. Tempura Seaweed Snacks by Nora are great when you’re craving sushi.
  • Ice Cream & Candy Bars - Nelly’s makes our favorite vegan candybars, and you can’t beat NadaMoo for the perfect vegan icecream.

vegan chocolate chip cookies

Parting Advice for Your First Veganuary

A vegan diet represents a big change for many people, and major changes take time. Remember to be kind to yourself along the way, and don’t be afraid to reach out to experienced vegans if you need suggestions.

Keep in mind that a slip-up isn’t a failure, and that even a month (heck, a week) of vegan eating can do immense good for your health, the health of the planet, and animals everywhere.

Hungry yet?

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