Whether you’ve been playing around with the idea of trying a vegan diet, or you’ve set a New Year’s resolution to eat more vegetables, it is never too late to put those intentions into action with Veganuary.
The trendy campaign challenges people to try a plant-based diet for 31 days, ultimately bringing all kinds of benefits to their bodies and the planet. If you have missed the chance to do a whole month in January this year, remember you can start at any time later in the year.
And even if you decide a completely vegan diet isn’t right for you, trying out plant-based meals can give you the opportunity to build healthy lifestyle habits, experience better digestion, discover new ingredients that can relieve chronic pain, and learn more sustainable cooking habits.
Here’s what to know about Veganuary, along with a tasty vegan meal plan to get you started.
How Veganuary Got Started
Veganuary was launched in 2014 by a U.K.-based nonprofit organization of the same name. The charity encourages people to go vegan for the month of January, in hopes that some will stick with the lifestyle for the rest of their lives.
The popularity of Veganuary has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2019, 1.3 million people participated. Some 440,000 more people had already signed up for Veganuary 2021 by the first day of the year, and the campaign continues to grow by one person every 3 seconds.
Veganaury has gained widespread support from international superstars and activists over the years, including Jane Goodall, Ricky Gervais, Paul McCartney, John Bishop, Sara Pascoe, Chris Packham, and Chrissie Hynde, among others.
Missing the Meat, But Not the Nutrients
Many people worry that they’ll miss out on important nutrients if they cut meat, eggs, and dairy from their diet. But the fact is that a well-balanced plant-based diet can be perfectly healthy.
The one nutrient to pay close attention to is vitamin B12, says Florida-based nutritionist McKenzie Flinchum, which is primarily found in animal-derived foods. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to anaemia and headaches, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough of it through supplements or fortified foods while on a vegan diet.
Besides that, most other vital nutrients can be found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. Protein, for example, is abundant in nuts and grains, which are also excellent for:
• Reducing joint pain
• Strengthening bones
• Managing blood sugar levels
• Improving digestion
• Accelerating wound healing
The key is careful meal planning to ensure you’re giving your body everything it needs on a vegan diet, according to Barbie Boules, R.D.N., founder of Barbie Boules Longevity Nutrition. Eating plenty of nutrient-dense, plant-based foods ensures that your vegan diet will provide you with lots of energy throughout the day.
Long-term Health Benefits of Going Vegan
Going vegan can offer tons of benefits for your health. Plant-based foods are rich in:
• Vitamin C and E
• Phytonutrients, and other stuff your body loves
Research published in the journal Nature showed that people who only ate plant-based foods for four weeks (like during Veganuary) had lower levels of:
As well as a decrease in:
What’s more, Boules says that consuming a vegan diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of fatigue, dizziness and other chronic symptoms.
Vegan Benefits for the Environment
If you’re looking to lessen your environmental footprint, Veganuary can help.
Veganuary CEO Simon Winch said to Eat This Not That, “Eating vegan is a great way to improve energy and vitality, halve your dietary greenhouse gas emissions, and address animal agriculture — which is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.”
His thoughts are backed by a 2018 statement from the journal Nature, which said that the typical Western diet high in animal products is responsible for a surge in contributors to climate change and environmental issues, such as water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Think of going vegan for 31 days as a small step toward a much larger goal of helping to save the planet.
Veganism Saves Time and Money
Veganuary can be an especially important tool right now, with families across the world suffering the financial impacts of the pandemic. A Kantar study released by Veganuary in mid-December 2020 found that plant-based foods eaten at home are 40 percent cheaper than meat- or fish-based foods.
The research also showed that cooking plant-based foods tend to take less time, as well.
“The Covid pandemic has sparked a huge increase in people interested in trying a plant-based diet, whether for their health or the health of our planet, but it has also sadly caused an economic loss for many. This new study shows that people can protect their health, the planet and their pocketbook with a plant-based diet,” said Veganuary’s head of communications Toni Vernelli at Veganuary website.
Recipes for Veganuary
Switching to a plant-based diet can seem overwhelming at first. The key is to focus on boosting your intake of fruits and vegetables, rather than cutting out all animal products right away.
Instant meals and pre-made foods can also help make the transition a little easier. Look for ones labelled as “certified vegan” or “suitable for vegans” to make sure they work for your eating plan. You can also scan the allergen list to see if dairy, eggs, or seafood are listed.
When you’re ready to move into the kitchen and start cooking vegan meals, seek out flavorful recipes that don’t have a long ingredients list. Here are a few of our favourite vegan recipes to get you started:
• DIY Instant Porridge, a recipe from chef and writer Anna Jones, is one a great breakfast option. It uses plant-based milk, like oat milk, for extra creaminess and health benefits.
• Broccoli and Peanut Noodles, created by food journalist Rosie Birkett, is a quick, packable vegan lunch. We love this one because it uses peanuts, which are rich in protein, and broccoli, which is loaded with calcium.
• Various Easy and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes from Veganuary.
Sign Up for Veganuary
If you’re looking to get health benefits from food, make a positive impact on the environment, and support animal welfare, consider making a pledge to join the Veganuary challenge. Plus, it doesn’t have to happen in January. Even swapping meat for plant-based meals a few times a week can offer benefits.
This is a lifestyle change that will continue to benefit you (and the world) for years to come.
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