Shift a month-long challenge into a lifelong commitment to compassion!
Veganuary is a 31-day challenge to “try vegan” for the month of January and beyond. The focus is on a plant-based diet and the vision is a vegan world without animal farming or slaughterhouses.
More than a month-long challenge, Veganuary is a UK-based nonprofit organization that “encourages and supports people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering, and improving the health of millions of people.”
Many folks may not realize who created Veganuary and what it’s all about. Some may view it as just another New Year’s diet health fad. The reality is this challenge can serve as an opportunity to align one’s actions with their values and dive into veganism with community and support.
I’m both an ethical vegan and a registered dietitian and have personal and professional experience in this area! I’ve had my own vegan journey and have had the pleasure of joining hundreds of folks on their unique journeys as well.
In my work as a dietitian I specialize in disordered eating and body image and have counseled countless clients who used a plant-based diet in an unhealthy, disordered way. My wish is for those interested in veganism to understand it as the animal liberation movement that it is and not turn it into a restrictive diet.
Dieting contributes to poor nutrition status, worsening mental health, gastrointestinal problems, hormonal issues, muscle loss, compromised bone health, body image struggles, and even the onset and exacerbation of eating disorders.
Let’s reclaim veganism from diet culture, keep the focus on animal liberation and learn how to make veganism a lifelong, enjoyable, sustainable lifestyle!
10 Ways to Participate in Veganuary and Not Turn it Into a Diet
Veganuary is a great way to explore veganism. And, it’s important to remember that veganism isn’t a month-long diet. It is about so much more than food and certainly isn’t a trend or fad!
Here are 10 things you can do to use Veganuary as a jumping off point rather than a short-term experiment.
Learn about animal liberation
First things first, let’s address the fact that veganism is about animal liberation, and animal liberation isn’t just about abolishing animal agriculture. While that is the focus of the Veganuary organization and campaign, veganism is about all forms of animal exploitation and suffering.
When we position veganism as just a dietary lifestyle, we are abandoning the animals who are tortured in research labs, killed and abused for leather, wool and other materials, imprisoned in zoos and aquariums, exploited in breeding operations and more.
While a plant-based diet can be a great entry point to veganism, it’s important that we don’t portray veganism as just a plant-based diet.
Connect your values with the values of veganism
If you’re at all interested in veganism I’m guessing that means you have some core values that align with animal liberation.
Consider the values of compassion, respect, justice, kindness, liberation, autonomy and more. Do you hold any of those as core values? Does extending those values to non-human animals make sense to you? If so, veganism seems like a good fit for you.
When we make choices based on our values, we’re less likely to get wrapped up into diet culture and fads, and more likely to integrate those choices into all areas of our lives in a sustainable and meaningful way.
Substitute vegan foods, don’t just eliminate non-vegan foods
The number one food mistake I see new vegans making is simply ridding their diets of animal products. This is a fast track to unsatisfying and undernourishing meals and snacks.
Rather than focusing on taking animal foods out, focus on swapping them for vegan foods. Consider both the nutritional value of the food and the satisfaction value.
For example, there are lots of plant-based sources of protein you can substitute for meat and eggs. But do you find them all equally as delicious or are there some you find more yummy than others?
Remember that it’s OK to enjoy vegan meats, cheeses, ice creams and more. You don’t have to eat a “whole foods plant-based diet.”
Try a wide variety of vegan foods and drinks
Have fun and explore the wide world of vegan foods and beverages!
Consider easy swaps for your non-vegan staples, and also try new or different options too. Many people say that veganism expands their palate and the kinds of foods they eat, rather than limiting it.
Get comfortable with tofu. Eat at local vegan and vegetarian restaurants if you’re lucky enough to have any in your area. If not, check out the vegan options at Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern restaurants.
Explore vegan recipes
Not sure how to “veganize” your favorites? Try making recipes that are designed to be vegan! There are countless vegan recipe developers, vegan food blogs and vegan cookbooks.
For starters, check out:
- Nora Cooks
- Plantbased RD
- The First Mess
- Vegan Hippie Sol
- Chez Jorge
- Thee Burger Dude
- Sweet Simple Vegan
- Zacchary Bird
- The Friendly Vegan Cookbook
- The Simple Vegan Kitchen Cookbook
Get credible vegan nutrition information
Make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need by getting vegan nutrition information from a credible source.
In todays’ age of the internet it can be difficult to determine who or what is a credible source. Which is why I am relieving you from the need to Google your questions about vegan nutrition!
I’m a vegan registered dietitian and I created my online course to give you a one-stop place to go to learn the evidence-based facts on how to cover your nutrient needs through vegan foods, beverages and supplements. You can go at your own pace and revisit it whenever you need! No more guesswork – this course is what you need to feel confident about nutrition as a vegan.
Looking for reputable resources on vegan nutrition for children? Hop on over to my colleague’s site who specializes in vegan kids nutrition (affiliate link).
Do your best and resist perfectionism
The official definition of veganism coined by The Vegan Society is, “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
That phrase “as far as is possible and practicable” acknowledges that we live in a world dominated by systems that exploit animals and that it’s practically impossible to be 100% vegan. That isn’t a pass to make non-vegan choices when there are vegan alternatives, but it illustrates that veganism is going to look different for everyone.
Only you know what doing your best actually means. Be honest with yourself, do your best, and consider if trying to be a perfect vegan will help you be a lifelong animal advocate or might it lead you down a path of burnout and eventually abandoning veganism?
Connect with others
Making changes is easier when you’re got buddies and supporters!
Do you have a friend or someone local who wants to explore Veganuary with you?
Research local animal rights groups and see how you can get involved.
If you’re on social media, connect with vegans of all varieties.
In need of personalized nutritional guidance? You can work with our vegan dietitians by applying here.
Support animal sanctuaries
Research animal sanctuaries in your area and make a donation, become a volunteer and/or plan a visit!
Interacting with and directly caring for the animals that you’re helping to save from animal exploitative industries is a surefire way to boost your motivation to make veganism a lifelong choice.
Bring a friend or family member with you and you might just inspire them to go vegan as well!
Traveling? Look up what sanctuaries are in the area and make them a part of your itinerary.
Can’t visit or volunteer at a sanctuary? That’s OK. Sanctuaries rely on donations to rescue, rehabilitate and care for their residents. And not all sanctuaries allow visitors. Make sanctuaries a part of your annual charitable giving.
Keep asking yourself how you can reduce animal suffering
There is such an immense amount of animal suffering in the world and infinite ways that you can have an impact.
How can you advocate for a world that is kinder to all species?
Here are a few ideas:
- Buy consumer products that don’t contain animal byproducts or were tested on animals
- Adopt companion animals rather than buying those who were bred
- Join animal activist groups
- Write letters, articles, blog posts, social media posts, poems, songs, etc.
- Create art to inspire kindness to animals
- Plant a pollinator garden and learn about native gardening
- Contact elected officials about animal-related policies and legislation
Remember that there are so many ways for you to help animals that don’t involve food. What else are you doing, or could you be doing, other than eating a plant-based diet?
If you determine for whatever reason that eating 100% plant-based isn’t going to happen for you, but you still care about animals, then please do everything else you can! We need lots of “imperfect” animal advocates rather than just a handful of strict vegans.
I’ve changed my tune on this over my many years of veganism because I’m able to take the long view and understand that in order to achieve large-scale change we need a lot of people making changes, not just a few.
This isn’t an “excuse” to eat animals or permission to contribute to animal suffering, rather it’s a realistic take and a supportive stance to help folks do as much as is possible and practicable for them.
We all have a role to play in animal liberation. What’s yours?
My role is serving as a healthcare provider and resource to help vegans be nourished! I believe that well-nourished vegans are more likely to be active in the animal liberation movement and make long-term, impactful change. Many “ex-vegans” viewed veganism as a restrictive plant-based diet and their health ended up suffering. It doesn’t have to be that way! Take my online nutrition course to gain the knowledge you need to become a well-nourished, lifelong vegan.