Over the last few years, the rise in veganism has sky-rocketed. And, with more and more people choosing to adopt a plant-based diet, it’s little wonder that more and more people are intrigued by the idea of Veganuary, a month-long ‘challenge’ to go, you guessed it, vegan.
According to Veganuary, over 629,000 people took part in its 2022 campaign - more than ever before! With 82% of participants saying that they had either stayed vegan or significantly reduced their consumption of animal products six months after completing the challenge.
We appreciate that giving up the food you love is a big ask, but Veganuary is popular for a reason. Originally, the most popular reason was animal welfare and environmental concerns, but more recently, it’s the health benefits that are causing more people to make the switch.
If you’re wanting to join those hundreds of thousands of people for 2023, go you! However, as with the removal of any food group from your diet, going vegan requires some thought, so that you stay healthy and dedicated. Here’s everything you need to know…
WHAT IS VEGANISM?
To put it simply, being vegan means not eating or using animal products. No meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, honey or other bee products. Vegans also don’t wear leather, wool, silk or any products that contain ingredients derived from animals or tested on animals.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that a vegan diet is the same as a plant-based diet. However, the key difference is that vegan diets eliminate all animal products, while plant-based diets do not necessarily do the same. Instead, they focus on eating mostly plants, such as fruit, veg, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET?
There are plenty of ways in which going vegan can not only benefit you, but the world we live in.
First and foremost, preventing the exploitation of animals remains a key factor in many people’s decision to become vegan. According to the official campaign, those who took part in the challenge helped to spare the suffering of more than 2.16 million animals in just one month.
On top of that, when done right, a vegan diet can significantly benefit your health. This includes promoting weight loss, reducing your risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer, and managing diabetes.
A vegan diet can also relieve the heavy burden that the production of meat and other animal products places on the environment. The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction.
Just like veganism is a sustainable option when it comes to looking after our planet, a vegan diet is also a more sustainable way of feeding the human family. A plant-based diet requires only one third of the land needed to support a meat and dairy diet, and with rising global food and water shortages, going vegan could be an effective solution.
IF I DECIDE TO GO VEGAN, WHAT ARE MY FIRST STEPS?
Of course, the choice to go vegan or not is yours. If you do - whether it’s for the animals or your health - it’s important to do so carefully and strategically. The key is to really think about and plan your meals to ensure you’re getting the right nutrients your body needs.
First of all, go slowly and aim to eat lots of whole plant foods, such as fruits and grains, all of which can be easily found at your local supermarket and food stores. Don’t forget to pack protein into your diet too! Proteins are crucial macronutrients for our overall health, especially if you do a lot of fitness. A good rule is to incorporate at least one serving of healthy plant-based fat with each meal, alongside at least one serving of protein.
Remember, going vegan needn’t be boring and it’s now easier than ever with plenty of alternatives to choose from, including dairy-free milks and cheese and plant-based meat substitutes.
You might also find that you need to supplement your diet with certain nutrients. Here are some that you may wish to pay closer attention to while you get the hang of your new diet:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Bear in mind that while taking a supplement through a pill form might be suitable for some people, as an alternative, you can supplement nutrients by adding specific plant-based ingredients to your meals.
HOW TO STICK WITH VEGANISM?
If you’re struggling through your vegan journey, it’s totally okay to step back and reevaluate your diet, particularly if you’re experiencing any negative health implications, such as fatigue or low mood. But if it’s just the thought of a succulent chicken dinner that’s making you think twice, here’s how to stay on track.
- Find food you love. There are so many amazing recipes out there and there’s lots of great opportunities to experiment with your food.
- Eat more than just fruit and veg. Make sure your meals have a mix of all the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) and you’re hitting your vitamin and mineral intake. Not only will it help your meals taste better, but you’ll feel better for it too.
- Remember your reason why. Reevaluating your goals and why you chose to become vegan will help you stick with it.
Good things take time, so if things don’t go to plan straight away, don’t beat yourself up. Think of going vegan as a process, rather than a limitation that cuts you off if you don’t succeed immediately.
And whether you’re already vegan, fancy giving Veganuary a go or just want to cut your animal product intake, this January we’ll be taking you through some delicious vegan meal prep inspo and high-protein snacks to fuel your lifting pursuit.
Watch this space!