7 Top Tips for Veganuary
When I decided to go vegan, I won't lie- it wasn't something I had put every second of my life into researching. In all honesty I thought to myself "I wonder if I could stick to this for month? I'm going to do it just to prove that I can."
I've always been the kind of impulsive person who does something just to prove that I can. After being vegetarian on and off for ten years (the term "flexitarian" makes me nauseous), I was part of the mindset that veganism was a step too far. I understood that eating animals was wrong, but I couldn't grasp why milk, eggs and honey were wrong. It wasn't the flesh of an animal, and nobody died to produce it did they?
But they did.
Once I had thoroughly researched these industries, my Veganuary month stretched into a vegan 2 years. Going vegan in January 2017 was the best and most enlightening decision I ever made; so if you're mid-way through your first Veganuary, or need some tips to get you started (or keep on track!) I hope you find my tips helpful. At the end of the day, if you're going to do something you might as well do it properly. For yourself and for the animals.
1. Change your mindset.
Seeing a vegan diet as restrictive will hinder your determination and progress from the outset. I remember that feeling of assuming I wouldn't be able to last Veganuary because I couldn't eat milk chocolate anymore (which was a good thing for my waistline anyway, because family-sized bags are for sharing apparently- not inhaling in front of Game of Thrones). The same applies to cheese- as soon as I thought about the loss of halloumi I second-guessed myself. No, you can't eat these foods anymore, but that doesn't mean you have to miss out. Experiment, try as many different alternatives as you like and you're bound to find something to fill the chocolate shaped hole in your life. I highly recommend Vego bars (huge chunks of Nutella-y amazingness), and the Tesco varieties of dairy free cheeses are very good, too. There are so many delicious choices out there. Always keep in mind why you're not eating them anymore; because they contain milk, and milk is for baby cows, not you.
2. Educate yourself.
One of the biggest tips I can give you is to read, watch documentaries, and educate yourself as much as possible about plant-based diets and the Vegan movement. Veganism is so important for animal welfare, your health and for the environment.
- Forks over Knives
- What the Health
- Food, Inc.
For the animals:
- Land of Hope and Glory
- Maximum Tolerate Dose
For the Environment:
- Before the Flood
- Meat the Truth
- Racing Extinction
Knowledge really is power. Personally, I saw the trailer for Earthlings and just knew that I could never watch it. It's heartbreaking. But sometimes that's what it takes for something to hit home; and if you ever had any doubt that Veganism was for you, these documentaries will definitely help you to remember why you're doing it.
3. Spend more time around animals
Everyone is around animals at some point or another in their lives. If you have a pet, undoubtedly you'd do anything to protect them, because you love them as a family member. All animals, from dogs to cats to cows to chickens deserve the same love and respect from humans. The more time you spend around animals, the harder this philosophy hits. You're vegan because these animals deserve better from us, so remember the positive impact you're having on their innocent lives.
4. Experiment with plant milks
Everyone loves a good brew, don't they? I'm an avid coffee drinker myself, without it it's very possible I'd be sectioned, so finding the right plant milk was key for me. I can't be without oat milk now- I've even started to make my own because 80% of the time I'm poor and it's just so easy. There are loads to choose from: soy; oat; almond; cashew; rice; hazelnut and hemp. It wouldn't surprise me if peanut or poppy seed milk was next on the agenda. Sweetened, unsweetened, chocolate, vanilla, honestly the list goes on. There. are. so. MANY! Personally, I use soy for cooking and tea, oat for coffee and chocolate Alpro soy when I need some sanity brought back to my life. Also, here's a handy student tip: if you have deadlines and hide at your desk with chocolate Alpro nobody can see you swigging it straight from the carton. If they didn't see it it didn't happen.
5. Build yourself a support network.
There are going to be times when you're unsure about something, and it's important to make sure you have support around you. Unfortunately not everyone will understand your transition, or even try to for that matter. My own mum still doesn't understand why I refuse to eat dairy. Everyone needs support with any form of change in their life; so join Facebook groups, follow blogs for advice and ideas, or reach out to other vegans in your area who can provide you with the reassurance and advice you may need. Once you have the hang of it, you can return the favour by passing on what you've learned to others.
6. Enjoy all the new options available whilst eating out.
When I went vegan, it was nowhere near as easy to eat out as it is now. The amount of vegan options available now amazes me, I would rarely be able to find a sandwich anywhere let alone a vegan sausage roll! Nowadays, most pubs carry vegan options, restaurants such as Zizzi's, Pizza Express, Frankie & Benny's, Wagamamas, Nandos and Bella Italia all have vegan menus, and even McDonald's has a wrap. The likelihood is you'll never be stuck for options when you're out and about. And if for some crazy reason you are, carry a tub of hummus and a couple of carrots around forever and you'll be sorted.
7. Don't beat yourself up- or let anyone else, for that matter.
There may be times when you slip up; maybe you misread the ingredients and didn't notice "whey powder" because it wasn't included as milk in bold. Maybe you weren't fully equated with E-numbers or didn't realise those sweets contained pork gelatine. It happens, and it's okay. It's all a learning curve, so don't give yourself a hard time.
Unfortunately there are also people in the world who just LOVE to give other people grief. I can't tell you the amount of times I see someone online (probably on a LadBible post) slating vegans for being "aggressive" or simply just commenting "BUT BACON THO MMMM" on your posts. These people are completely irrelevant. You do you. Feel sorry for them in the process... because anyone who thinks commenting on your social media posts with a picture of a steak has other issues, and they aren't with you. Stay positive and stand by your decision, because the Piers Morgans of the world don't deserve your headspace.
Remember why you're doing this, you're doing it for the millions of innocent animals on the earth who deserve better. You're doing it to take control of your health and stick two fingers up to the companies who load your food with antibiotics, chemicals and addictive substances. You're doing it because our planet is dying and we all need to turn that around for our kids and grandkids.
Be proud of yourself, you may feel like one tiny fish in a big pond- but every little thing you do has an impact.