It's January, and that can only mean one thing: Veganuary is here. And as always, we are so here for it – it's the time of year when lots of new vegans try out the delicious lifestyle for themselves, many choosing to stay vegan once the month is over. But as always when trying something new, questions might arise, from nutrition to dealing with social relationships. Here are some of the most frequent ones, with answers from seasoned vegans.
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert.
How do I make sure I get all the nutrients I need?
“You can easily obtain most of the nutrients you need on a varied plant-based diet, including protein, calcium, omegas 3 and 6 and iron,” says Toni Vernelli, Head of Communications at Veganuary. “Eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and use Dr Greger's Daily Dozen checklist as a guide. The nutrients to keep an eye on are vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine and selenium. In the UK, it is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement through the winter months. You can obtain B12 from nutritional yeast, breakfast cereals and fortified plant milks and there are small amounts of iodine in bread, nuts, fruit and vegetables. However, a supplement is the most reliable source. The Vegan Society's VEG1 supplement contains all of these.”
Will Veganuary be expensive?
Your Veganuary can be as expensive or as low-cost as you want to make it. Like many other lifestyles, veganism can be very pricey or very cheap. If you insist on having Tofurkey roast every other night and won't eat anything except intricate meat replacements and high-end plant-based ice-cream, then yes, you're likely to rack up quite a spend. But let's not forget that at the basis of a vegan diet are things that have always existed, and have always been on the cheaper side of the food spectrum – such as pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. Those are also the basics of a healthy vegan diet. So you have choices here. PETA has advice for being vegan on a student budget, and they also got a mother of seven children to give her best low-cost vegan meal tips.
Will I need to take supplements?
There have been many conversations about whether or not vegans need supplementation – but to be completely on the safe side, it's best to add at least a B12 supplement to your diet. B12 is found in the soil and farmed animals are regularly supplemented with it. Vegan foods containing B12 include dairy-free milks, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast, but it's not certain that the quantities will suffice, hence the need for supplementing. Most people, not just vegans, need a B12 supplement. Other vitamins that vegans might consider supplementing include calcium and iodine, and if you live in a climate that has long, dark winters, you will benefit from a vitamin D supplement during those months, whether you are vegan or not. The Vegan Society has a great guide to supplementation, and offers their own multivitamin that contains everything you might need.
What if I miss animal-derived products?
This is a situation that many new vegans come across. Toni Vernelli advises: “Find vegan versions of the things you love so when cravings hit, you have a tasty substitute. Prepare ahead where possible so you don't keep falling into the same trap. Don't let yourself get hungry before trying to work out what to eat when there is absolutely nothing vegan in the cupboard! Bookmark recipes, keep a couple of ready meals on standby and if you go somewhere that will be difficult to find vegan options, take some emergency snacks.”
How do I approach conversations with friends and family?
With calm and patience. Be honest about why you chose to try Veganuary, but don't be pushy about it. Through leading by example – by showing just how tasty and joyful a vegan lifestyle can be – you can inspire people to give it a try themselves. If someone is persistent with questions, the trick is to try and discern whether the person has good intentions and is truly curious, or if they're in troll mode and just trying to “catch you out”, which is often a sign of defensiveness. Try to stay calm, and do feel free to end conversations you don't feel like having. It's not your job to convince or educate everyone.
What if I'm travelling during January?
Travel can be a challenge, but it doesn't mean you can't stick to your Veganuary. All it takes is some flexibility and preparation. Bring snacks to the airport (some airports around the world can be tricky when it comes to vegan options) and read up on vegan foods at your destination. If there are any restaurants you know you will be trying, call ahead and ask if they offer vegan dishes. In many cases, even if you don't see anything vegan on the menu, there might still be options available and many dishes can be veganised.
And if need to cook for other people?
A great opportunity to introduce people to the joy of vegan food! Check out Delish's collection of 90 vegan recipes for every occasion, and get to experimenting. If it's one of your first times cooking vegan food, explain to your loved ones that this is something you're trying out, and while they shouldn't expect perfection, it's a great opportunity to branch out into a way of eating that is not only healthier but also kinder on our planet and the animals we share it with.
My partner doesn't get the whole vegan thing.
Many vegans started out saying “I could never go vegan” – and many were influenced by their partners to finally take the step. Explain your reasons to go vegan, and perhaps organise a movie night where you can watch a documentary like Cowspiracy (or, if you and your partner can stomach it, Dominion or Earthlings) which might open their eyes to your motivations. You can also try to win their heart through food – a fail-safe way to advocate for the joy of vegan living. In the meantime, remember that it's important not to be too persistent: once you've realised the damage done by the meat and dairy industries, it's easy to be caught up in getting everyone else to “wake up”. But by being overly pushy and preachy, we tend to make people feel defensive, which will bring them further away from our cause. Stand your ground, but know when to ease up.
What about beauty products?
As veganism extends beyond food, Veganuary can be a time when many people overhaul other areas of their lives, too. Beauty and personal hygiene products are often tested on animals, and some can contain animal-derived ingredients. You can use this time to find out more about animal substances hiding in your cosmetics, and learn about cosmetics being tested on animals (yes, it still happens, frequently and globally). While we wouldn't advocate throwing out your entire bathroom cabinet – waste is not a friend of the environment – Veganuary is a good opportunity to shop cruelty-free if you are in need of any new products. Look for Cruelty Free International's Leaping Bunny certification or PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies logo when shopping.
How can I connect with other vegans?
If you have internet access, there is a whole vegan world at your fingertips. Join your local vegan group on Facebook for lots of advice on locally available vegan delicacies, or search the hashtags connected to “vegan” and “your city” on Instagram for snapshots of local restaurants offering vegan dishes. If you are ready to get into activism, find your local animal rights activism group (also likely to be found on Facebook) and get in touch. Veganuary is also a great time to visit your local animal sanctuary, to actually see the animals that going vegan will help save. There's nothing like looking into the eyes of an animal to motivate you to stay vegan – and you're likely to meet some like-minded people, too.
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist (and a vegan of over 10 years). Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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