Veganuary is becoming more popular year-on-year – more than 400,000 people signed up in 2020 and the 2021 campaign is ambitiously aiming for 500,000.
The campaign sees people opt for a plant-based diet for the month of January, with the hope of them continuing this way of life beyond the 31 days.
This essentially means avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey, as well as avoiding animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.
But it’s not always easy to stick to such a strict diet, especially when you’re used to eating meat and dairy products regularly.
Dr Kristof Dhont, a psychologist who specialises in human-animal relations at the University of Kent, acknowledges that changing your dietary habits can be challenging. So, how can you help yourself stick to a vegan diet?
1. Prepare yourself
Changing your shopping and consumption habits can be tricky because we do most of these behaviours in autopilot, says Dr Dhont. He suggests taking time to explore the supermarkets, find easy recipes and prepare your shopping list.
Are there certain supermarkets and restaurants releasing new vegan launches in January? Do your research so you’ve got some core meals that you can add to your shopping basket each week.
2. Keep it simple
Veganise your favourite dishes and keep it simple, says Dr Dhont. “Unless you are an experienced cook, don’t start with complicated recipes or ingredients that look too exotic to you.”
By all means, try new products, but introduce those slowly – don’t spend your first week trying to master the finest vegan cuisine.
“Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can get more ambitious and start experimenting at a more advanced level,” he says. “Plenty of ready meals are available for days with limited time or motivation to cook.”
3. Educate and motivate yourself
Learning more about the reasons for Veganuary, and adopting a vegan diet, can also give you some purpose in the first month of the year.
“Indeed, it will feel more rewarding the more you become aware of the morally troublesome principles and practices inherent to dairy and meat consumption,” says Dr Dhont.
4. Find a Veganuary buddy
Just like gym buddies can help you stick to a fitness regime, Veganuary buddies can make the process much easier and enjoyable, as you can share your experiences with someone else.
“You can also find a friendly and supportive community online, including expert mentors who can guide you with practical tips or with more background information. Sign up on veganuary.com or challenge22.com to get connected and receive the best recipes.”
5. Communicate clearly and compassionately
If you get into conversations about your diet change, Dr Dhont recommends informing others about your choice and explaining the reasons why you’re doing it, but avoiding coming across as moralistic, “as this will be met with defensiveness”.
“Hostile conversations or debating ideological viewpoints can be exhausting and are often ineffective because people rarely change their minds when being told that they are wrong,” he says. “In fact, one of the biggest barriers to ditching meat and animal products is that people find it so appetising.
“Serving people delicious vegan food while encouraging them to reflect on their own consumption or lifestyle habits, will make them more receptive to veganism.”