Advice on Veganuary (From a Vegan)

Perhaps surprisingly, many people’s vegan journey starts from their participation in “Veganuary”. It starts out as something one does as a challenge, or simply for a welcome month-long New Year’s resolution. However, it can turn into a more personal and permanent lifestyle change for those who complete the challenge – this is how it happened for me, anyway. Veganuary 2021 marks my 3-year anniversary as a vegan – which I am immensely proud of – after doing Veganuary in 2018.

To say it has been without challenges would be a complete lie. However, there are a couple of things that I think, from experience, can make the transition easier, even if only for a month; particularly if you’re going vegan (excuse the irony) cold-turkey, after being someone who believes they literally wouldn’t be able to live without bacon (spoilers – you can if you want to). Here is some advice from me, three years down the line…

For the meat lovers wanting to give Veganuary a shot, we are fortunate (and privileged – in the UK at least) to live in a time where so many different vegan products are available; considerably more than there were even three years ago when I first went vegan. Many supermarkets have own-brand vegan substitutes, which can easily fill in for all different kinds of meat, cheese, and milk, meaning you don’t have to shift up your usual meals too much.

Aldi, for example, has stepped up their game immensely for this year’s Veganuary. Aldi has always been good with stocking items which are accidentally vegan (this religious experience of a sweet snack, for example), but they also now have a bunch of enticing, specifically vegan products; from inexpensive oat milk to beetroot burgers, vegan cheese sticks to a variety of different kinds of vegan ice cream. This is just Aldi alone, and every other UK supermarket I know of allows vegans to be truly more and more spoilt for choice as time goes on and more people embrace the diet.

Although all these flashy new substitutes exist, and many interesting new things are constantly being brought to the vegan market, the best vegan products are always the most natural ones – good old fruits and veggies, beans, lentils, pasta, etc. Nothing beats a chickpea curry, a lentil bolognese, or a vegetable chilli. These types of dishes are relatively easy to make, too – get yourself a few new spices, bung everything into a pot, let it go for an hour or so, add a dash of wine if you’re feeling particularly fancy, and let the veggies do all the work – I promise it turns out great every single time.

As I said above, a couple of things that you wouldn’t think would be vegan actually are; Oreos, for example. In actuality, more biscuits are vegan than most people would think. Bourbon creams are often vegan (the Sainsbury’s own brand ones definitely are – their vegan range is unbelievably extensive), as are party rings and biscoff biscuits, just to name a few. Although dark chocolate isn’t to everyone’s taste, it is almost always vegan. Bourneville dark chocolate in particular is super delicious and creamy. Bourneville chocolate finger biscuits now exist too, for those who want a comforting, familiar taste of Cadbury this Veganuary.

Depending on how strict you’re being, something to note is that a lot of alcoholic drinks aren’t vegan. Many ciders and wines use animal products in their production process, such as Kopparberg ciders containing gelatine. This doesn’t mean vegan alternatives don’t exist, though: once again, Aldi reign supreme – all of their wines are vegan. Some ciders are also vegan; luckily, we can have all the fruity Old Mout and Rekorderlig ciders. Most excitingly, a new almond and soy-based vegan Baileys exists now also. In short, nothing’s to stop you getting boozy with your friends this Veganuary if you so wish.

Honestly – veganism is hard. This is especially the case if you’re going vegan for the first time, if you don’t have a lot of time to think about which vegan substitutes you want to go for, or if you are surrounded by people who eat meat all the time. Getting used to vegan foods takes a while and it also takes time. Moreover, the world is in crisis. Even if it wasn’t though, slipping up with a diet that is a little bit more restrictive than most is inevitable.

I’m certain that pretty much every vegan has accidentally eaten something that contains cow’s milk or butter or yoghurt – these things happen. Sometimes it’s out of your control, too, like if your order gets messed up at a restaurant and you get dairy-based mozzarella without even realising. We are all only human; you’re not a failure for accidentally consuming an animal product every so often, and this doesn’t invalidate you and your Veganuary efforts in any way. Regardless of your diet, treating yourself with kindness and treating food as a treat itself is always the most important thing!    

Image courtesy of Brooke Lark.

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