If you’ve ever thought about going vegan, one UK-based organization wants you to pledge Veganuary. Yup, that’s eating vegan every day in January.
Veganuary has encouraged people to adopt a vegan lifestyle every January, meaning no meat or animal products of any kind, since 2014, according to the non-profit organization’s website. They ask people to take the pledge by subscribing to their email list. Once enrolled, you’ll receive information about the benefits of a vegan diet, recipes, and tips.
But giving up all animal products is an entirely different resolution than promising to work out three days a week. Is it really a good idea to overhaul your lifestyle in just 30 days?
First, what is a vegan diet?
Being vegan means abstaining from more than just meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. Some foods may seem vegan-friendly but aren’t. For example, gummy candies are made of gelatin, derived from animal collagen. Breads are generally made with animal byproducts like eggs or butter, so you’ll need to read labels before selecting a loaf. And while table sugar is vegan, some brands are processed using bone char, which whitens the crystals, according to The Vegetarian Resource Group.
Why should you consider going vegan?
There is no one argument for giving up animal products. “Everyone has their own reasons for changing their diet,” says Abby Langer, R.D. “Most people want to eat a more nourishing diet, more plants, be kinder to the earth, be kinder to animals. It’s such a personal choice.”
Although the diet is extremely restrictive, some people enjoy the challenge and take the opportunity to experiment with new foods, says Melanie Boehmer, R.D. at Lenox Hill Hospital.
“I think going vegan gives people the opportunity to challenge their [food] intake in a way they may not otherwise have done if they were eating animal-based products,” Boehmer explains. “They might try fermented soy in the form of a sprouted tofu or tempeh.”
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The right way to go vegan
First, you should drop the 30-day mindset, says Langer. She recommends giving yourself at least three months to assess whether or not you enjoy eating vegan and notice any benefits.
Second, you shouldn’t give up animal products in an attempt to see a change on the scale.
“Nothing about a vegan diet will help you lose weight if you’re still eating ultra processed foods in large quantities,” she says. “Fries are vegan, so are Oreos.”
You’ll want to eat a variety of foods to ensure you don’t have any nutrient deficiencies, says Boehmer.
“A vegan diet can be 100 percent complete, but you need to mix it up,” she says. For example, choose legume pastas or quinoa over traditional enriched varieties to increase protein intake. Then, load up your plate with fiber-rich vegetables, like spinach. You’ll want to ensure you’re eating foods that contain B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, which are common deficiencies in the vegan community, explains Boehmer.
And finally, how long it takes you to transition is entirely up to you, she says.
“The ‘why’ behind this desired lifestyle change matters and that would ultimately dictate how long one might need to transition,” says Boehmer.
If you’re passionate about animal rights and eat few animal products you might be ready to make the switch sooner. However, if you’re interested in experimenting, don’t cook often, and enjoy meat often, you may want to start slowly with a few plant-based meals.
“It’s not a one size fits all experience and that’s okay,” says Boehmer.
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