25 Jan Tips to Ease Your Way into a Vegan 2022
Commentary, Olivia Lozano
It has been another vegan year around the sun, and this time, we can expect more exciting happenings for Veganuary 2022. Amid product launches, corporate vegan food challenges and social media involvement, the plant-based movement has gained traction across the United States, inspiring healthier habits for the New Year.
Veganuary is an annual campaign in which people say they will give up animal-based products, such as meat, eggs and dairy, for at least the month of January. An estimated 2 million people in the U.S. have signed up for the healthy-eating pledge since the campaign began in 2014. This year alone, polls show that close to ⅓ of Americans are thinking about eating more vegan food.
So far, 2022 has seen the launch of KFC and Beyond Meat’s collaboration for a meatless fried chicken across its 4,000 locations. Although it isn’t vegetarian-friendly — as it is cooked in the same fryer as the chicken — it is a move to introduce meat-eaters to plant-based alternatives. We can also expect to see new meatless menu items at Taco Bell and McDonald’s. Talks to drop non-dairy milk surcharges are in the works as coffee chain Blue Bottle already serves oat milk at no additional cost. Other brands like Krispy Kreme, Philadelphia, and Ben and Jerry’s are unveiling new delicious, vegan products in the U.K. Hopefully, we’ll see them in the U.S. in the future.
If you are thinking of trying out the vegan lifestyle this year but don’t know where to start, here are some recommendations to make your transition a smooth one:
Incorporate small changes over time.
Becoming vegan is a drastic lifestyle change, and it’s OK to not get it right 100% of the time when just starting out. Switching to 100% vegan can be daunting, at first, and while it’s not impossible, it can lead to burnout in the early stages.
If you’re unfamiliar with vegan food, try making one meal a day vegan to start. These meals don’t have to be boring salads or bland foods. They can be foods you already like and eat on a regular basis. With the help of food science today, there are no shortages of meat-free substitutes that can be used in your cooking. If you’re used to eating tacos, burritos, burgers, pizza, or familiar cultural foods, you still can. There are so many blogs and recipe pages available online to use as guides. Or if you don’t feel like cooking for your first week, you can always order from local businesses and restaurants. Don’t overwhelm yourself by eating loads of vegetables or unfamiliar foods. Stick to what you know, and do not expect perfection. And if you cave, that’s all right. Be easy on yourself and try again the next day.
Do your research and educate yourself.
In a world of nutrition misinformation, it can be laborious to decipher the truth from fiction. It is easy to trust diet advice from nutrition bloggers, social media influencers, YouTubers, etc., especially because they are personable, confident and can offer quick solutions to your nutrition queries. Unfortunately, there is no way to verify the validity of their claims, so sticking to professional advice is always best. Ideally, I would recommend paying a visit to a registered dietician to help you create a diet plan and understand what vitamins are necessary to look out for in a vegan diet. Nutrition is personal, and having a comprehensive check-up will help you identify any health-related issues before you start your plant-based journey.
If you have neither the time nor the resources to see a dietician, seek advice from reputable free professional nutrition sites online. Nutritionfacts.org is an excellent starting point. There, you can find the Evidence-Based Eating Guide, which might help make the switch easier. The site also has a plethora of recipes, webinars, podcasts and more. Finally, if online media is still more your style, look for accounts that are run by healthcare professionals like Sadia Badiei, a registered dietician who is also a YouTuber. Badiei makes healthy and comforting meals that are nutritionally dense, and she frequently addresses the connection between our diet and our mental health.
Some more things worth mentioning:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest body of nutrition health professionals in the world, deems a vegan diet adequate for all stages of life including pregnancy. It is entirely possible to get all vitamins and nutrients from plant sources or fortified foods.
For times when our eating is not perfect, consider taking a multivitamin to fill those nutritional gaps. Two essential micronutrients of focus for vegetarian and vegan diets are vitamin B12 and iron.
Vitamin B12, which aids in red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis, is an important one to look out for since plant foods are less concentrated with it. Because of modern-day farming practices that use pesticides and other harsh chemicals, the bacteria that produce B12 are eliminated at a higher rate. Animals accumulate B12 over time by eating plants, so their flesh has a large concentration of it.
Iron is a necessary mineral that can also be harder to get enough of without meat — at least until you get the hang of a plant-based diet. It is needed for the creation of hemoglobin, the protein that binds oxygen to red blood cells. Without hemoglobin, oxygen cannot reach tissues in the body and the brain can shut down. People who menstruate are at higher risk for developing a deficiency, and taking a multivitamin to maintain adequate stores can help fortify the body on days where our eating isn’t at its best.
Your body will thank you years down the line for putting in the work now.
For my tenured vegans:
Clarify your values. Rewatch that documentary that shocked you, revisit favorite bloggers, YouTubers, recipe books, scientific studies, etc., because there are always new things to learn. We all need a reminder about why we live this lifestyle. It’s not enough to experience these things once and then continue living uninspired and without intention. Some people, myself included, need nudging in the right direction. For me, it’s kind of like dusting off your old running shoes and putting them on your feet again. You’re reminded of that euphoric feeling you had; the “Oh, yeah! I do love doing this.” Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Your relationship with veganism, as with any relationship you have with the people in your life, needs just as much TLC and attention. It’s good to reacquaint yourself every now and then with some vegan inspiration.