Veganuary, the annual New Year’s diet challenge to go 100 percent plant-based, has grown over the last seven years to be a fun way to join others in kicking off the year with healthier resolve. The month-long challenge invites you, not only to make healthier food choices but also to bring greater awareness to living a vegan lifestyle.
Why Join the Veganuary Challenge?
When Veganuary was launched in 2014, 3,000 people joined in. This year marks the first time since its inception seven years ago to have over one million participants, proving Veganuary to be one of the greatest global movements of our century. The goal of the Veganuary Challenge is to grow more awareness about how a vegan lifestyle supports our health and our environment. You may be simply curious, ready to explore, or already a hardcore vegan. Wherever you stand on your path, Veganuary is about having fun with others while learning more about ourselves and blossoming our passion for a healthy body and a healthy planet.
The Veganuary Challenge helps you grow in compassion for our planet as a whole. While mainstream media still touts fossil fuels as the biggest contribution to climate change, the data shows otherwise: nearly 60 percent of our greenhouse gasses comes from meat production. Check out this report from the Guardian:
The difference in emissions between meat and plant production is stark – to produce 1kg of wheat, 2.5kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. A single kilo of beef, meanwhile, creates 70kg of emissions. The researchers said that societies should be aware of this significant discrepancy when addressing the climate crisis. [READ MORE]
It all hit home for me one day when I asked the grocer about a few particular soy products that i no longer saw on the shelves. He responded that a significant amount of soy production had recently been repurposed for food for livestock. The logic behind this, given the state of our planet, is completely upside down for me. This information helped strengthen my resolve to go vegan.
Tip 1: Understand Plant-Based Versus Vegan
What’s the difference?
It’s pretty obvious when you go to the produce section that you will choose plants. But what about processed foods and prepared dishes, what are their ingredients? When I first became vegan, I mistook these two terms, thinking they meant the same thing. That resulted in a lot of bad grocery choices that I only realized when I got home from the market. Unless a food package is clearly marked vegan, read the label. It’s pretty simple, really: a vegan dish or meal contains no animal products whatsoever. Plant-based can mean anything from partially plant-based, mixed with animal products, to a fully 100 percent vegan meal (no animals).
Think healthy plant-based vegan
Not all vegan diets are healthy, and many nonvegans are quick to point this out. It certainly takes a lot more than avoiding animal products to live a healthy lifestyle. We often see social media influencers online that claimed at one point to be vegan only to quit and blame the vegan diet for its lack of nutrition. Hello! Are these people eating junk? It’s the salt, oil, sugar, and lack of nutrients in processed foods that is to blame! The vibrant health results that come with a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle are key to supporting a true vegan path.
Bottom line? Read labels, cut back on processed foods, and spend more time in the produce section than in the cereal and snack aisle.
Tip 2: Plan Your Meals
The value of meal planning
Meal planning became my best buddy during the Veganuary sprint. Not only did it save me time and stress, but it also ensured that I was getting a balanced diet. Meal planning helps you get out ahead of the bad snacking and fast junk food habits. Start with your grocery list. Make sure you are always supplied with your favorite staples in the pantry.
This last year of 2023 has been about the AI explosion. I find it a lot easier to go to my AI chatbot* to get a good vegan meal plan or grocery list, as I don’t have a lot of time to write it all out myself. The chatbot also answers any recipe or dietary questions I may have, saving me a lot of time in research. Try creating a preferred meal plan of your own here.
*NOTE: My new AI plant-based vegan bot is still new and learning. if you are not satisfied with your answers, ask again, and tweak for specific information, such as “I’d like an Italian meal plan for this week” or “include snacks” or avoid (or no) chickpeas”. The bot will get familiar with your tastes and grow with you!
Find Go-To Easy Vegan Recipes
I love cooking, but how many of us have time for it? Veganuary has given me the focus I need to plan, shop, cook and eat all the wonderful food my healthy body craves – without worrying about time anymore. A little planning saves a lot of time.
Discovering simple vegan recipes makes meal prep a breeze. Making time once or twice a week for batch cooking (even living alone I cook in volume) will save you stress and worry during the week. Simple online searches uncover oodles of recipes, whether you like reading them or watching how-to videos (which I love). In a hurry? You can go to MyPlant-basedCoach – a chatbot ready to help with all your vegan questions – and simply ask for any kind of recipe you are craving at the moment. From loaded soups to fulfilling salads, these dishes keep me satisfied, energized, and clear-headed.
Tip 3: Educate Yourself on Nutrition
Getting the Right Nutrients
Just making vegan choices may not be enough for your body or clarity of mind. I make it a point to educate myself on how to get essential nutrients like protein, iron, and vitamins.
In the beginning, I started out on my vegan journey alone. I learned not to react to family or friends when they teased me. Yet I had no idea just how difficult – and toxic – that approach was until I started meeting and cultivating more friendships with vegans. Joining a community of like-minded people made a world of difference. From online groups to local meetups, I found support and inspiration from vegan communities.
The Impact of Community Support
Isolating oneself is never a healthy choice. With the encouragement of my new friends, Veganuary has become not just a personal challenge to start the year off with but also a shared experience that empowers me.
Tip 5: Be Prepared for Eating Out
No vegan restaurants?
When I first became vegan seven years ago (same age as Veganuary), There were no local vegan restaurants. Now, I can find at least a handful, but I also want to spend time with my nonvegan friends, too. Eating out presented its own set of challenges, but with some research and flexibility, I found plenty of vegan options at various restaurants.
Tip 6: Try New Foods and Recipes
Discovering New Ingredients Rocks
One of the most exciting parts of Veganuary for me has been experimenting with new foods and recipes. Who knew that cashews make tasty cream or kale is a nutritious addition to (m)eatloaf? I have broadened my palate and found new favorites on the way.
My Favorite Vegan Food Discoveries
My move to become a vegan started many years ago when I lived in Japan. I still ate meat and fish at the time, but I gravitated towards unfamiliar ingredients offered in Asian cuisine.. Here are a few of the staples in my kitchen:
Tofu. Its versatility, from smoothies to scrambled veggie bowls, makes it an easy protein to incorporate into all sorts of recipes.
Greens. Their importance in our health and longevity cannot be emphasized enough. From cabbage to courgettes, vegan recipes that show you how to incorporate greens are abundant on the web.
Rice. After eight years in Tokyo, all I can say is, I love white rice. And despite critics, it makes me feel good.
Beans. They are loaded with nutrients and protein. Uncovering their versatility has been a joy for me.
Seasonal vegetables. Food choices vary with the seasons, and in season local veggies always taste the best!
Tip 7: Be gentle to yourself
Imperfection is naturally perfect
Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is a journey. I have learned to be more compassionate with myself when I slip up. We humans make it a habit to beat ourselves up with self-criticism, which becomes a hamster wheel that does not move forward, blocking progress. Be kind to yourself is not just some pithy line. It really makes a difference in our lives across the board when we relax the inner critic. Every day is a fresh start with new opportunities to do better.
Why Veganuary is a great challenge
Reflecting on my Veganuary experiences over recent years, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment. I continue to improve my cooking prowess while also making a positive impact on my health and the planet – not to mention all the friends I’ve made along the way.
How to join Veganuary and make your own impact
The way I view food and its connection to the world has been transformed forever and for good. I am excited to continue this journey and share the joys of a vegan lifestyle with others. Won’t you join me? Click here to start!
I love fruit. I can eat it in any form – fresh, frozen, dried, you name it – and be in heaven. But people warn me about eating too much dried fruit, especially with diabetes running in my family. Traditionally, many make the assumption that dried fruit like raisins or dates is loaded with sugar. Some commercial brands have added sugars. Dried fruit appears to have a higher concentration of sugar than fresh fruit in general. So, no one would blame you if you were to assume that dried fruit was not as healthy as fresh fruit.
Yet studies looking at the correlation between dried fruit and health risks show promising results for fighting cancer, losing weight, and lowering diabetes risk. Check out the video here:
better than fresh fruit
A review of studies done on dried fruit intake and cancer risk published in Advances in Nutrition, March 2020, shows that eating dried fruit specifically can lower your risk of various cancers. And, amazingly, fresh fruit does not seem to fare as well as dried:
Overall, data presented in this review indicate that increasing dried fruit consumption to 3–5 servings/wk may have health beneficial effects related to risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the pancreas, prostate, stomach, bladder, and colon. No such effect was found for lung or breast cancers. Another, and rather surprising, finding from the selected studies is that the associations between consumption of total/fresh fruits and cancer risk were generally weaker than the associations determined for dried fruit intake and cancer.
It’s exciting to find out that I need not feel guilty about scooping up a big handful of raisins for a snack. I have a raging sweet tooth but cannot afford to indulge it very often. Consuming more dried fruits in the diet helps control diabetes feels like a relief to know. I love using dates in recipes that call for sugar or some sweetener, and now I won’t skimp on the number I use anymore.
With so many brands on the shelves, I’m careful to read the ingredients now. Some fruit brands are nearly impossible to find without added sugars. Did you know that a typical serving of dried cranberries has around 26 grams of sugar in it? No way. Even mango slices, which you’d imagine to be naturally sweet, often have sugar added.
A warning about store-bought dried fruit: it’s common to find sulfur dioxide added to store brands as a preservative. The sulfur can cause some irritation like asthmatic symptoms, stomach irritation, or itching for some people.
Dried berries, and in particular blueberries, are loaded with antioxidants. I’ve taken a liking to dried apricots, and they are a good probiotic source.
Use a convenient dehydrator at home
A friend of mine just told me that she’s getting a dehydrator. Yes, I am already trying to figure out how to fit one into my pint-sized kitchen. As you can see from the video above, the taste and quality of homemade dried fruit is a richer experience than the dried fruit product offerings we typically see at the grocery stores.
I anticipate with relish how the seasonal fruit varieties will taste dried at home. I want my dehydrator to last and work well out of the box. While the circular model in the video is interesting, I like the look and convenience of a square model.
This one at Amazon is the top-selling brand with amazing reviews:
Do you have a favorite dried fruit? Do you like them as snacks or in recipes? Let us know in the comments below!
Menopause relief is easier than you think with a few tweaks to your diet. I found recovery from menopausal symptoms only when I finally transformed my diet. While I was mostly vegetarian 10 years ago, I also ate a lot of junk. I am still amazed at how eating junk can affect my hormone swings. Even now, years later, if I eat too much sugar or processed foods, I’ll notice hot flashes come on. I now look immediately to diet choices for my menopause relief.
Menopause relief is for men, too
The following video has three tips for menopause relief. In working with both men and women, I’ve found that many men experience a change in their hormone levels as well. Even though the speakers in the video are speaking to women, I suggest men heed the same advice, and you’ll notice an overall improvement in your energy and focus, too:
Dr. Neal Barnard has some great tips to help with menopause relief, and he includes some cooking tips for soybeans. Below are the three tips he offers:
1. Go vegan if you’re not. At least for a week or so, if you’re still on the fence about it all. Fruits, grains, legumes, V B12 is all you need.
2. Lower your oil intake. for the time being, and it doesn’t have to be forever, just cut out your oils. If you are eating processed foods like frozen pizza if it has more than 3 grams of fat, then there’s extra oil you don’t need. Take a week to pay attention to your diet, making it a point to eat only plant-based for a week and cut out oil wherever possible. Then check your symptoms and see how you feel!
3. Include soybeans in your daily food intake. There are a lot of different soybean products to choose from in addition to Dr. Barnard’s suggestions. I am a big fan of tofu.
What do you do for menopause relief?
Leave a comment below if you enjoyed this video! Do you have tips of your own to share?
A meat-free diet sounds restrictive to someone brought up on – and loving – meat. In fact, the discouraging health conditions in the United States and in other parts of the world are direct results of our diet choices. We’ve done a lot of damage to ourselves. I know, as I’ve experienced some of the damage myself before going completely plant-based. Studies suggest we can reverse much of this damage simply by making our food choices meat-free. The findings in recent studies show true benefits from a meat-free diet.
The following article speaks to those who are still considering plant-based choices, and for our vegan fans who may be looking for more health reasons to stay on track.
In the States and globally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women [Covid data not considered here]. Preventable heart attacks account for most of these deaths. Over 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Around one-third of American children are overweight or obese, and obesity is being diagnosed more often at younger ages.
How many of us stuff ourselves and snack often? Then we pay the price – not just individually but as a society – as health care costs skyrocket into the billions, and all this is due to preventable issues.
A meat-free diet offers plant-based options
About 16 million Americans currently follow a vegetarian diet, and many of these are vegans. Vegans follow a strictly meat-free diet, consuming no animal products or byproducts, including dairy or eggs. Many do not eat honey, either.
Celebrities, world leaders, nutritionists, doctors, and people of all ages live healthy and energetic lives, thanks to a plant-based diet. Many have recovered heart health, lowered body weight, and lowered insulin resistance through meat-free choices.
Former President of the United States Bill Clinton is a good example. Clinton had been suffering from heart disease. In 2011 he announced that he had miraculously reversed his heart disease with a strict meat-free diet. Recent research supports Clinton’s claim.
The University of Oxford conducted a large study and the results of the study revealed that following a strict vegetarian diet does, indeed, reduce the risk of hospitalization due to complications from heart disease, and the risk of death from heart disease, both by nearly one third.
Meat-free study shows promising results
Roughly 45,000 participants took part in a study that was conducted by the health and diet experts at the University of Oxford. About 34 percent of the study participants followed strict vegetarian diets. (In this particular study, a vegetarian was defined as an individual who refrained from consuming both meat and fish, but still may eat dairy and eggs).
Those who participated in the study were tracked for more than 10 years. Researchers conducting the meat-free study gathered information about their dietary choices, exercise habits, alcohol consumption, and other variables that could potentially have an impact on heart disease risk.
The researchers who conducted the study discovered that even after controlling for other factors, study participants who followed strict vegetarian diets were considerably less likely to suffer from heart disease.
Francesca Crowe, Ph.D., of the University of Oxford, lead author of the study, said, “Most of the difference in risk is most likely caused by effects on both cholesterol as well as blood pressure.” In her statement, she went on to add, “This shows the important role of diet in preventing heart disease.”
The Oxford research study also revealed that the study participants who followed a strict vegetarian diet tended to have a lower body mass index than those who were not vegetarians, and they were less likely to suffer from diabetes as well.
This most recent study was one of the largest studies ever conducted to examine the cardiovascular benefits of following a vegetarian diet. It follows a growing revelation that a meat-free diet is associated with a multitude of health benefits. Read more at Oxford Research.
More benefits of following a meat-free plan
A number of studies over recent years show that, compared to meat-eaters, individuals who follow a vegetarian diet have:
reduced risk of food-borne illness
less severe symptoms of menopause
longer overall life spans
better insulin sensitivity
fewer weight issues
Even if you are not yet quite ready to give up your favorite burger, you can still receive health benefits if you incorporate a bit more heart-healthy, meat-free meals into your general diet. Choose plant foods more often. Fill your plate with healthy vegetables and whole grains. Eat raw whole food.
Some high nutrition, tasty foods to consider are:
Red, yellow, purple and green vegetables
Soymilk and soybeans
Choose your favorites
Special notes if you are beginning to try meat-free meal options, or trying to transition to a vegan diet:
Consider making one or two meals a week meat-free and remove meat from your plate whenever you can.
Substitute the meat you have removed with black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, soy products and other beans.
Choose fruit for dessert instead of baked goods, and raw vegetables for snacks.
Choose a fruit and protein smoothie for three lunches a week instead of a burger or chicken lunch. Plan and make ahead meat-free lunches ready to eat when you are.
Celebrate small wins. Incremental changes can go a long way, and at some point, you may find yourself completely meat-free and vegan one of these days.
A smoothie diet has become my go-to remedy when I have not been eating well or want to do an effective detox. If one thing this Covid-19 lockdown has shown me, is how I rely on my daily smoothie to steer me towards wholesome food choices the rest of the day. I don’t know about you, but when I got laid off back in March 2020 due to the pandemic, I started baking. I baked, I ate, and I did not make my daily smoothie that I used to take to work every morning. Combine that with some sofa lounging and there I was five weeks later and 10 lbs. heavier. Now I’m not a fan of using the d-word, but if a smoothie diet – or even simply drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement – can melt away the excess weight, I’m all for it.
Sharing the smoothie diet plan
So now it’s summer, I’m back to work, and I’ve let go of the excess weight, thanks to the smoothie diet plan. I’ve also changed the way I drink smoothies, so I can receive optimum goodness without the sugar spike. Why, you may ask, would anyone have a sugar spike in a smoothie that you don’t add sugar to?
If you let your blender do all the work that your mouth would normally do to break down food, it stands to reason that you are flooding your body with calories it can’t assimilate all at the same time. This revelation does not mean that a smoothie diet is bad. Dr. Michael Gregor explains how smoothies work in the body in the video below:
Here are a few of the main points that Dr. Gregor makes in the video:
Juices are the only reason that you have a higher blood sugar spike, so we don’t want to drink fruit juice, right? We’re on whole foods so you know if you just drink juice you throw away all the fiber.
“But smoothies, right, you blend it all together so you have a whole food, right? But the reason they have a higher sugar spike in your bloodstream drinking a smoothie than just actually eating all the fruit, like in a bowl, is not because of the the liquid versus solid. It’s the speed of consumption. If you have a big bowl of fruit and you had a green smoothie like well the kale and all that, right? How long it would take you – like awhile – to chew it to get through that
But a smoothie, you pop a straw in, I mean you can suck it down like 60 seconds. That’s the only difference. So you just sip your smoothie. Like, how long would it take me to eat the fruit I just made, 20 minutes? Okay well I will sip this smoothie over the next 20 minutes and that’s what you do, and then the same blood sugar. You actually absorb more nutrition because you can never chew that good and you’re blending up all the stuff, breaking all those cell walls, getting all that wonderful nutrition into your body.
[bctt tweet=”I did the 21-day smoothie diet, and I didn’t stop, read why.” username=”allveganfoods”]
Judging by all the fiber products on the market, we know that fiber is important in our diets. Dr. Gregor explains that when we simply drink juice, we miss out on the polyphenol phytonutrients, the most important components of plant foods. By most estimates, up to 80 percent of these polyphenols are actually attached to the fiber. So, when we juice a carrot or other vegetable or fruit, we throw away the pulp. We away all those polyphenol phytonutrients that are attached to the fiber.
Dr Gregor goes on to say:
If they’re attached to the fiber, what good are they to us? Ah, they’re good bacteria.
When that fiber gets down to our gut, our gut bacteria in our colon eat the fiber and release the polyphenols that get absorbed into our system, circulates through our body, gets up to our brain, helps our eyesight, all those sorts of other things.
And so, you’re missing out on all that nutrition that’s attached to the fiber when you throw it away. Now if you juice your carrot and then take the pulp, put it back in the juice fine make carrot cake, something, just don’t throw it away.
Smoothie diet basics
Knowing how important whole foods are, I hardly ever drink juice anymore. I do love smoothies, nevertheless, so I throw my favorite plant-based goodies into the blender. Many smoothie recipes suggest adding some juice or nut milk. But following the advice above i don’t want to overwhelm my smoothie diet with unnecessary ingredients, so I always choose water as the liquid base. This is my personal choice. I’d rather eat nuts than drink them with out the fiber goodness.
Here is my basic outline for smoothies:
2-3 helpings of greens – a scoop of your favorite greens powder and greens other than leafy may be included, such as cucumbers and celery.
1-2 helpings of fruit – I usually add berries and one more, like mango, banana or dates
water – add a cup, more or less to your own liking, or water + ice.
herbs – a thumbnail of ginger, a tsp. of cinnamon, a pinch of fennel seeds, or try different favorites for flavor.
flaxseeds – a staple for vegans, throwing it in the smoothie diet is an easy way to get your daily tablespoon of flaxseed nutrition.
Join us in the smoothie diet challenge!
Are you looking for a quick solution to start feeling better and dropping excess weight? If you’re looking for a complete life transformation over the next three weeks, then you’re in the right place! Whether you need to lose the last 5-10 lbs or you want to get rid of 40lbs or more, this will work for you. This diet is extremely flexible so even though this program is 21 days you can continue using it for as along as you want to lose as much weight as you want!
Fermented foods are strong allies in our goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fermented foods – and I’m not talking the alcoholic drink type – are bursting with probiotics that help feed a healthy digestive tract. Yet the probiotics that flourish in the fermentation process are delicate, and have a long road to travel from the barrel to our stomachs. We want to protect that journey as much as we can, so these living bacteria may live on in our guts.
Just walk away from the fermented drinks
Quick-witted companies these days are producing ‘probiotic-rich’ fermented drinks, non-dairy yogurts, and other single-serve, on-the-run so-called healthy boosts (more like profit boosts). The advertising for kombucha, nut yogurts and other fermented treats are attractive. Hate to break it to you, but all the sugar added to these convenient treats nullify the benefits that come from fermented foods and fermented drinks.
If you still want to buy these products, at least check the ingredients and watch for refined sugar. Sugar in a refined form is simply not helpful for good body maintenance (and it may not even be vegan).
Want a quick probiotic drink? Put a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar into water, a smoothie, or other beverage. Well, okay, it may not be exactly probiotic. But ACV does contain good bacteria that can contribute to gut health. Do this one to three times a day and you’ll feel the benefits. Don’t overdo it, though, in case your body is sensitive.
[bctt tweet=”Fermented foods: living probiotics to help keep you healthy. #fermentedfoods #vegansnacks” username=”allveganfoods”]
My introduction to the health benefits of fermented foods
When I lived in Japan, my friends delighted in teaching me how to cook Japanese style. They all had their own particular family ways to make miso soup, and I practiced diligently. The number one common and crucial factor I remembered from all of those lessons is:
never boil the miso.
You do not want to kill all the good bacteria, my friends would say. At that time, an aha moment about fermented foods came to me that, I believe, many of us here in the West have overlooked. We’ve been boiling, frying and roasting the probiotics out of our foods.
Growing up at my house and at every house I ate, vegetables were boiled to mush. If they were still crisp, back they went onto the stove. Sauerkraut came out of cans – already an assault on healthy microbes – and then thrown into a pot with a chopped up apple to cut the bitter edge of the fermented cabbage. If any bacteria survived the can, they were doomed to be boiled alive.
The ignorance I grew up with in regards to a healthy diet was breathtaking.
I learned a valuable lesson about preserving the integrity of food from my Japanese cooking buddies. I ate a lot of kimchi, Korean spicy pickled cabbage, while there, too. After returning to the States, I reintroduced sauerkraut – pretty much kimchi without the hot pepper – to my diet in a healthier, more robust way: no more boiling.
I can laugh nowadays about the food beliefs I was raised with. Boiled was the only cabbage recipe in the house. The closest I got to raw was the coleslaw from KFC, which was loaded with sugar. I still remember the first time I ate a cold salad of shredded raw cabbage with a dressing. Fermentation moves this delicious, versatile vegetable from a healthy food to a super-nutrient boost.
Buy or make your own fermented foods
Personally, I can’t be bothered taking probiotics in pill form. I want to know I’m eating live goodness. If you buy fermented foods like sauerkraut, the brands found in the produce refrigerated section will be fresher and filled with many more gut-pleasing microbes than in jars or cans. Making your own is easy, and here is a simple recipe for you.
Dave and Steve from The Happy Pear demonstrate a quick and easy basic recipe for any fermented vegetable of your choice. The lactic acid process explained in the video is a recipe with simply salt and water – no animals involved.
In The Happy Pear’s video, the pickled veggies start at 02:22
Photo source: Fermented vegetable jar by Kim Daniels on Unsplash