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!
Vegan grilling makes my heart sing. Grilling vegetables on the barbecue is all part of the delicious fun of summertime. As a kid, our family enjoyed cookouts at least once or twice a week. But in those days, meat was about the only thing that went on the fire. As I grew older, we learned more about the art of grilling and best preps for veggies on the grill. Vegan grilling to perfection over a fire is part of a rite of passage for any cook in my book. In this post, I am going to show you a few of my favorite vegan grilling tips and how to prepare them.
How to prep your favorite veggies for the grill
The 11 vegetables featured below for vegan grilling are my favorites to throw on the barbecue outside, or grill ahead of time for a picnic. Each vegetable has a different texture, so they will take different lengths of time to cook. Some chefs say certain vegetables taste better if you soak them in a brine, add oil, or parboil. I feel a lot of that depends on your own preference. If you can forego the salt or use some spice blends as substitutes, like as we think in our diets, and other spices can provide just as much fun in your mouth.
Remember to clean and grease up the grill. Ideally, vegan grilling is on a separate frill than the carnivores. Do your best to keep the sections separate when sharing a grill, so you don’t worry about animal grease.
Personally, I prefer little or no oil in my cooking. Yet I don’t want the veggies to stick, in case I didn’t brush enough oil on the food, so I always prep the grill.
To oil or not to oil in vegan grilling
Using a brush or a spray to oil your vegetables can save a lot of needless extra oil in your dishes. I’ve seen many cooks pour oil straight onto the vegetables and let it sit there, soaking it all up. For me, the lighter the better. I like to taste the fresh produce, not the oil. If you want to go completely oil-free, try a grill mat for non-stick veggies.
Another way to keep your veggies from sticking to the grill is to season them well. Some people add extra pepper or rubbing blends, for example. You’ve got all summer to experiment! The preps below are basics, and you can add your own seasoning choices.
Eggplant – Aubergine
Eggplant has a rich taste off the grill. Cut off and discard the stem end of the eggplant. Leave the skin on for grilling so the eggplant slices keep their shape on the grill and are easier to handle. You don’t have to eat it, but it’s tasty and loaded with nutrients.
Cut either slice lengthwise about 0.2 inches / ½ cm thick or into 3/4 inch / 2 cm thick diagonal, crosswise, or lengthwise slices. Eggplant is one of the few vegetables that I brine. At this point, soaking the slices in salted water for a half hour and no longer than an hour helps the eggplant hold its shape. You can skip the brine if you’re going to make a dip from it, or want the mushy texture for another recipe.
Brush with a little oil if you like and sprinkle with salt or your choice of spices. Squeeze lemon juice over it. Then grill until tender and grill marks appear, about 4-5 minutes on each side. If you love your olive oil, drizzle it on at the end, and even another squeeze of lemon for good measure, before serving.
Zucchini – Courgettes
Zucchini is a fun, easy vegetable to grill. Trim the ends, and always leave the nutrient-rich skin on.
Cut the squashes in half lengthwise or into lengthwise slices for thicker ones. If you prefer medallions, I suggest you put them in foil or use a grill basket. The small rounds easily fall through the grates.
Brush with a little oil (or not, as long as you have non-stick options) and sprinkle with salt or herbs. Squeeze lemon juice over the slices. Then grill until they get crispy lines and a tender juicy middle, just a few minutes on each side.
These babies are easy and fun on the fire. I simply throw them on the grill, either with or without oil, and keep turning until they’re charred. Alternatively, you can slice off the stem. Cut into halves or quarters depending on the size.
These first three vegetables are also delicious when cubed, grilled, and tossed together into a ratatouille recipe. Cook them separately, though, to be sure you don’t overcook or undercook any of them. You may want to add grilled onions or garlic, too.
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Corn on the cob
Grilled corn on the cob is a staple of summer. And it can’t be easier. Soak the ears, husk and all, in a big pot of water with about a quarter of a cup of salt (the salt’s not important if you’re watching your intake). Soak them for about 10-15 minutes. Then put them on the grill over medium heat.
Turn every five minutes for about 25-30 minutes. The water in the husk will provide steam so the corn stays tender, not dried and charred. I don’t know about you, but I love unwrapping an ear of corn on the cob fresh off the grill!
Asparagus is one of my favorite foods to make and eat in the spring and summer because nothing beats their flavor when sprinkled with salt and quickly grilled. These yummy stalks are tender, but still with a little crunch. complete with smoky flavor and char marks. Seriously wicked good! I c an eat them like French fries.
Prep by simply brushing with a little oil and salt. Squeeze lemon or lime over the stalks. Put on the grill until they start to char and get grill marks. I like to put asparagus in tin foil on the grill. The steam created inside the foil keeps them nice and moist.
Cherry Vine Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes come in red, orange, yellow, and even “black,” and they’re equally sweet and delicious when they ripen on the vine.
Put a whole vine on the grill and leave until the tomatoes start to pop.
Potatoes are the perfect summer side. We like the sturdiness and of a russet potato, but if you prefer to use a thin-skinned variety feel free! You just have to be extra careful not to boil them too much, or else they might be too tender and fall apart on the grill.
Parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes.
Cut into slices about ¾ inch / 2 cm thick or wedges same size or slightly bigger.
Brush with a little oil and salt until they start to look crisp and brown.