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 MealsVeganuary vegan meal planning

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.

How I Optimize My Vegan Diet

Through consulting resources such as One Green Planet and tracking my intake of food and drink, I was able to optimize my vegan diet for my specific health needs.  Listening to podcasts like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has helped me stay focused on my goals.

Tip 4: Find Your Community

Connecting with Other Vegans

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!