If you have been wondering about how to improve your health, minimize your environmental impact, or reduce animal suffering, you may already have thought about going vegan, and you wouldn’t be alone! Millions of people are already vegan, and millions more will pledge to try vegan for the new year. Why not join them and find out why veganism is the trend that keeps on trending.
Vegan for Your Family’s Health
Five of the top ten causes of death in the United States are directly related to what we eat: heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. And while there is certainly a genetic component to each of these, Harvard states that nearly half of all premature deaths could be due to our lifestyle choices.
‘Choices’ may not be quite the right word, however. If we are brought up eating certain types of meals we may never really make an active choice: we just carry on eating what we always have, even if this way of eating has led to ill-health in our parents and grandparents. Doctors often say that certain diseases run in families simply because diets run in families, so this could be a great time to break the cycle, to examine old habits, and to let go of those that no longer serve you. You’ll be doing your own health a big favor but you may also be passing on that same gift to the rest of your family.
Find out more about the power of a plant-based diet to end the cycle of chronic ill-health.
Vegan for Wild Animals
Over the past fifty years, there has been a devastating decline in wildlife, with scientists declaring we have now entered the world’s sixth mass extinction. This may be the sixth time in our planet’s long history that there has been mass loss of species, but it is the first time the ‘biological annihilation’ has been caused by one of those species: humans. And one of the biggest causes is our diet based on animal products.
The Living Planet Index has identified three major impacts caused to wildlife by our dietary choices: first, the immense destruction of natural habitats including rainforests to create farmland for animals. Second is the decimation of the oceans for our consumption of fish. Vast fishing nets scoop up every animal unlucky enough to be in their path, including sharks, whales, porpoises, rays, dolphins, turtles, and albatrosses. The third major impact is hunting wild animals to eat them. Our dietary choices really matter to wildlife and wild places, and a plant-based diet protects them the best.
Vegan for the Forests
Animal agriculture uses 83 percent of our farmland but gives us just 18 percent of our calories, meaning we need a lot more land to create a lot less food if the food we are producing is meat and dairy. This inefficiency is what makes animal agriculture one of the leading drivers of deforestation.
Vast swathes of forests are razed to the ground so that farmers can graze animals on it. Once the animals have depleted the area, they are moved on to another newly cleared area. Following behind them comes the soy farmers, who grow this crop largely to be shipped around the world to animals inside factory farms. Not only does this destruction for meat drive out wild species, it releases carbon into the atmosphere, and forces indigenous people from their homes. When we choose plant-based foods, we take away these pressures on the forests, and that is good news for everyone.
Vegan for Farmed Animals
Two thirds of Americans live with an animal. We love our cats and dogs, share our lives and homes with them, care for them well, and treat them when they’re sick. We know they have feelings and emotions, and we recognize them as individuals. It doesn’t take much of a mental leap to accept that this must be as true of cows and pigs as it is of cats and dogs.
Deep down, we know there is a problem with animal farming – incarcerating sentient beings inside cages and pens, forcing them to live in their own filth, cutting off their tails and horns without pain relief, denying them the freedom to roam or feel the earth beneath their feet, taking away their young, and then taking away their lives. We understand that seeing animals suffering this way is heart-breaking but their suffering will only end when we stop treating their bodies as food, and their lives as expendable.
Vegan for our Future
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 14.5 percent of all human-generated greenhouse emissions come from animal agriculture. Other scientists have placed the figure much higher, but what is agreed is that what we eat has a profound impact on climate breakdown, and that plant-based foods have a far smaller impact than animal foods.
The damage starts when natural habitats are destroyed to create more farmland. This releases stored carbon, and at the same time, reduces the number of trees able to sequester it from the atmosphere. From there, every step of the process from turning a living animal into a piece of meat is energy-intensive. The waste from the billions of animals themselves is also a huge problem, and we now know that slashing methane emissions is vital to mitigating climate breakdown.
Eating locally produced meat is not enough. Not by a long way. The emissions from food transportation are utterly dwarfed by other factors. As environmental researcher and journalist George Monbiot says, flying a banana six times round the world does less damage to the planet than eating locally sourced beef or lamb. The best diet for our future is a plant-based diet.
How to Go Vegan for New Year
So, we have five great reasons to try vegan but how should we do it, and what help is available to ensure a smooth transition?
How to Stick to a New Year’s Resolution
More than 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail, with January 19th being the date when our best intentions most often get jettisoned. Our best chance of success lies in really knowing why you are doing it. If you have a powerful reason for making dietary changes, which could be one or all of the reasons above or something else entirely, you’ll find the motivation you need.
Some days will be tougher than others, and it is common for new vegans to make mistakes, either accidentally or simply because temptation got the better of them. That’s OK. We have all been there. Whatever happens, remind yourself why you started this journey and put that slip-up behind you. It’s better to be imperfectly vegan than to throw it all away just because you made a mistake.
Six Ways to Remember Your Why
- Watch Cowspiracy and see the impact that our food choices have on the planet
- Browse our testimonials and see how other people have changed their health and their lives with a plant-based diet
- Watch Seaspiracy, and discover just how much damage the fishing industry causes to our oceans, to animals and to people
- Visit a farmed animal sanctuary near to you, and meet the animals who were rescued from the pitiless farming system
- Watch Game Changers to find out how a plant-based diet can have profound impact on your sporting or athletic performance
- Read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Go Vegan for a Week or a Month
This is a mental trick. If we tell ourselves that something is forever, it can overwhelm us. We may obsess over the foods we can “never” eat again, or the meals we will miss, or the events we may not be able to enjoy so much. The reality is quite different, of course – we can still enjoy all the foods we loved before, we just need to make them vegan – but in those early days and weeks, it is natural to feel trepidation, and even some sense of loss.
So, don’t think about doing it forever. Commit to eating vegan for one week or one month only, and take one day at a time. At the end of that period, see how you got on, and try another week.
We can help you! Sign up for our 31-day Go Vegan programme, and you’ll receive motivational daily emails, as well as recipes, and a Health & Nutrition Guide.
New Year Adventure
Too often we think about “giving something up” for the New Year but how is that motivational?! Instead, think of trying veganism as an adventure – a chance to try something new, to explore new foods and cuisines, to see what effect it will have on your health and wellbeing, and to learn more about the impact of our food choices. This is going to be great!
Counter to what many people think, new vegans find that their dietary choices actually expand as they reassess their relationship with food, and try new ingredients and different ways of cooking. Some may keep a food diary, and can track their health benefits. It’s very common for new vegans to report better digestion, more energy, deeper sleep, and healthier skin and hair. Others have reported incredible changes in painful or debilitating conditions almost immediately. This won’t be the case for everyone, but embark on this adventure with an open mind and see what it will do for you.
Veganism is not about deprivation, so put that idea right out of your mind, but it can take a little while to adjust to new ways of eating. One sure way to make this a positive and exciting experience is to search out some new recipes.
There are some wonderful vegan cookbooks available but you will also find millions of vegan recipes available for free online. This includes satisfying main meals, fresh new breakfast ideas, tasty snacks and indulgent desserts. Search for the name of your favorite meal and the word “vegan”, and you’ll be amazed at what comes up. Here are a few of our favorite books and sites to get you started.
The Six Best Vegan Recipe Books
- Hot for Food All Day, Lauren Toyota
- The Korean Vegan, Joanne Lee Molinaro
- The Essential Vegan Indian Cookbook, Priya Lakshminarayan
- Plant Based on a Budget, Toni Okamoto
- Provecho: 100 Vegan Mexican Recipes, Edgar Castrejón
- Unbelievably Vegan, Charity Morgan
The Six Best Vegan Recipe Sites
- Blacks Going Vegan
- Vegan Richa
- Veggie Soul Food
- Post Punk Kitchen
- The Minimalist Vegan
- Sweet Potato Soul
Best Apps for New Year’s Resolutions
If you decide to take the plunge and go vegan for your New Year’s resolution, there are some terrific apps to help you out, everything from locating vegan meals in restaurants to tracking your climate impact, to finding the love of your life. These are our top picks for new vegans.
Eating out can prove tricky for new vegans but HappyCow makes it so much easier. Type in your location, and it will show you the cafes and restaurants near to you where you can find a vegan meal. It’s brilliant for everyday use and invaluable when travelling.
This app was devised by a vegan dietician and helps you track your intake of food to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. New vegans can have lots of questions about specific nutrients, and this app should reassure and take the stress out of healthy eating.
The Darwin Challenge
Devised by the great great grandson of Charles Darwin, this app tracks the benefits of being vegan – from animal welfare and human rights to environmental impacts and climate emissions. It’s a motivational way to keep to the vegan path.
Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen
We love this app! It’s a simple way to ensure you are putting the best foods into your body for optimal nutrition and health. Dr Michael Greger suggests six foods or food groups we should eat every day, and you can tick them off as you go. Plus there are some other cool features, too.
Dating as a vegan can be fraught so if you’re looking to find a partner who shares your interest in veganism, this could be the app for you. It’s multi-national and allows you to connect for free. It’s still fairly new but give it a go!
Like dating but for friends! This is the place to connect with new vegans, share stories, tips and recipes, and to make friends all over the world. The vegan community is huge and growing, so jump in and say hello.
Join a Vegan Community
It is much harder to stay vegan if you are the only vegan you know, but there are millions of vegans out there. Aside from apps, there are social media groups connected by various interests, such as Vegan Runners, Vegan Bakers, Vegan Knitters and so many more. You’ll make wonderful likeminded new friends, meet people from all over the world, and find a community where you truly belong.
And, of course, you can find vegans in the real world, too. There are many local meet-up groups that organize social events, vegan advocacy groups that do education and outreach, and activist groups that campaign for animals or the environment. Whatever you are into, there are other vegans who are into that, too, so go find your vegan tribe.
So many people who were nervous about taking the plunge say that becoming vegan was the best decision of their lives, that it was easier than expected, and that they wish they had done it sooner. With New Year a time for fresh beginnings and a chance to embrace all that is positive and good while moving away from habits that no longer serve us, this could be the very best time to try vegan.