Veganuary: The Value of Veganism

January is full of resolutions, lifestyle changes, and month-long challenges. A new year helps us kick-start the habits we hope will bring us closer to our goals. Last year, we focused on Dry January, a commitment to ditch alcohol for the first month of the year. This year, we thought we’d highlight a different January challenge. Veganuary!

Veganuary (not the catchiest of names, I know) involves a pledge to live a plant-based lifestyle for the first 31 days of the year. Just as Dry January benefits our mental and physical health, participating in Veganuary can benefit the health of our bodies as well as the health of our planet.

What is Veganuary?

“Veganuary” is a non-profit organization encouraging people worldwide to go vegan for January. They offer recipes and eating guides and work with brands, restaurants, and supermarkets to help them create and launch new vegan products. Although Veganuary does a beautiful job of inspiring individuals to try this diet, you don’t need to go through them if you’re interested in doing this yourself. There are countless resources online, on social media, and in our community that can help you make the most of your month eating plant-based. 

Why should I try a plant-based diet? 

Eating completely plant-based or even simply reducing the amount of animal products you consume can significantly impact the planet and your body. 

Eating a vegan diet reduces water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UN, Meat and Dairy (farmed livestock) account for 11.2% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. If we all went vegan, scientists believe the world’s food-related emissions might drop by 68% within 15 years, limiting global warming. That being said, not all vegan food is environmentally friendly. So, if your environmental impact is the main reason you’d like to try a vegan diet, I suggest you carefully research the products you choose to buy. Your best bet is to buy locally and support local farms and markets. 

A plant-heavy diet is also excellent for your physical health. Rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and hydration, a plant-based diet can leave you feeling much more energized and boost your immune system. Done correctly, a vegan diet may also result in weight loss, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 

What about my dinner club? What if I can’t live without cheese? Etc…

Die-hard vegans might hate me for this one, but you don’t need to give it all up to make a difference. If your monthly dinner club is serving barbeque and you don’t want to miss out, eat the barbeque. If your mom made delicious chicken noodle soup to cure your cold, there’s no need to throw it out. Making small changes in your diet is more important than getting it 100% right. If a strict vegan diet sounds too difficult to tackle right now, try eating plant-based one day out of the week. Focus on doing what you can, not on forcing yourself to follow the “rules of veganism.” Make your own goals and change them to fit what works for you along the way.

In short, eating plant-based for January can lead to some inspiring changes for your body and our planet. Give it a go and see what sticks. Here’s one of my favorite “easy” vegan recipes to get you started!

Creamy Garlic and Tomato Cannellini Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • ½ cup cashew cream
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp fresh or dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 16-ounce can of cannellini beans (or lima beans)
  • 3 cups spinach

Preparation:

  1. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and chopped sundried tomatoes. Cook until the garlic is lightly browned. 
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the cashew cream, vegetable broth, tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper, and white wine vinegar. Stir well, and then add in the beans, mixing them to evenly distribute throughout the cream sauce. 
  3. Cover the pan and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the fresh spinach and mix into the bean mixture. 
  5. Cover the pan again and cook for 2-3 minutes at a simmer. Add more vegetable broth and salt if the mixture becomes too thick for your personal preference.
  6. Serve warm with your favorite crispy bread.