This post on Veganuary Tips is sponsored by ALDI USA. Thank you for supporting the brands who help make my work possible!
Veganuary was started in 2014 by a U.K.-based nonprofit to promote and educate people about veganism by encouraging them to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January. And since its inception, participation has more than doubled each year. And when I polled y’all on my Instagram stories recently, 85% of you were interested in participating in Veganuary!
That is incredible news! Eating a plant-based diet is one of the best decisions you can make for the planet, animals, and your health. And of course, it’s a great way to kick off the new year with a healthy and happy start.
But switching to a vegan diet can be a bit overwhelming and confusing, even if it’s just for a month. That’s why I’ve compiled 10 Veganuary tips to make this experience feasy, fun, and stress-free. Hopefully you’ll see that going vegan can be delicious, rewarding, and not at all restrictive or boring :)
10 Tips for a Successful Veganuary
1. Your diet doesn’t have to be 100% “clean”
I put “clean” in quotes because I don’t like referring to some foods as clean and some foods as dirty. Second, when you start a vegan diet, it’s important to recognize you’ll most likely have cravings for meat and dairy products. At least some of the time. And it’s not because you want to eat animals or animal byproducts. Rather, it’s because humans naturally crave the rich, fatty textures and salty, umami, smoky flavors found in animal products.
And mock meat and cheese substitutes can be really helpful crutches that can ease you into veganism. This is true especially at the beginning, when you’re most likely to still experience those cravings.
Eventually, you’ll lose your cravings for meat and dairy. For me, the meat and egg cravings went away within a week. The dairy cravings took a little longer. But it will happen, I promise.
Whatever your cravings might be, allow yourself to enjoy meat substitutes or cheese substitutes, especially in the early days. Yes, they are processed foods, and your diet should focus more on whole foods. But these products will most likely help you stick to your resolution to not eat animal products.
And they’re also time-saving products because they’re already pre-cooked or require very little cooking. And, most of us are time-poor and could use a few shortcuts in the kitchen.
One of my favorite vegan meat substitutes are the Earth Grown Classic Vegan Meatless Meatballs from ALDI. Even my partner Max, who is very picky about vegan meats, loves these. They’re hearty, meatier than a standard black bean burger but not-in-your-face meaty, and so flavorful.
Here’s an incredibly quick but delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs dinner. You can make it in less than 15 minutes! Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe.
15-Minute Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Simmer 2 cups marinara sauce with ½ of the package of Earth Grown Classic Vegan Meatless Meatballs for 10 minutes. For extra flavor options, see the recipe down below.
- During the last minute of cooking, add in 4 large handfuls of baby spinach and toss until wilted.
- Add 6 ounces of hot cooked spaghetti to the meatballs and sauce, tossing to coat.
For more variety, you can even turn these meatballs into a faux “sausage.” Check out how to do that in this Vegan Sausage Stuffed Butternut Squash recipe!
2. Learn to push plants to the center of your plate
A standard western diet has taught us a few things we need to unlearn. One, that meat should be at the center of our plates. And two, that most meals should have a source of meat in order to be complete. But, it’s actually really easy to have a complete, balanced meal without relying on meat.
Legumes, like lentils, beans, and tofu, are not only high in protein, but also in fiber (unlike meat), and are an incredible addition to any meal. I have countless wholesome yet indulgent lentil- and bean-based recipes on my blog for your enjoyment, as well as in my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook!
And we haven’t even talked about vegetables yet! Before, I became vegan, I loved vegetables but I didn’t give them the care and spotlight they deserve. I roasted the same three vegetables for all my meal preps and ate the same salads for lunch.
It wasn’t until I went vegan that I learned that vegetables can be heroes too and deserve to be treated in the same way that meat does. Vegetables can be marinated, given a spice rub, and seared. Some of them, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, can even be sliced into hearty steak-style cuts and roasted until caramelized.
Here’s one of my favorite easy but fancy dinners: Broccoli Steaks with Marinated Chickpea Salad
Slice broccoli into “steak” cuts and roast them in the oven until deeply browned. Serve the broccoli steaks over a creamy dip or sauce, and serve with a marinated bean salad. It looks gourmet, it tastes gourmet, but it’s easy and so inexpensive to make using staples like organic broccoli, hummus, canned chickpeas, and avocado oil from ALDI.
Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the recipe!
3. Do a little nutrition research before starting a vegan diet
There are a lot of misconceptions about a vegan diet, especially from a nutrition perspective. It is definitely possible and not too hard to get all the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet. (I do recommend a few supplements, like vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which are hard to find in plant-based foods).
That said, before you start a plant-based diet or start Veganuary, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with plant foods that are rich in, for instance, protein, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Some great plant based sources of protein are lentils, beans, and soy products like tofu, soybeans or tempeh. But, there’s also protein in many whole grains, like quinoa, oats, whole wheat pasta, and some whole grain breads.
As for iron, you might remember that Popeye ate a lot of spinach! Spinach is certainly a good source of iron (especially when cooked), but there are tons of other plant sources of iron.
- Legumes: chickpeas, black eyed peas, lentils, tofu
- Nuts and seeds: cashews, almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds
- Vegetables: kale, spinach, swiss chard, mushrooms
- Grains: oats, quinoa
- Other: blackstrap molasses, dark chocolate (my favorite source)
And here are some plant-based sources of calcium:
- Vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens
- Legumes: tofu, tempeh, soybeans, white beans
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, sesame seeds, tahini, chia seeds
- Other: fortified plant-based milks, seaweed products
And for omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease and have anti-cancer properties, try these foods:
- Walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, edamame, seaweed and algae
At my local ALDI, I found a 16-ounce bag of non-GMO Simply Nature Milled Flax Seed for just $2.29 and a 12-ounce bag of non-GMO Simply Nature Organic Chia Seeds for just $3.89. If you’ve ever bought chia seeds, you know that is a steal! Of course, the exact price and availability may vary based on your local store, but regardless of your location, the prices are bound to be affordable.
4. Stock up on inexpensive plant proteins
Now that you know a bit more about protein, my next Veganuary tip is to stock up on lots of inexpensive plant proteins. Unlike meat–which can be very pricy, especially higher-quality and organic options–plant-based proteins are usually very inexpensive.
Lentils and beans, whether canned or dried, are some of the cheapest options at the grocery store. At my local ALDI, I got a 2 pound bag of dried great northern beans (which yields about 14 cups of beans) for $2.79. That’s less than 10 CENTS for one half-cup serving of beans.
Tofu, even organic non-GMO tofu, is inexpensive ($1.75 at my local ALDI). Quinoa, which has 6-8 grams of protein per serving, is just $2.89 per pound at my local ALDI.
These days, you can even find pastas made from chickpeas, lentils, or beans. And at ALDI, these specialty pastas do not come with a specialty price!
Stocking up on these plant proteins means you can whip up nutrient-dense, satisfying meals any day of the week. And not come close to breaking your budget!
5. Experiment to find your favorite plant-based substitutes
Trying out a vegan diet has never been easier than in 2021. Compared to when I went vegan in four and a half years ago in 2016, there are SO many more plant-based alternatives to everyday foods. Going vegan in 2016 wasn’t that hard, which means it’s super easy in 2021!
So allow yourself to do a little experimentation to see which plant-based alternatives you like best. As for plant milks, there’s such a huge variety to experiment with and enjoy. For instance, you might find that you prefer almond milk in your smoothies, soy milk in your cereal, and coconut milk in your curries.
And with the affordable prices at ALDI, you can even splurge on organic plant-based milks like Simply Nature Organic Soymilk or Friendly Farms Organic Coconut Milk without the splurge.
6. Try veganizing your favorite comfort foods
Another misconception about a vegan diet is that all you can eat are traditionally “healthy foods’ like salads and smoothies. Sure, that’s one way to do a vegan diet, but IMO, it’s not very fun or realistic for most people.
One of my favorite Veganuary tips, and one of the easiest ways to add fun into your diet, is to recreate your favorite comfort foods. I have tons of vegan comfort foods on my blog, whether you like mac and cheese, lasagna, noodle soups, risotto, dal, fudgy brownies, or fluffy cakes.
You’ll be surprised at how nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables can replicate the creamy indulgence that dairy typically brings to a recipe. Plus, everyone loves comfort food, so by adding fun and comfort into your Veganuary, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy it and perhaps even stick with veganism in the long-run.
And if you want your comfort food but still want to keep it healthy, check out this roundup of healthy vegan comfort foods!
7. Don’t forget the snacks!
When you first start a vegan diet, you might find that you get hungry more frequently. That’s because most post plant-based foods are more nutrient-dense than animal-based foods but also naturally lower in calories. Beans and lentils, for instance, are usually less calorie-dense than meat and cheese. Vegetables have a ton of nutrients and not that many calories.
So, you might need to eat a larger volume of food to get enough calories, depending on the exact foods you’re eating and your body’s needs. That’s why I recommend keeping wholesome but satiating snacks on hand.
Snacking gets a bad rap, but if you keep healthyish snacks on hand, it can prevent you from getting hangry. And we all know that we make poor eating choices when we’re hangry.
Whether you feel those hunger pains at 10 a.m. 3 p.m., go for a snack that will actually fill you up. A piece of fruit, while good for you, is usually not enough to curb hunger. Instead, pair that pear (I love a good wordplay!) with peanut butter or almond butter, which contain healthy fats and protein. Or pair granola, like Simply Nature Organic Pumpkin Seed & Flax Granola cereal, with plant-based milk and berries.
Or make a snack blend with your favorite raw or roasted nuts with dried fruit or dark chocolate. At your local ALDI, you can find an incredible array of nuts and seeds at an affordable price, as well as peanut butter and almond butter.
For something a little fancier, make your own roasted nut snack mix. Simply roast a mix or raw nuts in the oven at 350F for 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. Then toss with a bit of olive oil or avocado oil, salt and your favorite seasoning blend. Now, you have a healthy but tasty snack to enjoy throughout the week!
8. Learn to read labels
Something I recommend all new vegans do is get comfortable reading food labels. Unfortunately, there are animal products lurking in so many common types of foods, from certain breads and crackers to salad dressings and cakes.
Luckily, more and more food products now include more visible signs that say “Vegan” or “plant-based,” but you still need to be cautious.
A few common ingredients that that are not vegan but aren’t super obvious include:
- Casein: a protein derived from animal’s milk. Sometimes found in non-dairy food items, such as coffee creamer or soy cheese, but less common these days.
- Whey: another milk protein. Found in some breads, protein shakes, and candies.
- Shellac / resinous glaze: the resin secreted by the lac insect. Often found in shiny, glossy candies.
- Gelatin: derived from animal bones. Found in candies and some processed foods, such as marshmallows and fruit snacks.
And because reading labels can get tiresome, try out one of these apps!
- Vegan Pocket – Is It Vegan?. You can scan many products and it’ll tell you whether it’s vegan or not.
- Bunny Free. Search for companies by name to see whether or not they test on animals.
9. Plan in advance
Reading labels on the spot is helpful but planning in advance can be even more helpful and save you time. Planning ahead is particularly important if you live in an area that doesn’t have too many vegan options. For instance, when I lived in New York City, I didn’t have to think much about planning ahead because vegan options were everywhere. But when I took a trip to upstate New York, I had to research which restaurants could accommodate me.
If you know you have a family dinner coming up, volunteer to cook part (or all of the meal). Or, if you have a potluck to attend (at a safe social distance), consider making two dishes so that you know you’ll have plenty to eat.
If you’re planning to dine out, look up the restaurant’s menu online to see if they have vegan options. If it’s unclear, call the restaurant to see if the chef can accommodate you.
And again, you can rely on apps like Happy Cow, which will help you find vegan-friendly restaurants and meals in your area.
10. Be compassionate to yourself
There is no such thing as a perfect vegan! There are animal products hiding in all kinds of products, from food and beauty products to clothing and household items. So unless you truly live off the land and make all of your own stuff, it’s impossible to be a perfect vegan.
But that’s okay! For me, I went vegan because I wanted to do my best to live a compassionate life. And I am doing my best.
But I’m not perfect. I’ve accidentally eaten crackers with butter and dark chocolate with milk. On several occasions.
Sure, it sucks when that happens, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. And you definitely should not feel guilt or shame about it.
If you slip up during Veganuary, whether accidentally or intentionally, feel the momentary regret, if you need to, but then forgive yourself and move on.
I hope you found these Veganuary tips useful! If you did, please let me know in the comments below :)
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for spiciness)
- ½ package Earth Grown Classic Meatless Meatballs
- 6 ounces spaghetti
- 4 large handfuls organic baby spinach
- Mix together the marinara sauce with the tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes (if using).
- Pour the marinara sauce mixture into a medium saucepan. Add the frozen meatless meatballs. Toss to combine and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. During the last minute of cooking, add in the baby spinach and stir until wilted.
- Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.
- Drain the spaghetti and add to the meatballs and sauce, tossing to coat in the sauce. Serve with extra red pepper flakes on top, if desired.
- 2 large heads of organic broccoli
- Simply Nature 100% Pure Avocado Oil (for roasting)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ⅓ – ½ cup hummus
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons Simply Nature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
- 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Prep the broccoli. Preheat the oven to 450F. Slice off the tough ends of the broccoli and leave about 2 inches of the stalk attached. Starting at the center of each crown, slice the broccoli crowns into thick steaks, about ½-inch thick. Some florets will fall off, but keep those, as you can roast them as well.
- Transfer broccoli to a baking sheet. Drizzle it with avocado oil and season well with salt and pepper, tossing with your hands to coat.
- Roast for 12 minutes, then flip the broccoli. Roast for another 10 minutes, or until broccoli is fork tender and nicely browned.
- Meanwhile, combine the chickpeas with the extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and juice, crushed garlic, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and adjust seasonings accordingly. You can make this chickpea salad in advance and store, covered, in the fridge, or serve immediately.
- To assemble, smear some hummus onto each plate. Divide the broccoli steaks onto each plate and serve the marinated chickpea salad on the side.