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How to Go Meat and Dairy-Free this Veganuary (Or Any Other Month)

Vegan jackfruit tacos on a wooden platter.
shellgraphy/Shutterstock

Veganuary is a social awareness campaign that encourages people to try eating vegan for the first month of the year—but it’s never too late to give it a try. Here’s how and why to take the challenge for a spin.

What is Veganuary?

The vision behind Veganuary is for a vegan world or—baby steps—for people to at least give it a try for January. The long-term goal of Veganuary is to help people adopt a vegan lifestyle throughout the year and beyond. Just last year, over 250,000 people took the pledge and tried out a vegan lifestyle.

Not only does this non-profit organization encourage people to give it a whirl, but it also supports businesses in launching vegan products. Veganism is an umbrella for a wide variety of values, and each individual has their own reason behind switching to a 100% plant-based lifestyle. Let’s dig in a little more.

Benefits of Switching to a Vegan Diet

Not everyone chooses a vegan diet for the same reasons, but for most people, it’s a combination of health benefits combined with environmental and ethical concerns.

Health Benefits: Eating a 100% plant-based diet comes with a bevy of health benefits. Between fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and beans, you often end up diversifying your diet in a way that you wouldn’t if you stuck to the standard diet in your region. These wholesome foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and so much more.

One study shows that candidates who consumed a vegan diet had a significantly reduced risk of getting cancer. According to Alina Petre MS and RD, from Healthline, there are many health benefits to eating a vegan diet, like:

  • You can lose weight by switching to a plant-based diet
  • It lowers your risk of heart disease
  • The vegan diet is rich in nutrients
  • Can protect against some cancers
  • Improves kidney function
  • Can reduce arthritis pain
  • Appears to lower blood sugar levels

Environmental and Ethical Benefits: It’s easy to not think about everything that goes into the production of meat, but the environmental impact of global meat production is pretty staggering. On top of that impact, the ethical considerations for meat consumption in terms of farm practices and animal cruelty weigh on many people.

When you opt-out of a meat-based diet you’re, however incrementally, cutting back on:

  • Extensive water and air pollution generated by livestock farming
  • Overuse of antibiotics (which are used widely in non-therapeutic ways in agriculture)
  • Water use (cattle farms use over ten times the water used by wheat production, for example)
  • Animal cruelty and unsustainable farming practices

Here’s How to Transition Gradually

A vegan bowl featuring an arrangement of greens and avocado slices.
ZVitaly/Shutterstock

Making extreme changes to your diet can be difficult, and your body may even react undesirably to it at first. Here’s how to adjust to a new way of eating without slamming the brakes and leaving yourself floundering.

Read Up on the Topic

Most people have a specific reason for making drastic changes to their eating. Some experience something that causes them to make a change; others learn about effects and become drawn to the idea.

Be sure you have an excellent reason for deciding to lead this new lifestyle. Even if you plan on making temporary changes, you will more likely value your goals and stick with it if you’re clear on why you’re making the changes—be it for your health or to reduce your environmental footprint.

It’s also essential that you understand how to properly nourish your body with all plant-based foods when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. So, be sure to read up and educate yourself.

Gradually Eliminate Meats

Pick one meat to eliminate from your diet and start with that. Over several weeks you can continue removing different sources of animal protein, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, and all others you may consume.

A systematic elimination process will be easier on you and your body, and in turn, you’ll feel less deprived all at once. As you eliminate, be sure to continue incorporating plenty of plant-based proteins.

Try Vegetarianism First

Alternatively, you may find transitioning to vegetarianism may be an easier start. You can remove meat, including poultry, fish, and seafood, and focus on plant-based foods as your primary protein source.

When you and your body feel comfortable, make other changes. The same systematic approach, as described above, works well when transitioning to vegetarianism.

Incorporate More Plant-Based Foods Into Your Diet

It’s essential to start introducing many whole grains, beans, and legumes to your diet if you haven’t yet done so. Tofu is also an excellent plant-based food to begin adding to your diet, especially if you haven’t yet tried.

Adding an abundance of these foods before completely removing all meat products, will provide a more natural experience transitioning to this style of eating. You’ll have an understanding of which foods you love most, and how to pair them with other ingredients.

Start Substituting Dairy with Plant-Based

Slowly drink and use less cow milk and switch it out with any other plant-based milk. There are many delicious kinds of dairy-free milk out there to choose from.

After milk, you can substitute other dairy products like yogurt and butter and continue to make gradual changes that work for you.

Find Some Recipes and Give Them a Try

Before making this considerable adjustment, you may want to give a few vegan recipes a try. Lucky for you, there are many blogs and websites dedicated to offering excellent recipes.

Try out at least two or three recipes per week and, over time, slowly incorporate one more vegan meal. This will help you and y our body adjust to this new way of eating.

Find Substitutes for Your Favorite Meals

Many passionate vegan home cooks have created the perfect substitute for your favorite meals. Finding vegan recipes then changing up a few ingredients for your preference is one of the fun parts about being a chef in your own kitchen.

Read Ingredient Lists

Always read the ingredients list on any products you purchase on a shelf. Look out for anything that has animal products listed. Most products will have a “Certified Vegan” logo listed on it to show that it is a 100% vegan product.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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