What Is Veganuary? Everything You Need to Know About This Food Challenge

Veganuary is a plant-based food challenge. Learn what it is and tips on how to join the challenge.

If you've been toying with the idea of starting a vegan diet, January may be the month you want to do it. A UK-based nonprofit refers to it as Veganuary.

But if you're not accustomed to going meat-free, or can't imagine how you'll survive for a month (or longer) without eggs or dairy, you will need some pointers to ensure you're meeting your nutrient requirements while staying satisfied and enjoying food.

Here are expert answers to the most common questions about Veganuary, with a few tips for some extra plant power.

What Is Veganuary?

Launched in 2014, Veganuary encourages you to consume only plant foods for the month of January. The movement began from a desire to protect the environment, prevent animal suffering, and improve the health of millions of people.

Anyone can do Veganuary, and it's no big deal if you're a little late to the plant-based party. In 2022, more than 620,000 people signed up to try the diet. Consult with your healthcare provider before trying any new eating plan, especially if you have and health concerns. Then, if you want to join the challenge, all you have to do is sign up on Veganuary's website.

What Does it Mean to Be Vegan?

Going vegan is more of a lifestyle change because of compassion for animals, the environment, and everyone's health—it's not simply a diet change. Vegans select from a large variety of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and plant-based alternatives to prepare meals. Here's a sample of the changes vegans make:

woman holding a bowl of quinoa and vegetables

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  • Products made from soy, almonds, coconut, or oat instead of cow's or goat's milk
  • Beans, nuts, and peas, instead of protein from meat, fish, or eggs
  • Cane sugar, dates, or molasses instead of honey
  • Agar-agar instead of gelatin
  • Choosing organic, non-GMO, local, fair trade, and sustainable foods when possible
  • Clothing, shoes, and textiles (such as blankets, pillows, and rugs) made of synthetic or natural nonanimal materials like cotton, rayon, linen, rubber, spandex, and nylon instead of wool, silk, fur, leather, or down
  • Shampoo, cosmetics, and soaps that don't contain animal substances
  • Jewelry that doesn't contain animal parts like pearls, shells, bones, and feathers
  • Not participating in hunting or sports where animals are used, like animal racing or fighting and fishing

To a vegan newbie, this might seem like a daunting list, but there are just as many—if not more—foods you can eat: all fruits, vegetables, beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, for starters.

How can you be sure you're not eating animal products? The confusion is most likely to come if you're eating prepackaged foods, so you have to get into the habit of checking the ingredients list to make sure there are no animal-derived ingredients.

"Vegan packaged foods are labeled with a 'suitable for vegans' or 'certified vegan' logo," Florida-based nutritionist and certified personal trainer McKenzie Flinchum, RD, told Health. "Additionally, if the product contains dairy, eggs, or seafood, it will be listed under its allergen list."

Potential Benefits of Veganuary

The goal of Veganuary isn't weight loss; but, you might find that you do lose weight—whether you want to or not—if you don't keep an eye on your food intake.

"Rather than focus on cutting out animal foods, focus on what you will add to your diet," suggested Flinchum. And always keep nutrients at the forefront of your mind. "Make sure to replace the animal foods with plant-based foods rather than simply eliminate them," said Flinchum. "This is a way to ensure that calorie needs are met."

This mindset should come in handy if you're a committed carnivore; no doubt about it, following a vegan diet is more difficult if you're used to eating meat with every meal. As Flinchum pointed out, think about what you're gaining (new flavors, new recipes, and a ton of veggies you might not even have heard of before) rather than what you're missing out on.

Another health benefit: A study comparing vegans and vegetarians to omnivores (meat and veggie eaters) found that vegans had the highest intake of dietary fiber and vitamin K and the lowest levels of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.

Potential Drawbacks of Going Vegan

Getting all the nutrients you need from these food categories, however, may not be so simple. In the same study, vegans had the lowest intake of energy, monounsaturated fatty acids (the good kind), as well as the lowest levels of vitamins B12, B2, and D.

"The biggest nutrient deficiency concern with veganism is vitamin B12, which is found in animal foods," said Flinchum. "B12 deficiency can lead to anemia."

Unless you are eating fortified vegan products to meet your nutrition needs, Flinchum suggested taking a supplement.

"Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iodine, and iron are other nutrients to pay attention to if you're eating a vegan diet. It's important to eat a large variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, plant-based oils, beans, and legumes in order to meet micronutrient needs," added Flinchum.

What Should You Do If You Slip Up?

Veganuary is designed as a challenge, so allow yourself any shortcuts necessary to make the diet work, Philadelphia-based vegan restaurateur Nicole Marquis, founder and CEO of HipCityVeg, told Health. "Going vegan can be daunting at the beginning," said Marquis. "Make it easy; for example, buy pre-cut veggies if you need to, for easy meal prep."

Another way to make it simple is to try a vegan meal delivery service; it's also a great way to try different vegan dishes.

A good tip is to carry vegan snacks with you when you're out and about, so you're always prepared with plant-based eats when hunger pangs hit. Some good choices are fruit, nuts and seeds, veggies, popcorn, or crackers.

What If You Can’t Cook?

Going vegan for a month doesn't mean you have to suddenly become the next Derek Sarno (a top vegan chef).

You can find a vegan version of pretty much everything you'd eat on a meat-based diet: pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, tacos, pasta, and more. Many restaurants and takeout spots offer vegan options, and you'll find prepackaged vegan foods in grocery stores.

It's also really easy to switch up food items that have similar tastes or textures to meat, said New York City-based vegan chef Anthony Spino. "For instance, jackfruit—the largest fruit that grows from a tree—has the same texture as pork and takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in," Spino told Health. "It's good for you, is a great source of fiber, and can be a great meat substitute in tacos or chili."

If you want to give cooking a go, start with some easy vegan recipes, and you'll soon realize there's nothing complicated about vegan cooking. It's basically just delicious veggies, starches, whole grains, and so much more, packed with flavor and texture. Check out the Veganuary website for some recipes.

If your attempt to go vegan in January isn't as successful as you'd hoped, or you decide you just aren't into it enough to keep it going, no worries. Veganism isn't for everyone, and you can always give it a try again or go on a modified vegan diet that's a bit more forgiving.

But if Veganuary inspires you to go permanently plant-based, you're in luck: February is Vegan Cuisine Month—the perfect chance to check out vegan options for eating out in your local area.

A Quick Review

Veganuary started as a way to encourage people to try the vegan lifestyle by making it a month-long challenge. Going vegan means you're changing out of compassion for animals, the environment, and your health.

There are many health benefits to eating vegan, such as eating more fiber and less saturated fat, which may help to lower cholesterol. But there can also be some drawbacks if your eating plan isn't planned properly. You may be at risk for not reaching your daily requirements for certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12.

Therefore, working with your healthcare provider to assess your supplementation needs is a good idea. It may seem like a lot of changes to your lifestyle, but nutrition labels and easy recipes can make the switch easier.

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Veganuary. About Us.

  2. Veganuary. Who We Are.

  3. Veganuary. Why Go Vegan?

  4. American Vegan Society. Be Vegan.

  5. Dawczynski C, Weidauer T, Richert C, Schlattmann P, Dawczynski K, Kiehntopf M. Nutrient intake and nutrition status in vegetarians and vegans in comparison to omnivores - the Nutritional Evaluation (Nueva) StudyFront Nutr. 2022;9:819106. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.819106

  6. Veganuary. Vegan Recipes.

  7. American Vegan Society. Vegan Cuisine Month.

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