Veganuary 2022: what is vegan diet month, how to take part - and vegan food explained

Every January, vegan food products and dishes become more visible in supermarkets and restaurants across the UK - but why does this happen?

Walk down any supermarket aisle or take the briefest of glances at most high street restaurant menus, and you will notice a variety of vegan options.

The plant based diet and lifestyle has moved increasingly into mainstream acceptance in recent years due in part to climate change and the vocal endorsement of celebrities, like Lewis Hamilton and Joaquin Phoenix.

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Many people have also been giving it a go thanks to Veganuary - an annual event which challenges people to try out a vegan diet for a month and then keep it up.

So what exactly is Veganuary, how can you take part - and what exactly does a vegan diet contain?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Veganuary launched in 2014 and encourages people to try going vegan across January and beyond. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is one that is devoid of any animal products.

So, not only do vegans avoid eating meat and fish but they also avoid eggs, dairy and even the gelatine used to create some types of gummy sweets, like Haribo.

The diet differs from vegetarianism as veggies still consume eggs and dairy.

Another diet that’s come to prominence in recent years - flexitarianism - might see some people follow a vegan diet on some days of the week or at certain mealtimes, but is not considered to be vegan.

F1 driver Lewis Hamilton is one of the most vocal celebrity supporters of the vegan diet (image: Getty Images)

Many, but not all, vegan products carry the Vegan Society’s trademark.

If a product does not have the charity’s trademark on its packaging, it can still be vegan - just be sure to check the ingredients list for things like egg, milk or meat.

Or, if it’s a fruit or a vegetable, the chances are that the product will be 100% vegan. It all depends on the farming methods used to produce that particular bit of produce.

The vegan diet is just one aspect of veganism.

The lifestyle also sees followers avoid things like animal-derived clothes or household products, as well as practices involving animals that they may perceive to be cruel, like visiting a zoo.

What is Veganuary?

Veganuary is an annual vegan diet challenge which takes place throughout the month of January.

Set up in the UK in 2014 by British entrepreneur Matthew Glover and animal rights campaigner Jane Land, the challenge (and not-for-profit organisation of the same name) seeks to promote veganism throughout the year.

But its initial goal for those who sign up is to get them through 31 days of being fully vegan.

Going vegan doesn’t just mean you have to eat salads all day - there are now dozens of products which accurately replicate meat (image: Shutterstock)

Last year, a survey conducted by the organisation found more than 582,000 people from 209 different countries took part.

According to Veganuary’s analysis of Kantar data, more than five million people may have unofficially taken part last year.

A six-month follow up survey with official participants that was published in September 2021 found 82% of the participants who were not vegan when they signed up had drastically reduced their consumption of meat in the event’s aftermath.

Of this number, 30% said they were still eating a fully vegan diet, while another 38% stated they were eating at least 75% less meat than they did pre-Veganuary.

Participants who continued to be vegan after the challenge also told Veganuary they had experienced benefits including: increased energy (60%), improved mood (59%), better skin (52%) and a desired change in body weight (48%).

How can I get involved?

While the challenge started on 1 January, you can still join in officially via the Veganuary website.

Should you do so, the organisation offers free tips, nutrition guides, meal plans and a cookbook containing recipes by celebrities like John Bishop, Dame Joanna Lumley and Benjamin Zephaniah.

However, you can also give the challenge an unofficial go - in fact, it’s become easier than ever to join in.

The UK’s major supermarkets already have a large selection of vegan foods to try, while most chain restaurants offer plant based options as standard.

According to statistics from Veganuary, 825 new vegan products and menu items were introduced during 2021’s edition.

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