Vegan-ish New Year’s Resolutions

One great virtue of New Year’s resolutions is that they can take any form, since there are limitless opportunities for self-improvement. Resolutions can be hugely ambitious or they can be tiny—the crucial thing is that they stick. You don’t want to be that person who commits to a rigorous workout program but who gives up after three visits to the gym.

The most common of all New Year’s resolutions concerns making commitments to improve diet or physical fitness, and veganism is an increasingly popular route towards achieving this goal. Likewise, people wanting to disconnect themselves from agribusiness cruelties are especially likely to embrace a vegan lifestyle. But animal protection is just one of many reasons to go vegan. To get acquainted with all the best reasons to move to a plant-based diet, see my “Why Go Vegan?” essay.

Unfortunately, many vegans ultimately go back to eating animal products. Oftentimes, it’s because they’ve paid inadequate attention to nutrition. There are plenty of junky foods that are vegan. If unhealthy foods make up the bulk of your diet, your health will surely suffer. Additionally, even people who commit to eating their veggies can run into trouble. There’s just no substitute to reading up on nutrition—the payoff is huge and failure to learn the basics is the quickest path to becoming an ex-vegan. Just like omnivores, vegans can often stay out of trouble by using a few judiciously-chosen inexpensive supplements.

The Most Helpful New Year’s Vegan Resolutions

While you could absolutely make a complete transition overnight, it takes a lot of reading and significant commitment to pull that off. By contrast, if you merely edge into things and gradually step up your commitment every month, you’ll still make surprisingly rapid progress. So here are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions if you don’t feel ready to go 100 percent vegan on January 1st. Some of these suggestions are big, some are tiny. All are easy and important.

Read Books and Watch Movies

It doesn’t matter if the topic is nutrition, animal rights, or environmental considerations; the more you learn about vegan-related subjects the less you’ll want to eat animal products. When it comes to eating habits, motivation is everything, and there’s no better way to increase your motivation than by learning about the advantages of being vegan. Check out my recommended books page for some of the top titles. For movies, you might check out Vegan: Everyday Stories and Get Vegucated.

Do a Three Week Test Drive

One thing that holds people back from going vegan is the raw terror that accompanies making a lifelong commitment. So why not take the pressure off? A great way to remove that pressure is to make a temporary commitment. Try just three weeks vegan and see how it goes. If that approach sounds appealing, I’ve written a handy guide to trying out a vegan diet.

Go Vegan in Your Kitchen

People contemplating a vegan diet might dread the prospect of being far from home with no obvious vegan options. Long-term vegans eventually learn how to eat well wherever they go. But by merely committing to be vegan at home, you can still eat whatever you want when you leave the house. Maybe over time you’ll be ready for a greater commitment, or maybe not. But it’s fair to say that you’re making a gigantic difference by eating vegan whenever you’re home, and never bringing non-vegan foods into your kitchen.

Try Being Vegan Before 6

Mark Bittman might be world’s the most respected general interest food politics writer. He’s not vegan but he certainly understands the benefits as well as anyone. With that in mind, he created a diet for himself where he stays vegan every day until 6:00 PM, and then he eats whatever he wants after that. If everyone did that, the meat, dairy, and egg industries would be totally screwed. After Bittman adhered to this plan for a few years, he decided that the rest of the world could benefit from it as well, so he published an excellent book on the topic. Just like my Three Week Test Drive mentioned above, Vegan Before 6 is one of the best ways to experience veganism while bypassing the pressure of having to be perfect for the rest of your life.

Eat a Vegan Restaurant Meal Every Week

90 percent of becoming vegan or mostly vegan is just trying new foods. If you’re lucky enough to have vegan-friendly restaurants nearby, you can experience all sorts of great new food ideas without spending a moment in the kitchen. The best way to discover your most exciting nearby vegan options is to search Google Maps. Just search for vegan and you’ll find every local vegan-friendly restaurant. Boom—you’re now an expert on your area’s very best options. For more possibilities use HappyCow, a restaurant review site devoted to vegetarian and vegan dining.

And don’t forget the deli section at your local natural foods store. They’re usually loaded with some terrific vegan options.

Buy, and Read, a Few Vegan Cookbooks

Over the past decade or two, veganism has transformed from fringe oddity to mainstream movement. In consequence, a flood of cookbooks have come to market and the typical title has improved from sucky to superb. Given the stiff competition, there’s just no room for mediocrity anymore. All the bestselling vegan cookbooks now share top-notch production values. To browse a good vegan cookbook today is to immerse yourself in all sorts of delicious possibilities. So why not get ahold of a few vegan cookbooks and dive in?

If you want to explore a specific type cooking, there’s a vegan cookbook for every niche. My cookbooks page brings together all the finest recent titles, covering everything from cupcakes to Korean food.

Spend More Time in Your Market’s Produce Section

This one’s so obvious it’s shocking that virtually nobody notices it. There’s no doubt that the healthiest people spend more time scouring the produce section than hanging out in the cookies, chips, and soda aisles. Merely spending time in the produce section all but guarantees you’ll buy more fresh fruits and vegetables. So do that, OK? The benefits are huge, regardless of whether you’re a Level 5 Vegan or the world’s biggest meat eater. And every mouthful of vegetables you consume is a mouthful of animal-based foods you aren’t eating.

For extra points, bring home an unfamiliar vegetable each week and find a way to cook it. My guide to vegetables covers all the best preparation methods.

Meatless Mondays

The phrase “it was the least I could do” undoubtedly inspired Meatless Mondays. I mean, what could be easier than to forgo meat just one day a week? Meatless options abound, and you’ll have the combined energies of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the cutest Beatle backing you up at every turn. Even if you go no further than to observe Meatless Mondays, you’ll be well ahead of most people and solidly in the camp that’s striving to make a difference.

Every Vegan Resolution Takes You Another Step

Any of these ideas are fantastic stepping stones toward a plant-strong diet. But if you can come up with something that meshes even better with your lifestyle, have at it! There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The key is to enjoy the experience, constantly try new vegan foods, and to make this a journey of discovery rather than deprivation. Remember that cutting out foods feels like deprivation, whereas crowding out foods with plant-based alternatives you prefer is a piece of vegan cake.

Over time, you’ll find that being mostly or entirely vegan becomes second nature, and you’ll take more pleasure from food than ever before.

For further reading: please see our how to go vegan guide, our vegan FAQ, and our nutrition guide.
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