Australia

January is 'Veganuary': Could you go vegan for a month?

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Animal rights and environmental activists are encouraging people to try a vegan diet for the first month of 2019, but dietitians warn first-timers should make sure they're still getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients.

With each new year comes resolutions to do better. 

And in 2019 an international charity campaign has challenged people to try a vegan diet for the month of January.

The 'Veganuary' campaign started in Britain in 2014 and provides participants with vegan meal plans, nutritional advice and tips on eating out.

Veganuary campaign
Veganuary

Animals Australia spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said it is a fun way for people to try a new, more ethical way of eating.

"It's a fun and positive way to dip your toes in the water, see what vegan food is all about while being part of an exciting global movement towards a more sustainable future," she told SBS News. 

Around 300,000 people worldwide are expected to make the 'Veganuary' pledge in 2019.

The rise of veganism 

A vegan diet is devoid of all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy.

Many people choose to follow a plant-based diet because they have concerns for animal welfare or over the effects farming can have on the environment.

Australia is the third-fastest-growing vegan market in the world. In the past five years there's been a 92 per cent increase in the number of vegan products launched in Australian supermarkets.

Lisa Chalk from animal protection organisation Animals Australia told SBS News they are seeing a growing number of Australians open to trying a vegan or vegetarian diet.

"Here in Australia there is a real hunger for kinder, more sustainable food. One in three Australians are already cutting out meat from their diet or cutting it back dramatically."

While noting the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet, accredited dietitian Nicole Dynan cautions anyone planning to try a vegan diet for the first time to check they're getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients.

"There are some nutrients at risk on a plant-based diet. They might be things like protein, iron and zinc, even Omega-3s and most importantly [vitamin] B12," Ms Dynan said. 

Dietitian Nicole Dynan
SBS

She also recommended new vegans limit the number of faux-meat products they incorporate into their diet.

"They can definitely be incorporated as part of the diet but I wouldn't rely wholly and solely on them because they can be quite high in salt, or sodium. So they can be detrimental to your health in the long term," she said.

"Mostly having plants and legumes, more whole foods like that, is the way to go."

Vegan restaurants

In 2018, Dominos and Hungry Jacks added vegan food products to their Australian menus.

They joined a rising number of restaurants and fast-food chains offering plant-based meals to satisfy what is becoming an increasingly mainstream diet. 

Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit pay-as-you-wish restaurant in a variety of locations across Melbourne and Sydney.

Lentil as Anything Manager Nicole Khoury
SBS

The restaurant's volunteers serve around 600 meals a day, all of them vegan.

Nicole Khoury, manager of one of its restaurants in the Sydney suburb of Newtown said while all their food is delicious, the curry plate is a customer favourite.

"We're famous for our curry plate. It's been a staple since the beginning." 

"It's made by our chef Chandra, she's one of the people that was here from the very beginning, she's from Sri Lanka."

People from all walks of life come together to eat there every day of the year.

"It's vegan because it's the most inclusive diet that we know of," Ms Khoury said. 

"It doesn't discriminate against your religion ... It also doesn't discriminate against your philosophy on animal welfare or your ideas about the environment."

Patrons eat vegan meals at Lentil as Anything
Customers eating vegan meals at Lentil as Anything.
SBS News

Ms Khoury said she has noticed a particular rise in the number of young people coming to her restaurant looking to try vegan food.

"Sometimes it's because they're curious about the vegan diet or wanting to eat less meat, they can see the impact that it causes to the earth and themselves," she said. 

"There's also a lot of younger people who are more inclined to decide to go vegan or to just have more vegan food."

SBS FOOD: Vegan diet - how your body changes from day one

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