During 2016 I made some quite drastic changes to my diet for rather unique personal reasons, all of which ended up remaining permanent changes. These all led to me trying out ‘Veganuary’ in 2017, where you go vegan for a month.
I’m well aware people love to hate vegans. There’s also a widespread joke and perception that vegans do nothing but discuss being vegan, so this is probably the only post you’ll see from me about it! If you have ever considered cutting down on meat or animal products, I wanted to share my experience with you so you can decide whether or not it is something you could try for yourself.
In May 2016 I decided I wanted to stop eating chicken. When people ask me why I chose to do this I usually can’t even bring myself to tell them because of how ridiculous the reason sounds, but I’ll say it anyway – I love chicks. Chickens are one of my favourite animals in the world, I just find them so funny and adorable! Despite this I’ve willingly eaten them all of my life because they tasted quite nice – it was a bit of a contradiction.
Every Spring I spend a good half an hour (there’s always a queue of small children waiting, but who cares) at a local farm holding the newly hatched chicks. During my 2016 visit, all of a sudden, eating these animals just didn’t really make sense for me anymore. I stopped eating eggs soon after (though admittedly still ate them in cakes and mayonnaise etc) because I learned that male chicks are born in all their fluffy gorgeousness simply to be thrown into grinders when they’re a few days old. This is all because they don’t lay eggs and are therefore ‘useless’. Seriously, they’re mashed to death.
Cutting out chicken meant I ate more beef, lamb and fish overall. I continued to do that for a few months until a documentary called ‘Before the Flood’ came out in October 2016. I watched it fairly shortly after its release due to the fact it’s produced and presented by Leonardo DiCaprio who I’ve probably been in love with since I was about four. Even Leo says “try to talk to anyone about climate change and people just tune out” but it is honestly a great eye-opening watch if you have an hour to kill. I learned in the documentary that cutting beef out of your diet is one of the best individual actions you can take to try and prevent climate change, so I quite quickly made the change.
In January 2017 I came across a charity and campaign called ‘Veganuary’. I’d never even heard of this concept of trying veganism for one month (January) before until I saw someone promoting it on Facebook. I decided to try it primarily for health reasons, but also because I do care about the environment and the welfare of animals. You don’t even have to love animals to know the way they’re currently treated for meat and milk production is appalling. There are also plenty of benefits of going vegan listed – weight loss, lower cholesterol, more energy, less risk of disease, and a clearer conscience!
The first step I took was to stock the fridge with dairy-free alternatives; Sainsbury’s ‘Free From’ range spread, soft cheese, and feta style cheese meant I was set. I then just swapped out cow’s milk for almond and coconut milk and my usual margarine for a sunflower oil spread. It’s actually really surprising how much these small changes make transitioning into being vegan pretty easy.
I’ve been amazed by how little becoming vegan has changed my everyday life. I can still eat the breakfast and lunch I’ve always eaten as well as salt & vinegar crisps, flapjacks, OREOS!!!, dark chocolate, peanut butter, and chips. Here are just a few of my favourite quick meal ideas for those lacking inspiration:
- Muesli, All-Bran, Oats, Any Dairy-Free Cereal with Soya Milk
- Toast with Peanut Butter and Banana
- Cereal Bars (Weetabix and plenty of other brands don’t contain milk)
- Jus Rol Croissants or Pain Au Chocolats
- Falafel wrap with lettuce and Vegannaise (the nicest mayo you will seriously ever eat)
- Fajitas with mixed veggies and seasoned chickpeas
- Spaghetti Bolognese with vegan mince
- Asparagus and caramelised onion chutney Jus Rol’ puff pastry squares
- Linda McCartney ‘Duck’ in wraps with cucumber and hoisin sauce
- Linda McCartney ‘Pulled Pork’ burger with potato wedges
- Vegetable Fried Rice
I’d summarise the pros of being vegan for me personally as feeling healthier, cooking more in the kitchen, learning more recipes, and feeling better about my actions in an ethical way.
When I first became vegan, the main disadvantage for me is the awkwardness and faff I endured when eating out at restaurants. Waiters have looked at me completely gone out whenever I’ve asked whether something was suitable for vegans, or a big blue folder has had to be consulted before letting me know if I could eat something. It will definitely make you feel like you’re being completely unreasonable, awkward and fussy at least once. In reality though, you’re just a paying customer politely asking about the ingredients of your food.
In 2017 and 2018 however, major changes took place to high-street food chains and supermarkets; vegan food was so popular and in-demand that chains started adding in vegan dishes and menus to cater for the demand. Supermarkets started stocking vegan pizzas and microwave meals, and Ben & Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream. It’s no longer that inconvenient to eat out and stay vegan.
I do want to say though that you can’t avoid negativity towards you or other veggies/vegans. You will also never realise how much people think they have an opinion on what you eat until you say you’re vegan. I’ve always known how annoying people find veganism which is why I’ve tried to speak about it as little as I possibly can to my family and friends. You do inevitably have to mention it though, whether it’s when someone asks why you’re doing more baking recently, or you go out for a meal with a friend and they hear you asking the waitress more questions than usual. I encountered a lot of people who loved to intensely question me on why I was trying Veganuary, and attempting to make me feel like it’s pointless. I never knew people cared so much about what I ate!
So the golden question – will I carry on being vegan? Yes I will, for as long as I still feel happy doing so. I have no desire to eat meat again so at the very least I think I will now always be a vegetarian. Sponge cake is a weakness of mine, but I like to believe in my willpower.
Update from 2018:
Since publishing this post, I’m happy to say I’ve remained vegan! The hardest part is finding vegan food whilst travelling and in some restaurants. I’m always happy to answer any questions and offer advice to any vegans in the making!
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