By Gee Cadoret |
… And boy did I think it was going to be easier.
I’m not sure whether it was the arrogance that came with being pretty much vegetarian anyway (I eat fish very occasionally), or the fact that my Insta feed is saturated with so many god-damn vegan influencers, that I naturally thought: How hard can it be? The reality is… It takes some getting used to.
“I hardly cooked the same meals at all”
I already drink milk alternatives (if you take my advice, Oatly Barista is the only alternative); I use Vitalite instead of butter and eat hummus like the world depends on it. Because of this, I didn’t have as many changes to make as some Veganuary participants might have. Nevertheless, I rely heavily on eggs for lunch and use cheese daily to bulk out salads, add to soups and, well, just to eat from the packet. Given this, I still had to think outside the box when it came to cooking meals that I was used to making on autopilot. In fact, I hardly cooked the same meals at all.
The wonderful thing I found about Veganuary is that it inspired me to put more effort into my cooking. If I didn’t put a little effort into my meals, I’d have been eating boring and unsatisfying food, and there is no way I’d let anything get in the way of me enjoying my food. I picked up some tricks along the way to make life easier for myself, such as nutritional yeast (or “nooch” as my vegan friends call it) to add savoury depth to chilli, soups and pasta.
Eating out was probably the biggest challenge. Finding a bog-standard restaurant, pub or café that offers a vegan option is difficult in itself. Of course, there are plenty of dedicated eateries in Cornwall that have menus simply bursting with vegan meals and treats, but sadly I spent my January in Somerset where meat is a widely accepted staple, and people raise an eyebrow if you say you’re a vegetarian – “Ah, you eat rabbit food then? Ha!”.
The joke really was on me – eating out meant accepting my doom of a painfully underwhelming meal (among these, a jacket potato with baked beans).
Another tricky thing about eating out was that most waiting staff (and sometimes even the chefs) don’t know exactly whether or not their ingredients contain animal products. However, this is only a problem if they don’t offer a vegan option and you need to ask them to make adjustments for you, which in most places they are happy to do.
The upside to eating out being tricky was that it encouraged me to cook more at home. I love cooking and found the challenge of trying out new recipes and adjusting old ones actually pretty fun.
If you don’t like cooking, I would highly recommend stocking up on things like hummus for carrot/crisp dipping, beans, tinned tomatoes and rice for an easy chilli, and some Linda McCartney specialities to grace your freezer.
“There is a lot of confusion and misinformation around the use of animal products in alcohol”
It may surprise you (or maybe I was the last to find out) that a lot of alcohol contains animal derivatives, used for clarification before bottling. Many mainstream lager and cider brands steer clear of the use of animal products, but wine and cask ales are notorious for containing it. The hardest part is that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation around the use of animal products in alcohol, and often it isn’t printed on the labels or marketed as non-vegan. Suffice to say that I did not take alcohol into consideration on my Veganuary pursuit, but I did go dry for a week *clap clap*.
The temptation of others around me
If you were at home in a house of violently carnivorous family members and still managed to make it through Veganuary, I commend you. Possibly the most difficult thing for me was resisting a slice of cake; saying “no thank you, I’m fine” whilst secretly starving when presented with a cheese pizza, and leaving the mint chocolate on the table at an Indian restaurant. Sticking to your guns and having to cater to your own needs whilst everyone else eats something together is really challenging – would it be fair to say there is even a degree of FOMO?
Personally, the difficulty arose when I was offered something containing hidden animal products, like biscuits. It was easy to disconnect with my commitment outside of mealtimes when there wasn’t so much thought put into what I was eating. During the first week, I succumbed to various treats that I knew contained dairy or eggs, but eventually I bought my own vegan chocolate and started eating fruit when I felt the temptation to run to Spar and buy five Galaxy bars.
“The shift felt generally undramatic from the mostly veggie diet I had before”
Overall, I feel I tackled Veganuary pretty well and found it easy enough after the initial shift from daily cheese munching to… Well, no cheese at all. I eventually got used to checking the ingredients of food products and found that the type of food I ate became less processed because it was easier to make it myself. I’ve also discovered some great vegan products (I’ve listed my favourites in another article), so the shift felt generally undramatic from the mostly veggie diet I had before.
Despite the culture around Veganuary, making a change to your diet like going vegan is not actually a challenge or a competition. It is, like any change, a process and one that needs to be respected. This means that if you’ve tried to cut certain foods out of your diet you need to make yourself aware of the nutrients you might be cutting out and find a way of supplementing them. A little trick I always remember is that, when you eat beans and rice together, they break down to provide the same amount of protein (a vital nutrient) as red meat. If you’re not a fan of soy products, this kind of hack will help you to stay conscious of your protein intake.
Before making the switch to veganism, I would recommend some generic Googling to get your head around how to keep yourself healthy with the right vitamins and minerals, as well as reading some recipes *cue hours of Instagram #vegan scrolling* to get some inspiration and a general feel for how your meals might start to look.