Go vegan. Go on. I dare you.
In January I decided to take on the big V. Not because I’d been converted by a horrific video or an angry activist, just pure curiosity. It lasted for a month and a week before I was banned by my mum (for reasons I will come to), but I have to say part of me misses the animal-empty diet. Going vegan made me completely adjust my relationship and appreciation of food and taught me many lessons that I’ve carried through into my all-inclusive diet.
Come the first of January I was completely ready for my undertaking. Safe to say my Christmas-chocolate crammed stomach needed a veggie detox and in the first week it was welcomed warmly… though I did say goodbye to the Old Year with rather a lot of goat’s cheese and truffle honey. The first all-vegan meal was mushroom risotto, followed by a squash and coconut curry, falafel, sweet potato chilli, Singapore noodles, ‘meatballs’ and courgetti…
I was soon in full vegan swing and wondering why everyone was busy fussing over meat. Slipping into the routine was far easier then I’d anticipated, and over the month it never got tricky, even at the offering of a cheese toastie. I experienced no cravings for a beef burger dripping with bacon and extra cheddar, honestly being very happy with my butterbean salad. In fact I found it rather refreshing. Having a clear reason why you can’t eat Harribo or cake made it so much easier to say no and stick to the right food path.
I think as I’ve never been a massive carnivore and am always very happy with a vegetarian option giving up meat just didn’t bother me. And although I know that the thought of going vegan to lots of people is a sad, terrifying and stupid idea, I can tell you that from my short spell it’s really not.
‘I don’t want to just eat lentils and tofu.’
Despite what people expect there are so many things you can still eat; so many. The main trick is to focus on everything you can eat and not on what you can’t. If you spend your time mourning your bacon sandwich in the morning then yes, it will be miserable, but if you get excited about your avocado and sundried tomato toast, all those sad thoughts will dissipate.
Being vegan forces you to be creative, and whilst this may be a scary thought I promise that once you get into the swing of it, things just become fun. It is true though, be prepared to eat a lot of hummus. I would also warn that if you’re fussy you are going to have a bland time. You have to be willing to dare new flavours and ingredients.
Whilst there is a bountiful supply of veggies, spices, pulses and fruits you can play with, there remains a lot of processed crap you’re still allowed. Don’t kid yourself that just because your vegan you’re being healthy – crisps still aren’t good for you. I’d also caution against substituting your diet with meat-lookalike products. You can’t eat sausages, so don’t buy some nicely packaged concoction that promises to be all veggie but tastes like poor meat. Buy a pumpkin. Stick to whole, clean foods where you know every ingredient. And remember, nothing’s completely lost when you can still eat chocolate.
‘Everyone hates vegans.’
As a vegan, apparently you’re instantly self-riotous, supercilious, destined to make a scene in a restaurant, annoying to cook for and will never get invited to dinner parties. Well, it depends how you wear your veganism, but you honestly won’t be too much of a pain, it just requires a little more thinking. I started my veganism at a friend’s house so just thought ahead and took a little carton of almond milk for breakfast. When I went out for dinner restaurants were more then willing to adapt a recipe (normally just a case of removing the cheese) or make me something new. It’s so common nowadays that it doesn’t come as such a shock. And it’s always a thrill when a staunch animal eater is oohing over the all-plant meal you’ve served them. If you don’t want to receive the hate, just don’t share the fact you’re vegan until it becomes absolutely necessary. But you’re still allowed to quietly feel a little proud.
‘Meat is fuel. I need fuel.’
Energy and nutrition are the biggest issues people have with veganism and I can’t give any concrete advice because I am not a nutritionist. I can just share my experience. For me, in the first few days I felt rejuvenated. My mind cleared, mood ripened and the peanuts were giving me plenty of energy. However, I did then become tired. My mum put this solely down to my lack of a ‘good steak’. I’d say it was as much school as anything. Neither of us can know for sure. Concerned with my veggie munching she did do a little research into it and spoke to a vegan of many years who advised young girls shouldn’t be on the diet. Lacking in B12 (found in marmite) you can become tired and pale and I must say that following a fish pie my energy levels did pick up. I think it varies person to person. I met a girl recently who has been happily vegan for three years and she was bursting with energy and colour. I don’t know if it’s because my body was still adjusting, but to please my mum and for the sanity of my little brother I came off the diet.
Many vegans do take supplements, and if you’re undertaking a complete lifestyle change you do need to be aware of your nutrition. Make sure that you are getting everything out of your diet that you need. I don’t believe we need animals to survive, peanuts have just as much protein in them as meat, but we have to listen to our bodies and act accordingly. I’m more than certain that on leaving home I’ll pick the diet back up.
For now I urge you to go vegan just for a month or three weeks as I guarantee that veganism done well will change how you feel about food for the better. I have now been off veganism for two months but eat far less meat and hardly any dairy compared to before. I’ve realised the amount of flavour you can get from the plant-based world, with all its variety and complexities, and so don’t really see the point in piling in the animals. I don’t now rely on covering a salad in feta to make it taste good, or boiling up some sad potatoes to accompany my grilled fish. I view every ingredient in a dish as having an equal part. A good stew begins with the love you put into your onion, carrot and celery. That chunk of meat on your plate doesn’t always deserve the spotlight we give it. I’ve also now become a demanding little madam in my household and said that I will only eat meat and dairy if we know where it’s been sourced. I’m not opposed to killing animals (sorry but I do think it’s natural) but I am opposed to how we do it, and really the thought of a cramped chicken with broken legs seriously alters the taste of the Sunday roast.
We do need to consider the lives of our animals, the state of our climate and the health of our bodies, and a burst of veganism will give you the kick-start you need for this. You never know, you may never go back.