Things I learned by going #vegan for #Veganuary

ThingsILearnedbygoingvegan

Everyone knows me as a meat and potatoes kind of girl so the thought of me going vegan for a month is quite hilarious. Especially as up until about 5 years ago I didn’t actually eat many vegetables, I certainly wouldn’t touch a lentil and I don’t think I’d even heard of a chickpea!
Over the last few years I have gradually added more and more variety into my diet but my favourite food is still meat and potatoes!

Like almost everyone else, I watched What the Health? and wanted to convert to a plant based diet immediately. The sight of cheese made me feel nauseous and for a few days I stayed well clear of most animal derived products. But no one else in my house was and soon the lure of a burger or a tub of Ben and Jerry’s was too much and it didn’t last.

As the New Year approached and the Veganuary advertising took over the tube posters, I sent a text to my husband with a picture of the ad snapped on my phone asking if he’d do it with me. Surprisingly he agreed (bear in mind he has a blog and instagram which is mostly about burgers!)

And so Dec 31st we cooked up our last meat based meal and come Jan 1 we were vegans.

Except there’s a whole lot about going vegan that I just didn’t realise.
Like how little packaged food you can actually eat
Like how the ‘bakers’ in the supermarkets have no idea what the ingredients of their ‘freshly baked bread’ are
Like how animal derived products can literally be in anything including things that should not have anything animal related in them – like grain based products, wine or even sugar

Obviously there’s the obvious – no meat, no milk no cheese. But then there’s the grey area of unknown where a product is marked suitable for vegetarians and you then have to work out whether it is suitable for vegans too (and they just don’t realise how helpful it will be to add the suitable for vegan messaging) or is there some animal derived product lurking in there somewhere. Some manufacturers err on the side of caution and while the product may not contain any animal derived products if they are made in a factory alongside non-vegan products they may be concerned about cross-contamination.

We spent a lot of the month googling is x vegan? Often there’s no clear answer… so you have to err on the side of caution. Here were some of our surprises:

Honey, okay yes its made by bees, but in the first week of January I didnt make the connectionBread, it can sometimes contain dairy, and sometimes it’s fortified with animal derived vitamins, or seeds can be brushed on top with egg. I started to make my own and then started to question the flour as some was also fortified and I couldn’t work out if it was fortified with synthetic or animal derived vitamins

Sugar, you’d think this is straight up plant based but sugar can be filtered with bone char so check before you buy

Crisps, okay again not exactly healthy, but Original Pringles made the accidentally vegan list and I guessed some non meat flavours would be fine, but even something like salt and vinegar crisps may contain lactose (dairy)

Wine, straight from grapes right? yes and no. While the ingredients are plant based, the process of making wine includes ‘fining agents’ which can be animal derived

Cereals, again grain-based so assume they’re vegan but very few are labelled vegan. As most cereals are fortified and some of that fortification can come from animal derived products.

It is pretty tricky, almost impossible to eat out when you’re vegan. We managed to try a few vegan places during the month but most restaurants have minimal/zero options that are vegan.

Most vegan processed food is made using soy, which I try to stay clear of since researching and following 04 a few years ago. Soy is known to be a GM food and have high levels of phyto-estrogens (linked to fertility & hormonal issues)

Vegan food can be tasty! We ended up cooking mostly from scratch and there are loads of great vegan cooking blogs to inspire you. My favourite recipe of the month was Vegan Mac and Cheese. Making my own parmesan cheese out of cashews, garlic and yeast flakes and cheese sauce from soaking cashews.

It’s possible to find decent vegan chocolate – M&S vegan chocolate was particularly good!

While both my husband and I were pretty committed the whole month to Veganuary, we dont think we could turn 100% vegan, 24/7. But the benefits are pretty clear to see and feel. We felt better and healthier and dropped loads of weight in such a short space of time. We definitely want to eat more plant-based meals more of the time.
2 Vegan books I recommend
  • Thug Kitchen – pretty hilarious (slightly offensive) tone of voice so beware the swearing but the recipes are great for simple, everyday meals
  • Crossroads by Tal Ronnen – a bit more special, gourmet style food
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