My approach to an increasingly vegan diet was initially inspired by veganuary – “Veganuary’s vision is a world where veganism is a mainstream lifestyle choice, with positive action at all levels of society and government to promote the benefits of plant-based eating.”
I felt really motivated to give it a go when I began reading up about it, and in an overfed, post-Christmas slump decided to sign up.
So here are some of the things I learnt…
1. “Accidentally vegan” foods are abundant!
The main thing I learnt is that following a vegan diet day-to-day was not as monumental a challenge as I’d initially feared; I switched to plant-based milk (oat, soy, rice…whatever was on offer that week in Sainsbury’s!) which sure, tastes very subtly different in a cuppa (FYI – I find Oatly the least offensive milk alternative in a cup of tea), but actually enhances the taste of other foods such as porridge (recipe for the most delicious overnight oats ever here mmmmmmm). I was pleased to find that a lot of the food I eat as part of a healthy, balanced diet is “accidentally vegan” anyway, so no big changes required there.
2. Cheese withdrawal passes surprisingly quickly
What I did have to change was grating reduced fat cheddar cheese over EVERYTHING but I soon got used to this, and now enjoy cheese so much more on the occasions I do eat it. Plus vegan cheeses are increasingly abundant and I find Sainsbury’s vegan alternative to salad cheese oddly delicious, and the dairy-free cream cheese is really tasty. I would not recommend the ‘cheddar style’ one though…don’t say I didn’t warn you.
3. The stigma is real, but…
The food itself is not the difficult part, what is challenging is every second person asking “So are you vegan now?” as if the ‘v’ word is a dirty one. Admittedly, as an individual I am conflict-averse and avoid a debate if I can help it, so tend to shrug off the question with “…giving it a go” or a similar response. What I did find is that the vegan community is full of inspiring people a lot more loud and proud about their lifestyle choice than I am; and anytime I felt challenged this is where I looked to for support. Instagram is full of inspiration at every corner!
4. Increased fibre intake is amazing…
Basing meals around vegetables and wholegrains means that not only does 30g of fibre a day (as recommended by the UK government) seem achievable…but I exceed it by lunchtime most days! Fibre is vital to keeping your digestive system healthy, and the majority of people in the UK eat only 18g a day.
5. …but I do find sufficient protein intake a struggle
As a runner, based on my height, weight and the fact I run upwards of 20 miles a week I should be consuming around 75g of protein a day (there are lots of ways to calculate what your personal intake should be but I used this online calculator). I find I often fall short of this number so looking at my diet and working out the best balance of nutrients for me is something I am working on. I am hoping once I have this cracked I will share more and more recipe suggestions for vegan-friendly protein packed foods like this one.
6. Most importantly: I have lost nothing but giving veganism a try!
..and you won’t either! At best you’ll love it like I do. At worst you won’t. But it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll get something out of it…even if it’s simply the knowledge that it is possible to have a tasty meal without need for animal derived ingredients – who knew!