Life, Recipes

Veganuary Reflections

Despite not being a vegetarian, in January 2020, I decided to take on the challenge of going vegan for a whole month. No animal products at all, which means no milk chocolate, no cheese, no meat and no milk. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it, but I decided to give it a go, and am pleased to report I didn’t have a single slip up all month! Lots of people asked how I got on, so I thought I’d share some of this steak-loving omnivore’s thoughts on going animal product free for a month.

It was harder than I expected, mostly because of convenience

I never expected veganuary to be easy of course, but I thought once I got past the first few days or the first week, that I’d get used to it pretty quickly. The hardest thing (aside from resisting temptation to buy a Terry’s Chocolate Orange every day) was just how much WORK it took. So many things I’d never thought about weren’t vegan (most crisps, meat replacements like quorn which we already ate regularly, things like bread and wine), which meant that I had to look through the ingredients list of EVERYTHING I ate. Scanning for obvious things like meat or milk weren’t the issue, it was learning to spot the unexpected non-vegan items, like casein, mono & diglycerides, vitamin B… some of them were things I’d never even heard of, but now suddenly had to check every packet for. Convenience options like grabbing a ready meal was SO much harder, and takeaways like a chinese were basically just off the menu altogether, because I couldn’t be sure what went into a dish. That meant I had to do a lot more cooking, and since my other half wasn’t doing Veganuary, we generated a lot more washing up too. All in all, it was just a lot of effort!

I didn’t feel any different

SO many people said that going vegan made them feel amazing, OR that they felt terrible. Honestly, I felt pretty much exactly the same. I didn’t have any of the tummy upsets people warned me about, but I also didn’t get any of the glowing-skin or extra-energy some people told me to expect. Maybe it’s because we’ve tried to reduce our meat intake anyway, so we eat mostly chicken, with some vegetarian meals and the occasional fish/pork meal? We’re also doing WW, and have been since September, so although I do eat a lot of junk, we also lots of fruit and vegetables already too. Honestly, I felt absolutely no different, physically or mentally, as a result of going animal product-free.

I lost weight….but no more than I had been anyway

LOTS of people wanted to know if I lost weight, so the short answer is yes, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s good for weight loss. I lost about 6lbs over the course of the month, which is almost exactly the same amount as I lost in November (ignoring December because of Christmas!), doing WW and just making sensible choices.

I’m not a good enough cook!

I love the idea of cooking, and when I’m off work I sometimes enjoy making a complicated recipe I’ve never tried before, but I’m also lazy, and frankly, just busy. My best meals in Veganuary were all ones where we ate out at somewhere with decent vegan options, and while everything I made at home was edible, it’d be a stretch to say I actively enjoyed much of it. I made a lot of the same things, or basically-the-same-just-with-different-spices, and I got very bored of things being predominantly the same texture in particular! I know vegan food CAN be absolutely delicious, but the amount of time, money, skill and effort I was willing/able to put in just weren’t enough for that to be the case 99% of the time.

Junk food and eating out aren’t off the table

While scanning everything was a complete nuisance, I did discover some vegan junk food options. I missed chocolate, so I tried a LOT of vegan alternatives – from NOMO to Galaxy to Bournville to ASDA’s own, and honestly, none of it was great. Bourbon biscuits on the other hand are often vegan (who knew?!) and so are Oreos, so I ate a few of those! When I wanted a treat, I reached for those, party rings or the Gu dairy-free cheesecakes.

Eating out was a mixed bag – Wetherspoons actually was great, and the Gregg’s steak bake was so good I made my other half check it was actually the right one! (Can also recommend their sausage rolls, which I’ve been buying since they introduced them). The KFC vegan burger is really good, though the fact you can’t have any chips is a real disappointment! I tried a Pizza Hut but the fake cheese had the weirdest texture so I wouldn’t buy it again – the cheesecake on the other hand was divine! Wagamama’s is brilliant, and although I didn’t have it in January, I’ve tried the Pizza Express vegan pizza before and that’s really nice. (Also yes, reading this back, I too am horrified by how much we apparently ate out!)

Veganism isn’t for me, but it was absolutely a worthwhile experience

I knew going in that it was very unlikely I was going to make a permanent switch from full on omnivore to vegan, but I wanted to see if I could do it, and hopefully find a few vegan meals to work into my regular diet. While I know veganism isn’t for me (yet at least), I definitely found a few meals I could rotate in, and a few meals I’d be very happy to eat when we’re out that are totally animal product free. While I won’t be making big changes, we make something like 200 food/drink related decisions every day, and I’m definitely hoping to make a few more of those tiny decisions animal product free. I’m happy to swap vegan bourbon biscuits in for other biscuits, spirits and mixers in for my wine, dairy-free cheesecake in for the usual Gu ones etc. They’re small decisions, but they’re decisions I think I could make forever, and I figure every small step adds up. Veganism isn’t for me yet, but swapping a meal or a snack or both per day, every day, all adds up. And eventually, hopefully, one meal becomes two etc. My eventual aim is to get to vegan as the default, and animal products as the rare switch from the norm, rather than the other way around.

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