Like a lot of things in my life, I did Veganuary just for the experience. I wondered what it was like to be a vegan and what kind of sacrifices you might have to make to live a cruelty-free lifestyle for a month - turns out it's actually pretty easy!
It has been a learning curve though. I knew vegans didn't eat meat, fish, eggs or diary, but I didn't realise all the things vegans couldn't eat - for example honey. I slipped up and accidentally ate some sweets with bees wax in before realising my mistake.
I did vegetarian January last year and found that ok. I was vegetarian for eight years previously though. Crazily enough I actually found Veganuary a lot easier for several reasons!
There has been a huge explosion in vegan foods available in supermarkets and in cafes, fast food outlets and restaurants - I haven't really wanted for much! The difference just between the choices this year and last year is unbelievable.
|Vegan KFC - FTW!|
I've had a vegan KFC (sooo nice), meatless meatball Subway (pretty disappointing tbh) and things like vegan Magnums (yum), Galaxy (really nice) and Candy Kittens sweets (awesome), and I've also found things I love already that are accidentally vegan - such as chilli heatwave Doritos, Seabrooks crisps, Whittards luxury hot chocolate and Oreos.
In terms of buying food in, there is a huge selection in places like Sainsbury's (my fave for choice and quality) and Waitrose and M&S are great for treats (but really, really expensive!). I didn't find it quite as good in Tesco, Asda or Morrisons, and Lidl and Aldi were pretty poor in my opinion (the ones I visited in Hull at least!) I have yet to try Iceland though - when shopping with my mum at home at Christmas I saw quite a bit in there that I'd like to try - definitely somewhere to head to in February.
Highlights for me have been the M&S three cheese pizza, the M&S chicken Kievs, Waitrose chorizo wheels, the Linda McCarntney shredded duck, the Sainsbury's Plant Pioneers southern fried bites, and Shroomdogs sausages and the Lazy Days Rocky Roads, which are also gluten free. The Leon vegan mayo and aioli are nice too, which I also got from Sainsbury's.
|Managed to cure my cheese cravings with this M&S pizza!|
I've had a few meals out, though with it being January and a bit quiet socially not as many as usual, but there's been loads of choice when I have eaten out. I've also found lunch places near work that do vegan choices so I don't just have to have tomato/butternut squash soup everyday!
In Hull I've had Thai food at Tanyalak Thai Street Food pre-ballet; been to Nibble and Thieving Harry's near my work for lunch with lots of options; had a vegan pizza from Bert's; Only and Falafia at Hull's Trinity Market for tasty take out lunch, and also to Frankie and Benny's, who did a nice vegan brunch. I also had a nice vegan lunch and cake at Blondes in Cottingham - much recommended!
|Thieving Harry's garlic mushrooms on sourdough with fries|
That's the plus side of living and working in a city like Hull - lots of options. I would have found it harder living and working in a smaller town like Goole or Howden. But I imagine I would have found it even easier in London!
I also think because I now live alone I've been able to only have foods I really wanted to eat, unlike when you have a partner/family and you have to compromise, which has made it easier than when I did vegetarian January last year.
|Mac and Cheese from Only at Trinity Market|
The plus sides:
- It's been nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be
- There are lots of convenient foods out there so I didn't have to slave over the stove after a long work day
- I have still had lots of energy for exercise - most of the time!
- I've eaten a wider range of foods than usual (just because you sometimes get bogged down in a routine) and tried new recipes
- my intake of fruit and veg has been way higher
- I've had a re-think about how much cheese actually I need - as opposed to want - in my diet (lol)
- People have generally been really positive and supportive, like my mum cooking me a vegan meal and my friend making some vegan flapjacks. My friends have also been cool about me needing vegan options for meals out.
- people on social media have been really supportive too! No snarky comments (to my face at least)
- it's been a lot better for the environment. It's made me so much more aware of where my food comes from and the awful truth about how mass farming is impacting on our planet
Here are some of the downsides though:
- There is no nice vegan cheese. It just doesn't compare and it's my all-time favourite food
- it's more expensive. Vegan alternatives such as oat milk cost much more than cow's milk. Galaxy vegan was so nice, but it's £3 a bar... though you can of course eat cheaper dark chocolate
- not as much choice eating out. Some places only have one vegan choice on the whole menu, so some places I love to eat in Hull as a meat eater I haven't been able to go to as a vegan and I missed out on a chip shop lunch at work as they fried in beef dripping
- there's milk hidden in everything. From gnocchi to guacamole, there's been so much I've had to be careful of or avoid.
- occasionally people say stupid things to you or act like you're being a demanding diva by giving your dietary requirements.
- not much wine is vegan. But spirits and a lot of beers and ciders are fine!
- I have had a poorly stomach a bit more than I would have on a meat diet. Having IBS and sensitivity to foods like lentils, nuts and beans that a lot of vegans live off has made it harder for me to be healthy as I have had to rely more on vegetable protein alternatives which are heavily processed
- During my first week as a vegan my gas could have killed a man at 10 yards - thank God I live by myself or I'd have been sleeping on the sofa with a window open (sorry TMI haha)!
- My skin has been really bad with both spots and dry patches and I have felt drained sometimes
- I got awful headaches between weeks 2 and 3 when I had a detoxing 'cheese hangover'!
|Vegan fry up from Frankie and Benny's - the green stuff is scrambled tofu and smashed avocado!|
So where does this leave me now January is over?!
Honestly, all I have been craving this month is tuna and cheese. I miss fish an insane amount I have no idea why haha? Maybe missing some nutrients or essential oils? All I want is a tuna mayo and cheese jacket potato!
So that answers your question... am I turning into a full-time vegan now?
No. While I have enjoyed it for a month I don't think I would enjoy how limiting it is in the long run. I think I am going to be pescatarian though. I haven't missed a single thing that is meat and I have found lots of things that I won't go back to - I'm going to make a permanent change to meat alternatives and things like Oatly oat milk and sunflower spread - Naturli from Sainsbury's is so nice!
|Leon mayo and Oatly creme fraiche|
However, I just know that there are things I love - such as baking - that require non-vegan foods to be their best (in my opinion) and I would just miss that too much. I'm going to buy the highest quality free-range eggs I can find instead.
I also think eating out is hard as a vegan, it will be much easier as a pescatarian, and also that a lot of foods I love really aren't the same vegan - ie lasagne with vegan mince is fine, but I miss the white sauce and cheese!
Even stupid things like the Quorn vegetarian nuggets are really nice - but the vegan ones are a bit grim to be honest!
|Vegan banana bread was ok but not as nice at the real thing!|
I think I probably will have whole weeks at a time where I will only eat plant-based foods though! I can see my intake of fish and diary being really small - but for me I think especially given my stomach issues a strict vegan diet is just that bit too restrictive to be healthy and I'd be eating too many carbs in the long term and would struggle to get all the nutrients I need when I can't eat nuts, beans or pulses.
If you've been thinking of becoming vegan I would definitely suggest giving it a go, even just for a week (though some side effects get better as the weeks go on so I'd recommend a bit longer). Now is the absolute best time to try it as there is so much new stuff out there - I haven't even tried everything that was on my Veganuary bucket list! Need to try an Impossible Burger, Richmond Meat Free sausages and a Greggs 'Steak' Bake!
|Linda McCartney duck pancakes were delish!|
You can't deny it's a much kinder way of life and is better for the environment and animals, but ultimately it isn't for everyone, and I guess even though I think people need to change their diets to save the planet, ultimately it's a completely personal choice.
I read somewhere that "the world needs a lot of people who are significantly cutting down their intake of meat and diary, not a few perfect vegans" and I think that is what I am aiming for. I had no idea at the end of December that this would be how I feel at the start of February though! I was just going to go back to normal haha!
Maybe in the future I'll make a permanent switch though? I'm definitely not ruling it out.
Please let me know if you'd like any tips, resources or recipes! Or if you'd like to share some with me! There is so much I haven't gone into on here!