Veganism is the latest ‘cool’ diet to have. To be vegetarian these days isn’t quite enough. Health crazes never cease to amaze me. But, despite adoring chocolate and cheese, I thought I’d give it a go.
As a student with a low budget, I figured I’d welcome not having to spend so much on meat this week. I’m also not a big meat eater anyway. If I eat meat at all, it’s usually chicken or fish, however, I’m not likely to turn down a good spaghetti bolognese or a bacon sandwich on a hungover morning. My expectations, therefore, were that I’d find this pretty easy.
Dairy, on the other hand, I thought, might be a harder nut to crack. I love my cereal, buttered toast and a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. I love cheese too. Yet, there are alternatives and this is only a week.
You will discover as you read, that the title of this article is a lie. I actually failed to go vegan. I managed one week of trying very hard. See below the challenges I faced along the way.
The first challenge was getting started. My first few days of veganism failed spectacularly. When out with friends or family, it’s exceedingly difficult to turn down a cup of tea (with actual milk) or a slice of pizza with cheese. Visiting my grandparents meant the week of veganism had to be put on hold. They’d laugh in my face if I told them I was doing something like this.
When I finally began, I faced another challenge: what to do with my tea and coffee. I’d bought almond milk in preparation for the week and upon first swig from the bottle, I was not impressed. Unsweetened almond milk is not a favourite. I was very worried about how it would taste in my cup of tea – I can’t have a cup of tea without milk. Surprisingly it didn’t taste bad at all, just a little watery.
Social occasions proved difficult once again when I had to order pizza. The only possible way I could order pizza and maintain my vegan week, or so I thought, was to order a vegetarian pizza without cheese – there was no cheese alternative. Cheeseless vegetarian pizza is basically just tomato paste on bread. It was ok but pretty tasteless. To improve the taste of the not-pizza I headed straight for the garlic dip, only to realise half way through that it contained milk protein and egg yolk. After further research, Dominos claimed on their website that the pizzas are not suitable for vegans as the bases have a ‘milk derived ingredient’.
Sprinkles was also a struggle. Everything on the menu has dairy in it apart from the sorbets. Even the ice cream cones had butter in them. I settled for a mango sorbet in a cup. No chocolate for me.
Getting a decent amount of protein into my diet was pretty difficult too. It’s never been something I’ve had to really think about before. I realised that nuts are stacked with protein and most pulses such as chickpeas, lentils and quinoa (help, I’m turning into someone who eats quinoa) are also good. Getting some iron into my diet was also a bit of a challenge. So much meat and dairy has iron and I never realised how much I depended on those food groups to get my daily intake. Again, nuts and pulses saved the day.
I spent the week reading the ingredients on everything. I tried to eat a packet of crisps with Chorizo flavouring. They were vegetarian friendly but made with milk, which made everything very difficult and very confusing. I did discover that Oreos are in fact vegan.
Being vegetarian is a lot easier than being vegan. For meat substitutes, naturally I’d turn to Quorn products. I bought Quorn chicken pieces and tried them in a curry, only to realise that they actually contained egg whites. Again, more products have dairy in them than you think.
In terms of what I actually could eat, it was nice to be able to eat most carbs like pasta and bread. I even managed to cook myself a ‘creamy’ pasta using almond milk instead of normal milk.
Health wise, my vegan week did not make me lose weight as far as I could tell. I felt a lot less bloated throughout the week than I do usually. I also found myself being hungry more frequently, probably because there’s not a lot of choice in food when you’re out and about. It also does wonders to your digestive system.
Overall, I found veganism extremely difficult. It does take a lot of dedication and creativity with meals. Imagine wanting a cup of tea at work and having to take in your own non-dairy milk? Of course there is always herbal tea but its never as satisfying.
I realised milk and eggs are in everything. Being a vegetarian is far easier than being vegan.
Since returning to my usual diet, I’ve chatted to a few vegans about how they manage every day. It turns out that there are lots of alternatives to meat and dairy and lots of really tasty meals that also give you all the nutrients you need. You simply need to learn where to find what you’re looking for and how to cook some slightly unusual products.
Maybe I’ll try again in the future, but with more preparation