What I learnt from Veganuary

Today is February 1st – the first day I would have been able to eat animal products after Veganuary. Strangely, my food for today was actually Vegan – Vegan Quorn fajitas with plenty of peppers, mushrooms, lime and coriander rice and home made guacamole, as well as an Alpro Soya chocolate dessert.

Todays choice of meal suggests I was continuing with a Vegan lifestyle. I’m not. In fact, I didn’t even complete Veganuary. It wasn’t actually by choice – I was in hospital in my final week and was advised by my Doctors to at least add dairy back into my diet.

Although I decided pretty much at the start of Veganuary that it wasn’t something I would want to stick to long term, I still thought long and hard before taking my Doctors advice. After all, I had stuck with what was, to me, a life changing diet for almost the goal period, and I was determined to see it through. But my health comes first.

basilico

I understand that a lot of Vegans reading this will dispute the fact that I actually needed to incorporate animal products back into my diet. And I think that in part they are correct – I’m sure there are plenty of ways for knowledgeable Vegans to ensure they are getting the sufficient nutrients. But I was not a knowledgeable Vegan, I was a fussy eater when it came to meat alternatives, and with the stress I was under with my health issues and for practicality reasons it just wasn’t working out. So, knowledgeable Vegans, please bear in mind that you don’t know anything about my medical history and give me kudos for trying, please? I mean, I’m personally pretty shocked and impressed that I lasted as long as I did.

Despite it being a struggle, and it not quite going to plan, I did learn a lot from my time participating in Veganuary, and I’m glad I attempted it. So, I bet you’re dying to know what I learnt, right…?

Quorn isn’t Vegan

Shocker, right? I actually found this out by accident as it seems my local Waitrose is one of few supermarkets stocking specifically labelled Vegan Quorn. Had I not seen one pack labelled as Vegan, I wouldn’t have realised, so it was lucky I guess!

In case you’re wondering, it’s a little mushier than regular Quorn.

quorn

A lot of alcohol isn’t Vegan

Nightmare. Seriously. It isn’t necessarily that they contain animal products as actual ingredients, but has more to do with the manufacturing process. Luckily most spirits are, and some lagers that I like, such as Corona and Peroni. And my favourite, Amstel.

corona

In fact, a lot of things you’d think are Vegan aren’t

What I didn’t realise when taking on Veganuary, was the sheer number of products that animal produce is used in. Veganism cuts out a surprising amount of foods beyond eggs and dairy and requires meticulous reading of supermarket labels.

You don’t need specialist stores

You just need a Waitrose. Or the internet so you can shop online with Ocado. Seriously, they put the rest of the supermarkets to shame (Edited to add: I’m informed that some branches of Tesco/Sainsburys/wherever cater much better to Vegans than the ones I went to, but my point remains the same – you don’t need specialist/health food stores).

Now, it could be argued that Waitrose tailors more to Vegans than the others because it is the choice of the Middle Classes, and Veganism is a bit of a Middle Class phenomenon, but that’s a whole other argument that I don’t want to entertain. But what I will say is…

Eating Vegan (properly) isn’t cheap

If you’re purchasing meat substitutes and specialist Vegan products, it really adds up! But, on the other hand, if you’re a fussy, lazy, uninformed Vegan in the way I was, you’ll likely find yourself eating basics like fruit, veg and rice because you know you can’t mess it up. Which is actually pretty cheap. Cheaper than buying meat anyway.

Eating out is surprisingly easy

It’s funny I think this, as a lot of Vegans I know would disagree, unless it comes to specific Vegan restaurants. But I ate successfully at chains including Wagamama, Nandos, The Diner, Yo Sushi and Chiquitos with no problems.

wagamamavegan

Eating at home was when I struggled, but I think that has a lot to do with my lack of imagination in the kitchen and laziness in analysing lists of ingredients.

nandos

Vegans get dessert too!

And they’re pretty damn good desserts! From jaw dropping donuts (see my post about the San Diego Donut Bar) to delicious cakes and ice creams (posts coming soon!), finding Vegan desserts when eating out really isn’t hard. And at home there are plenty of dairy free options that you don’t need to go to a speciality store for – my favourites are Pudology and Alpro Soya. I’ll post a round up of my favourites soon.

Your taste buds will adapt

I started January hating things like coconut water, and almond milk, and avocado. But they’ve managed to grow on me. But fake cheese and fake chocolate take some getting used to.

Speaking of avocados…

Vegans are obsessed with avocados

I have no idea why. But look at this pretty damn good looking avocado…

avocado

You will need dietary supplements (or could do with, depends on your source)

I didn’t take them which was dumb. So I learnt this the hard way. And to be fair, it probably had more of an impact to me, going from being a heavy meat eater than it would have to a vegetarian. This probably applies less to lifelong Vegans (if at all).

Cutting out a large part of your normal diet might feel like the main challenge, but what I didn’t consider was that the real hard bit is to cut those things out whilst maintaining a nutritious diet. Without meat, you will need plenty of iron, vitamin D and Vitamin B12.

As iron supplements often contain animal products, my research took me to Solgar Gentle Iron, which is completely Vegan, and their vitamin B12 which helps with the formation of healthy red blood cells. Look at me talking about nutrients and science stuff, haha!

Being a Vegan isn’t just about what you eat

While I didn’t give this aspect consideration when I made the decision to participate in Veganuary, I picked up quite early on that I wouldn’t just have to cut animal products out of my diet for the month. I mean, I could have done, but if I’m going to attempt Vegan, I’m going to give it my all. That meant no purchasing animal products, or products tested on animals, and no participating in activities which went against the whole principle. So no San Diego Zoo for me!

I also made sure that the beauty products I purchased in January, even while in the USA (because obviously I hit up Sephora!) were cruelty free. Luckily, my top US brand to purchase, Kat Von D, is pretty much all Vegan!

I actually discovered some great Vegan cosmetic brands, and I’ll be posting about them shortly. SauceBox is a particular favourite, and I’ll be running an awesome Vegan giveaway soon featuring one of their products, so watch this space!batalash

Although it is not my intention to continue with either a Vegetarian or Vegan diet, and my life will return to usual once I have used up all the Vegan food in my cupboards, I will continue to post on Vegan topics. There are restaurants I visited which I’m keen to tell you about, others I’m still yet to visit, there are products I loved which I want to review, and I’m sure I’ll continue to come across them more in everyday life – when I do they can be found in the Veganuary tab on my menu bar.

Although I will continue eating meat, I no longer have the attitude I had before – that a dish without meat is a side dish. And if you recall my original Veganuary post, that is what I was trying to change. What I completed of Veganuary did make me think harder about what I was eating, and it has made me more open to trying new things. Now, I will happily eat out at a specific Vegan or Vegetarian restaurant, which I would have turned my nose up at before.

In fact I had the nicest Vegan noodles in Shoreditch the other day. More of that soon, but here’s a pic to wet your appetite.cookdaily

I’d love to hear from anyone else who participated in Veganuary.

And if you want to read a Veganuary success story, take a look over at Eat Sleep Luisa Repeat‘s post here. Actually, she posts a lot about Vegetarian/Vegan topics, so if that interests you you’ll like her blog!

L xx

All photos my own. Except maybe the pizza pic, I’m not sure, maybe Luisa took it? Either way, she wrote about the pizza in detail here.

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