“How about I go Vegan?”. The words were out of my mouth and in the hands of my editor before I had chance to reconsider. Fast forward a couple of days and I was signed up to a two-week plant-based diet.
I’m conscious that there are many moral arguments to become a vegan. In my experience the heartfelt passion of some vegans is only matched by the withering contempt felt by some omnivores towards them. However, my motivation was driven by curiosity. How hard would it be? How would I feel? How would my taste buds cope?
Many of the vegan bloggers I’ve encountered rave about their increased energy levels, clear skin and improved moods. Not surprisingly then, despite a slight tingling fear of the unknown, I was excited to start.
On V minus 1 (the day before I went full ‘V’) I experienced my first shock. A trip round Tesco revealed two things; (1), there are actually a lot of vegan options of offer* and (2) once you shop beyond the vegetables, vegan food is expensive. The ‘alternative’ options on cheese, chocolate and milk all carry a heavy premium. Refusing to fall at the first hurdle I allowed my bank account to take the hit, resolving to explore some more economical recipe choices on future supermarket visits.
What of those ‘alternative’ options? Setting aside the cost issue I was, more often than not, pleasantly surprised. Hummus Crisps will stay on my shopping list as will soya and oat milk although I took an immediate to dislike to almond milk – it reminded me of burnt marshmallows.
Hummus Crisps will stay on my shopping list
The big flashing warning sign for anyone considering becoming a vegan is the number of products that contain dairy. I couldn’t believe it. Do pop chips really need to have milk in them?! I have a friend who has a severe nut allergy and as a result has to scrutinise every food wrapper for ingredients. For the first time I know how she felt as I stood in the middle of a food aisle squinting at the microscopic print on yet another product that failed to pass the Vegan test.
When it came to recipes (fortunately for me I love cooking), I found endless options available online, many of which I adapted to suit my tastes and ingredient availability. I’ve included my favourite three for you to try and enjoy – I’d love to know what you think.
My experience of eating out mirrored my supermarket experience in the sense that most restaurants offered vegan dishes but they priced, to my mind, far too high given the ingredients. Is there a vegan conspiracy underway? Does the food industry see veganism as a middle-class fad to be exploited? It makes you think.
How about the impact on my general sense of health and wellbeing? After my first day (Vplus1) I was buzzing with so much excess energy I went on run, which is something I never normally do. However, this may have been down to the euphoria of taking on a new challenge as, I’m sorry to report, those energy levels never returned. In fact, the rest of the first week I was tired, irritable and often hungry. That said, once I realised that I needed to increase my calorific intake (if you like eating in volume then veganism may be for you!) my energy levels returned to normal during the second week. In case you’re wondering, my sleep patterns didn’t seem to be affected at all.
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Temptations were ever present but in the main I enjoyed the self-imposed discipline. Fulfilling a fresh sense of purpose and refusing various delicacies made me feel suitably self-righteous.
As to the rest of my wellbeing, my skin actually got worse. Whether I ate more sugar, or my body was just flushing out old toxins I’m not sure but not the best aspect of my two-week experiment.
I’m back to being an omnivore but an omnivore that considers much more carefully what they eat. I’m also thinking twice before eating meat. Does that mean that perhaps vegetarianism is for me? Possibly.
Many people have already suggested that if I’d tried veganism for longer that I would have felt more of the health benefits. Again, possibly. What do I miss about being a vegan? I miss the planning and discipline of cooking my meals at home but I don’t miss the constant label-checking.
I want to see what goes in my meals.
What have I learned? That it’s not as hard as I worried it might be, but it is a challenge. It’s also made me more sympathetic to people with food allergies and intolerances. Processed food, vegan or otherwise, is still processed food and I, for one, am going to do my level best to stick with real ingredients from now on. I want to see what goes in my meals.
*only in larger supermarkets. Vegans beware in small stores – choice can be poor or non existent.