Veganuary: My experience, and how you can try out veganism
“Veganuary” – going vegan for January – may have launched four years ago, but I hadn’t heard of it until last month. I’ve been vegetarian on and off for five years and have always played with the thought of dropping animal products entirely, but it just seemed like too much of a commitment. But, three weeks later, I’m finding it a breeze. Here’s my experience, and how you can try out veganism:
It’s a cliché for a reason, guys. I’m doing it for the animals. I am such a carnivore – I like steak to be cooked rare, my prawns to come with the shell on, and semi-skimmed milk is my favourite drink in the world. But I like animals more, and I like myself more. I’ve never been fully comfortable with consuming animal products after watching one of those undercover slaughterhouse videos in 2012.
I’ve flitted between vegetarian and full-blown meat eater for years before finally settling last year. Cheesy as it is, I am way more comfortable and happy with myself when I am not eating meat and fish, and that I still consumed dairy was always at the back of my mind. Now that I can honestly say I do not consume any animal products, I am truly happier and feel proud of my choice.
How I kept it up
It took one week of phone alarms before I remembered I was going vegan without any prompts. I set them for three times a day – at meal times – and they were necessary. Especially when at uni, I would eat cheese or egg every day. The only vegetarian options always had some type of dairy product in, and so it was a given that I would need to bring lunch in. I was fine with that – I would save money (are all uni canteens as overpriced as mine?) and would be getting a healthier deal.
Maybe I’m super forgetful, but I rely on my phone alarms a lot to send reminders, so I set a daily alarm to prep lunch for the next day. I make lunches at the same time as dinner, so they sometimes are a little repetitive (Bolognese sandwich, anyone?), but it’s become an easy routine. If you are ready to try veganism for a month, here’s what I’ve found to be the highs and lows.
Health, health, health. The biggest difference, without a doubt, is how many vegetables I now eat. I’ve always been a veg fan, but would typically just chuck some broccoli into whatever quick dish I was making for health points. I now set aside an extra ten minutes to prep meals, and add carrots, mushrooms, spinach and onions to almost every savoury meal.
Fruit is a bit of a new one for me, too. I bought a personal blender on Amazon for £20 and added frozen bags of fruit to my trolley in Tesco and haven’t looked back since. Instead of skipping breakfast and then being starving at 11 am in uni, I take a smoothie in – complete with soya milk and a handful of oats – and I’ve got a filling, vegan breakfast to go. You’ve probably heard it before that ‘breakfast is the most important meal’, but it’s true.
Hidden ingredients are the enemy. I may have found it easy giving up the products themselves, but who knew eggs are used in so many recipes? And milk – milk is in absolutely everything. I made the switch to soya milk months ago but hadn’t been worried about milk as an ingredient. Turns out, it’s hard to escape it. Another downfall is the expensive vegan alternatives.
Suddenly, I simply had to try dairy-free yoghurts and cookies, despite never buying them usually. It’s hard to ignore the substitutes, I’m always curious to see if they taste like the originals, but they aren’t worth the price. Instead, take the opportunity to skip the processed foods and get back to basics in the kitchen.
Should you try it?
Everyone should try out veganism. You may not be ready to go vegetarian, or vegan, or even just giving animal products up for a month. But here’s the secret: even changing a little will make a big difference. Why not try meat-free Mondays? Then maybe you’ll feel comfortable doing every other day. Eventually, you can phase things out, but if you can’t, you shouldn’t feel bad. Do what you can, and you will be making a difference.