Last week I decided I would trial a vegan diet to try and understand the overall difficulties this way of eating can have. If done correctly, a vegan diet can be filled with a wide range of nutrients as obviously fruit and vegetable intake is much higher than a typical meat- eating diet. However, it can be difficult for strict vegans to get some micro-nutrients into the diet (specifically vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and omega 3) and often supplements and fortified foods may be needed to reach optimal health. Becoming vegan is however becoming more popular, especially because as a whole we are becoming more aware of how eating meat can effect our health as well as impacting on the environment. I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge and although I am quite comfortable in dropping the meat, ditching the dairy was much more difficult than I thought!
My overall observation of being a ‘vegan’ was that planning really was key. My usual routine of chucking a salad together in the morning for lunch wasn’t quite possible without the addition of cheese, tuna or even a boiled egg. I found this issue quite early on (on my first day in fact) when I grabbed what I thought was a bean chilli from the freezer as I didn’t have anything else to take to work. Over lunch however I quickly realised when heating it up was that in fact it was a chicken fajita mix! Oops!! First lesson of the day was to start labelling leftover frozen meals! Especially when shari
ng frozen space with a meat loving male.
After my initial errors I got into the mix of my new vegan lifestyle. I swapped my beloved cow’s milk within my tea for a variety of dairy free milks that I picked up from a range of different shops… I must admit it didn’t quite taste the same and as a tea fiend, I did find that actually rather than battling on through trying to adjust, I found that fruit teas, green tea
and the plain old water stuff was becoming more my drink of choice… maybe this is another way that vegan’s are often given the golden halo of health?!
One thing I did really enjoy was having the opportunity to try out some new recipes. I made some bean stuffed potato skins with homemade guacamole which went down a treat, even if I did have to restart half way through due to a lack of pre-soaking my black beans haha. The organic health store packaging failed to mention that! Doh on my part. Thankfully there was sneaky stash of cannellini beans in the cupboard to save the day.
Other meals included lots of other bean dishes including refried bean, falafel, peppers and avocado wraps, vegetable kebabs, chickpea thai red curry and even a cheeky vege- burger on the bbq on a random warm April evening. I must admit, I did get a little sick of beans but maybe that was because I did base a lot of my meals on them. Thinking back, there are plenty other ways to get protein into a vegan diet including nuts, lentils and seeds. Maybe I needed to branch out a little more and get a little more adventurous!
Socially, I did feel slightly awkward with my new found eating habits going out and about with friends. In particular, I knew that going out for lunch with a friend may be difficult as I wasn’t too sure whether I would be able to find anything that would compliment her love of meat alongside my plant based needs. Thankfully I stumbled across an amazing restaurant in Cardiff called ATMA (https://www.facebook.com/cafeatma) where I had a super yummy Indian vegan special dish and my friend was more than happy with her halloumi burger.
Overall, I enjoyed!! It was however much more restrictive then I thought it would be and I sometimes struggled to think of snacks and puddings which weren’t just purely fruit! I guess that might be why vegans notoriuosly have a lower energy intake and lower BMI than meat eaters. What I have learnt though is that I don’t need to rely on meat and dairy so heavily and that actually with a bit of imagination and making time for cooking from fresh, a vegan diet can be full of flavour, colours and nutrients! Maybe it’s not for me as a lifestyle choice but I am definitely now more aware of how much I rely on animals and actually with a few small changes I can not only consume less animal produce I can do my bit to help to reduce emissions through animal farming