Vegan Adventures pt 2. Still Vegan?
The prospect of cutting animal products out of your diet can seem pretty daunting. From a young age you're taught about the vital food groups you need to stay healthy. From an even younger age you are encouraged to clear your plate of dairy and meat or risk malnourishment or, even worse, no pudding.
The trick is to make the transformation gradually. Too many times in the past I've declared a diet change and thrown out a load of cupboard essential to refill it with the same products that just happened to be free of 'x' and £1 more expensive.
I'm happy to report those days are behind me, but veganism is still the biggest challenge I've ever set myself. Starting with butter, I slowly began to replace items with vegan counterparts as I used them up. I collected up a host of recipes from Pinterest and bookmarked blogs and embarked on my vegan adventure.
So how's it going so far?
I am in love with the world vegan cooking has opened up to me. For too long I've struggled to find something to eat and relied on eggs, cheese and meat to get me out of it. It is ironic that despite the ever present "what do you eat?" question, I've never had more variation in my meal plans!
From lentil chilli, to sweet potato brownies right round to spelt falafel and curried chickpeas I have thoroughly enjoyed turning my kitchen into a lab of vegan experiments. My flatmates however... not so much!
Soy is not my friend. In fact I don't think soy is anybody's friend. I enjoy tofu but soy milk feels very synthetic to me. My soy intake rocketed as I searched for vegan alternatives. I found myself using tofu in everything from smoothies to mayonnaise. The result? My already troublesome tummy declared Ragnarök.
I experienced acid reflux for the first time in five or so years and felt dull, achey and downright miserable. I'm trialling veganism to see if I can work out why my tummy has tantrums and to feel the benefits of going plant powered. Once I cut my soy intake back down to no more than 3 times a week I felt much better. This makes eating out, or even just grabbing a mocha or latte, much more difficult as everything is replaced by soy!
My biggest concern over the vegan lifestyle isn't the lack of nourishment. In fact my new found adventures with vegetables and ability to put them in baked goods means I am grabbing a wider variety of nutrients than ever before! I am concerned however by the rise of processed and not so clean foods I found myself eating .
It started as a reward. "Hey look! This biscuit is vegan, that means healthy right? I'll eat it and feel pious".
This only lasted the first week and is more a lack of will power on my part, but still there is a correlation between "vegan" and "healthy" in most peoples mind. Sadly, I found it was far harder to be a healthy vegan and maintain clean eating habits than an unclean omnivore.
A big part of this challenge is letting go of old food habits. You are never going to get vegan cheese that tastes like cheese. Even if you did it's going to be either hellishly expensive or packed with chemicals. Or worse yet, soy.
So for me I've steered away from vegan substitutes and gone looking for the real thing. If you want to eat vegan, don't hold onto processed substitutes but find new experiences. Did you know you can make black bean cookies? Do it. Do it now.
I'm most definitely going to see this challenge out. I can't yet tell you how vegan I'll stay when December comes around however. In an ideal world I'll work to the 80-20 rule and make sure that any animal product that do pass my lips are high quality. Suprisingly, right now the idea of dairy is not appealing, nor is a chicken fillet after the "dirty chicken scandal" that hit the UK papers this week.
Did I say 80-20? Maybe it will be more like 90-10.
Other vegans reading this, how did you transition into the lifestyle and what surprised you the most?