Along with thousands of others, I challenged myself to go vegan this January and was surprised how easy I found it. I suppose transitioning to a completely plant-based diet was a smaller adjustment for me than for others, as I was already vegetarian and had less foods to cut out.
Having said that, I didn’t realise how many foods contained dairy products until I actually had to check the labels. This was the biggest revelation for me, as it meant I could rarely buy snacks or food on-the-go unless it was plain fruit or veg; (although Nakd bars were my saviour!) I never considered having to check labels unless I was actually allergic to something, but this must be something all vegans are used to.
Meal-planning became a vital part of my day and I took to batch cooking, so I would have a few meals ready to take to work with me.
Top Five Vegan Foods I Couldn’t Live Without:
5. Fresh Chillies (and Garlic too!)
Thanks to my wonderful housemate, I have a chilli plant on the kitchen windowsill, which has proved invaluable over the last month. Although I’m usually partial to a bit of chilli to season my cooking, Veganuary took it to the next level!
Also garlic; I put garlic in everything!
So I know I’m not the only one who has a slight avocado obsession of late, but I would definitely find them hard to live without. I currently lead a Sunday morning home yoga class for my close friends and afterwards we have brunch together. And at the risk of sounding disgustingly millennial, you can’t do brunch without a good avo toast!
I love mushrooms. I could eat them for every meal.
Chickpeas are quite a new love of mine, but they are so versatile and last ages in your cupboards. Legumes, Pulses & Beans of any sort are also a great source of protein 🙂
1. Tinned tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, passata etc.)
At number one, it’s tinned tomatoes! I went through so many in January and honestly had a little panic if I ran out. I love fresh tomatoes too, but the tinned ones were a staple in almost every meal.
Eating Out as a Vegan:
Obviously eating at restaurants is also an issue for vegans, but this didn’t bother me so much as:
1) It’s January and who can even afford to eat out?!
2) Many cafes and restaurants joined in with Veganuary and included extra vegan options on their menus.
The couple of times I did go out for food, I managed to find places that were not only affordable but had a wealth of options available.
One such place and my favourite new vegan hangout is Cafe Van Gogh in South London. My sister and I stopped by for an early dinner before catching a movie and fell in love with the place. We both tried the Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese and (although pretty different from the regular kind) it was delicious!
(But don’t take my word for it, why not read her article about it? > Lucy’s Food Blog )Another fantastic place to go out if you’re vegan with non-vegan friends, is Wagamama. The restaurant chain which specialises in Japanese-inspired cuisine has recently added loads of great vegan options into their existing menu. So whether you’re vegan or not, I would thoroughly recommend Wagamama’s Vegan Menu. [If you’re not a fan of Tofu, this will totally change your mind!]
Will I Stay Vegan?
As far as cutting out dairy goes, I already drank soya or almond milk instead of cow’s milk so that didn’t change for me. I bought dairy-free margarine and laid off eggs and cheese for a month. Eggs I could happily live without, but by the end of the month I did miss cheese. I did try vegan cheese alternatives, but I think they’d take some getting used to!
I’m not sure I’m ready to be a full-time vegan, but I definitely felt better knowing that a small lifestyle change would benefit countless animals, the environment and also my long-term health. With that in mind, I’m going to make an effort to phase out dairy products from my diet and to be more aware of the ingredients in any pre-prepared food I buy.
I have also saved a lot of fantastic vegan recipes, which I’m excited to try out in the coming months. One of my new favourite instagram accounts, Thug Kitchen, has a best-selling recipe book and a bad-ass attitude to plant based living. Check them out!