Veganuary – How My Partner Found a Purely Plant-Based Diet
“Choosing to be vegan provoked this tendency to be more experimental and try things that we wouldn’t otherwise have tried.”
Hey everyone, it’s Freya here and I’ve got a slightly different blog for you today! If you read my latest post on Veganuary, then you’ll know that my boyfriend, the flexitarian, decided to take on the challenge this year to see if he could commit to veganism for a whole month. He eats a lot of vegan and plant-based food anyway but it’s still interesting to look at what he enjoyed about the diet/lifestyle and any aspects he struggled with.
This interview ended up being about as long as a short novel, so I’ve had to cut it down a bit! Let’s dive straight in…
What was your main motivator for trying Veganuary?
I think I have the kind of personality where I always like to challenge myself – whether it be with running or with my career or something else. I guess I just really wanted to challenge myself with my diet; I wanted to see if I could do a full month of being vegan just to see if I’d manage it – and I did!
How did you find Veganuary?
I found some aspects of it challenging, but mostly I haven’t changed my diet too dramatically as I was already following a flexitarian diet – well, mostly vegan actually. Overall, it wasn’t that difficult for me but I think it would have been much harder if I’d gone cold turkey, like if I’d tried it a year or so ago when I wasn’t eating Linda McCartney products or Quorn. But because I’ve done it over a period of time and slowly introduced more and more vegan food, it’s been a better way of going about it.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered?
I think the biggest challenge was when we were shopping in smaller supermarkets that didn’t really stock a lot of vegan options. It meant that we just had to be a bit more creative and problem solve. We ended up swapping a lot of ingredients because there weren’t many meat-alternatives available, but that meant we were constantly thinking about what other things we could use, like different types of vegetables. It was definitely challenging but I actually really enjoyed overcoming it and finding solutions. Choosing to be vegan provoked this tendency to be more experimental anyway and try things that we wouldn’t otherwise have tried.
What was your favourite dish that you had during Veganuary?
It’s a real toss-up in the last week between the butternut squash tacos and the sweet potato curry. I think – ahh it’s really difficult! – I’d probably go with the curry (that was really good…) Homemade curries don’t usually hit the mark but that one really did and it was so simple, too. It was pretty much just sweet potatoes, curry paste and coconut milk but it worked really well. Sometimes the simplest things work the best.
So, you tried things that you wouldn’t previously have done?
Well, yeah! Things like vegan cheese – I wouldn’t really have that because I’d eat mozzarella or cheddar. But during Veganuary, we tried having vegan pizza with dairy-free cheese instead.
Since you’ve mentioned it, what were your thoughts on vegan cheese?
I was – as always – quite sceptical about it, thinking “I’m going to hate it” and then actually coming round to it but in this case, I didn’t even hate it to begin with! I think I went in with the mindset of when I eat cheddar or mozzarella and I overindulged. What I found with the vegan cheese is that it’s quite strong and creamy, so it’s probably better in smaller doses. I do like it but I just need to be a bit more careful about the quantities.
What elements of Veganuary will you carry forward into your day-to-day diet?
I think that I’m definitely going to boycott the coffee machine at work. I’ll just strictly drink soya milk like I do outside of work already.
The same with people bringing in cakes to the office, I think I want to keep that vegan mindset and opt for a better option or bring in a vegan alternative. I was pretty big on bringing in Graze flapjacks and Meridian peanut bars – they’ll probably carry on being my substitutes for treats.
Have you felt any different on a vegan diet, or noticed any health benefits?
Yeah, I think that’s one thing I really liked about the diet – I’ve always been very conscious of nutrition and having a well-balanced diet. That’s what I’ve really taken from this experience over the last month. I’d probably have felt even better if we hadn’t tried to find all the vegan cheat foods. It’s almost like more of a hunt for those kinds of things and then when you find them you’ve just got to have them!
What is your favourite cheat food that you’ve had this month?
That Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that we had very recently is probably it to be honest (the chocolate brownie fudge one). That was really good. You know what? They probably aren’t really a cheat food but those Graze flapjacks are really, really nice – I absolutely love them!
You’re running a marathon in a few months, have you noticed any lack of protein or that you’ve needed to be more conscious about what you’re eating?
No, not at all. If anything, I feel like my recovery time has actually got better. My carbohydrates are still pretty high – I’m still having a lot of pasta whether I’m eating it with meat or not – but I think that there are clearly other ways of getting protein in – I don’t feel as lethargic and my recovery has actually sped up. Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve been eating a lot more nuts, so I’m getting my protein in! But in any case, I definitely feel like it’s benefitting me and my recovery. After eating meat, I often feel a bit **** but when I’m eating vegan, I don’t feel that way at all.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about going vegan?
What advice would I give? It depends on the person and what their motivation is. For me, it was nutrition and the health benefits. So, I can’t speak for someone who is doing it for other reasons but if health is your motivation then I think it’s better to slowly substitute things. I started off by replacing meat sausages with Linda McCartney ones. You really notice the difference, I mean you can visibly see such a reduced fat content. From a health perspective, that was always really off-putting for me when eating meat sausages. It’s so obvious when you are cooking vegan or vegetarian alternatives, you just notice that they’re not swimming in their own fat.
If you are doing it for your general health and wellbeing, then I think slowly integrating more vegan foods is a good way of starting and then just see how you go – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the visible ways in which it is a better and healthier option.
So, do you feel better eating vegan?
Yeah, yeah. I guess in a way I kind of feel cleaner. Like, you’re just putting less fat into your body. That’s basically what I started off with and then I met Freya and that changed my life completely anyway! That was a big factor in wanting to try these things and eat meals with her – I ended up buying loads of stuff to be like “look what I’ve bought!” just trying to win her over. But I liked it and I ended up having more. I don’t regret it and I never feel like I miss meat. People are often quite stunned by that – they always think that I’m going to really miss it – and maybe some people do but I honestly don’t.
Is there anything you have missed or craved over the last month?
I really missed my granola! It had honey in it, which a lot of things seem to unnecessarily have. Actually, that is another thing that frustrated me; so many things have milk powder or honey in them. Whenever we make our own recipes, it’s been so easy just to substitute in things like agave syrup, so it’s just frustrating that so many products could easily be vegan but actually aren’t.
What were people’s reactions to you going vegan for the month?
Largely, people were like “why?”. A lot of people just don’t really understand or get it – and that’s their own thing, I guess. But for every person that poked fun at it, there were always people saying the opposite. There’s one person I work with who is, what I like to call, an ultra-vegan, he’s really passionate about it and he was really encouraging and supportive. He’d tell me that I was absolutely smashing it and was just really pleased that I was even just trying it – regardless of whether or not I carry it on after January. I really took a lot from him just being interested in how I was finding it.
Having someone like that to support you does help. And obviously, I’ve got you (Freya) which has helped a lot throughout the month because you know what’s what and you’re really helpful with that. But it is really good to have someone else as well as your partner’s support. So, if you’ve got a vegan friend, it’s really good to have someone else to lean on. It will help with any naysayers!