Veganuary: Lessons From a Non-Vegan

By Parisa Hashempour | Tuesday 31st January, 2017

You may have noticed the adverts plastered all over Facebook, buses and the tube. And for those of you who didn’t, I’ll clue you in- this past month has been Veganuary and 50,000 people have signed up to take part in a 4 week challenge of eating no meat, eggs or dairy.

For a meat lover and dairy die hard like myself, this was especially tough, but I’d made the decision that I’d quite like to watch cute YouTube videos of baby chicks and not feel guilty. Plus it wouldn’t hurt to reduce my carbon footprint. So I decided to jump on the vegan wagon. Here are a few things I learnt in the process.

Be wary of dairy

It lurks where you least expect it, like in Monster Munch, sherbet, salad dressings and even chewing gum. It’s actually a lot easier to accidentally eat baby cow food than you think.

There is such a thing as an unhealthy vegan

So I equated veganism with being super healthy, drinking green juices and doing yoga. Obviously I didn’t ditch the dairy and turn into a total hippy but what most surprised me was that it’s super easy to jack up on junk food minus the meat and dairy. After all chips, skittles and Oreos are all vegan – that says it all really.

Cooking at home is pretty easy

It’s surprisingly easy to take the meals that you usually make for yourself and create a vegan version. The food options are plant-iful! Thai curry minus the meat, Fajitas minus the chicken and Chilli sin carne. Vegan food can taste seriously good.

Eating out/on the go ain’t that easy

Despite a 360% increase in vegans in Britain in the last decade there is surprisingly little around for vegans to munch on. Tesco and Sainsbury’s often have one option but it’s usually a depressing salad. M&S and Pret were absolute lifesavers when it came to eating out but they sure aren’t the cheapest.

It’s safe to say that living a vegan lifestyle is pretty pricey. Download Loot to help you budget for those beans… and lentils… and lettuce and stuff.

As for evening meals – I ended up in the pub on my grandad’s birthday eating a dry veggie burger and chips, minus the mayo and minus the coleslaw whilst everyone else digged into fish and chips or sizzling steaks. So if you’re planning on eating out as a vegan, I suggest you call ahead and check that they’ve got some options for you. Or if you’ve got an open-minded bunch of family and friends, maybe even try and convince them to head to a veggie or vegan restaurant.

Being a drunk vegan is hard

If you really want to stick to your veganism and, like me, you love a good chicken kebab when you’re drunk – it might be best to stay sober. Or at least convince your friends to tear you away from the kebab shop whenever you’ve had one too many.

The vegan club is a pretty great place to be

There is this knowing smile that vegans give to one another when they realise the other is a member of the vegan club and I have to admit being in the cool crowd was almost enough to make me commit to veganism for life – almost. You can’t help but be annoying and smug when you’re vegan; the smugness seeps out of the vegetables and into your bloodstream.

So many potatoes

I have basically turned into a potato. Potato waffles and beans, jacket potatoes, chips, new potatoes (not mashed potatoes because who really has mash without butter and milk). The options are endless! Luckily, potatoes are the most delicious things in the world and they don’t have faces or feelings – enjoy.

Look out for non-vegan alcohol

Who would have thought there were animal products in alcohol? Apparently a whole bunch of beers and wines contain isinglass (which comes from fish), egg whites or gelatin. In fact, only a handful of my beloved red wines were vegan-proof.

You might have more energy

This one really surprised me. I thought that I would feel weak and frail in my new vegan life. But actually avoiding egg, meat and dairy left me with much more energy than I had before. I am not a morning person and I finally found myself getting out of bed in the mornings without too much of a struggle.