Veganism seems to be on the rise. I don’t know about you, but I am increasingly seeing vegan cook books gracing the shelves of bookstores, the vegan section of the supermarket expanding and vegan bloggers dominating my Instagram feed.
I’ve always been interested in knowing exactly where my food comes from as I think it is incredibly important to know in order to live a healthy lifestyle. I do not want to be eating meat that has been pumped full of water and stripped of its protein and other benefits. What comes with this intuition is a moral dilemma. I have never been happy with the fact that animals are slaughtered just so I can have some meat on my plate. I have considered going vegetarian in the past and I do eat like a vegetarian 80% of the time, preferring to choose Quorn products over meat. However, I find it incredibly hard when I go out to a restaurant or someone else is cooking for me as I just don’t want to make a fuss. I also love fish. I understand completely why people choose to be vegetarian, it’s a bit more obvious, however I never fully understood why people go vegan. Cows and chickens don’t suffer in return for their milk and eggs right? Wrong.
It was actually Lucy Watson, ex Made in Chelsea cast member, who made me sit up and take a bit of notice about veganism. She started posting facts about the dairy industry on her Instagram stories that were so horrific that they were hard to ignore. The one that has stuck with me is this: cows get repeatedly raped so that we can drink their milk. I have never thought about it like that. If you really think about it then of course that makes sense. Like humans, they only produce milk when they give birth. The cow will have her calf taken away as soon as it’s born so it doesn’t drink all the milk and we can have it in our bowls of cereal. With these disturbing facts in mind, I decided to try going seven days as a vegan (with a little help from Lucy’s new vegan cook book) to see if it’s really that hard…
Breakfast as a vegan was super easy for me. During the week, I always have a bowl of granola topped with a banana, peanut butter and a splash of almond milk. This is already vegan so I didn’t have to make any adjustments whatsoever. As a weekend treat, I made some delicious banana pancakes which were cheap to make and really scrummy – perfect with a drizzle of golden syrup and topped with raspberries. The only thing I found tricky was tea. I always have a cup of tea in the morning and a cup of coffee when I get to work. I really don’t like either black, I always have plenty of milk. During my week as a vegan, I switched to using soya milk in tea and coffee. It didn’t taste to bad in the coffee but the tea wasn’t great. I found that I had to literally fill half the mug with soya milk to make it even a little milky.
At first, I found lunch a bit tricky. I didn’t really know what to have. Usually I have either ham or tuna sandwiches or some kind of soup but I found that neither were vegan. I ended up eating beans on toast for most of the week as it was the only lunch that I could make quickly and cheaply!
I had a lot of fun making my vegan dinners. This gave me a great opportunity to try out some of the recipes in Lucy’s book and honestly, all the ones that I made were delicious. At the start of the week, I made Black Bean and Sweet Potato burgers. These were so delicious, full of flavour and super easy to make. They do need to set in the fridge for a couple of hours though so I would recommend making the burgers the day before. This was particularly useful on my gym evenings as I could just get home from a workout and stick them in the oven without having to really do anything! The fennel slaw that goes with the burgers is a great addition as well.
Mid-week, I had a go at her Spinach and Pesto pasta. This one was quick to make, ideal for when you are in the middle of a busy working week. Making your own pesto requires virtually no effort. Just shove all the ingredients in a Nutribullet, boil some pasta, mix it all together and voila! There was also plenty leftover for lunch the next day as well which was a bonus. It gave me a break from the beans on toast!
Now this one was my favourite – carbonara! I am a massive fan of this classic Italian dish. Both my mum and Ollie do the most amazing carbonara so I was very wary of this vegan version but I thought I would give it a go. Again, it was really easy and quick to make and surprisingly creamy! I didn’t expect it to be as creamy as it was but it tasted as if it had half a tub of double cream in it, which it didn’t! Soya cream and vegan Parmesan cheese are my new loves. I will actually continue to buy vegan parmesan cheese as I thought it had much more flavour than the normal stuff! The smoked tofu was a great meaty replacement as well. I’ve had tofu before and didn’t like it because it had no flavour but this one from the Tofoo company was delicious. Even Ollie, who is a big meat fan, liked this dish and I had to make it for him again at the weekend just so he could have a whole plate of it.
Towards the end of the week when I was running out of ingredients (and money), I opted for a simple stir-fry. I do love a stir-fry but I have to admit that I missed having my fresh egg noodles with it! Instead, I had to have a little bit of linguine. A random combination I know but it needed it to make the meal a little more filling!
Snacks and sweet treats
As a massive sweet tooth, I was looking forward to trying vegan alternatives to chocolate. I like elevenses at work and sometimes have a 9 Bar which I was thrilled to learn were vegan! On a Saturday night, I do love a bit of chocolate. Maltesers or a bar of Cadbury chocolate are firm favourites in our house but of course, neither of these are vegan. I switched to Moo Free which is supposed to be one of the nicest vegan chocolate bars. I tried the orange version which was pretty nice. I found that vegan chocolate is much, much sweeter than normal chocolate. I did miss my maltesers though.
As a brownie lover, I had a go at making Lucy’s Raspberry and Pistachio vegan brownies. These were super easy to make and the finished product is extremely Instagram friendly! They tasted like proper brownies and were even nice and gooey in the middle.
Ingredients and price
As expected, you have to buy a lot of vegan alternatives to live a vegan diet e.g. vegan cheese, vegan bacon, vegan chocolate etc. This definitely comes at a price. Violife Parmesan cheese is £3.50 compared to £2.90 for Sainsbury’s own Parmesan cheese. Moo Free chocolate cost me £2.50 compared to £1 for a bar of Dairy Milk. The ingredients for meals weren’t too expensive but it’s the vegan alternatives that add up and I found that a lot of vegan recipes used vegan alternatives. Lucy’s Mac and Cheese for example includes vegan butter, vegan cheddar, vegan parmesan and almond milk. I genuinely don’t think I could afford to go vegan full time. Hopefully in the future, supermarkets might make free from food more accessible for everyone but I guess there just isn’t the demand for it at the moment.
So what did I learn from my week as a vegan? Well, I learnt that I drink tea a lot more than I realised! When I couldn’t really drink it, I missed it a lot. It also did my head in how I had to look at literally every label on every food product I picked up to check that it was vegan. I guess if you were a full time vegan though, you would naturally learn and remember what is vegan friendly and what is not. It took me double the time to do my food shop though!
The ultimate learning point that I took away from those seven days was definitely that being vegan isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I thought I would be living off salad leaves and water but there are so many good alternatives available now that I hardly missed out on anything. I just hope that in the future, it becomes a bit more affordable and available in public eateries.
Have you ever tried going vegan? Are you a vegan and do you have any tips? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @SheWhoLives1