Vegan – 1 Year On: Challenges and Reflections

I’ve been vegan for a year now. Thought I’d give a quick update on how it’s been, any challenges, what’s changed, how I’m feeling, etc.

Where to start?! Well I had been eating vegetarian for a while and didn’t really eat much dairy/eggs anyway so thought I’d give it a go and see how it’d be not eating cheese (all I really ate which wasn’t vegan). I found it a lot easier than I expected it to be. I cook a lot at home so it was super easy to just continue making meals just not adding in cheese! I changed to eating vegan for the planet and for my health originally but the more I read and learned and found out, the more I began to also care about my impact on animals. This then made it so much easier for me to not want to eat anything which has come from an animal and to stick to my morals when faced with a challenge.

So…what have the challenges been:

  • Eating out with others – we’re really fortunate now to live in a time where most restaurants cater for all dietary requirements or can customise for any requirements. Obviously going to restaurants which have specific vegan options on the menu have made this a bit easier. Apps like Happy Cow are great for finding vegan food options wherever you are. There have been times when I’ve been out with groups of people at BBQ restaurants and places which do not typically have any options which are vegan. There are always options though. My best recommendations for eating at a non-vegan restaurant are:
  1. Check out the menu online before hand – most restaurants have an online menu and you can see if there are any options which could easily be made vegan or maybe some sides you could piece together into a meal.
  2. Call the restaurant in advance – so many times I’ve called a place to check if they will be able to cater for me (either removing cheese or mayo or egg from a dish or even piecing together a dish from ingredients they have in the kitchen) and I have never had a bad experience with a restaurant. They have always been happy to help.
  3. If you haven’t had a chance to do either of the above options, speak to the waiting staff – ask the waiter if there are any options which could be made vegan. If you are worried about being awkward or fussy, don’t, you have no reason to be awkward (easier said than done but it does get easier with time). If you are feeling awkward go speak to the waiting staff away from your table. Excuse yourself to go to the toilet and find someone to speak to.
  • Eating abroad – similar to above but this time there’s a language barrier! Again, Happy Cow has really helped and other people’s recommendations online. Aside from that it’s helpful to know specific words in the language like “vegan” or “no meat, eggs, cheese, milk”; Google Translate helps! Another option is to buy and cook your own food if that’s a possibility.
  • Finding a vegan cheese that actually tastes like cheese – I have not found one yet. People say the vegan cheeses taste like dairy cheese. They don’t. But some of them do taste good in their own right! I’ve also had a lot of fun experimenting with making my own ‘cheeses’!
  • Making Yorkshire puddings without eggs – it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried about 5 different ways so far and they all just come out far too cakey. If you have a recipe which actually works let me know in the comments down below please!!
  • Avoiding milk powder – it’s in so many things and seems so unnecessary. After reading the backs of packages for a while when you first change how you eat, you then get to know what’s ok and what’s not quite quickly! Also reading the backs of packages makes you so much more aware of what you’re putting in your body. You see the rest of the ingredients you don’t always think about. It really is fascinating. It helps not too eat too much packaged and processed food!

Other challenges I could imagine people would face but weren’t such a problem for me are:

  • Desserts – I’m not a fan of sweet things, I’m much more of a savoury person but most desserts are made with milk or eggs or both. The good thing is there are plenty of great vegan chocolates out there and it’s easy to make tasty treats with dates like energy balls. It’s also pretty easy to replace milk and eggs in most baked goods using a plant-based milk and a flax egg or chia egg or other egg replacer (a flax or chia egg is made by mixing 1tbsp of group flax or chia seeds with 2-3tbsp of water).
  • Making sure I get all the nutrients I need – I’m in no ways implying I’m perfect in this area but as a nutrition student and someone with a huge passion for nutrition food is more than just taste and energy for me. Food is fuel for my body, my brain, my cells, everything. A vegan diet can be lacking in some really important nutrients if done wrong. You can eat vegan living off of fake meats and cheeses, etc, but this will not nourish you and you could end up really lacking in specific nutrients like iron, omegas, vitamin B12, vitamin D. If you eat meals which consist of mainly whole foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, tofu, unrefined carbohydrates then you’ll be fine. I would still recommend a vitamin B12 supplement as it’s such a vital nutrient and one which most people – vegan and non-vegans alike should supplement with. Also, I take vitamin D during the winter months when I know I’m not getting enough sunlight! If you’re not so aware about nutrients and food combining to get your essential amino acids in your protein intake speak to a registered nutritionist and make sure you’re eating in a way which won’t cause you health issues in the future! Make sure you research any supplements you are going to take as they are not all created equal!

Before this turns into an epically long post, I’m going to wrap it up. 1 year on from changing to a vegan lifestyle and I feel great. I’m living in line with my morals and ethics, doing my little bit to help the environment and the animals. I’m nourishing my body with predominantly whole foods. I’m having fun creating recipes and experimenting with food. I’m eating so many new foods and trying so many new things. I’m stronger than I ever have been (lifting weights has helped with that!) and maybe most importantly of all…I don’t feel restricted in what I eat and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I love food and am so happy to be able to eat in a way which truly feeds my body while helping to reduce my impact on the planet and cause less suffering to animals.

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