In recent months you would have heard the word vegan mentioned quite a bit as veganism increases in popularity, but our question is, will veganism be another fad that will fill our Instagram feed for a few months or is veganism the future?
During the month of January, I decided to take the Veganuary challenge and attempted to go vegan for the whole month. Here is my experience.
Firstly, what is a Veganism?
As described by The Vegan Society, ‘Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. There are many ways to embrace vegan living. Yet one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey – as well as products like leather and any products tested on animals.
Aren’t Vegans and Vegetarians the same?
No, vegetarians commonly choose to eat eggs and dairy as vegans would not. However, both would not eat meat or fish. Not to be confused with Pescatarians who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. In recent years we have seen Pescatarians increase as more people are phasing out meat before adopting a full vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
What do Vegans eat?
Quite a lot it would seem. Admittedly when I first started to research a plant based diet I instantly started thinking of all the yummy food I would miss and lets be honest the word ‘plant’ doesn’t exactly conjure images of mouth-watering cuisine however once I started researching recipes I discovered that there was a whole new culinary world waiting to be explored.
Here are a few meals I typically ate whilst partaking in Veganuary.
- Cereal with coconut milk
- Toast with jam
- Tofu omelettes
- White bean salad pita pockets
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Chips and salsa
- Roasted veg and quinoa salad
- Southwest lime corn salad
- Pasta and tomato sauce
- Bean burrito
- Tofu lasagne
- Veg and hummus tart
- Sugar snap pea and carrot soba noodles
Why go Vegan?
Upon my research I found that many vegans had decided to go vegan because of their love of animals, this wasn’t the only reason but for many it was the key motivator. For others their health played a key factor. Adopting a plant based diet is needless to say one of the healthiest diets, many vegans report lower blood pressure and cholesterol than non-vegan. Some research has also shown vegans to have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. For many vegans environmental issues were also a concern, with so much land needed for cattle farming deforestation and its impact on global warming continue to be a concern.
Why not go Vegan?
I struggled to find any evidence against going vegan, but I did find a few common myths which need to be addressed.
Myth – You can’t get protein from plants.
Research – Green vegetables like kale, broccoli, seaweed, peas, beans and pulses, grains and nuts like brazils, peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios and walnuts are all excellent sources of protein.
Myth – Plants feel pain.
Research – Plants do not have a nervous system and brain necessary for this to happen.
Myth – Soya is just as bad for the environment as meat.
Research – Soya isn’t the issue, it’s the amount of soya being produced to feed the cattle (not the vegans) that is causing environmental damage.
Myth – Vegan diets make you weak.
Research – Not true, like any diet ensuring that it is well balanced is key, if in doubt contact a nutritionist.
Myth – We need milk for our bones.
Research – We actually need calcium for our bones and Vitamin D to help absorb it. Calcium can be found in tofu, kidney beans, kale, broccoli, sweet potato and butternut squash, all easily accessible ingredients. A reliable source of Vitamin D is as simple as sitting in the sun.
Well Known Vegans
Many celebrities have adopted a vegan lifestyle such as, Brad Pitt, Lewis Hamilton, Woody Harrelson, Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Jared Leto, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez to name a few.
Challenges I Faced
The first few days were frustrating I didn’t know what I could or couldn’t eat. I spent most of my time Googling ‘Can vegans eat…’ but after some extensive research I had a better understanding, so I headed to the supermarket. This is where my next adventure began many of the products weren’t available, so I spent some additional time researching alternatives. Two hours later I finally left the supermarket confident in my efforts.
Eating out was another major cause of frustration. Many restaurants didn’t even understand what the term vegan meant, and a lot thought it was the same as vegetarian. One even asked if it was an allergy (I did my best not to laugh out loud).
What I Learnt
Over the course of the next few weeks I learnt to cook more recipes and expanded my knowledge of flavours and nutrition. I became more conscious about what I was eating and balancing my plate to ensure I was getting all my vitamins and minerals. Planning my meals in advance helped me save a lot of money because I was only buying what was on my list.
Going out also became easier, Yas Viceroy, Abu Dhabi are one of the first hotels to implement vegan menus, Café 302 has also introduced a vegan menu and Pizza Di Rocco has a selection of vegan pizzas.
Products such as body wash and make-up were the easiest change to make. The Body Shop has a wide range of amazing, great smelling cruelty free products. And has even introduced a new vegan range. A quick trip to Yas Mall and I was kitted out with enough strawberry moisturiser to last a lifetime.
Throughout the last month I have learnt so much about what goes into our day to day products that I have been left shocked and disappointed by many brands. Going forward I will only ever buy cosmetics from companies like The Body Shop or Lush Cosmetics who do not test on animals.
Personally, I could never go back to eating meat, I never much enjoyed the taste. I ate meat purely out of lack of time and effort, it was always easier to cook a piece of steak than prepare a wholesome meal, plus with my new found culinary skills I am enjoying exploring new flavours.
Dairy wasn’t a challenge for me, apart from the occasional visit to the cheese room at brunch I’ve never enjoyed dairy. Seafood was a bit more difficult for me to abstain from however I currently eat seafood once a week and am planning on eventually phasing it out completely.
I haven’t seen any changes in my skin but I have lost a few kgs as a result of Veganuary.
Would I now call myself a vegan….no I wouldn’t but am I more conscious of the products I buy and the food I consume…yes. I do hope that in time I will be able to fully adopt a vegan lifestyle. As I learn more recipes and as hotels create menus to cater for vegans it will become easier to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
To conclude, is veganism a fad or the future? It would seem that veganism is here to stay, is it the future? Yes, if veganism can shake its hipster image and focus on educating people about their dietary and environmental choices than I predict more people will look to adopt a vegan lifestyle however if continues to portray itself as a self-righteous elitist club, veganism runs the risk of becoming just another fad.