It’s two weeks since we took on the Veganuary challenge and started up the Vegangrrls blog. 14 days(ish) dairy-free seems as good a time as any for a quick update and to answer some questions we’ve been asked…
Why are you doing Veganuary *pulls sceptical face*?
MC: I’d already given up cows milk and gone through long phases of vegetarianism before but had just fallen into bad habits of eating pretty mindlessly last year. I’d been trying to cram animal protein into my diet so I could build muscle but this didn’t really balance with being an environmentalist… I knew going vegan would make me really think about what I’m eating. I’ve got a few friends at university who are vegan who have really inspired me too. Plus, Cowspiracy.
Bea: I’ve been living in Amsterdam for the last 3 years and so my carbon footprint from flights home is appalling. Because I like polar bears and ice caps and things I wanted to be a bit more environmentally friendly this year. Plus I’d recently cut out eggs (after rereading the Angela Carter short story collection: Fireworks, *shudder*). This led to a lot of weird and wonderful experiments with alternative sources of protein/cake baking and having managed to crack (arf) the egg thing going full-vegan wasn’t as intimidating.
So how’ve you found it?
MC: Alright really. My food has been pretty tasty and filling most of the time, it’s definitely meant putting more thought into buying and cooking food… The Veganuary emails and online groups and blogs are a huge source of inspiration and community too which makes it more fun.
Bea: It’s been good. I have a tendency to treat food as fuel so Veganuary has helped me to actually plan meals. I have had to manage a lot of expectations, thankfully my partner felt no pressure to join me but I’ve had some acquaintances look a bit wary when I bring it up. Like I’m going to recruit them or something, which… yeah, bit boring although understandable.
What’s been the hardest part and which food(s) do you miss the most?
MC: I thought I’d really miss cheese and eggs but I haven’t so far. A couple of salad and stir fry dressings which I love aren’t vegan and that’s pretty heart breaking so I’m going to have to find alternatives or make my own which is a drag. Also when there’s nice cakes in the office that’s brutal (I definitely caved and had a slice of raisin loaf last week.)
Bea: The only thing I’ve really struggled with is the coffee + milk conundrum, especially as a lot of cafes in Amsterdam charge extra for soya milk. Wankers. I’ve also been missing easy sugar hits. Due to having no self-control I tend to struggle when my choice is between, say, a bag of M&Ms and a super-healthy, super-sad looking bar of vegan-friendly mashed fruit.
Have you noticed any difference in your fitness/energy levels?
MC: Energy levels are definitely up, I feel like I need about an hours’ less sleep than I used to (I feel like I’m running a bit faster but that’s probably a lie haha).
Bea: My energy levels are appalling but I think that’s down to depression + a rather dramatic pre-Christmas increase in my anti-depressants. It’s kind of difficult to measure changes in my body when the baseline is shot to shit but my skin is a lot better! Fewer flashing hormonal beacons on my chin and forehead, some mild-eczema has cleared up, etc etc.
What about when you’re going to a restaurant or eating in company with non-vegans?
MC: I’m lucky that a few of my friends are veggie/GF so we can always buy/cook meals to suit everyones needs. I’ve got a meal out this week so I just checked on the website they had vegan options beforehand. I’m really looking forward to exploring Vegan restaurant week in Newcastle later this month though!
Bea: hahahahahahahahaha. Yeah, there’s been a few issues. Most of my friends are vegetarian/vegan and my partner is happy to eat vegetarian at home so all issues have been down to my own willpower when confronted with a plate of melted cheese. Rather than malevolent outside influences.
What have been some of your stable vegan meals/snacks?
MC: Things on toast (avocado, veggie spread, hummus, peanut butter: Pip and Nut is awesome), soups, big pasta dishes and curry dishes with loads of fresh veggies, Vegan snack bars like Nakd are a lifesaver, soya yoghurts, smoothies, falafel and olives, fruit. (Vegan Voyager has some awesome videos on accidentally vegan foods.)
Bea: I need to try Pip and Nut! Lots of things on toast – especially tahini, my new love – the red lentil base I shared last week, so many quinoa wraps, lots of curries and chilli dishes. Also apple crisps, finding some that aren’t coated in preservatives was a challenge but I’m obsessed.
And what about the fails?
MC: The aforementioned slice of raisin loaf… that was probably my only conscious ‘fuck it’ fail. I’m also still using up the last of my whey protein and looking for vegan substitutes but I’m definitely an advocate for using up what you have left and then replacing it rather than dropping loads of cash and throwing out stuff (not good for the environment either!).
Bea: I really didn’t expect it to be this hard but finding a substitute milk that doesn’t make me gag or piss fire has become my stone of Sisyphus. I’ve now tried soya, almond, rice, coconut, oat and brazil nut milk – all failures.
Any goals for the next two weeks of Veganuary?
MC: More whole foods/less processed stuff. The more fruits and vegetables the better.
Bea: Same, I also still need to try cashew milk…