10 things I learnt from Veganuary

This is a collaborative post.

Having been vegetarian since childhood, I always wondered whether to go vegan. Eventually, I decided to take part in Veganuary. I started with some trepidation. Wouldn’t I miss eggs and cheese? Well as it turns out, I didn’t miss much at all. Here are the 10 things I learnt from Veganuary.

It’s not that difficult

I haven’t really felt that comfortable with the dairy industry for years. I stopped using milk because I didn’t like it, but struggled to cut down on cheese. Free range was a good compromise when it came to eggs. But the fact that chickens go into the food chain after a couple of years of laying never sat right with me. The problem was though, being vegan seemed really difficult.

I don’t mind admitting that I was wrong. This month hasn’t been as taxing as anticipated. There are so many vegan options, alternatives and replacements these days. Plus, it’s pretty easy to just eat more vegetables instead of always turning to cheese and eggs.

Nobody is perfect

Being vegan means not using or consuming any kind of animal products. I’m not about to throw away anything I own that’s leather, or make a fuss if somebody accidentally makes me a salad with coleslaw. But doing your best is enough. Wasted food is worse than consuming something that isn’t vegan in my opinion. So, if someone gives me a vegetarian meal with some cheese on, I’d rather eat it than throw it away. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing my best or doing anything unethical, it means I’m being practical.


Vegan meals can be incredibly tasty

We’ve been using vegetarian meat replacements for years, so moving over to the vegan ones was easy enough. I was a little bit worried though that the taste wasn’t going to be as good. Again, I was happily mistaken. We’ve been buying Iceland’s vegan options and I’ve tried a couple of things from the new Marks and Spencer vegan range too. I’m yet to have anything that wasn’t really tasty. The same goes for restaurants. Many put on a brilliant vegan option, I even enjoyed a delicious vegan cooked breakfast last week.

Children don’t notice the difference

I thought that going from vegan to veggie would be a big deal for the children. But as it turned out, they didn’t bat an eyelid. There have been a couple of discussions over the fact that I’m not eating something (like butter on my toast) because I’m being vegan. But the meals we have aren’t really changing. The meat alternatives are just as tasty if not tastier if you go with the vegan ones.

It’s important to have a shopping list of vegan essentials

The only times I’ve been a bit gutted about being vegan have been when there’s been nothing in the house that felt like a treat. This includes after outdoor swimming, when I always feel ravenous enough to eat a small hippopotamus.

That’s why a checklist is essential for when you’re shopping. You can make your own based on what you enjoy, or cheat and use one online. This vegan fitness shopping list has some great suggestions. It’s all healthy food but its staples will keep you going whether you’re ravenous or just craving a treat.

Vegan shopping for Veganuary. Display of food including lettuce, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and pasta.

It is possible to live without cheese

Did I mention I like cheese? Actually, over Christmas I became a bit obsessed with it. Cheese boards, cheese sandwiches, cheese in everything I ate. So would I be able to stop? Strangely enough, it was no problem at all. I have had one block of vegan cheese alternative but other than that, I just haven’t bought any. And surprisingly, I haven’t really missed it.

Being vegan doesn’t always equate to losing weight

Honestly, I thought this was it. I was going to become vegan, feel better about my ethical choices and be a size 8 by the end of the month. Well, I do feel better about my ethical choices. But I haven’t lost weight. I’m still eating the same amount. Cutting out cheese and eggs didn’t mean automatically losing weight. Even cutting right back on the amount of chocolate I eat hasn’t made much of a difference. So whilst Veganuary has been a resounding success, I’ll have to think a bit harder about my diet if I intend to lose weight.

You don’t need animal products to give you the energy to exercise

I did worry a bit about the fact that Veganuary has coincided with picking up my running in preparation for the London Marathon. Actually though, the idea of a vegan diet not giving you enough energy is nonsense. I’ve probably been averaging around 20 miles a week running, plus walking every day and swimming in open water once or twice a week. There hasn’t been an occasion when I haven’t had enough energy. That said, I know people do worry about getting enough protein. But vegan protein shakes are available, this one derives its protein from peas.

There are two types of vegans

When I signed up to Veganuary, I decided to join their Facebook group for ideas and support. Initially, it was great. Lots of inspiration and hints about which brands had started selling vegan items and what foods are accidentally vegan. The people on there were type 1 vegans – the supportive type. They are passionate about veganism and want to help and support others to follow the same lifestyle.

Then all of a sudden, along came the type 2 vegans. The type that judge others when they are struggling. A lady posted in the group to say that she was finding it really difficult. There were a few supportive comments, then along came a few type 2 vegans to tell her that she wasn’t good enough. By finding things difficult she was killing animals and trying her best wasn’t enough. Instead of encouraging her to stay vegan by helping her through a tough patch, they drove her away from the group. Removing her support network when she needed it the most.

I can continue being vegan

I had wondered what I’d do at the end of the month. But as February approaches, I have made a decision. I will continue to be vegan as far as possible. So at home, I’ll keep cooking vegan meals. When we go out, I’ll always have the vegan option if there is one. However, I don’t want this to change my life in a negative way.

So, if we’re out and there’s nothing vegan, I’ll eat vegetarian. If we’re going to someone’s house, I’ll tell them I’m vegetarian rather than vegan because I don’t want to make things difficult for them. And making positive lifestyle changes doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’ll do my best and for me, that’s enough.

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  1. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot and have got a very sensible attitude to being vegan. I’m in awe that you don’t miss cheese. I just couldn’t imagine life without it! I really crave it after a big run.
    I’ve noticed there also seems to be ‘healthy vegans’ and ‘unhealthy vegans’. So you can make a delicious meal of vegetables and healthy stuff or you can just eat some potato waffles and vegan burgers out of the freezer. It’s good to know that you can combine the two and not always have to make stunning healthy meals!

  2. You are very right about the “type 2 vegans”. These are the judgemental ones that give veganism a bad name, and are why, although I follow an almost exclusively plant-based diet, I probably will not become vegan. I don’t need someone telling me what I should or should not do. I choose a plant-based diet because I want to, not because someone on their moral high horse berates me if I don’t follow “their” rules.

    1. I feel exactly the same Fiona, and I will continue to refer to myself as vegetarian although I’ll be predominantly vegan. I’m all for support but judgement is totally unnecessary.