‘(Not)-Chicken Wednesday’: I went vegan for a week

This article is free from: meat, eggs, dairy, wit, substance

‘Please don’t die.’

That was the general response to telling people I was going vegan for a week. I’m one of those people who never orders the vegetarian option on purpose. But what can I say? I don’t do things by halves.

(Spoilers: I didn’t die. I also didn’t reach enlightenment, and I still think PETA are crazy. But I did learn a lot.)

So, what do vegans eat?

Anything that’s not meat, eggs, dairy, gelatin, and possibly honey (jury’s out). That leaves fruit, vegetables, breads/cereals/other grains (including wheat noodles and wheat pasta), soy (tofu, some other meat substitutes, edamame, etc), nuts and seeds, beans and legumes…sugar and flour is still on as well, and vegan desserts are fortunately pretty common nowadays.

It also all tends to be exuberantly colourful, to an almost perturbing degree. Quit flaunting your rainbow food in my face, happy vegans. Let me eat my monochromatic ramen without shame.

You can build a hell of a lot from those components. Including, apparently, Bacon Frazzles. If someone can explain that one, let me know.

A sample of what I ate this week

Breakfast: Some fruit (maybe a pomegranate because they’re fun, or some of the HUGE grapes from Market Square) and a protein bar, usually Trek Peanut Power (dates and peanuts pressed into a bar, basically).

Lunch: Something like the box I got from Stem and Glory: tofu goulash, braised broccoli sesame salad and pearl barley (which was amazing, by the way). Don’t leave Stem and Glory without trying the cake, either. Also grabbed a Taste of Cambridge wrap at one point – would recommend. For a more affordable option, Revital on Bridge Street has an awesome cheap vegan bakery cabinet (would recommend the £1.35 huge spring rolls).

Rainbow Cafe also has killer soy ice cream, if you can cope with the sheer quantity of smiling sunshine decals staring at you ominously from the walls

Afternoon snack: Oatcakes and caramelised onion hummus.

Dinner: A huge salsa vegetable bowl with rice, and a small side of salad with lettuce, bell pepper, avocado, falafel and sunflower seeds. The sheer amount I needed to eat for dinner was huge!

So, at least in my opinion, vegan food can taste pretty awesome…

…but it’s not automatically healthy

I made the mistake of thinking ‘great, it’ll be easy to eat super healthily this week, just think of all the instagram vegan goddesses’.

The problem is, there are two main approaches to veganism: either ‘ooh I’ll eat lots of fruits and vegetables and olive oil, I feel so pure’

‘I had a non-organic papaya last week, I could just feel it polluting me’

…or…

I’m convinced there are dark, dark secrets behind what’s actually in that oreo ‘cream’, probably involving immeasurable human suffering

If you’re disposed to eating unhealthily, veganism isn’t going to do much to stop you, and eating a lot of nutritionally poor foods on a vegan diet is liable to end with you sleeping a lot, feeling like garbage, and possibly getting a couple of fun nutrient deficiencies to boot. It’s also not inherently a weight-loss diet, despite some marketing to that end: energy-rich foods like nuts and hummus are necessary to keep you going. There’s some scaremongering around veganism – take a multivitamin and eat a damn apple, you’re not going to get scurvy – but I did have to be careful with things like protein intake.

Doing veganism properly means you have to properly look at and rework your diet, which leads me into:

If you’re going to transition, do it gradually

This wasn’t a permanent change for me, but if you’re thinking of taking the leap, eliminate things gradually – and get to learn how your diet influences how you feel. Mentally, I felt great doing veganism, but physically I had some issues with fatigue, occasional faintness, sleeping more, being more reliant on caffeine and feeling weaker while working out. Exam stress and a lack of protein-rich foods (which I remedied a bit more in the later days) probably contributed to this, but shocking your body with a drastic change all at once like that is probably not the best thing for it.

No amount of almonds may satiate the gnawing darkness in my soul

And prepare yourself for the backlash

God, it seems like people only have two stances on veganism: ‘veganism is the road to nirvana, I can feel myself ascending’ and ‘SWEET JESUS I COULDN’T GO WITHOUT MEAT FOR MORE THAN 12 HOURS I WOULD DIE LITERALLY DIE I’M TALKING SPASMS AND EVERYTHING’.

All joking aside, this did not feel like a big deal while I was doing it. Sure, it was five days, but I didn’t really ‘miss’ anything. I like meat, eggs and dairy, but I also like things that are not those things. Like coconut! And pomegranates! And chicken flavoured instant ramen which is vegan for some reason! It didn’t feel like deprivation – especially since there are so many places working to offer good vegetarian/vegan options.

GIVE ME SUSHI OR GIVE ME DEATH

I’m not arguing for everyone to go vegetarian/vegan (I do think everyone should eat less meat where possible, because greenhouse emissions are no joke, guys) but I am arguing for everyone to grow the fuck up. If you have called vegan food ‘rabbit food’ unironically, or at any point started quizzing a vegan over what they’d do if they were trapped on a desert island, that goes especially for you. People can eat what they want. Black bean burgers aren’t disgusting. And if you avoid an option just because it’s ‘the vegetarian option’, you are probably missing out on some bomb ass food.

So, how did I find it overall?

Fun, albeit sometimes difficult, and seriously eye-opening in terms of a lot of food options I’d not noticed because they’re ‘for vegetarians.’ I’m not staying vegan, but I’m planning on cutting down my meat consumption somewhat (spending a couple days a week as a vegetarian, basically) and continuing to explore the world of plant-based food.

Oh, and I’m addicted to falafel now. Damn it.

Next week, hold onto your kale: I’m debunking myths about ‘healthy eating’.

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