I celebrated World Vegan Month by eating entirely plant-based meals for a week

And I didn’t touch a single salad

The number of plant-based eaters has quadrupled since 2016. Only 10 years ago, vegans were rare, tree-hugging hippies – but now every major franchise on the high street has embraced meat alternatives with open arms and deep wallets.

As a pescatarian, I have always tried to keep my consumption of animal produce to a minimum. But my love of cheese has prevented me from taking that last leap. So, in celebration of Vegan Month, I decided to bite the bullet and go head first into a plant-based lifestyle for one week only.

Take it from me, if you’re thinking about veganism then Cardiff is a great place to start. It’s got loads of vegan eat-in and eat-out options.

Yes, facon is a thing and it’s delicious

Breakfast is normally the meal that I put as little thought into as possible. Fuzzy headed, I would grab some yoghurt or buttered toast and maybe fry an egg if I managed to muster up the energy. This week, however, I felt inspired to treat myself and attempt what seemed impossible: the vegan fry up.

As a first meal, this did not disappoint. Massive shout out to Richmond Meat Free sausages which are definitely the most “real” tasting on the market – I would challenge most meat eaters to notice a difference. The facon, though very suspect in appearance, smelt just like the real thing and was an amazing discovery… it seems this vegan thing isn’t too hard.

For the rest of the week, I replaced butter with olive spread and dairy yoghurt with an Alpro coconut yoghurt substitute. While neither were as creamy and indulgent, they were a great nutritious start to the day and saw me through to lunch.

Queen Street’s Falafel Corner is the one

Lunch was basically chickpeas, possibly the greatest gift to vegans since HRH Linda McCartney. Roasted in paprika, covered in curry sauce, ground into houmous – chickpeas were more often than not the centre of my lunch and I have a new-found respect for these balls of nutrition. Packed with protein and fibre, these are a must have meat alternative.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of chickpeas is falafel and this wrap from Falafel Corner on Queen Street was a colourful package of incredible flavour. Just as filling as it was delicious.

Linda McCartney really is a vegan’s best friend

Bolognese, curry, chilli, take-away, repeat – it’s easy to find yourself in an endless dinner cycle as a student. This was an amazing opportunity to try something new, and I discovered some bangers.

Introducing the Linda McCartney Hoisin Duck Meal Kit. As delicious as it is, a Chinese is not always an easy feat for vegans – but trust me when I say that you don’t need a take-away with this. As someone who hasn’t eaten duck in well over a year, this amazing meal had me almost tearful. Though a little on the pricey side at £5 a box, this is worth every penny for a special treat.

Vegan cheese is an insult to cheeses all over the world

Perhaps less impressive was the Goodfellas Vegan Pizza. I’m sorry, I tried, but vegans you have yet to master dairy-free cheese. Although it looked promising, this pizza tasted… of nothing. A little bit of an insult to one of the greatest inventions of all time. I am sure that there are amazing vegan pizzas out there, but be prepared to spend a little more to find it.

Forget Fattoush, Beyond Burgers are the best

My faith in vegan alternatives was restored by a burger battle: Beyond Burger Vs Quorn complete with all the fillings. The Quorn was decent but not even close to blowing my mind like the Beyond Burger, complete with a red middle, and even gristle? I am still confused by how there was gristle.

The week was filled with colourful food packed with flavour, from tofu, noodles, Wicked “Amazeballs” and a surprisingly tasty mac ‘n’ cheese.

Venturing into the vegan takeout world

I decided to end with a high and order a Nando’s to try their brand new ‘Great Imitator’ wrap. I was super excited to discover that the majority of their sides were vegan, including their garlic bread. As for the imitator? It was nice but had nothing on the other meat free options such as the beanie. Overall, I was so happy to see some of the best variety of choice out there –and from a chicken restaurant nonetheless!

Desert without dairy was a hard pill to swallow

Outside of a fruit salad, it can be a challenging to find a desert without dairy; it’s easy to assume that sorbet is just ice cream without the fun. However, there is a lot of choice out there if you make the trip to a larger supermarket.

I tried Lucy Watson’s Feed Me Vegan chocolate tart and was so happy with it. It was sweet and rich – perfect for a family dinner or even a hungry evening by yourself!

Vegan chocolate has progressed far beyond ultra dark, bitter blocks. If you have a bit of money left over, Booja Booja chocolate is perfect for a gift (or another hungry evening by yourself). This week I tried Montezuma’s ‘Like No Udder’ vegan milk chocolate. While it wasn’t as sweet and milky as Cadbury or Galaxy, it was delicious and smooth.

 Let’s shatter the vegan myths right now

My week as a vegan was quite the adventure, it’s good to mix things up. But there’s definitely some myths that get thrown around which I need to put to bed right now. Firstly, it’s not all rabbit food! Turns out, eating vegan isn’t that expensive at all either! Although Quorn and tofu can seem expensive, they’re still a similar price to meat. Third, let’s shatter the myth right now that vegan food isn’t satisfying. I had a Nando’s and duck wraps for goodness sake.

My fourth myth is that vegan food isn’t as nutritious as an omnivorous diet. Yes, you must be aware that you need to watch your protein intake, and perhaps take some B12 supplements, but what diet is perfect? Eating too much red meat certainly has its health risks, and B12 is actually a good addition to most people’s diets.

What’s my verdict?

While I am not planning to switch to veganism permanently, it is getting harder to ignore the growing evidence that eating less animal produce is better for our health and the environment. A study made by the University of Oxford found that switching to a plant-based diet reduces your carbon footprint by up to 73 per cent.

That being said, it isn’t for everyone and never will be for everyone. Health and economic reasons never stop being valid and if you can’t possibly live without bacon, then you do you!

But why not compromise? Perhaps try flexitarianism or meat-free Mondays? Or instead of getting the cheapest meat you can find, support local, organic produce and farms that actively try to take the environment seriously. If I, arguably the biggest consumer of cheese in Cathays, can try it – then so can you.

Related articles recommended by this writer:

Cardiff students on the transition from beef to leaf this World Vegan Day

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Here are the best places to eat and dine out as a vegan in Cardiff