I went vegan for an entire week and here’s a complete rundown of how it went
*Spoiler alert, I survived
I don’t know about you, but whenever someone tells me they’re “vegan”, I can’t help but think that’s their only personality trait (ironically, they seem to completely milk the term). Perhaps I’m just jealous that they’re making a conscious effort to save the planet whilst I’m over here mindlessly ordering 20 McNuggets after stumbling out of Soho on a Wednesday night. I can’t blame them though, if I gave up dairy and all things that brought me joy in life, I’d probably be on my high horse about it too.
Surprisingly, it’s not so much the lack of meat that’s the issue for me – it’s cheese. I knew seven whole days without dairy would be a challenge but oh my, I didn’t quite realise how much I’d miss cheddar. I feel like a changed student.
Why do such a thing then? My thoughts exactly. Well, I knew it would be out of my comfort zone and with it being the new year, I guess I needed a bit of a “detox”. Furthermore, I feel I owe it to my oldest brother who has been the victim of much vegan slander throughout the years. Apologies, Jacob.
“Plant-based”, “Plant positive”, “Greta Thunberg wannabe”- call it what you will, vegans are the epitome of all things Gen-Z. No meat. No eggs. No dairy. In short, a plant-based diet eliminates anything and everything animal. Simple, right? Not exactly.
Say goodbye to honey, Yorkie puds, and dare I even mention Nutella. On the bright side, Biscoff is listed as vegan and so is the classic student staple: hummus and pitta. Hurrah, chickpeas do come in handy.
Where to start
One of the first thoughts when it comes to “vegan” is probably cost. I get it, plant-based alternatives are pretty pricey and in today’s climate, nobody wants to spend more than a fiver on lentils. That would be absurd.
Contrary to belief, healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. As long as you avoid the Linda McCartney frozen section and stick to making your own meals, it can be relatively low-cost.
What to eat
Having done some research about what I was getting myself into, I decided to plan out my week. I started by writing down everything I was allowed to eat and as you can imagine, ended up with quite a short list. Nonetheless, I thought strategically about my food choices and only bought ingredients I knew could be used in a range of recipes.
“But what about protein?” I hear you ask. Don’t worry, it’s not all tofu. Okay, so this probably is the number one answer from most vegans across the globe, yet this doesn’t have to be the case. There are loads of other alternatives if rubber isn’t your preferred source of protein. Try edamame beans, chickpeas or lentils. Not for you? How about some wild rice, nuts or good old fashioned oats.
Lucky for me, I like all of the above (don’t shoot me… even tofu). However, I am aware that the majority do not and to that I say, experiment! Use spices. Lots of them. Vegan food doesn’t have to be boring as long as you give it flavour.
Along with the protein aspect, there’s often the misunderstanding that you need to be a good chef to be vegan. I can assure you, you do not. You can still have the food you crave. Pesto pasta? Just look out for the vegan version.
Keeping it simple, I started my mornings off with oats. A good source of protein and very versatile. Instead of porridge, I opted for overnight oats. Of course, if you want something a bit more substantial, there’s always the classic avocado on toast. Alternatively, you could just have a bowl of cereal.
Weetabix, Shreddies and cornflakes are all vegan, given they aren’t drenched in regular milk. Same goes for coffee.
Whether it’s a falafel wrap or a full English with plant-based sausages and “Facon” (yes, that’s a real thing), there’s so much more variety out there for vegans than one may think. I had Buddha bowls most days; not only are they healthy and nutritious, but they’re also super filling (plus they look quite pretty). Get creative by adding spinach, couscous, chickpeas, falafels…it’s like Build-A-Bear but with veg.
Like I said, you don’t have to be a pro in the kitchen to be vegan. You can still eat your normal meals granted it isn’t solely chicken. Over the course of my week, I mainly stuck to stir fries and curries.
Admittedly, I did find this quite repetitive and much to my bank account’s dismay, I jumped at any given chance to eat out. On the upside, at least I had a good excuse to rinse my friend’s Rev’s discount (much appreciated, Maz).
If you couldn’t tell, I’m not really a fussy eater. However, going vegan was definitely a challenge when it came to snacks. Sometimes all I wanted to do was eat my chocolate without having to check for that bloody ‘V’ sticker.
Thankfully, there are some nice alternatives out there and most brands nowadays do cater for those with a sweet-tooth (even Galaxy’s jumped on the bandwagon). My go-to snack during the week? Popcorn. Highly addictive and naturally vegan, so long as you don’t coat it in butter like a psychopath.
For savoury options, you’ll be pleased to know it’s not all carrots and hummus. In fact, most carbs are suitable for a plant-based diet so you can have that bagel with peanut butter on, those sweet potato fries, and that packet of crisps in your next meal deal (just double check the label and don’t go for frazzles, yeah?).
What I learned:
Oreos are vegan. Soreen is criminally underrated. Coat tofu in anything and it’s edible.
In all seriousness though, I was very surprised by my week as an honorary vegan. From “spinach and pesto” rice cakes to pumpkin and sweetcorn dumplings, I tried a lot of things I normally wouldn’t.
Unfortunately, as with anything, there are always downsides and I definitely felt the repercussions of a plant-based diet towards the end of my week. For starters, I was more tired than usual. I also noticed my energy levels dip drastically, ultimately leading me to become the hangriest I’ve ever been – I practically felt like Bear Grylls but without the protein.
What’s more, all concentration went out the window (not that there was ever much before but you get the point).
Would I do it again?
Truthfully, I don’t think I could handle another day let alone another week. I tried to stay positive, I really did. I just can’t look at tofu the same.
It’s nothing against the diet, in fact I admire those who lead a vegan lifestyle, I simply came to the realisation that it’s not for me. Even as someone who likes the options out there, I couldn’t quite hack the protein side of things and as a consequence, I craved meat more than ever (it also didn’t help that my housemates chose this week of all weeks to start eating steak, cheers guys).
Another deal-breaker was obviously the dairy. Lacto-free cheese just isn’t the same.