12 February 2016

Ten Things I Learnt From Veganuary

So here we are, halfway through February and I still haven't gotten this post up. But today is the day friends! I really enjoyed my Veganuary experience so here are ten things I learnt:

1. People will ask you, a lot, why on earth you would do such a thing, where you are getting your protein from and how could you possibly live without cheese?! In that order, from personal experience. Although it is absolutely none of their business, I found it helpful to have an answer to these questions if only to feel like I had it all under control.

2. Check the labels of anything that comes in a packet or jar. Being allergic to gluten means I already check the labels on most things as a habit, adding dairy and egg into that wasn't such a hardship. I did learn that milk and egg powder are in a lot of things including most gluten free bread. Yes I haven't tried making my own yet, my confidence in the bread department is low.

3. Lentils are king! I had never tried lentils prior to going vegan and I was pleasantly surprised by how versatile they are. I much prefer green lentils but keep a bag of red split on hand too for when I forget to soak them. Beans are awesome too, definitely buy beans!

4. Being prepared is everything. I always plan my food a week ahead so I can do just do one weekly shop, which means that I also plan which meals I am eating on which days. This helps me know whether I need to soak or prep anything before leaving for work and I can make sure that I am getting everything that I need nutrition-wise from my meal.  

5. Leftovers make excellent nutrition filled lunches. I often make bigger batches of dishes during the week so that my lunches are covered. I love hot food this time of year so veggies and hummus just aren't going to do it for me every single day, although it's a good go to in a pinch when all I wanted was a bowl of pasta for dinner.

6. You can still eat treats. If you are only vegan then there are more options for you, my husband particularly liked that he could still eat Oreos, if you're like me however you need to get more creative. There are plenty of ways to adapt recipes to omit dairy and eggs so take some time getting creative in the kitchen. On the chocolate front, I have always enjoyed Green and Blacks dark chocolate and was thrilled that I didn't have to give that up. Despite all of the options I actually found that my cravings for sweets diminished within the first two weeks and I didn't need these things as much as I thought I would.

7. Eating out can be trickier but it's manageable. I was dreading the first eating out experience, However, I found that by ordering sides and starters I made a very good vegan meal for myself. A non-vegan even commented how she wished she had ordered the same. Just make sure you ask for an allergen menu so you can check what's in the food or ideally, I like to check the menu out online before I get there.

8. Attitude is everything. It isn't hard to get sucked into everyone else's opinion, especially when changing your diet. It's easy to think "oh maybe just one minstrel" when you are the only person at your set of desks not tucking in. However, I found it important not to focus on what I couldn't eat but rather focus on what I could and how much better I felt by making this change. By framing the situation differently in my head, I could conquer the one thing that I felt I had no willpower for, cheese. In fact, I still haven't touched any since Christmas Day, and dare I say that I don't even miss it?!

9. You can't be lazy in the kitchen. I already made a lot of food from scratch but it's easy to slip into bad habits. Taking part in Veganuary has jump started my love of cooking all over again and I couldn't be more grateful. It's so easy to use being tired as an excuse to just cook some hash browns and beans, but now if I know that I'm going to be late home for whatever reason on a particular night I will just cook more the night before to allow for that. 
10. It really wasn't very hard. There are a wealth of vegan and plant based blogs out there, my current favourite being Minimalist Baker, which feature plenty of recipes to get you started and make it slightly less daunting. Once I noticed that all my stomach pains had disappeared it made it easier to keep it up and stay motivated. Before deciding to go vegan I made sure that I prepared by reading up on plant based sources of protein and iron, decided on some recipes I wanted and try and I reached out to vegans I knew for their advice. This made me feel less overwhelmed and I believe smoothed that transition for me.

I do plan on continuing with this diet for as long as my stomach is happy and pain free. If you have any favourite Vegan recipes then please send them my way, I would love to try them.

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