Even though Veganuary is up, for a lot of people being plant-based is a long term investment. In this article I wanted to talk a bit about my own journey to vegetarianism and the current changes I’m making towards veganism. I’ll be answering a few common questions about the subject, so if you’re interested in either vegetarianism/ veganism then I hope this helps!
Why did I become vegetarian in the first place?
I’ve always loved animals, and I’ve always been strongly against animal cruelty and exploitation. It wasn’t until I was seventeen, sitting in Philosophy class where the majority of girls were vegetarian/ vegan, that I really made the connection between the animals I loved and the meat on my plate. I think that’s how a lot of people eat meat — they see it as a food and not something that was alive. For me that moment where it just clicked was the start of a really important journey.
Was it hard to become vegetarian?
I didn’t find it hard to give up meat at all. The only mistake I made was having a very plain diet – eating just pasta with tomato sauce, or chips and toasties for a while. (I guess that is the student experience). Because of this I got extremely low Iron and B12 levels which made me tired and dizzy all the time. But this was a wake up call and I looked up which foods I could find had the most iron and B12 and started incorporating them into my diet. I cooked with quinoa, kale, tofu and Quorn pieces for the first time. I started looking up recipes and experimenting and had more fun with cooking than I ever had before.
The only other thing I found hard was giving up fish. I’m half-Icelandic, my girlfriend is Norwegian, and fish is a staple in Nordic diets. I did really like fish, so for a while I was pescatarian – thinking in my mind well at least fish get to live in the sea instead of horrible factory farms. But after a while I educated myself on how bad fishing is for the sea and how cruel super trawlers really are and I went fully vegetarian.
Do I ever get meat cravings?
In my first year of being a vegetarian I sometimes gave into my cravings and had say a bacon sandwich, and I always found I was disappointed afterwards, and that the meat never tasted as good as I remembered. I then realised that if my body is craving meat then what is there in meat that I really want? Maybe I needed more protein or iron? Then I would incorporate that into my diet and the craving would go away.
Have people called me preachy?
When I started out as a vegetarian I was so scared of becoming one of those preachy types that the media stigmatised. But strangely enough I found a lot more meat-eaters preaching their lifestyle to me. All I would say is that I’m a vegetarian (usually because I had to in a dining situation) and people would suddenly get defensive about why they eat meat and how they could never give it up. Someone even asked me if I had always been a vegetarian and when I said I hadn’t they said, ‘Well at least you haven’t wasted your whole life’. This made me so angry and upset.
So now, I am a bit preachy. I will share posts about how pigs are smarter than dogs and cows have feelings, or how being plant-based is better for the environment. Because I care so much about animals and I just want to help people understand why they should too. But I also won’t shame anyone who is trying to be more plant-based but haven’t completely given up meat. It’s a process and every little helps.
Why are am I trying to be a vegan?
Over the last few years I’ve made changes in my diet to go more vegan because the egg and dairy industries are just as cruel as meat. Cows have to be pregnant to produce milk, and often their babies are ripped from them just after birth and soon they will be inseminated again. Cows have emotional attachments and can cry for their babies for days. And if the baby was a male, it is often slaughtered, and if it is female it is subjected to the same life it’s mother has had. Hens are often brought up in horrible conditions in order to lay their eggs. Even if the carton says the hens are free range, this is a very loose term, and often the chickens are still suffering.
That sounds horrible, so why aren’t you fully vegan yet?
I find that a change in diet takes time, experimentation, and also some education. For example, I was vegetarian for three years before I realised that marshmallows had pig gelatine in and had to start looking for specifically vegetarian marshmallows (M&S do some great ones). Although cutting out all animal products straight away is great, that isn’t for everyone, and if you are really attached to a product, say cheese, and you eat that but still stop drinking cows milk or eating eggs then you will still be making a great difference over time.
What vegan changes have you made and how easy was it?
Three years ago I transitioned from dairy milk to vegan milk with my morning cereal. This took a few tries of finding the right one. Neither me or my partner liked oat or almond milk. Eventually we agreed that we liked rice milk best and we’ve been using it ever since. Around the same time I started using non dairy butter which was also a pretty easy transition.
For eggs, I’ve started using eggs substitutes. For breakfast I make scrambled tofu which is so so good, I honestly prefer it to normal scrambled eggs. (Check out my Instagram for the recipe). In baking I use chia seeds or a substitute I bought and honestly I haven’t been able to tell a difference.
Cheese is the hardest thing. I do love cheese, but I have been trying out vegan cheeses and I really like ‘Violife’ so far. I’m excited to keep on trying new things.
I’m also trying to be more conscious with non-foody things like make-up products. I’ve found Superdrug really helpful as their own line are all vegan and cruelty free and if you ask workers there which makeup is vegan/cruelty free they’ll be able to point them out for you.
Is it expensive being plant-based?
I’m not going to lie, a lot of ‘alternative’ foods can be expensive, and that goes for anything. I’m gluten intolerant, and things like alternative gluten-free pastas are way more expensive than normal wheat pasta. So I guess because I had already had to buy more expensive gluten-free things, it didn’t come as a shock to me that rice milk is more expensive than dairy milk.
Saying that though, the more people buy these things, the more demand there is for it, and the cheaper it becomes. A lot more people are buying vegetarian and vegan products than ever before, and as a result some supermarkets are cashing in and making affordable own-brand vegan products (Morrisons have some yummy vegan ice cream for just 80p!) There’s also things you can do to save money, like bulk buying, making your own vegan milk from oats, and utilising your city’s community fridge if you have one. Also, things like steak or fish can be really expensive, so by going plant-based you save money there.
Is there one right way to become a vegetarian/ vegan?
I would say absolutely not. For some people veganuary really works for them, for me it really doesn’t as I need to take my time with things. Some people will need to transition slowly with having less meat based meals, for me I gave it up after a quick decision. You just have to listen to your body, educate yourself, and take it one step at a time. Obviously I would love it if everyone was plant-based and no animals had to suffer, but until that day, we just have to keep trying to make the world a better place for everyone.
So that’s my experiences with being plant-based, I know there are so many other aspects to it, so if you have any more questions feel free to ask them below and maybe I’ll make a second post on this topic.
Let me know if you found this useful and would like more posts like this!