What I learned from going vegan for a month

by Sonja Faul

I made the decision to start the year off on a green note with one month of veganism. Why? For multiple reasons. After indulging in a lot of unhealthy food during the Christmas holidays, I wanted to get healthy and feel healthy again. For me, a vegan diet is also a great way to shed a little bit of extra weight (I’ve done so successfully in the past because it forced me to give up chocolate and other sweet things). I also wanted to find a way to get creative with our meals. We were eating the same food over and over again. I got bored and I’m sure my husband did as well. Veganism would push me to think differently about food and try new things.

During January I learned a lot. Not just about food, but also about my eating habits. Here’s what I’ve learned from going vegan for a month.

It was easier than I thought it would be

Truthfully, it was easier than I thought it would be. I’ve been a vegetarian for 16 years now, so going vegan wasn’t difficult for me. It meant switching to coconut or olive oil instead of butter. I wasn’t particularly fond of eggs anyway and I’d been using plant-based milk for more than a year ago. I ate a ton of Asian vegetable curries, a lot of Middle Eastern dishes with falafel and chickpeas and hummus, and I tried a lot of new products. It wasn’t always easy, but I managed.

Vegan food isn’t always healthy

Don’t just assume that vegan food is healthy. Because it’s not. It can be healthy, but only if done right. With the global movement of plant-based diets gaining momentum, it’s easier now than ever to get vegan alternatives for almost everything. And the alternatives aren’t always healthy. Vegan junk food is still junk food.

Vegan alternatives are expensive

This isn’t always true, but I’ve found that plant-based alternatives are often more expensive than regular food. Allow me to illustrate with an example. Cornetto makes vegan ice cream, which is delicious by the way. But four vegan cornetti (that’s the plural, I looked it up) cost €3 which is what you’ll pay for eight regular cornetti. That’s double the price.

Vegan alternatives are good…but not always

Like I mentioned above, the ice cream I tried was great (both brands Cornetto and Alpro). It’s not just the ice cream, though. Vegan cheese is great! It’s made with coconut oil and they really nailed the taste and texture. Vegan mayonnaise is terrific too. In fact, my husband really enjoyed the mayo. It tasted so good with oven-baked potato wedges.

I love white chocolate! It’s my favourite type of chocolate. So, of course, I had to try vegan white chocolate. Sadly, it wasn’t tasty at all. It was too sweet and it lacked the creaminess of regular white chocolate. Also, I managed to find fresh pasta made with red lentils. I was excited about the vegan option because fresh pasta is usually made with eggs. But let’s just say I’m not going to buy that pasta again. Ever.

This is by far the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever tasted!

Variety is still lacking

Although vegan alternatives are great, the variety is still limited. When it comes to vegan meat alternatives, you have plenty of options (off the top of my head I can think of 10 vegetarian/vegan brands). The same goes for plant-based milk alternatives. But, for example, when it comes to cheese, there’s only one brand available at supermarkets. This is unfortunately true for a lot of other vegan products too. More brands mean more competition which means better prices and products for consumers. Just saying.

Vegan beauty products are amazing

Veganism isn’t just about switching to a plant-based diet, it’s also about health and beauty products. Currently, my favourite brand when it comes to haircare is Love Beauty and Planet. It’s free from colourants, parabens, and silicones, it’s made from organic, ethically sourced materials, and the bottle is biodegradable. My hair is healthy, it feels great and looks amazing.

I’m an emotional eater

A more personal revelation: I realised that food is my emotional support animal. Yep. When I feel sad, I want to eat. Depressed, I want to eat. When I’m frustrated, I wanna stuff my face. My first impulse, when faced with these emotions, is to eat. I became very aware of these habits during the past month. But now that I know, it’s easier to address and deal with it.

Will I go vegan permanently?

At this stage of my life, no. Is it something that I see myself doing in the future? Perhaps. Will I do it from time to time? Yes. In the end, I achieved everything I set out to do. My diet was definitely more healthy than the previous months, I did lose weight and I was more creative when it came to preparing meals. Also, I tried a lot of new products that I’m incorporating into my diet.   

Holistically speaking, I really do believe that veganism is a better way of living for people and the earth. But honestly, I love butter croissants and Lindt white chocolate and cheese. Eating pastries and chocolate and cheese give me so much pleasure and joy and that’s something that I’m not willing to give up. Not yet.

Over to you. Do you think a vegan diet is healthier? And is it something that you’d consider doing? I want to hear from you.

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