Veganism is without a doubt the biggest food and wellbeing trend among millennials RN. According to a study by the Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 350% in the last decade – with almost half of the people turning to a plant-based diet being between the ages of 15 and 34.
But how easy is it to eat animal-free? And would you feel better for doing so? Pink Parcel's Kate tried a plant-based diet for a month and here's how she found it...
The turning point
"I am a self-confessed binge eater and up until a couple of years ago I was also a sugar addict and serial yo-yo dieter. After a health scare, and a serious word with myself, I delved in to the world of wellness and adapted to a new and healthier lifestyle.
"Two later, having completely cut out refined sugar, and eating a diet that’s gluten and 90% dairy free, I have seen some results in both my body and mindset. I’ve lost weight, my skin looks slightly brighter and generally feel loads better about myself.
"But there was still the big ‘V’ looming over me – veganism. Something I had wanted to try for a while and something I wasn’t sure I even believed in or not.
"Admittedly I was half way there. I was eating minimal diary and red meat was never on the menu. However, cutting out chicken, fish and eggs would be a huge change to my diet. Salmon was almost a daily staple as well as a delicious slather of butter on my millet toast. However, I was ready for a challenge and after a Netflix binge of three harrowing documentaries my vegan lifestyle began.
My carnivorous husband
"Having a husband who drools over steak and cheese was a slight bump in the road of my vegan journey. Trying to cook for someone who believes ‘vegans’ are part of a religious cult was always going to be problematic. Eventually we came to an agreement that he would also become vegan with me for the first week of my experiment. This support actually encouraged me to reach for the recipe book to attempt to trick him into a lifestyle he believes is a load of rubbish!
"So we ate jerk ‘chicken’ tacos – jackfruit & corn tortillas, pesto pasta – cashew pesto & buckwheat spaghetti) and stuck to his favourite burger night with a switch for mushroom & lentil patties.
"He kept to my diet for a week and after feeling much better in himself and losing 6lbs in 7 days, he decided to adapt it to a ‘reducetarian’ way of life. Basically, he is 50% vegan, 50% won’t-say-no-to-the-odd-Mighty-Meaty-Domino’s-pizza-binge. I respect him for that.
The vegan dinner party
"My friends and regular dinner party guests are a minefield of allergies, intolerances and you guessed it, vegans.
"When it was my turn to host dinner for an evening, I announced to my friends that the menu was going to be vegan and to my surprise, they were all pleased. It seems that when cooking for a group of people, vegan dishes suit everyone – most intolerances, food allergies and dislikes.
"I went for a Mexican theme and served up corn tortilla crisps with fresh salsa. This was followed by a sweet potato and white cannelloni bean chilli with guacamole and vegan sour cashew cream. For dessert we enjoyed dairy free ice-cream & berries. All washed down with numerous bottles of prosecco. I can confirm it went down a storm and the sluggish side effects the next day were thanks to the over zealous alcohol consumption only.
"By week three I was feeling fantastic, walking on air and full of greens. Then the working weekend happened.
"I am a photographer and I occasionally shoot weddings that are long days where you are on your feet for the majority of the time there. Eating is not scheduled until much later in the day and breakfast is usually on route, which could be 7am or earlier. I always go equipped with snacks (nuts and fruit) to keep me going and on this occasion I picked up an M&S vegan salad.
"Needless to say the salad was inhaled as soon as I had my first break. I then accepted the vegetarian option of the wedding breakfast (containing cheese and gluten) followed by a cup of tea (containing milk. FYI don’t ask for Almond Milk in a 20 mile radius of central London, or decaf tea for that matter!).
"So as the day progressed I quickly became RAVENOUS and after my job finished at around 10pm, I was facing a 2 hour train journey back to central London and the only food outlet in the sleepy Surrey town was a local Indian take away.
"Off I went back home devouring a chicken tikka salad like never before. I was a failure.
Brushing off the fails and feeling the gains
"After this slight mishap and terrible digestion issues the following day I was back on the vegan wagon. My fridge was stocked and I was facing the final week that went smoothly and without an single chicken sheesh slip-up.
"Overall I feel very well. Not tremendously different; my energy has not fluctuated and I am not particularly any perkier BUT I will stress is I’ve noticed the following benefits…
"Improved digestion: My digestion has been better than ever and I’ve been taking trips to the toilet twice a day. I have had digestion problems in the past and have tried to fix this with a gluten free diet, it helped slightly but I’ve now discovered that my digestive track must have a pretty hard time dealing with meats because since removing it from my diet I have found a wonderful happy medium.
"Weight management: I have maintained a happy, healthy weight without dieting or watching my calorie intake. In fact, I have been eating more than usual and have not piled on the pounds. Veganism isn’t a quick-fix weight loss programme – yes, broccoli is vegan but so are nuts, sweet potato and vegan cupcakes, however, it does stabilise your weight if managed correctly.
"Better skin: For me, the key to good skin is eliminating dairy. I have PCOS so my hormones are crazy enough without the added extra from dairy products. Becoming vegan has really brightened up my skin and helped control hormonal outbreaks especially at certain times in my menstrual cycle.
"A sense of well doing: Being vegan not only feels better for the body but it gives you a sense of helping the environment and aiding a good cause. It is nice to wake up every day knowing that there are an extra few chicks, cows and pigs on the planet because of little old me.
"Money saving: Aside from regular (ok, daily) Whole Food hauls, I noticed that cooking for a vegan household is way cheaper than buying in my usual fish and meat supplies for the week. Veggies are inexpensive, as are beans, legumes, herbs and spices. You may end up spending a little more on dairy alternatives such as milk and ‘Veganase’ (YES, that’s a thing), but generally costs are low.
"Now that my month of trying veganim is over, I have decided that I'll now adapt to a mostly vegan lifestyle as it seems to be suiting me perfectly. I am happy to be lenient with myself when away on holidays, at dinner parties or staying with friends (no one *really* enjoys having a vegan house guest after all), but on the whole I think it is a fulfilling change for my health and wellbeing.
"If you’re curious too, I say to give it a go, even just for a week. What's the worst that can happen? You can go back to your Mighty Meaty Dominos pizza if you really don’t like it."
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