Veganism is one of those topics that everyone, their Nan, and their Nan’s dog Bruce has an opinion on - but what is it about veganism that gets us so wound up?

 

With recent reports claiming that not only do we have twelve years to act before we risk catastrophic climate change, but that the biggest change individuals can make is to limit their meat and dairy consumption, shouldn’t we all be rethinking that bacon sandwich for breakfast?

It’s always been something I’ve been interested in as a lifelong lover of animals but always failed at because I’m such a fussy eater. Veganism was always too expensive, too difficult, and there was always too little cheese. Then I decided to focus my dissertation on Veganism and Fertility and ended up committing to being vegan for five whole months. This is what I learnt:

1. Veganism isn’t actually expensive

So you get the obvious things that are expensive like fancy organic gluten-free rye bread and vegan ice cream, but on the whole, veganism is one of the cheapest diets out there. If you looked at your shopping list you’d find that the most expensive items on there were meat and cheese - have you seen how much cheese costs?!

A vegan diet comprises mainly of fruit and vegetables; grains like bread, rice and pasta; pulses; fortified plant milks and the occasional supplement like B12 and iron tablets. If you stick to whole plant foods and limit meat and cheese alternatives you will probably end up saving money as a vegan.

2. Your skin will have a bit of a freak-out

This was one thing I was not prepared for but apparently it’s quite common. After a big change to your diet, like going vegan, for example, unusual breakouts and skin changes can occur. These can range from small breakouts to acne-like symptoms, and if you aren’t expecting it to happen it can be a massive shock, especially as veganism is supposedly great for your skin. I can confirm it clears up eventually.

3. Cheese isn’t that hard to live without once you get used to it

If you asked any vegan the question they get asked most it would be “But how do you live without cheese???” I was one of these people. I never thought I would be able to live a happy and fulfilled life without cheddar.

Once you get your head around it not being an option, it’s actually quite easy. I hate to say it, but there is more to life than camembert, mozzarella and macaroni cheese. Don’t try the cheese substitutes though. It’s just not worth it.

4. Going out for dinner becomes more complicated

As veganism continues to become more popular, more food options become available out and about. Still, it cannot be denied that going out for dinner as a vegan makes things more complicated. If you’re with omni friends (meat and dairy eaters) do you go to a fully vegan restaurant or trawl the streets trying to find somewhere that caters for everyone? With planning and sympathetic friends everything is possible but forget spontaneous meals out, especially if you don’t live in a big city.

5. Times are changing

Veganism as little as five years ago was seen to be the reserve of hippies and extreme animal rights activists. Now all you need is to walk down a road in East London to see that veganism has had a rebrand. If you can think it, there’s a vegan version of it: vegan doughnuts, vegan roast dinners, and there’s even a chain of vegan chicken shops making their way around the capital.

After those five months, I did go back to eating meat for a combination of reasons, but when asked if I would go vegan again the answer is most definitely yes. I really enjoyed being vegan: it inspired me to be more creative in the kitchen and I have never eaten more vegetables. Veganism is still a contentious topic, but there has never been a better time to look into how limiting your meat and dairy consumption, even on one day a week, could make a difference.

Happy World Vegan Day!

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