I did it! I have completed the Veganuary challenge! I have been a vegetarian for 3 years, but this January decided to have a go at being vegan to see if I could manage it.
To be honest, it really wasn’t very difficult. The issues that I had been concerned about, missing butter, cheese and milk didn’t really come to anything. I am not a big fan of eggs, so that aspect wasn’t going to effect me.
Changing the milk I use was the easiest one: I swapped out my semi-skimmed cows milk for oat milk, and actually starting enjoying my cup of tea more! Oat milk (unsweetened) is lovely in tea, and probably the closest in taste of the plant milks to cows milk. In coffee, I am now enjoying coconut milk, and if you are out and about and want a coffee on the go, I highly recommend Costa’s coconut latte.
My next challenge was butter, and again I found it surprisingly easy to make the change. After a few trials, I discovered Violife ‘butter’ block which is an extrmely good option for those missing their butter on toast! Violife have other options if you prefer a spreadable version, but I like the butter flavour of the block.
Then I hit the biggest challenge – cheese. I am a BIG cheese fan, and to be honest, Vegan cheese still doesn’t quite cut it yet, in terms of texture and taste, though it IS getting there. Violife do a grated version of cheddar, and a solid block, as do Marks and Spencer’s vegan range, Plant Kitchen, and there are even specialist companies making versions of blue cheese and Camembert. Apparently, Lidl and Aldi are at the forefront when stocking vegan cheese, so I will also be giving them a go.
My favourite vegan cheese so far, is the vegan version of Babybels, and I’ve heard that Asda do a wonderful vegan cream cheese. I have to say I wasn’t keen on the Applewood smoked cheese that a lot of vegans rave about, but it’s all a matter of personal taste. Anyway, the point is, there are already so many vegan cheeses on the market that you will definitely find one to your taste.
Finally, the mayonnaise challenge which was perhaps the easier one to swap of all. Helmans vegan mayonnaise tastes so much like ‘real’ mayonnaise that I genuinely cannot taste the difference.
I have had to get used to reading the labels of foods a lot more carefully: Some things I didn’t expect to be vegan are, marmite and tomato ketchup for example, and therefore can happily stay very much part of my diet. A lot of bread is vegan, whilst surprisingly, some wines are not! Luckily, my favourite red wine IS vegan and if you are stuck, Marks and Spencer do a great range of vegan wines.
So it was not difficult to do, but why does it matter so much? Well, being vegan and eating only plant based products means you are effectively making a stand against animal suffering and exploitation, you are supporting the fight against global warming, and helping yourself to better health.
Becoming a Vegan can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent, the University of Oxford found. This is due to the vast quantities of food which must be fed to livestock even before it goes through the energy-intensive process of being killed, processed, transported and stored. If you were to go vegan for just ONE month, you could save about 600 pounds of emissions (carbon dioxide), getting into the atmosphere, save 33,000 gallons of water, and protect over 900 square feet of forest! Wow!
Producing meat and animal products is creating such a heavy toll on the environment that the world is near breaking point. The breathtaking amount of grain feed required for meat production is the biggest contributor to deforestation, loss of natural animal habitat and species extinction. In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. This land also then contributes to world hunger by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed, rather than food for themselves.
Considerably less quantities of crops and water are required to sustain a vegan diet, making the switch to veganism one of the easiest, most enjoyable and most effective ways to reduce our impact on the environment.
None of us are perfect and though I aim to stay vegan, I know there will be the odd time, (when friends cook for me for example), when I will switch back to being a vegetarian. But by being a vegan 99% of the time, I feel that I am doing what I can to try and make a difference. And if we all do our bit, think of the size of the difference we could make! Even if you are a lifelong meat eater, you can still cut down on the amount of meat you eat.
Of course if all that isn’t enough to convince you, the health benefits of following a vegan diet can reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. I could write a whole post of health benefits alone but that’s for another day.
Just a quick word about using meat substitutes as a vegan: I love them! My favourites are the vegan bacon and sausages from the ‘This’ range. More militant vegans insist this is not true veganism, but I think that’s a rather snobby attitude, and can put off people trying a vegan lifestyle. Why on Earth not have ‘sausages’ and ‘bacon’ made out of pea protein, if they are delicious, and dairy and meat free?
I have also read the argument online from the other side, the militant meat eaters saying why would anyone want to eat vegan substitutes for meat when you can have the ‘real thing’. That’s a unbelievably naive question. Putting aside the misery and suffering so many animals face daily, the world is in SERIOUS trouble, and in only a few decades we are facing a whole new reality where food and water will be in short supply. Add that to extreme weather, rising temperatures, higher levels of carbon dioxide, and the rising of sea levels, we are facing a global crisis in our own lifetime if we don’t do something about it.
I love being a vegan, but you don’t have to take that step if it sounds too extreme. If you are thinking of becoming a vegetarian, or even cutting down on the amount of meat you eat – it all helps! And if we ALL did something to help, maybe we can make a better future for our children and grandchildren 💚
So what’s the difference between vegan ang being vegetarian? This is an honest question🙂
Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish but tend to still consume dairy. (Butter, eggs, milk and cheese etc) Vegans don’t consume any animal products at all and have a plant based diet. 💚
I eat very little meat and could probably stop altogether but not sure if I could give up cheese. As far as milk, I gave that up years ago. I went from soymilk to almondmilk to coconut milk. Never tried oatmilk but it sounds unappealing.
Ah give oat milk a go – it’s really good! And yes cheese was always my reason for not being vegan, but there are so many options out there now, it’s getting easier by the year!
That is true. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try vegan cheese.
Forty years a vegetarian, but I can’t quite make the step to veganism. It’s cheese, mainly. I haven’t found a palatable cheddar; even some that taste halfway decent are a glutinous, sticky, paste when toasted. Lots of days I’m vegan, but can’t do it all the time, sadly.
Well done to you, though. That’s excellent.
Thank you! Vegan cheese is an area that’s growing by the day! Even specialist artisan companies springing up now..💚💚💚
I keep trying them, hoping to find an edible vegan cheddar…
One day …. 🤞
Only meat I occasionally eat is chicken. I mostly have fish.
But I don’t have dairy and haven’t for a few years because of health benefits it helps me with, so I either have soya milk or oat milk and yes, oat milk is a really nice replacement.
I made my own rice pudding for the first time using oat milk and I was hooked.
As I am dairy-free means having the equivalent dairy-free cheese and so I have my hard alternative cheese favourites and recently tried a soft cheese alternative too, that was nice.
I thought by going dairy-free I would miss dairy cheese. But I don’t.
And dairy-free icecream I have, I can’t tell the difference from dairy. So there are definitely good alternatives out there.
Thanks so much for reading … and yes vegan ice cream is another sector I can’t wait to give a go!! 💚💚
This is very interesting. Although I am not a vegan or a vegetarian, it’s great to see that there are so many options for the vegan diet. I think I would have a hard time giving up cheese and seafood, but Babybel does a great job with regular cheese so it’s no surprise that they have a substitute that you enjoy. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Ah bless you!! Thanks so much for reading!
Congrats. The cheese thing get better. Cathedral city is good. I’m going to attempt my own at some point. Oh, Applewood too. Good luck on your journey.