Since eliminating dairy products from my diet almost two years ago, I started researching veganism and plant-based living. I’d been vegetarian for a few years, but was challenged by a friend to try veganism for one week, so I gave it a go. I had no interest in converting to veganism at the time, but was surprised at how easy I found the transition, so continued for another week. After a few weeks of doing this, I started to feel better. My stomach wasn’t bloating or getting sore, my skin looked better and the food I was putting into my body was a lot healthier too.
I have to admit that it wasn’t until after I changed my diet that I started researching my new diet and learning more about the dairy industry. A few books, studies and a fair few documentaries later, my little mind was blown. I could go on about this for hours, but in summary, it truly is scary how little we really know about our food.
Taking the plunge to convert to a vegan lifestyle isn’t always easy, but I was pleasantly surprised with how simple it was for me. As I mentioned, I had already eliminated meat from my diet, so I just needed to give up dairy, eggs and honey. As someone who has always disliked the taste of milk and never enjoyed eggs, again this wasn’t too difficult. For me, the hardest part was eliminating processed foods which contain animal derivatives.
Never had I before read so intently the ingredients in every single item that went into my shopping basket. It’s honestly astonishing how many ingredients and the variety ingredients are crammed into our daily foods. For example, I knew I would have to source milk chocolate alternatives, but I had no idea that most crisps also contain milk! Weird huh?
This process also highlighted just how many processed foods were in my diet. Don’t get me wrong, my diet is still far from perfect, but it is a lot healthier than it used to be. It has really made me think about exactly what I am putting inside my body.
So, why am I writing this?
I’m not trying to convert anybody into veganism. I never have. In fact, Many people who know me don’t know I eat a vegan diet. But, I wanted to share my thoughts on what it was like for me and my advice if you were thinking about taking the plunge.
- Don’t expect miracles over night. No matter what changes you’re making to your diet, any differences can be tricky to master. Remember there is no rush. Perhaps try reducing the amount of meat you eat, then cutting out meat, then using milk alternatives.. etc. and so on.
- Don’t quit if you slip up. Unless you’re secretly a dietician, none of us are really experts on nutrition and can easily make mistakes. I for one have eaten the wrong sort of noodles, not realising they were made from eggs. (I now know that rice noodles are the ones to choose!) One slip up or mistake doesn’t mean you should give up entirely.
- Don’t feel pressured by others. Whether those around you are strict vegans, or proud carnivores, your body is yours and yours only. You have the choice of what you put in it. You’ll soon realise that everyone has their own opinion when it comes to food and diets, but not everyone is right. Agree or disagree politely then move on. You do you.
- People will always ask the most ridiculous questions, so do your research. I’m not saying that you need to study for a PHD in nutritional science or human biology, but ridiculous questions and outrageous comments are unfortunately inevitable. Whilst I tend to just ignore the majority, sometimes it helps to have a few nutritional facts up your sleeve.
- Don’t feel bad for asking the waiter. So long as you are polite, don’t feel too embarrassed to ask for help – whether you have a query about the ingredients used in a particular dish, or if you simply don’t see any vegan options on the menu, they are there to help. Most chains have a pretty good selection of vegan options (if you ask), but when all else fails you can combine a selection of sides to make a meal you’d like. The only occasion I haven’t been able to order a proper meal was once on a business trip in Dublin – I ended up ordering chips, a side of broccoli and a large glass of wine!
- A product doesn’t necessarily have to be labeled as ‘vegan’ for it to be suitable for vegans. Take Oreos for example, or Jamie Dodgers or Party Rings. To my knowledge it is not stated on their packaging that they’re dairy-free, but they actually are! (And yes, I’m a huge biscuit fan.)
Of course veganism expands far past food, but it’s definitely a good place to start.
Are you vegan or contemplating trying veganism?