Veganuary - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Updated: Mar 25, 2021
Over half a million people, myself included, signed up for Veganuary in 2021. A whole month of not eating any animal products - so no meat or dairy.
But what was the challenge like? How was the experience? What did I learn?
My initial reasons for switching to a vegan diet was threefold. I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint, eat more healthily and test whether I could really give up meat and dairy. I had given up red meat before and been a pescatarian, so still eating seafood because I felt I wanted to push myself to eat more vegetables. It worked, I was eating more veggies, but the smell of bacon and the difficulty in being vegetarian whilst travelling meant I switched back to being an omnivore.
Veganaury has many good points. I was eating a lot more vegetables - no big surprise there! By not eating meat or dairy products I significantly reduced my carbon footprint, which felt great - over one tonne of CO2 annually.
I felt healthier - I didn’t feel so heavy after meals and I wasn’t concerned about the amount of saturated fat I was consuming. It was also surprisingly easy to find lots of tasty vegan products, making vegan meals a lot easier than I had expected. In particular, vegan chocolate spread, custard, ice cream, mayonnaise, yoghurts and vegan alternative meat replacement products were amazing. There are even vegan doughnuts and pasties! As a result, I have made a permanent switch to these vegan foods.
However, it wasn’t a complete success. I sometimes found it quite difficult to create completely vegan meals from scratch every day. There seemed to be milk or cheese in so many foodstuffs, which was quite frustrating. Despite making vegan versions of Mexican, Lebanese, Italian and Indian dishes, they did seem a little boring. Non-dairy milk doesn’t work very well in hot drinks, and black coffee didn’t cut the mustard. I really missed cheese - vegan varieties are no substitute and this was the toughest part of the whole challenge. I was also concerned about long-term health problems. I knew that there could be some vitamin deficiencies with a vegan diet and that I was probably eating more sugary foods than I would do normally.