Transitioning to a plant-based diet: One month in
It’s now been just over a month since I started to eat a plant-based diet (You can read about my reasons for doing it here), so I thought I’d answer a few questions people have been asking me, and let you know how it’s been going.
Isn’t it hard to eat vegan?
It has been really, really easy so far to eat vegan the majority of the time. I was aiming for 80%, but in the month since I started, I have eaten fish twice and dairy once. So given all the meals and snacks I’ve eaten across the month, that’s more like 99.9%. That’s not bad going for a beginner. Most of the meals I’ve made have been easy and quick to prepare – a lot of wraps filled with veggies, homemade hummus and falafels, and pasta with fresh veggies and cheeseless pesto. I’ve also experimented with a lot of new recipes, and it’s been great finding so many delicious new meals. I think it is definitely easier because I like cooking and don’t mind spending some time every few days doing a batch cook. The next challenge for me will be when I go back to work, and making it all work when I have a lot less time around the house.
What about butter and cheese?
I thought I’d miss cheese and butter, but to be honest, the fake cheese you can get is pretty good for things like pasta and pizza and I don’t eat a lot of cheese apart from that. The more I read about the dairy industry, the more put off I became and eating it, so I really haven’t missed that too much. The margarine I bought is VERY margariney, so I won’t be buying the same one again. It isn’t BAD, it’s just not something you want a strong flavour of, so when I have toast, I either have a very thin layer or have something else like hummus, avocado or peanut butter on top instead. The only thing I miss are croissants and pain au chocolat. I miss them a lot. Apparently in France you can regularly get croissants made with margarine. Is that a thing in London?
Do you lose a lot of weight on a vegan diet?
Side note before answering this one: I read a SUPER annoying opinion piece in the Sunday Times Magazine at the weekend which said that veganism was just another restrictive diet and that it was unhealthy to restrict meat and dairy and that people were just doing it to lose weight. Well, maybe some people are, but the majority of people I’ve come across are not. They’re doing it for environmental or animal welfare reasons. He says at the end “everyone has a moral decision to make when they decide what goes on their plate” (or words to that effect) but has basically spent the rest of the page saying that if the decision is to forgo animal products, they’re idiots! GAH, I got so cross.
ANYWAY! I hadn’t planned to lose weight, and have been eating a good amount of protein and carbohydrates alongside the veg to make sure I don’t go hungry, as animal proteins tend to be a lot more filling that plant-based. Since I no longer eat all of Theo/Beatrice’s leftovers and a cake/croissant/giant cookie every time I go for a coffee, I probably SHOULD lose some weight eating this way, but now I’ve discovered that Aldi’s Dark Chocolate Digestives are vegan, and then Ben & Jerry launched their dairy-free ice cream and then I found out that TK Maxx sell Green & Blacks… so that didn’t last long!
What about vitamins and minerals?
There are some things you can only get (in the quantities required by our bodies) from animal products. I’ve got some nutritional yeast that is fortified with b12, but I’m also taking a multivitamin as often I remember.
How about eating out?
The other downside can be eating out. It’s great in one way that I no longer really want to eat the croissants and brownies and other delights at my local coffee shop, but on the other hand, I really wish there was some kind of vegan sweet treat on offer. Restaurants generally have a veganisable option, but you tend to be limited to a choice of one or two things (although places seem to be getting better – chains in particular are catering for vegans like never before)
In September I ate out 4 times. Once at my parents’ house, where I had a fish appetiser, because I couldn’t stop myself. Once at a smart ‘Modern European’ restaurant, where I had fish and dairy, because there were veggie, but no vegan options on the menu. If I had known, I could have called ahead and they would have prepared a special vegan menu for me. I didn’t even think to call ahead. I’m going out for dinner this week, so sent a quick email asking what the options were, and they replied within a couple of hours with about 10 things that were either vegan or could be made so easily. Win. The third meal out was at a mezze restaurant, where I could eat basically everything – AMAZING. We had loads of leftovers, too, so I got two amazing meals for the price of one. The fourth and final was at a cafe – I just had a veggie breakfast without the eggs. So, I’m learning.
Are you raising your kids vegan?
No. Or at least, not right now. Peter is a meat and dairy eater, and Theo has a limited enough range of foods he will eat. I’m experimenting, though. Vegan cheesy pasta and vegan pizza have both gone down well with The. I tried a meat-free mince cottage pie last night: Beatrice loved it, Theo wouldn’t even taste it. I have found that my eating way more vegetables has led to us having way more veggies in the house (funny, that), which has led to them both eating more vegetables. I’ve been making vegetable porridge bars and banana and spinach ice cream bars, and both kids have been lapping them up, so even if they’re not following a totally plant-based diet, they are definitely eating healthier than before (well – Theo is, Beatrice was previously just on milk!).
Will I be doing it for life?
I have no idea. I’m going to do it for as long as I can with the hopes that it remains feeling easy and natural, as it does right now. I think what I’m doing now – sticking to it as much as I can, but allowing myself some flexibility if I need it – is working for me. There are definitely times I can see myself bending (when I first start back at work, perhaps. Also, next summer we’re going to a farm where you can go out in the morning and collect your own eggs – pretty sure I’ll be eating some of those!), and I’m okay with that.
I’d love to know your thoughts or answer any questions you have! If there’s anything you’re curious about, let me know in the comments.