Veganism is a fast growing trend, and Veganuary had more participants than ever this year. I was one of them.

Ah, veganism. It’s the marmite of diets. The word conjures up images of passionate animal rights protesters, shaming those who eat meat. It then brings to mind the legions of bacon lovers, eager to hurl some crispy strips in any vegan’s direction. And then, suddenly, people get very concerned about protein sources.

Seems only right that I should give it a go! After all, I’m here to dissect and investigate the leading health and wellness trends.

What are the rules of veganism?

Well, put simply, you avoid all animal food products. This includes meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. If you want to lead a total vegan lifestyle, and not just a dietary one, you need to avoid non-vegan beauty and clothing products. This includes brands that test on animals or use fabrics such as leather.

What did I learn?

Cutting meat is easy…if you’ve done it before

Vegan sandwich – Pandora's Health

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned it before, but I was vegetarian for 3 years. Because of that, giving up meat was fairly easy for me, and I actually enjoyed taking a break from meat after a turkey and ham filled Christmas!

Taking a deep dive into veganism can be harder for die hard meat eaters though, as suddenly, the main components of your meal is unavailable. If this rings true for you, here’s a top tip: try meat replacements and ease into it. They’ll tide you over as you figure things out.

Cutting out other animal products is harder

Latte art – Pandora's Health

Obviously, when you’re vegetarian you can still enjoy eggs, milk and honey. That’s what made it so easy for me, and I was worried about how I’d cope for a month without cheese.

Sadly. MILK. IS. EVERYWHERE. It’s in everything. I will have to hold up my hand now and admit that I slipped up a couple of times. I mostly blame dairy (and myself for not paying enough attention). One prime example is when I went to the airport at 5am, managed to order breakfast without egg but forgot to swap the milk in my coffee…I realised my mistake halfway through drinking it. Even an innocent looking butternut squash soup from the supermarket contained milk.

Why? WHY? Butternut squash soup is creamy enough.

But, seriously, check your labels.

Food shopping takes twice as long when you start

Vegan shopping – Pandora's Health

As I literally just mentioned, you need to check those labels. My first shop took me nearly an hour as I sought out ingredients and alternatives. At one point I was head first in a shelf containing curry pastes, trying to find a Thai red paste without fish – I really wanted to make one of my favourite soups and get veganism off to a good start.

It doesn’t have to be expensive

Honestly, my weekly food budget didn’t really change that much. This may be because I tend not to buy much meat, week to week, so I didn’t see much of a difference.

I will say this though, why do I need to buy a litre of plant based milk every single time? I think Alpro and Oatly are missing a trick by not selling single pints.

It’s not 100% healthy

Vegan oreos – Pandora's Health

Oreos are vegan…need I say more? So are ginger nut biscuits and peppermint creams.

Your bowel habits may change

I won’t go into too much detail here, but there was a definite change. This is due to the higher levels of fibre I was ingesting – resulting in more trips to the loo.

It’s super tasty

Vegan noodle soup – Pandora's Health

Did I survive on salad alone? Hell no, it was January after all! I was making soups, stews and even attempted a mac’n’nocheese with the vegan staple, nutritional yeast.

What’s more, my boyfriend, who had been dreading the second hand experience of hanging out and eating with a vegan, stopped referring to his plant based meals as “gross vegan food”. He simply started calling it “food”.

It’s solidified my ‘flexitarianism’

Once February came, I celebrated with a custard Danish pastry and a cheese board.

That being said, I’ve re-embraced the flexitarian lifestyle by sticking to a vegan/vegetarian diet Monday to Friday, and enjoying some meat on the weekends. It’s a dietary habit that I find works well for me, and I’ll definitely continue to enjoy my oat milk coffees and porridges.

As I’ve said numerous times here on this blog – it’s about finding balance.

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