January is a time for setting goals and making positive changes for the year to come. So, we decided to give Veganuary a crack…
Having been meat eaters our whole lives, this was a real challenge. Afterwards we decided to write a Veganuary round up, answering the important questions people might like to know.
Here is how we got on (Matt’s answers are in blue and Lornas are in purple);
Did you lose weight during Veganuary?
M: Unsurprisingly for me yes I have lost weight. Sticking to a vegan diet definitely allows you to eat the same size portions but with fewer calories. However, I am fairly certain the amount of protein in the diet would not be enough if I was trying to put on lean muscle mass.
L: I have actually lost a lot of weight from eating vegan and calorie counting throughout January. At the start of January I weighed 62.10kg and at the beginning of February I am at 59.25kg!
Do you feel healthier or any different in yourself?
M: If I am being totally honest I would not say I feel that noticeably different. Although I did sometimes have issues with dairy beforehand. I would get really bloated after drinking milk or cream so that issue was no longer a problem.
L: I would say I began to feel healthier about a week into January. For the first 5 days I felt very bloated while my body was adjusting to a new way of eating – I don’t think I had ever consumed so much lentils and beans! We always do eat vegetables but of course, eating vegan meant eating fresher in higher quantities. That paired with regular home exercise and not drinking alcohol probably all added to an overall healthier feeling.
Did you miss eating meat during Veganuary?
M: At first I really did miss it. The further into Veganuary though, the less it became a struggle and I would go as far as to say that I am not really craving meat now at all.
L: Yes and no. This is a tough question because some of the meals we prepared weren’t always the most satisfying as we were finding our feet with a new way of cooking. After all, I have been cooking with meat being the key player of a dish for the best part of 10 years. But as we discovered more recipes and favourite dishes, I didn’t miss meat in the food we were eating. It was more when I saw things like KFC (which I don’t even eat normally) advertised on TV that it came to the forefront of my mind and I thought about it.
What was the hardest part about eating a Vegan diet?
M: The hardest part was making the initial switch. All of our staple meals, our go-to’s were no longer available. Building up a new repertoire of vegan dinner options took a bit of time. But trusting our foodie instincts we soon changed it around and found loads of fantastic recipes that we would never have tried otherwise.
L: Getting into the swing of it was the hardest part, but a week in, it became a lot easier. Also, vegetables on their own can be a bit bland so we had to move away from plainer foods and opt for more flavour punching dishes – I love spice anyway, but it was figuring out what to add to things to enhance the flavour.
What did you miss the most?
M: The thing I missed the most honestly was cheese. Although I could quite easily go without milk and drink the vegan alternatives, the vegan cheese options we tried were really not up to par. The only thing that stood up to the task was ‘nutritional flakes’ as a replacement for grated parmesan on a pasta (once you get over the fish food appearance).
L: I missed beef but also feel a bit guilty about that. My favourite dishes are chilli con carne and steak. To be fair, we made a couple of chilli non carnes and spag bols with soya mince which I could get on board with but you can’t beat a steak. Also, we tried a few different vegan cheeses, and some alternatives, like the soft cheese, were great. But personally I think the cheddar alternative has a funny taste, almost like margarine. It wasn’t bad in a wrap or sandwich as a minor component to something but on something like a homemade pizza in my opinion you just can’t beat the real stuff – and mozzarella of course.
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Did you think you would manage Veganuary without giving in?
M: At the beginning I did not think I would be able to do Veganuary for the full month, I even tried to back out and leave Lorna to do it alone. And then I tried to make it just two weeks instead of a month. So, it’s safe to say I was not confident in the slightest. But, In the end I very much enjoyed the challenge.
L: At first, I wasn’t sure if I could do the whole month without giving in but I was determined to make it happen.
How did you think it would go vs. how did it go?
M: Considering I did not think I would make it a full month, I can safely say it was a great success. Not once did I slip up or even get close to giving up so I am very pleased with that.
L: I thought it would go terribly. Throughout 2020 we did meat free mondays and sometimes I struggled with that. I think that was due to the amount of meat we had in the house at that time though, for example, if we made a roast on a Sunday and had leftovers, it would be so tempting to just make a roast chicken sandwich or soup on the Monday. As we didn’t have any meat products in the house at all other than some prawns in the freezer and a massive wheel of cheese leftover from Christmas (sell by date April 2021) in the fridge, there wasn’t anything in sight to tempt me. I also made sure that I hid all the chocolate and non-vegan naughty snacks I had leftover from 2020 in a cupboard I don’t go in – out of sight, out of mind is real!
I was so bloated for the first five days that I didn’t think the vegan diet was doing me any good, but as soon as my body got used to it I found it much easier. Put it this way, I didn’t think that I would wait until Matt’s birthday (5th feb) to have a non-vegan meal – I thought I would be desperate come the first for some dairy meaty naughty goodness. I do think that the 30 days makes a habit concept is true.
What have you learned from the experience?
M: Like most people I have grown up with that mindset of “If there’s no meat, it’s not a proper meal”. Taking part in Veganuary has taught me that this is not true in the slightest and you don’t need meat to make good tasty food.
L: My mindset has definitely changed for the better. I would be the first to hold my hand up and admit that I was purposely ignorant when it came to the issues surrounding the meat and dairy industry. Having been such a foodie all my life, growing up in the restaurant industry, I didn’t even understand the reasoning behind vegetarianism around 6 years ago. But, I think it’s important to educate yourself on some things to make informed decisions. I have learned a lot of shocking facts from documentaries like What the Health and daily emails from the vegan society that have really made me think. Never say never but I can’t see myself becoming vegan full time but I will definitely make more conscious choices moving forward. I used to be ignorant to think and say that one person couldn’t make a difference, but now I know that even adopting small changes like eating vegan once or a few times a week does make a huge difference.
What permanent changes will you make to your eating habits?
M: No more milk is a definite change for a start. And I can say I am more open to having meat free meals, more regularly. I’m not sure if the full militant vegan way of life is really for me. But, I feel even making lots of little changes will make a big difference.
L: I don’t think I ever want to drink cow’s milk again. I even discovered Elmea plant based double cream which worked as a great alternative for sauces etc. The concept of drinking cows hormones kind of grosses me out. It annoys me that society has taught us what is normal while growing up. The problem is, unfortunately, milk is what makes cheese which just tastes so good. I think I will move to more of a plant based diet but treat myself on weekends or special occasions to not be 100% restrictive.
What was your favourite meal?
M: I would have to say my favourite meal was definitely the cauliflower tacos with romesco sauce. The first time we tried this recipe, it really blew me away. Full of flavour, texture and heat. And most importantly the meat was not missed in the slightest. A meal we will recreate in the future for sure.
L: I love the Mowgli meat free feast we do which is an Aubergine curry, with a side of cabbage, naan bread and rice. But we have definitely discovered some cool recipes that will become staples.
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