TAKING part in Veganuary has certainly given me plenty of food for thought, as well as thought for food.
For those who have not been following my progress in these pages, Veganuary is a scheme to raise awareness for the ethical treatment of animals, whereby usual non-vegans take on a meat and dairy-free diet for the whole of January.
My reasons for taking part were threefold:
Principally, it was for the purposes of writing about my experience for the Burton Mail, but I also was keen to eat healthier in the wake of Christmas excess, and also I have long been conscious that I could do more to be morally conscious about my dining habits.
Mostly, it has been an interesting, rather than boring experience, and challenging rather than annoying.
Eating at home has generally not been a problem, and we have found plenty of meals and snacks, either through food that has been provided for us by various kindly companies, or recipes we have discovered ourselves.
Favourites among these have been the tofu tortillas, the Zest pesto, Linda McCartney sausages and country pies and vegan chilli (made with various beans and vegetables).
Some of the replacement foods we have tried have been nice, including those afore-mentioned McCartney offerings, Veg Out meat-free sausage rolls and the Violife cheese slices, but some of the others, including most of the replacement cheeses (also special mention to Vegusto for their mild aromatic cheese and fake meat slices), will not be making it into our regular diet.
Eating out has been more difficult, as though restaurants have come a long way since I was vegetarian in the 1990s (anything would be an improvement on those dark days though), they have yet to embrace veganism in the same way.
This is understandable to an extent, given that vegan are a relatively rare breed, but in most places, the only thing we have found to eat is jacket potato with beans.
The delightful exception to this was the menu offered by the Burnt Gate in Anslow, who cater for a large variety of dietary requirements, vegan included - but are worth a visit from carnivores and omnivores as well. See my article in last Tuesday’s Burton Mail for more on this.
In terms of health improvements, both my wife and I have lost weight (more than a stone between us), and we have both felt fitter and less lethargic this month.
For me, a lot of this is down to the fact that it is very hard to snack when on a vegan diet. My day job involves a number of long car journeys, and my willpower is often beaten down by picking up packets of crisps from service stations.
I am going to try to continue the healthy eating into February and beyond, but the main thing my wife and I will take from Veganuary is our improved ethical eating.
Without getting on a soapbox, I think there is something for a lot of people to learn from the morality of veganism.
I am not saying that everyone should turn vegan, nor that this would necessarily be the best thing for the planet or for animal-kind.
But I think that we should all be more aware of where our meat and other animal-based products come from.
Most of us (I hope) buy free-range eggs, but yet do we buy free-range chicken?
We certainly didn’t, at least not all the time, and yet it amounts to the same thing – not to mention the number of other foods which contain non-free-range egg.
Our rough plan for the future is to reintroduce certain elements which we had forgone last month, but retain the ethos of what we were doing.
Our month of ‘living on the veg’ has not only affected us, as my parents took it on for the final week, when we were on holiday together, and a colleague of my wife was inspired by the health benefits, and has also taken part in the challenge.
I hope I have inspired, or at least informed, others, whether through word of mouth or these columns, and I will be eyeing January 2015 to give it another go.
Without turning this into an Oscars-style acceptance speech, there are certain people I would like to thank for helping make Veganuary a relatively painless endeavour.
Principal among these is Karin Ridgers at VeggieVision – the brains behind Veganuary – for her constant support, and for putting me in touch with various other helpful organisations.
These included Naomi Bullivant from Ocado, who supplied me with £50 worth of vegan shopping, Vegusto, who sent a selection of meat and dairy-free cheese and meat substitutes, Ben Williamson at Peta for advice and more goodies, and the people at Viva! for their support and care package.