Today is World Vegan Day so I thought I would share some of the things I've learned in the past few years since I adopted a vegan lifestyle. I haven't eaten any meat since I was 12 years old, and I've never eaten a steak, McDonald's burger or KFC bucket. I switched from a vegetarian to a vegan diet after discovering the truth about the dairy and egg industries, and I haven't looked back since. So in honour of this vegan anniversary, I thought I would reflect on some of the things I've learned.
1. I really don't miss anything
Most people tell me that they could never go vegan because they'd miss meat, cheese and eggs too much. Well I hate to break it to you, but your taste buds will change and you probably won't miss them from your diet. I never thought I'd be able to get through Easter without bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs but I lost my cravings for milk chocolate within a few weeks of going vegan. If you really don't think you can get by without meat or eggs, then there are some great vegan alternatives on the market. My favourite company at the moment is Sgaia's Vegan Meats who have become a bit of a game changer on the vegan scene with their meat products. You also have to see their vegan poached egg recipe to believe it could be possible.
2. It's cheaper
If you choose to stock up on lots of vegan substitute products, then your weekly food bill can add up. Most vegans tend to eat lots of fruit, vegetables, lentils and pulses which are some of the cheapest foods you can buy. And you'll save even more money if you buy your fruit and veg frozen. I still like to pick up vegan chicken nuggets and chocolate sometimes which costs more, but overall a vegan diet is really cheap.
3. Everyone is suddenly concerned with your protein intake
It still surprises me how obsessed everyone becomes with your protein intake. You would think people were being rushed to hospital with a protein deficiency or something. As long as you follow a well-balanced diet, then your protein intake will be absolutely fine. There's protein in fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses as well as different fake meat products. And if you want to increase it even more, then you can add some protein powder to your morning smoothie.
4. Milk is in EVERYTHING
I'd never given it a second thought before I went vegan, but these days I find myself standing in the supermarket aisles searching the ingredients in everything from crisps to biscuits just in case there's some milk in it. I urge you to look at some labels next time you go shopping and you'll see just how many products it sneaks into it.
5. The dairy industry is horrific
I had never really given the dairy industry much thought when I was vegetarian because I've never drank cow's milk, but it is a truly horrific industry. The cows are forcefully inseminated and their calves are taken away from them as soon as they're born. The cows are then hooked up to machines in confined spaces to give their milk, while the male calves are slaughtered for veal. The whole process is then started again until the cows are unable to produce any more milk, and they're sent to be killed.
6. It can be controversial
Sometimes it can be a bit controversial when you're explaining your reasons to non-vegans. I personally don't eat animal products because of the cruelty inflicted on animals, but it's also because I want to be as healthy as possible. It's hard to explain that to someone without making it sound like they don't mind animals being abused or increasing their chances of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes by consuming animal products.
7. Eating out is really easy
There was once a time when eating out as a vegan was difficult, but these days you can get vegan food in McDonalds or Wetherspoons. I mean even Nando's has some options suitable for vegans on the menu. My favourite food is pizza, and both Zizzi's and Pizza Express sell vegan pizza. Unless you want a sandwich from M&S (even the vegetarian ones contain milk or yoghurt) then you'll have no problem eating out.
8. It'll teach you to experiment in the kitchen
My favourite food in the whole world is chocolate banana ice cream. I'm not talking about just taking a tub out of the freezer. I'm talking about putting frozen bananas and raw cacao powder into the food processor and blending it up until it becomes a soft ice cream like texture. It's sort of become a bit of staple for vegans, and I probably eat it for breakfast at least a couple of times a week.