20/05/2018 22:04 BST | Updated 20/05/2018 22:04 BST

I Went Vegan For A Month And This Is What I Learnt

Veganism doesn’t have to be expensive

Enrique Díaz / 7cero via Getty Images

There are some unarguable reasons to go vegan – saving the animals, caring for the environment and improving your health. I thought it was time to give it a go. Here is what I discovered:

Veganism doesn’t have to be expensive

There’s no reason that eating vegan should be more expensive than eating meat – yes there are plenty of expensive vegan products out there, but staples like beans, rice, pasta, vegetables are all cheap.

I love pouring over What Broke Vegans eat on Facebook and of course – mxjackmonroe - Jack Monroe’s Instagram page for meal inspiration.

Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy

Going vegan doesn’t automatically mean that you’re instantly on a healthy eating path. It also doesn’t mean you’re eating unprocessed food.

Deep-fried fatty food such as onion rings made with beer batter and junk food like crisps and biscuits are obviously not good for you.

Instead, concentrate on making vegetables the star of your meals, eat the rainbow in fruits and vegetables, and choose whole grains for added iron and B vitamins.

There are so many ‘accidental’ vegan products

If you think you’re going to be restricted from the food you can eat, prepare to be surprised. There are many tasty products that turn out to be vegan and here are two helpful places to check out first:

· This list of 44 accidentally vegan snack foods

· This Accidentally Vegan UK Instagram account

It was from these two wonderful sources that I learnt that some supermarket brand doughnuts are vegan, as well as many different biscuits.

I have more energy

It makes sense that I have more energy – I’m paying more attention to what food I ingest, rather than stuffing 50 Greggs sausage rolls in my mouth. I’m also not inhaling many sweet treats and other unhealthy snacks, which means less added sugars, simple carbohydrates, and saturated fats which can make the body feel sluggish.

My skin improved within three days of turning vegan

I’ve suffered from skin problems my whole life, including bouts of annoying atopic eczema during times of stress.

Within three days of going vegan, I noticed that two bad skin patches on my sides had got smoother and nearly vanished, and the ever-irritating dry patch on my hand was far less itchy.

I think I may have a milk intolerance, which leads me to my next point:

Milk seems to be in EVERYTHING

Who knew that milk was in so many foods? It’s not just in cakes, cookies, but it’s in bread, cereals and crisps. I had to check the label for all kinds of products, and to my dismay, milk seemed to be present when I least expected it.

There needs to be a vegan symbol for food packaging

It would really help if there was a universal symbol on packaging to show the contents are suitable for vegans. This would save a lot of time scanning labels and allow everyone to complete their supermarket shopping without a magnifying glass.

As veganism gains more support, more supermarkets and brands are likely to label their products.

If you love to cook, going vegan is a fun challenge

Around 90% of my waking life is thinking about food – what I’m going to eat next, what I’m going to cook, where it’s going to come from and what time I’ll be able to eat it.

Before embarking on my month of veganism, out of curiosity I’d already been looking at vegan recipes and following plant-based bloggers. This meant I had a few recipes saved up that I knew I had to try.

If like me, you love eating and cooking, you’ll enjoy the challenge that comes with going vegan.

The chance to use vegetables as the main star rather than meat is a challenge, but it’s also fun. There are plenty of wonderful recipes out there at your fingertips – go forth and enjoy!

There are great places to eat vegan food, but there needs to be more

I often study a menu online, way before stepping into a restaurant and when I went vegan this had to be stepped up a gear. Luckily there are some helpful websites like Veganuary where you can peruse what options there are at high street restaurant chains.

2018 was a great time to start, as the growing demand for vegan options mean that restaurants and fast-food chains have started to listen.

There are so many helpful websites

If you’re unsure about the subject, what to do and where to begin, there are so many brilliant websites out there such as The Vegan Society that provides helpful information and guidance on all aspects of veganism.

The community is supportive

I signed up to join a few different Facebook groups for meal inspiration and every group was warm, welcome and very helpful. If newbies had questions, lots of answers would appear and it felt like an incredibly supportive community.

My favourite posts featured a member asking simple questions like – “I’ve got a can of chickpeas, what can I do with them?” and watching hundreds of people begin to contribute to a single post. As a curious cook, this is like watching a nail-biting soap opera.

Try Vegan Food UK and Vegan Recipes to Share.

No animals were harmed in the making of my dinner

I’ve grown up loving animals and, in my eyes, all animals are the same - a dog isn’t different to a pig, cow, or chicken. It was nice to think that in turning vegan for a month, I hadn’t harmed another living creature.

What now?

I haven’t watched ‘What the Health’ or ‘Cowspiracy’, but I know I probably should. I’ll be continuing the hunt for delicious vegan meal inspiration, so if you’ve got any recipes, please send them to me on @iamcbranch on Twitter, I’d love to see them!.