Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Vegan. Vegetarian. Pescatarian. Plant Based. Raw. There is an overwhelming number of names for the various plant-eating humans that are growing in numbers. I, just as much as anyone else can understand the confusion of it all. So, how did I go from an anti-vegan bacon-lover to successfully plant-based for two years?
I remember six years ago sitting in the school yard when someone mentioned they had decided to go vegetarian. This sparked an open discussion where I adamantly debated that vegetarianism was not only pointless but dangerous, mentioning that veganism was even worse. Like many other people, I knew that red meat was the most efficient source of iron and that you couldn’t get B12 naturally from a vegan diet. I also used the argument that the animals had already died so why let them die in vain? Oh, how times have changed.
There are many reasons people choose to adopt a more plant-based diet from improving their health to ethical reasons or environmental concerns. I fell into it fairly naturally trying out a 'week of vegetarianism' or a 'week of being vegan' here and there during my gap year. University was a turning point. I stopped purchasing meat simply because it was expensive, went bad quickly and dealing with raw meat was never particularly fun for me. Despite not eating meat at home I was still ordering meatlovers pizza or a chicken schnitzel when I went out to eat.
Towards the end of my first year at university my housemate and I made a bet to see who could go the longest maintaining a vegetarian diet. Since I was already largely vegetarian, I decided to challenge myself and go vegan. My roommate lost within the first week and I continued. I have continued since then – over two years later!
I understand that everyone has their doubts about a more plant-based diet, they don’t want to give up cheese or bacon (like me) but with the increase in plant-based supermarket options it's becoming easier and easier. Two years ago, the only vegan options at supermarkets were beans and rice. Now there are entire shelves in the frozen section of dairy-free ice-cream and there are more ready-made vegan meals than you can possibly choose from. I still regularly eat beans, rice and tofu but these other options makes your transition much smoother.
Now, time to bust some myths and answer some of my most asked questions…
You don’t get enough vitamins and minerals in a plant-based diet (especially vegan)
No one seems concerned your vitamins when you are an omnivore but when you are plant-based it becomes their biggest worry. In all honesty, I almost certainly get more variety of micro-nutrients from my current diet than when I was eating carbs and meat. I do take both iron and B12 tablets which is still cheaper than purchasing meat and much more convenient than cooking meat. I even had blood tests done recently and all my levels were perfect (in fact, my iron was even higher than normal).
The animals have already died, so why not eat them?
This is how I justified my love for bacon and chicken nuggets for a very long time and it was just me trying to avoid confronting the truth. As consumers, our power is in our money. What we spend our money on reflects the industries we support. Every time we buy a steak from the supermarket the slaughterhouse kills another cow because the last one sold. Although it seems that one person’s actions can’t make a real difference, these small decisions build over time and by not purchasing meat you are reducing demand and stopping the number of animals being bred for slaughter.
Rabbit food is gross
Prior to falling into a more plant-based diet the only vegetables I consumed were the carrot, broccoli and cauliflower that my mum would buy frozen and add to meals. I did not enjoy vegetables and actively avoided them when I could. In the past two years I have had less than five salads which goes to show that 'rabbit food' isn’t the only option. Although, I have learnt and experimented with new vegetables and now I am more than happy to enjoy a good vegetable stir-fry, so not all vegetables are bad.
What do you have for dinner?
I eat almost the same meals I always have, I just either remove or replace the protein. I have lots of pasta, stir-fries, curry, nachos, tacos, pizza and burgers. Are these all particularly good for me? Nope. But they are good for the animals and the environment. You don’t have to miss out on your favourite meals and you also don’t have to cook up some obscure zucchini flower dish. Just pick your favourites and experiment a little.
Don’t you miss cheese? Or milk? Or bacon?
I was never a big fan of cheese but the three things I struggled with most were eggs, milk and bacon. Fortunately, you can substitute a lot of these and within a couple of months I stopped craving them altogether. Two years in and my mouth still waters at the smell of cooking bacon but I have no desire to eat it.
I am not an expert, nor do I want to preach veganism, but if you’re curious or have considered trying to remove some meat or animal-products from your diet, here are some resources and recipes that I use at least once a week.
Recipes I use at least once a week:
Garlic, Soy Tofu, Rice & Avocado
This is one of those 'don’t judge it til you try it' situations where you have to just give it a go. I eat this almost every single day. Once you’ve got the rice in the rice cooker it takes five minutes to get everything else sorted. I’ve even managed to get my housemate onto the ‘tofu, rice and avocado bandwagon’.
Single Serve Pancakes
I don’t know if anyone else’s attempts at pancakes are as disastrous as mine, but this is my fool-proof recipe for delicious pancakes. I cooked these for the first time at 12am during my first year of uni and now it’s the go-to for most of my friends.