Opening the fridge on New Year’s day confronted with a delicious mountain of cheese left over from Christmas, I wondered whether going Vegan for the month of January was really a good idea. In theory this shouldn’t be a big deal for me being pescetarian but with fish and dairy a big staple in my diet I wasn’t really sure how this would pan out.
Having stacked the fridge with a variety of alternative milks; cashew nut, almond, soya, oat, coconut & hemp the first challenge was to find a replacement for my crucial morning cup of tea.
It is amazing the variety of plant based milks available and this January in particular the supermarkets were absolutely full of non-milk, milk. I settled on oat milk and have to say I have got quite used to it in my tea and with the full range of skimmed through to full fat you can easily find something for your taste. The barrista oat milk editions – thanks Oatly - are particularly good with a cappuccino and froth up beautifully.
The next thing to avoid was the amount of children's Christmas chocolate in the cupboard. If you have had an indulgent Christmas and want a way to resist naughty treats post Christmas then I would highly recommend going vegan because there are few of those products that are dairy free. In fact if you look at the label its quite shocking what is in some of those sweet treats!
Knowing that I would need some kind of treat I stocked the cupboard with dark chocolate. I wouldn’t recommend the 100% anytime near bedtime – you wont sleep – but once you get used to pure dark chocolate I’m not sure I would go back. Because it is strong on flavour I generally found a few squares were enough, unlike sweeter bars where I could be tempted to empty the entire wrapper. Dark chocolate also has the added advantage that the children wont touch it!
And then what to eat?
Well actually the variety of vegan products has accelerated no end and combine this with a weekly box of organic vegetables from Riverford I feel like I have had a pretty healthy January. The plant based milks can be used in all kinds of cooking and with added treats like vegan Magnum ice cream and The White Rabbit vegan pizza – ooh that made my Saturday night – it really wasn’t that difficult to prepare healthy nutritious dinners from currys, to quiches (who knew you could substitute eggs for tofu) to stir frys and winter salads.
And there were some other products that really stood out. I have to admit to loving mayonnaise and found that Veganaise made a delicious vegan mayonnaise and some of the coconut yoghurt's from the Coconut Collaborative were wonderful with granola in the morning. Having spent quite some time grazing the shelf of the supermarket though I did notice that whilst it is amazing to see the plethora of plant based foods I do wish the manufacturers would be a little mindful of the ingredients that are going into some of these products.
For me I have always seen vegan as a healthy life style choice but with the growth in meat alternatives to look and feel like meat there are ingredients going into these products that I can’t even pronounce let alone know what they are! It does make the supermarket shop a little long when you are having to scan all the ingredients in your basket.
So where does this leave me as we approach the end of January?
Well I can honestly say I have been amazed at how easy it has been to eat a vegan diet, even as a busy working mum. It has given me the opportunity to try many products I wouldn’t otherwise have done and also have a reset after Christmas. Surprisingly I found I haven’t missed cheese that much and I didn’t even eat much vegan cheese either – it generally has quite an acquired taste!
Going forward I can see me introducing more of these products into our daily diet and whilst not stopping dairy completely, because of course it does have many benefits in terms of calcium and other nutrients – I would like to think I will be reducing my overall dairy intake going forward.
So I would like to say thank you to my husband, in particular, for his tolerance and my cooking and experimenting over this period and any of our friends that had us to dinner and kindly humored my dietary requirements this month. Would I do it again? Yes definitely! I can hear a groan from my husband as I write...