While veganism is by no means anything new, the popularity of vegan and plant-based diets is certainly on the rise. Be it for ethical or health reasons, many people are choosing to reduce their meat and dairy consumption, leading to new terms like ‘flexitarian’!
I’ve always led a reduced meat diet; I first went vegetarian when I was 8 and continued for about 9 years before choosing to eat meat and fish right before I went to university. Now, 5 years later, I’ve been vegetarian again for about 8 months. I’ve always found a vegetarian diet pretty easy to maintain, and I’ve slowly been trying to head towards a more vegan/plant-based diet. As I’m primarily vegetarian for ethical reasons, it seems wrong for me to still be consuming dairy products when I’m still aware of the horrible conditions and procedures animals have to live through in order for me to enjoy my delicious cheese!
After hearing about so many benefits that come from a vegan I diet, I decided to eat fully vegan this week for a number of reasons:
- To find out whether I could even do it!
- To finally try out some recipes from the multitude of vegan cookbooks we’ve got floating about the house
- To see if I can spot any health improvements, such as better skin, more energy etc.
- To see if I can still enjoy weight training and fitness on a vegan diet
Admittedly, I already knew that I may find this challenge easier than most, as I’ve already eaten many vegan meals due to living with my sister who’s been vegan for nearly 2 years. However, as a massive lover of cheese and eggs, I still knew that the week would be a challenge!
As I’m also a keen lover of the gym and weight training, I’m also interested in finding out whether I could sustain a vegan diet and still get enough protein and energy to build muscle. I don’t tend to hear about many vegan weight trainers, but maybe this is something I need to do more research into!
So my first day wasn’t off to the best start as I’d had an awful migraine Sunday night and I woke up head-achy and tired. Therefore my meals were pretty unadventurous and not too healthy, but I plan to experiment a lot more further into the week!
I was also super hungry from not eating much the night before, so for breakfast I opted for crumpets with some vegan soy butter we already had in the fridge. I’m not the biggest fan of butter anyway (although I am partial to a hot buttery crumpet), so this was a pretty easy switch for me.
I ended up missing lunchtime as I’d been out on a long 4 hour walk, so I just had a piece of toast with some vegan cheese spread, which was surprisingly really tasty! I’ve tried vegan cheese in the past and found it to be very plain, so I was surprised that this spread tasty as cheesey as it did.
As it was a super hot day, it seemed rude not to have a BBQ at teatime! My sister had some falafel mix, so we made that up into two burgers, which we ate with couscous and salad. I’m already a bit fan of falafel, so these were super tasty, although I can find falafel pretty dry without any kind of sauce or mix. I found out the guacamole we had in the fridge wasn’t vegan, so I just had ketchup instead.
This meal was a struggle for me as my dad and his girlfriend BBQ’d some halloumi, which is one of my favourite types of cheese!
Yet again I woke up with a headache, so I opted for the same breakfast as yesterday – crumpets with vegan butter.
Thankfully by lunchtime I was starting to feel okay again, so I decided to put a bit more effort into my meal! I’d recently tried the Fry’s meat free chicken strips and they were really yummy, and not dry like a lot of meat free products. I fried this up in some sweet chilli sauce and ate them with some spinach, watercress, rocket, tomatoes and celery, dressed in lime.
I was still a bit hungry after, so I finished lunch off with some hummous and carrot sticks – which is always my go-to snack.
My meal at teatime was a bit of an odd one (we’re currently waiting on an online food delivery, so there’s not a great deal in the house and I had to improvise). I made a Mediterranean style quinoa and chickpea salad with chopped tomatoes, cumin and some other spices, and had it with spinach and some vegan fish fingers which we had lying around in the freezer. It tasted okay, but it certainly didn’t look nice enough to photograph!
Later in the evening I had a bit of a sweet craving, so I enjoyed some delicious dairy free vanilla ice cream, which honestly tastes as good as the real thing. I don’t know how they make it that creamy without dairy!
As I was off to the gym that morning, I had a big bowl of porridge made with soya milk and chia seeds mixed in for extra protein. Usually I’d have honey on my porridge, but as I couldn’t have that this week, I mixed in a spoonful of peanut butter for some taste.
We were still waiting for our online shop to arrive, so lunch was another random concoction. I had chickpeas, quinoa, cumin, celery and tomatoes mixed with some falafel and sweet potato balls, topped off with lime juice and sweet balsamic glaze.
By teatime the food shop had finally arrived, much to our delight! I decided to cook one of my favourite vegetarian stir fry recipes by Jamie Oliver, adjusting it slightly by taking out the honey and swapping the egg noodles for rice noodles. I love this recipe as there are so many flavours from the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chilli and lime, and you can add as much veg as you like. However I have to say that the honey really does add to the recipe, as it helps the sesame seeds and cashew nuts to stick to the tofu, although I still enjoyed this vegan version. The photo does not do this dish justice I’m afraid!
Again I wanted another good breakfast, so I opted for porridge and banana with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. I’m not usually a big fan of cinnamon, but this actually went really well together.
For lunch, I made a variation of a Mexican bowl idea I found online, with tofu, black beans, sweetcorn, avocado and salsa. We only had a few of these things in, so I had tofu fried in chilli powder and taco spice, kidney beans and salsa. I tried to use avocado, but the ones we’ve got sadly weren’t ripe yet, which is always a pain! But it tasted good nonetheless. As the dish was missing some of the most colourful ingredients, I didn’t even think it was worth photographing this one.
In the evening we made homemade pizzas, using a really simple frying pan pizza recipe. I can’t believe how easy this was to cook – you simply fry each side of the pizza dough for 5 minutes, add your toppings, then grill the finished pizza for another 5 minutes. I added peppers, onions, oregano and vegan mozzarella cheese to mine, and I was surprised by how cheesey the mozzarella tasted. And it actually melted too, which I find most vegan cheese doesn’t do. It tasted good, although I think we made the bases a little bit too stodgy, so next time I think we’ll use less flour than it suggests in the recipe.
(I admit, it certainly doesn’t look appealing the picture haha, but homemade pizzas often look quite messy!)
For breakfast I had my usual porridge and chia seeds, but this time I had it with some delicious blueberries. I’m still missing having honey on my porridge, so having some sweet fruit on top helps.
For lunch, I went into town to meet some old colleagues for one of their birthdays. I was keen to go for a vegan meal out during this week, so I was excited to give it a go. We ate at Turtle Bay, which surprisingly has lots of vegan options to choose from. I went for the spiced chickpea and mushroom wrap with a portion of sweet potato fries, and it was so tasty.
As I was pretty full from lunch, I just got a portion of chips at the pub later on as I enjoyed some drinks!
I woke up on Saturday pretty hungover, so I ended up having a late breakfast/brunch. I just wanted stodge and comfort food, so I had beans on toast topped off with some Henderson’s Relish.
In the afternoon, me and my sister decided to do some baking, and chose the ‘Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies’ from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I was amazed by how gooey and rich these brownies ended up without using butter – they were delicious! We used coconut oil instead, but the taste of blueberries and chocolate really come through. I’ll definitely be baking these again.
For teatime, I was keen to try out a recipe from another vegan/plant-based cookbook, and decided on the Dahl curry from Niomi Smart’s book Eat Smart. I’ve always wanted to make a curry from scatch, so I thought this was a great time to give it a go. Inside the curry we had lentils, tomatoes, coriander, garlic, onions, ginger, coconut oil and lots of spices. While the curry was nice, I think it could have definitely done with some more flavour, as none of my family like a mild curry, and I found the recipe didn’t quite leave us with enough sauce. So next time, I think I’ll adjust the measurements slightly!
For my last day of vegan week, I started off with porridge, chia seeds, blueberries and grapes with. I’m actually starting to get pretty used to porridge without honey, so maybe I’ll stop being so reliant on it for breakfast!
Our avocados are finally ripe, so for lunch I had some avocado on seeded toast – one of my all-time favourites! Usually, I’d have poached egg as well with it, but the toast was still pretty nice with just a bit of cracked pepper on.
As I had tons of lentils left from the Dahl the night before, I sought out some vegan lentil recipes online and made a lentil, quinoa, spinach and chickpea stew (as the weather has already started turning cooler today!) Despite missing a few of the ingredients, this actually ended up being so tasty, and loads more flavoursome than the curry the day before.
Food for thought
All in all I’ve really enjoyed this week, and I’ve found it a lot easier than I thought I would. Other than a couple of moments where I nearly ate chocolate or added honey on my porridge without thinking, I didn’t find myself desperately needing eggs or dairy.
I’ve also felt pretty healthy all week, and still found that I had plenty of energy for the gym. So it’s great to know that changing my diet in the future won’t affect my exercise regime.
In conclusion, I think I’ll certainly make the effort from now on to reduce my dairy consumption and experiment more with vegan meals – there’s still tons of recipes in those cookbooks that I’m now dying to try out!