Thursday, 8 January 2015

Vegan for January

Veganuary. It's not the nicest sounding word or ‘portmanteau’ (a word formed by merging two words together). But the meaning is clear – being, or becoming, a vegan for January.

Veganuary aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January. There are so many reasons people decide to try vegan. For most, a love of animals is the catalyst. Some people want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Others would like to set themselves a challenge, and many combine Veganuary with their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and see trying vegan as the healthiest start to the year. Whatever your reason, we’re here to support you. Veganuary

I have honestly never seriously considered becoming a vegan until I saw a tweet about the Veganuary campaign. I love cheese and I love chocolate, although I dislike eggs and could easily swap normal milk for soya – I only have milk on cereal, not in any drinks. I am currently, and have been for a couple of years now, following a pescetarian diet which means I eat fish but not poultry or red meat (but I did eat a grasshopper in Japan last year). Prior to that I had been a vegetarian for a long time, probably more than 10 years. I could quite happily give up fish again, to be vegetarian – I don’t actually even eat fish very often anyway, mostly just when eating out. I think it would have been, and would be, more difficult being a vegetarian/vegan in Japan. Especially when not able to understand the language. They do love their fish!

So, what’s all this about Veganuary then? I saw a ‘promoted’ tweet from the @weareveganuary Twitter account at the end of December, I think it may have even been New Year’s Eve. I got reading about the idea on their website and decided, ‘I could do that. I could be vegan for January!’ I think part of the appeal is that it's a bit of a challenge. Obviously, it ought to be much harder for a complete meat-eater (tried to get my boyfriend onboard but he wasn't keen, although he will eat vegan meals I cook for him). But, as I said, I love cheese and chocolate – I haven't eaten all of my Christmas chocolate yet and I don't plan to until February – so to give them up is a bit of a challenge.

Obviously, there are more reasons than just the ‘challenge’ to become vegan. The Veganuary website expresses a number of reasons why you might consider becoming a vegan – health, animals, environment. I think for me it’s mostly about health, although I wouldn’t say I'm generally too unhealthy. But post-Christmas… Of course, I love animals too! That was the reason I originally became a vegetarian at 9 years old, but after a while it became much more about not liking the taste than simply protecting animals. After all, I still ate dairy products and then I started eating fish. Although, I should point out that it’s always a good idea to pick fish that has been responsibly sourced and choose free range eggs. I accidentally came across this 2011 article about being pescetarian at the weekend and I believe everything expressed in it reflects how I feel about my diet, and I don't doubt that I am healthier than a lot of meat-eaters.

But, vegan! Yes, I am currently following a vegan diet and have been since January 1st – making today Day 8. It may surprise a lot of people, meat-eaters, pescetarians and vegetarians alike, but so far the food has been great. It’s been far more varied than I expected and definitely more inventive – not forgetting tasty! Except for vegan ‘cheese’ which I only tried out of curiosity. It might have been the brand I tried or something but it was horrible!

Protein? The biggest myth about vegans is that they don’t get enough or any protein. Lies! All lies! If you’re not eating meat, fish or dairy, where do you get protein from? Lots of other tasty foods: a whole variety of beans, chick peas, lentils, tofu and other soya-based foods, nuts and seeds and green veggies too!

Take a look at some of the tasty food I’ve cooked up so far.

Vegan ‘meatballs’ made with kidney beans and peanut butter! (Boyfriend approved.)
Simple vegetable stir fry with peanut, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. Plus sunflower seeds.
Butternut squash, carrot, kale and chickpea soup. Spiced up with harissa paste.
Also made houmous!

Other meals that I didn’t photograph include: a vegetable bake topped with breadcrumbs and mixed ground nuts, a warm mixed bean and stir fried veggie salad with bulgar wheat and a vegetable pasta dish that would have been lovely had it not been for the vegan ‘cheese’ I threw in. Yuck.

Am I planning on staying vegan after January? No, probably not. But I’m glad I am giving it ago and I will complete January without eating any cheese or chocolate! Maybe I’ll make Veganuary an annual thing, maybe I’ll eat an extra vegan meal a week too. Maybe I’ll even get my boyfriend or friends and family to join in next time! I’ll certainly be trying lots more new recipes throughout the month, and no doubt I’ll continue to cook some of those meals, and more, throughout the year.

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