What on earth has happened to our #TeamCoco writer, Rachael Lindsay? She used to love cheese, milk chocolate, seafood and travelling around the world to sample all the non-vegan food on offer. But now she is calling herself vegan and telling us about the benefits. Explanation please!
My vegan journey started this year. Like so many around the world, I wanted to give Veganuary a try. For anyone who managed to sleep through the Veganuary craze, it is essentially the idea of giving up meat, fish, dairy and all animal products for the month of January, and there is a handy website to help you through it. And from there, I haven’t looked back.
I had been vegetarian for several years. I had always loved animals so once I made the connection between the cute little calf in the field and the meat on my plate, I just couldn’t go on eating it. But I did continue eating fish and seafood – thinking I needed protein from these sources. Plus I ate a lot of dairy and eggs – also because I thought I needed the nutrients they provide.
Veganism always seemed very extreme to me. I constantly told people ‘I could never go vegan because I love *insert non-vegan item here* too much’. Whether it was chocolate, cheese, ice cream, pancakes or nutella, I honestly love food and I didn’t want to live without these delicious things in my life.
What really changed my mind were a few lovely vegans I met who talked about things that I couldn’t get out of my head. Plus some documentaries on Netflix which are difficult to watch without being disgusted by the animal industry (Cowspiracy, What the Health and Food Choices to name a few).
I won’t go into the grisly details of what happens in the industries but it is safe to say that my new-found knowledge was putting me off the delicious food on my plate. As yummy as what I was eating might be, were the few moments of pleasure that I had eating it really worth putting fellow creatures through agony and ultimately, death?
There are also pressing environmental and health reasons for turning vegan. The health reasons, in particular, surprised me. We grow up thinking that meat and dairy will give us protein and calcium, which we need to be strong and healthy. And yet the reality is that we can get all the protein, nutrients and strength we need from plants. Without the cholesterol and saturated fat which is only present in animal products, we have a far healthier diet, and a far reduced risk of the most deadly diseases.
When I became vegan, I began to think more than I had ever done before about what I was putting into my body. Rather than just cutting out the dairy, eggs and seafood from my diet (which seemed depressing and upsetting), I sought out new foods to try and learnt about new nutritional sources. Of course, a vegan who only eats ready-salted crisps and Oreos (yes they are vegan) will not have a balanced diet and may become ill – but my diet drastically improved when I became vegan, as I found myself eating far fewer processed products, and more whole foods.
As I was pretty upset to leave behind my chocolate pancakes and French Comte cheese, I tried (and continue to try) lots of substitutes for these once-beloved items. In practice this meant that I spent a lot of January baking since I have a real sweet tooth. I had never really been a fan of baking and cooking before but veganism unleashed a wave of creativity in me. I made all sorts, from courgette cake and dark chocolate and strawberry mousse to oat milk and cashew cheese. There were of course disasters along the way (the very runny carrot burgers to mention one) but also huge successes (I am now a master hummus-maker hurrah!).
And yet, nobody is perfect. I have to admit that, in the eight months I have tried to be vegan, there have been moments when *shock horror* I have eaten Cadbury’s dairy milk and Dominoes pizza. This doesn’t change the fact that I will keep trying to be vegan and, all the more, means that I celebrate every vegan day that I manage to have.
Something I should also mention is that veganism hasn’t ever stopped me doing what I want to do. I love travel and I always assumed that it would be impossible to travel and be vegan. Of course, it can depend on where you travel but many, many countries have brilliant vegan dishes and I have travelled in Greece, Bulgaria, France and India this year, with very few issues. From stuffed vine leaves, sesame bread and fava bean dip on Greek islands to vegetable curry and spicy fried rice in India, there is so much vegan food out there to discover. Trying vegan restaurants and special vegan menus is now one of my favourite pastimes, and the innovation going on in the restaurant industry to accommodate us is inspiring.
So, for anyone tempted to become vegan without looking back, I would suggest :
- Ensure you are still getting all the nutritional content you need from your new lifestyle choice
- Be creative, make new food, try new food and enjoy it – there are SO MANY bizarre vegan options out there to discover (but don’t bother trying the carrot burgers)
- You are human, forgive yourself if you eat some cheesy chips, but don’t give up the fight!
- Don’t let veganism hold you back from doing what you want to do, it might just be possible to have it all!
For anyone with questions about my vegan journey, please get in touch through our House of Coco social media channels and tag @rachannelindsay or @a_spell_of_vegan on Instagram, my vegan Insta page.