“I’m going vegan for lent” is probably the most basic Irish millennial statement you’ll ever hear.
I haven’t gone to mass for years so I didn’t think I’m qualified to be taking on a bit of Catholic self-punishment, though, in the process of coming up with this challenge I remembered I celebrate Christmas so when the girls said they were going to do something for Lent, I jumped on the bandwagon.
So why veganism, you ask?
A) Veganism has prevailed and continues to be trendy, I’m a sheep, what can I say.
B. I guess there isn’t much left for me to give up. I was already pescatarian. I don’t really do treats or fizzy drinks. Savory always comes before sweet in this house.
I’ll start with the conclusion, I started veganism in February and I still am vegan today – I have found it so easy in Australia but also it has helped me to get much more creative with food and focus on getting all good bits into my daily diet. I hate the word diet by the way, I also hate the word lifestyle. How do we rephrase this, vegan way of life? Ew. That’s very eat, pray, love energy.
We’ll call it a diet but it’s not really a diet, it’s the daily stuff you pop in your gob and say mmm to.
Here are 7 steps to a “vegan diet” for beginners:
- Don’t change too much too fast
I cannot stress this enough. If you are someone who loves a rasher sandwich or katsu curry, you can’t fast track yourself to just eating falafels, carrot sticks, and hummus in twenty-four hours. Don’t go cold turkey, you’re setting yourself up for a fail. Trust the process, start with meat or fish, then start chipping away at dairy products one by one. You will be shocked by how many foods aren’t vegan. When I found out that most pesto is in fact not vegan, I nearly collapsed in the condiment aisle. If you don’t want to become a devout vegan from the get-go, make simple swaps that you’ll barely notice. Swap dairy milk for oat, butter for olive spread and maybe add in one vegan lunch and dinner a week. The slower you go at the beginning, the better you’ll acclimatize in the first few weeks.
- Make sure to do some research
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail (I’m lame, I know) but, on a very real note, if you don’t know what’s ahead, such as the fact that most pesto isn’t vegan (!!) – It will make it harder to maintain it. There are so many resources out there that can help with coming up with weekly shopping lists, and recipes. Social media and in particular Instagram is massively helpful for inspo. If you’re at a loss for what a weekly vegan menu would look like, just #vegan on Instagram and feast your eyes on the delicious options that are out there.
- Always have snacks in your bag, always
Hanger is your enemy, most convenience stores do not have vegan snacks in stock, and if they do they’re usually overpriced non-feel good food. Always, always, have snacks in your bag, that goes for everyone, not just the temporary or devout vegans.
- Get enough Zzs in the beginning
All changes can make us feel fatigued, whether it’s a new job, a new work-out or a new schedule, you may feel a little run down at the start. To really optimize the feel-good feeling that comes with increasing plant intake in your diet, aim for eight hours of good quality sleep a night, at least in the first week.
- Drink plenty of water
Get it into you Karen! Water is good for everyone at all times but when you are going vegan, make sure that you are drinking plenty of water. Not eating some of your everyday favourites, and potentially less protein may give you a phantom feeling of hunger. When I first started, I was hangry, constantly, then I realized that three sips of water a day probably wasn’t going to cut it. Stay hydrated and then double-check if there’s actually a cause for your hanger induced rage or if you’re just dehydrated.
- Inject variety into your diet
Inject variety into your diet, whatever your diet may be. There is nothing worse than being bored with your own nutrition. There is a pretty strong misconception that veganism is really boring, bland and overly healthy. This is largely not the case, and I saw the need to be a little more creative as part of the challenge. 2020 truly is the year of the vegan and we have never had such a large offering of substitutes. Recreate all of your favourite meals with clever substitutes and you will be a pro in no time.
- Listen to your body
Nothing should take priority over your health and sense of well-being. If veganism or indeed any new nutrition plan is leaving you feeling crap then ditch it. Consult with your doctor if it’s making you feel unwell, and don’t forget that intuitive eating (eating what makes you feel good) is truly is the best long-term nutrition plan you can follow.
During my previous vegan stints, I would tend to fill up on vegan protein bars, carbs and fake versions of meat, which if we’re really honest with ourselves isn’t a healthy or balanced diet. I thought about it long and hard before deciding I wanted to give veganism another whirl, especially while in Australia which boasts delicious and substantial vegan options.
It’s been six months since I took the vegan plunge, so far, so good – here’s an article on some of the main changes I’ve noticed during this time.