30 for 30 // Complete Veganuary

Complete Veganuary - 30 for 30 - accidentally vegan

For a vegetarian who already uses dairy-free milk as habit, it's perhaps surprising how daunting the idea of going vegan for a month felt to me!

I haven't eaten meat for coming on 15 years now. I ate fish on a very rare occasion for many of those years, but not at all for the last 2 or 3. I have a very mild egg intolerance so only ever eat them as a minor ingredient - no omelettes, mayo or veggie Quorn for me.  And when it comes to dairy, I substitute a few products (milk and yoghurt, primarily) the majority of the time already. 

I have no idea why, then, I was anxious about Veganuary, but I was, believe me!

Things didn't exactly get off to a great start when my mum made me a cup of tea with regular milk and I drank it without thinking on the 1st of January, but I promised myself I'd make up for it with an extra day in February instead. And I did, with a few more for good measure! 


Tea-Gate aside, New Year's Day set a pretty good precedent with a meat-free haggis and roast veg main, followed by apple, pear and mincemeat crumble with Alpro custard for dessert. With that, the bar was set pretty high for the rest of the month!

As the festivities subsided and I headed home to my flat, it was time to re-establish a normal diet and eating pattern. 

I enjoy cooking, making the majority of my meals from scratch, so there were no major complications there. 

My lunches habitually consist of home-made soup (easily made vegan!) with a couple of rice cakes and low calorie cheese spread. I was a little apprehensive about replacing this - worried that I wouldn't find a suitable dairy-free alternative and that I would suddenly get fat from the few extra calories (yes, really) - but I found a substitute coconut-based spread in Sainsbury's and was pleasantly surprised by its texture and taste. I stuck with it for the rest of the month - problem solved!

Complete Veganuary - 30 for 30 - Katsu curry

I'm a little more adventurous with my evening meals and enjoyed experimenting with different recipes as January went on. Particular highlights included a BBQ pulled jackfruit wrap; a coconut-based curry packed with butternut squash and chickpeas; a katsu curry, using aquafaba to bind the breadcrumbs; and a big ole pile of nachos, topped with gooey Violife cheese. Yum!

Snacking was a bigger concern as I tend to rely on low-calorie cereal bars, most of which contain traces of yoghurt, chocolate or honey, which are decidedly not vegan friendly. I discovered fairly early on in the month, however, that jaffa cake Alpen Light bars are "accidentally vegan" and I alternated these with some soya yoghurts and the occasional mix of dry fruit and nuts for a healthy snack.

I also discovered a large number of less-healthy snacks and treats which are surprisingly vegan friendly... which may or may not be a good thing! Many people seem to lose weight in their first month on a vegan diet, but having discovered the animal-free delights of Skittles, Jelly Tots, peppermint creams, many supermarket own-brand biscuits, tortilla chips and certain varieties of Walkers crisps.. well, there certainly wasn't much weight-loss happening here!

For the most part, switching to a vegan diet was simpler than I ever thought it was going to be.


There were, however, a few frustrations and complications.

The most notable of these was just wrapping my head around what, exactly, is an animal-derived ingredient. Checking products for milk, butter, eggs and even honey is relatively easy, but there are so many hidden ingredients that are more difficult to spot. Is this colouring made of crushed beetles? Did this binding agent use milk somewhere in the process? Is this fortified with fish-oil vitamins? What even are E numbers in the first place?! I guess you get better at identifying these with practice, but after a month I'm still not convinced I fully got to grips with it.

This led to my second frustration of the month: the sheer length of time it took to do my shopping! Trips to the supermarket became a lengthy affair as I found myself endlessly Googling products or frantically searching for brands I knew to be 'safe' on the shelves. I spent one particularly frustrating afternoon in the cereal aisle of Sainsbury's trying to find a breakfast option that didn't contain animal-based vitamins, only to end up with a box of chocolate Shreddies which I normally wouldn't eat, because gluten! Again, I'm sure this becomes easier and more habitual as time goes on, but in the early days it's just annoyingly time-consuming.

Complete Veganuary - Steak Cattle and Roll Glasgow

Dining Out

One area that caused me particular concern before beginning Veganuary was the idea of eating out in cafes and restaurants. I ended up dining out fairly regularly throughout the month (much to my bank balance's despair) with widely ranging results. 

Many restaurants are slowly cottoning on to the market for vegan food and adapting their menus accordingly, but it's by no means something that can be taken for granted just yet. I found myself scouring nutritional information pages online in advance of visiting anywhere, reassuring myself there was actually something I could eat and worrying repeatedly about being the awkward one in the group! 

I had positive experiences in Wagamama and Yo! Sushi, both of whom have a clearly-labelled vegan food list that prompted me to sample dishes I hadn't tried previously. I had a semi-decent visit to Pizza Express who now offer vegan options across all three courses, but had sadly run out of dairy-free cheese for my pizza on that particular day! And I had a decidedly average dinner at Handmade Burger Co. where there are in fact multiple vegan options, but the value for money felt pretty damn poor. 

It is notable that all of these are large restaurant chains which - as a wannabe supporter of local businesses - leaves me a little disappointed. This caused me a bit of a conflict of values, in many ways, but it simply felt safer to stick to establishments where nutritional information was readily available and I would have more than one menu choice. 

That said, Aberdeen's Bonobo was a bit of a saving grace with its fully vegan menu and I had a delightful bowl of macaroni cheese with potato scones one afternoon while sampling my first turmeric latte. 

I also paid a visit to Glasgow, which is pretty much heaven when it comes to vegan food! I had a tasty lorne sausage and siracha mushroom roll for breakfast at Rose and Grant's one morning, as well as an incredible dinner at the least-likely sounding restaurant - Steak, Cattle and Roll - including a Southern fried seitan wrap, loaded fries, onion rings, coca cola beans and a 'Kraken Me Up' boozy milkshake. The best thing I ate all month, by a long shot!

Helpful Resources 

Save a few frustrations, I had a fairly successful month of eating vegan. I think it's becoming an ever-easier transition to make as the lifestyle grows in popularity and awareness, with retailers responding to the increase in demand. Even Marks and Spencer have launched a new, clearly-labelled range of vegan products in the last few months.

There is also an increasing wealth of resources to be found online, many of which made the process much smoother for me this month. 

Notable among these were the regular emails from the Veganuary team which highlighted the ethical issues underpinning their cause (I'm still traumatised by pictures of "free-range" chickens), as well as sharing some recipe inspiration; the Vegan Womble website, which has an enormously detailed list of supermarket products; and the Safe for Vegans app, which scans a barcode and tells you whether the item is suitable for vegetarians, vegans or none of the above (although it is still in its early stages and annoyingly failed to recognise most Scottish products).

Instagram also turned into a surprisingly helpful resource, stumbling upon various accounts sharing newly-discovered vegan products. Of these, @AccidentallyVeganUK and Glasgow's @VeganBurd were probably my favourites.
I can't imagine how much more complicated it must have been to go vegan in the days before it was a bit of an internet fad, so I'm very thankful I had these resources to help me figure it all out! 

So.. Am I Vegan Now? 

All-in-all, my Veganuary experience was pretty positive - certainly less daunting than my anxious mind predicted! So, does that mean I'm sold and fully converting now? 

Kind of.. But no. 

For the most part, it was simpler than I expected, but there are a few stumbling blocks I just can't seem to get past at the moment, particularly regarding the restrictions around eating out. Much of my social life has come to revolve around restaurants and coffee shops, which can be a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times as someone with social anxiety, without adding the demands and limitations of vegan eating to the mix. Being vegetarian makes me the awkward member of the group as it is - I'm not sure I have the confidence to bring any more complications to the table!

So, I've come to a kind of compromise with myself. Going forwards, I've decided to stick to a vegan diet at home, but to revert back to vegetarianism when I'm out and about. The militant vegans out there will be shaking their fists in disgust, but I believe that every small change adds up and I feel like this is the right decision for me and my lifestyle, for now.

I didn't expect Veganuary to have any lasting impact so am pleasantly surprised that it has and more than happy that I added it to my list!


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