Each year, ‘Veganuary’ sees more individuals trying vegan food, switching to a vegan diet and exploring their food choices and impacts. Whilst making dietary changes can be daunting, Label Volunteer, Olivia Connelly, explores her experience with being vegan, her reasoning for doing so, and her suggestions for anyone who would like to make the change.
My name is Olivia and I have been vegan for about 6 years now, so since I was 16 and I’m nearly 22. The backstory is not the most exciting but I decided to be vegan because I did not enjoy the taste or texture of meat anymore so I stopped eating it when I was 15. I started to do more research about vegetarianism as veganism really was not as big as it is now as it has grown so vastly. My research led me onto veganism, so I transitioned to being vegan between 15/16. I did so because I watched documentaries, read articles etc. about how badly animals were treated, not only in the meat industry, but in the dairy industry – you would not comprehend it. So, I became vegan because I honestly adore all animals and the thought of eating them does not entice me. Likewise, the health reasons were also very much part of my decision. I had bad skin for a while which can be exacerbated by dairy products. Hence, once I cut out cheese and milk etc., it gradually improved my skin and complexion.
It all came quite naturally to me as I was vegetarian for a bit first, so I was accustomed to veggie ways. However, at the beginning my mum was sceptical about it as she didn’t know anything about veganism much like other friends and family. So, it was met with a slight resistance as she did not know what to cook me. It ended up being fine though as I started creating a lot of my own meals which greatly helped me when I moved to university! My mum also now rarely eats any meat and loves a lot of the foods I eat and the veggie substitutes. My brother too has meat free days, so I have taught my family a lot about it and not everyone has to be vegan, but it is always good to cut down on meat etc. Additionally, in terms of vegan food, I honestly much prefer it and do not miss anything. The meals I make are tastier as you can actually taste all of the flavours without any overpowering meat or cheese. Similarly, a lot of non-vegan meals such as spaghetti Bolognese and chilli con carne etc. are easily made vegan with substitutes which taste so similar, and a lot of my family members have not been able to distinguish the difference! There are many evident benefits such as having more energy, my skin being a lot better and having that ‘vegan glow’ that many talk about, and improved digestion. Also, being part of a vegan community where everyone supports everyone is so fulfilling. Everyone is so friendly and helpful, always aiding you with new ways for making the most of being vegan.
Why you should be vegan/try Veganuary:
Even if you don’t want to be vegan forever, starting off with trying Veganuary is always a great start, and many people love it so much that they do end up being completely vegan! Becoming or trying to be a vegan is actually a fun experience where you learn about new foods and recipes that you may not have known before. If you are into sports it will help with your energy levels and your recovery time. Your skin will look better and so will your hair (as long as you’re eating a healthy vegan diet). Who wouldn’t want to improve their health? It greatly lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. You will help the environment and we all know how bad climate change is, so it’s always good to be part of helping save the planet. There is a lot of information out there about how eating fish is killing our oceans and how eating meat wastes water.
Being vegan is a lot easier than you think. Many never know where to start and think meals are complicated, expensive and time consuming. However, a lot of things are ‘accidentally vegan’ like Oreos (not that you can solely eat Oreos), and basic ingredients such as potatoes, fruit, veg, rice and pasta etc. are all cheap and, of course, vegan – so it’s not as expensive as you think.
Veganism is such a huge concept now, and being vegan is easier than it has ever been before with vegan meals etc. on tap. There are solely vegan restaurants everywhere so it is nowhere near as hard as people think. Veganism is growing and becoming more popular for a reason.
- Watch documentaries on veganism to learn more. Such as ‘The Game Changer’, ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Seaspiracy’.
- Join Facebook or other social media platforms’ vegan groups. People share knowledge and recipes on veganism, and you can ask any questions openly.
- Read books and articles to make your experience easier, such as ‘Earthling Ed’ and ‘The Vegan 8’.
- Cook for family and friends as it makes the experience more fun and can help with the transition.
- Take vitamins such as B12, or multivitamins which you can find pretty much anywhere, but Holland & Barrett is always reliable.
- Good vegan alternative brands: Linda McCartney, Quorn, Vivera, Alpro – there are so many but it depends on the type of food too.
- Lastly, have fun!