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#veganuary recap: did I become vegan?

Poke bowl – recipe from HERE (but with sweet-chili tofu instead)

As you guys probably already read in this post at the beginning of this month, I decided to join the #veganuary challenge. Not only because the documentary Food Choices kickstartet my interest in eating plant based, but also because I haven’t really been eating meat in a long time and I love plant based food. I got the opportunity to challenge our eating habits even further and at the sametime get a healthy start to the new year. In this post I’m gonna give you all a recap to sum up my experience, what challenges we went through, the economy and last but not least; did I become vegan in the end? Oh, and please note that all of my experiences are written from a Danish point of view, so some things might be different in your country.

Som I kunne læse om lige her i starten af januar i år, så besluttede jeg mig for, at hoppe med på #veganuary bølgen. Ikke blot fordi at dokumentaren Food Choices virkelig kickstartede min interesse for en mere plantebaseret kost, men også fordi jeg længe ikke rigtig har spist kød og jeg elsker de plantebaserede retter. Jeg fik her en mulighed for, at udfordre vores kostvaner endnu mere og samtidig få en sund start på det nye år. I dette indlæg vil jeg derfor opsummere hvordan det gik, hvilke udfordringer vi havde, økonomien i det og ikke mindst; er jeg ligefrem gået hen og er blevet veganer?

Economy

We already purchase most of our groceries organic, and even though there are things you no longer buy as a vegan (meat, cheese, eggs and so on) the vegan alternatives are not always the most affordable, at least not in Denmark. Some are but not all of them. It’s especially things like oat milk, that I prefer rather than soy milk (I just like the taste better). Regular low-fat milk costs more than half of the oat milk. So there are areas where I think it’s kind of harsh on the ol’ wallet, but it all comes down to prioritising. We’ve spend around 16$ more a week on grocery shopping after going “vegan”, which in the end is around 65$ on a monthly basis. That’s something. I don’t think it’s that bad, and I’d like to add that some of the things we’ve bought have been special things like some spices that we wont have to buy every time we go grocery shopping. That being said I think you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to sacrifice more money on nutrition, and cut down on your consumption on other things. I know we are, but I also respect the fact that some people aren’t.

Challenges

Since I think giving yourself the label “vegan” brings a couple of different challenges, I’ve chosen to divide these into some of the biggest challenges I’ve stumbled upon during this month.

Social situations. Long days at work, canteens, travels and meetings are some of the areas I’ve been challenged through this lifestyle. We had a salesmeeting one week, where both lunch and dinner at the restaurant was all taken care of for us. I managed to get myself a vegetarian dish at the restaurant, but during lunch I had to just eat the option that was available. I could have brought my own food had I been aware of the rather few meatfree options there was given, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense either. People around me have begun to really respect the fact that I don’t want meat, and most of my friends and family take it into consideration and are kind to ask me what I want as a replacement. So that part has not been hard at all. It’s become more accepted and normal not to eat meat. But being vegan – the step above that – is a much bigger challenge. There are so many animal biproducts in all sorts of things, and I think it’s really hard to avoid these without people thinking you’re fanatic or feel like you’re a struggle to be around.  So unless you’ll always carry your own food with you, I don’t see how you could succeed 100% with this lifestyle. Besides that there will be people both for and against this lifestyle, who will try to convince you to do one way or the other. I’ve read stories from people turning vegan and becoming a lot happier and healthier, and the other way around I’ve read about vegans going back to eating meat with great succes even after 20 years of not eating meat at all. I think it’s really important that you consult an expert, your doctor and not least yourself in all this. Only you can feel what happens inside your body.

Chocolate and candy. Even though some of the vegan alternatives we have in Denmark when it comes to candy are among my favourites already, I haven’t been able to stay away from the sweet stuff, especially not during weekends. The first weekend of January was really easy to through though, and I didn’t eat one single piece of candy or chocolate. But the thing is, that the tradition it has been ever since I was a kid of picking up a back of bulk candy of my own choice at the store is such a safe place that I find it hard to let go of. It has without a doubt made me think more about what I eat, even when it comes to the ingredients in the candy, but it has not given any real effect.

Health over vegan principles. And while we’re on the subject of unhealthy nutrition, there are some things I’ve been wondering about. For instans there are a high amount of palm oil in some of the vegan yoghurts we have at the store, so I think this proves that you need to have your own common sense with you all along in this too. Palm oil is unhealthy because of the high amount of saturated fats and is also not very sustainable to produce. So even though a product brands itself as being “vegan” it’s not necessarily healthy for that reason only. There may be hidden ingredients that you have to be aware of, like the palm oil. I know I just said I can’t stay away from chocolate either – the biggest sinner of palm oil on earth – but I think it’s more commonly known about chocolate than it is when it comes to vegan alternatives. So just be aware.

Økonomi

Vi køber i forvejen størstedelen af vores mad økologisk, og på trods af der jo er nogle ting man ikke længere køber som veganer (kød, pålæg, ost osv.), så er de veganske alternativer ofte bare lidt dyrere. Ikke dem alle, men nogle er. Her tænker jeg især på mælkeerstatninger som havremælk der er min favorit (jeg kan godt drikke soyamælk i kaffen, men foretrækker havremælken da den er lidt mere blød og afrundet i smagen). Den koster 20 kr. hvor en almindelig liter økologisk minimælk koster under det halve. Så der er nogle steder hvor man godt kan mærke det på pengepungen synes jeg, men det er jo en prioriteringssag. I gennemsnit har vi brugt ca. 100 kr. mere om ugen på madindkøb, hvilket jo i sidste ende bliver omkring 400 kr. mere på månedlig basis. Det synes jeg egentlig ikke er så slemt, og disse tal skyldes jo også delvist, at vi har købt nogle specielle (men ret almindelige i veganske retter) krydderier m.m., som vi jo ikke skal købe hver uge. Med det sagt så må man jo gøre op med sig selv om man er villig til at ofre lidt flere penge, og skrue ned for sit forbrug for noget andet. Det er vi ihvertfald, men jeg respekterer også det faktum, at det er der andre der måske ikke er.

Udfordringer

Eftersom jeg synes det, at give sig selv et label som “veganer” bringer forskellige udfordringer med sig, så har jeg valgt at dele disse op i nogle af de store, primære udfordringer jeg den sidste måned er stødt på.

Sociale situationer. Lange dage på job, kantineordninger, rejser og møder er blot nogle af de områder jeg den seneste måned er stødt på, hvor livsstilen har skabt udfordringer for mig. Vi havde fx salgsmøde en dag, hvor der både var bestilt frokost og aftensmad på restaurant på forhånd. På restauranten havde jeg sørget for at jeg kunne få et vegetarisk alternativ, men til frokosten var jeg nødt til at tage dét der var. Havde jeg vidst der ikke var et kødfri alternativ kunne jeg sagtens have fundet på at tage min egen mad med, men det var der altså ikke. Folk omkring mig har hurtigt accepteret, at jeg helst ikke spiser kød og er blevet søde til at sørge for eller spørge mig om hvilket alternativ jeg gerne vil have. Så dén del synes jeg overhovedet ikke er svær. Det er blevet mere alment accepteret, ikke at spise kød. Skridtet over – veganer – er dog en større udfordring. Der er så mange skjulte animalske biprodukter i alt muligt, at jeg synes det er svært at undgå 100% uden man fremstår fanatisk eller føler sig til besvær. Så medmindre man altid vil have sit eget forråd med, så har jeg svært ved at se hvordan jeg skal kunne opfylde denne livsstil til punkt og prikke. Udover det, så er der virkelig mange delte meninger om, hvorvidt dét at spise plantebaseret er sundt eller ej. Både online og i virkeligheden vil der være folk, der prøver at overbevise dig for eller imod og der findes virkelig også nogle virkelig overbevisende facts på begge fløje. Jeg har læst beretninger fra folk der er gået fra kødspiser til veganer og har fået det bedre men også omvendt læst om mennesker, der efter 20 år som vegetar eller veganer har fået det så meget bedre, efter igen at spise animalske produkter. Her tror jeg det er vigtigt, at du konsulterer dig med en ekspert der rent faktisk véd noget om ernæring, din læge og ikke mindst dig selv. Mærk efter hvad der føles rigtigt for dig.

Chokolade og slik. Selvom både Tappsy og Salte Fisk hører under mine favoritter når det kommer til slik (begge dele veganske og uden animalsk gelatine), så har jeg ikke kunne holde mig fra det søde stads, især ikke i weekenderne. Den første weekend i januar spiste jeg ikke et eneste stykke slik, men det er så indgroet en tradition det dér med, at blande en pose slik fredag aften (eller når man bare har haft en virkelig dårlig dag), og det har altså været svært for mig at slippe. Det har helt sikker fået mig til at tænke mere over indholdet af de søde sager jeg indtager, men en rigtig effekt har jeg ikke kunnet presse mig selv ud i, desværre.

Sundhed over veganske principper. Og nu vi er ved det usunde, så er der et par ting der har undret mig lidt. Indholdet af palmeolie i nogle veganske yoghurter er fx vildt højt, og der skal man som forbruger altså lige huske sin sunde fornuft. Palmeolie er usundt fordi det har et højt indhold af mættede fedtsyrer og er desuden heller ikke særligt bæredygtigt at fremstille, pga. den store regnskovsrydning der sker i den kommercielle fremstilling af produktet. Så selvom et produkt brander sig som værende “vegansk”, så er der desværre nogle skjulte ingredienser som netop palmeolie, man lige skal være obs på og som trækker ned i forhold til hvorvidt et produkt nu også er sundt, bare fordi det er vegansk. Nu ved jeg godt jeg lige har skrevet jeg har megasvært ved, at holde mig fra chokolade der jo er ligeså stor en synder i denne sammenhæng, men det er bare værd at nævne alligevel. Jeg tror der er mange der er klar over dét med chokoladen, men nok ikke så meget det andet scenarie.

Positive surprises.

Recipes. I could imagine many people thinking that if you don’t eat meat, you eat a very dull and monotonous diet. But I have to say, both me and my husband have been positively surprised! The app Deliciously Ella has been such a helpful tool during this challenge. It’s a vegan recipe app, which carries hundreds of plant based recipes for all types of meals. Every sunday when I’ve been planning our food for the following week I’ve chosen dishes from the app, and everything we’ve made has been really good. I’m gonna keep using this app for sure, and can’t wait to try their restaurant in London this weekend. Finding good and nutritious vegan meals can be somewhat of a struggle, especially since there are some things you need more of as a vegan (legumes, lentils and so on), but all this is taken in to consideration through this app. It wont get much easier! Among our favourite recipes were poke bowls, especially the one I made with sweet-chili tofu, stuffed sweet potatoes and indian dahl with green lentils and rice.

My energy-level. Now I know I’ve only been doing this for a month, but as I said I haven’t been eating meat for almost 6 months beforehand anyway. Some people say they get a lower level of energy when they eat plant based but I haven’t felt less or more energy at all. Nothing’s really changed there, and I consider myself having a rather normal level of energy living in a northern country that’s dark most of the time at this time of year. I think it’s really important that you remind yourself of the fact, that a diet like this should be PLANT based. Of course you need more carbs to feel full, but if you eat a lot of high fat meals full of carbs with no meat, of course you’ll feel low in energy. That’s not really the point with this diet. I’m no expert, but this is common sense to me. You still need to eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies and besides that eat a variation of different things to stay healthy, just like everyone else. You can’t just eat spaghetti with tomato sauce, you know 😉

Vegan alternatives. Eating less meat has become almost trendy, so I’m really surprised about all the alternatives we have been able to find at the supermarket. Instead of buying sliced meat for our bread for instans, we’ve been buying vegan spread to put on our rye bread and then put cucumber and tomato slices on top of that. It’s such a delicious and easy lunch meal! So #veganuary has really helped my open my eyes for these products, which I’m really happy about.

Positive overraskelser

Opskrifter. Jeg kunne forestille mig mange der måske endda stadig spiser kød tænker, at en veganer må spise sindssygt ensformigt og kedeligt. Men jeg må sige, at dér er både min mand og jeg blevet positivt overraskede! App’en Deliciously Ella har virkelig været en kæmpe hjælp i denne forbindelse. Det er en vegansk app, der indeholder hundredevis af lækre plantebaserede retter. Hver søndag når jeg har lavet madplan har jeg valgt et par retter fra denne app, og alt vi har lavet har været sindssygt lækkert. Den kommer jeg til, at holde fast i fremadrettet og jeg glæder mig til, at prøve deres restaurant i London her i weekenden. Det med at finde på retter kan virke svært og uoverskueligt, især fordi der jo er nogle ting man som veganer skal spise mere af (bønner, linser m.m.) når man ikke spiser kød, men alt det er der taget højde for i disse opskrifter. Nemmere bliver det altså ikke! Blandt favorit opskrifter kan jeg desuden nævne poke bowls, især dén vi lavede med tofu vendt i sød chili sauce, fyldte sødekartofler og en sammenkogt indisk dahl med grønne linser og ris.

Energiniveau. Nu har jeg kun kørt denne kost en måned, men har som sagt forinden ikke rigtig spist kød i næsten et halvt år. Nogle mennesker siger de bliver energiforladte af at spise på denne måde, men jeg har ikke kunnet mærke hverken højere eller lavere niveau af energi. Jeg tror det handler rigtig meget om, at man husker denne kost er plantebaseret. Jo vidst skal man have lidt flere kulhydrater og sin protein igennem andre kilder for at blive rigtig mæt, men jeg tror nogle misforstår konceptet og laver fede, kulhydratfyldige retter – bare uden kød. Og det er jo ikke rigtigt meningen. Nu er jeg slet ikke ernæringsekspert, men dette giver da god mening i min optik. Man skal stadig sørge for at spise masser af frisk frugt og grønt og generelt spise varieret, præcis ligesom de traditionelle kostråd foreskriver. Man kan ikke bare spise pasta med tomat sovs. 😉

Vegansk udvalg. At spise vegetarisk eller vegansk er jo nærmest blevet moderne, og jeg er blevet positivt overrasket over alle de alternativer vi har kunnet finde i de danske supermarkeder, især Aldi og Kvickly. I stedet for pålæg køber vi fx vegansk smørepålæg fra Aldi (gerne den med peberfrugt og chili, mums!) og så putter vi fx agurk og tomatskiver ovenpå. Det smager SÅ godt, og madpakken er jo ligeså nem som den plejer på denne måde. Så der er virkelig mange alternativer til rådighed når blot man åbner øjnene, hvilket #veganuary gav rig mulighed for.

Conclusion

So did I become vegan? No, I did not. In general I don’t like putting a label on myself like that, especially not because I think there are some challenges (especially social ones) I can’t let go of, and thus allow myself to commit 100% to this lifestyle. I’m not saying that I will never commit fully, but I just think it’s hard now because it’s not 100% socially acceptable and easy to live like this (yet!). Of course you could then say that it shouldn’t be what holds me back, but I’m takin babysteps here, and that counts too. The challenge has made me realize how easy and delicious it is to eat plant based, especially when you look at the main dishes you eat at home. I’ll continue to use the Deliciously Ella app, because like I said it’s been such a big help an inspiration in all this. I still don’t feel like eating meat, and I’ll also cut down on other animal products like cheese (which I’ve btw not missed as much as I thought I would, since I freakin’ LOVE cheese), eggs and milk and go for the vegan alternatives instead. So if I have to call myself anything it’s fan of eating plant based, and I will keep it that way! Another area I still can’t really figure out what to do with is the whole leather versus “vegan” leather discussion. Much PU leather is basically plastic so right there I can’t really figure out what the right thing to do is. However I do already buy most of my leather products secondhand and I love innovative brands like Pelechecoco that makes the coolest leather jackets from old leather skins from fx furniture. Do yourself a favour and try this challenge because it will without a doubt push some boundaries and it can kickstart your new, healthy lifestyle for sure. I highly recommend it!

Konklusion

Er jeg så blevet veganer eller hvad? Nej, det er jeg ikke. Generelt er jeg ikke glad for, at skulle putte et label på mig selv på denne måde, især ikke fordi jeg netop synes nogle af udfordringerne (især de sociale) er for svære for mig, at se igennem fingre med til, at jeg vil kunne committe mig 100%. Jeg udelukker ikke det én dag godt kunne ske, men jeg synes det er svært fordi det ikke er alment accepteret i vores samfund, at leve på denne måde (endnu!). Så kan man så sige, at det jo ikke bør holde én tilbage, men jeg tager små skridt af gangen, og det tæller også. Udfordringen har fået mig til at indse hvor lækkert og nemt det faktisk ellers er, at spise plantebaseret – især når man kigger på hovedmåltiderne indenfor hjemmets 4 vægge. Jeg vil blive ved med at bruge Deliciously Ella app’en, fordi den som sagt har været en kæmpe hjælp og den rummer SÅ mange lækre opskrifter til alle typer måltider. Jeg har stadig ikke lyst til at spise kød, og vil også holde fast i, at skære ned på andre animalske produkter som ost (som jeg overraskende nok næsten ikke har savnet, selvom jeg ELSKER ost!), æg og mælk og vælge de veganske alternativer i stedet. Så hvis jeg skal kalde mig selv noget, så er jeg bare stor tilhænger af at spise plantebaseret – og det vil jeg blive ved med at være! Det er bedre for miljøet, og jeg synes jeg er blevet mere kreativ i køkkenet med hensyn til lækre, sunde retter også. Et andet sted jeg stadig har en indre konflikt med mig selv er brugen af læder kontra såkaldt “vegansk” læder. Meget PU læder er jo i bund og grund plastik, så lige dér kan jeg stadig komme i tvivl om hvad der er bedst, og som udgangspunkt køber jeg allerede mine læderprodukter brugte. Jeg er også vild med mærker som Pelechecoco der tager skind fra fx gamle møbler og laver dem om til de smukkeste læderjakker. Anyway – giv dig selv en lignende udfordring som kickstart til en ny livsstil, for det kan virkelig anbefales!

 

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The Comments

  • Andrea
    2. February 2018

    Vegan is really hard for me. I love the app you mentioned and I have two of her cookbooks. The food is really good. My family does not choose to eat vegan food though, so it means I’m making two meals every night which just isn’t easy. I cut out meat for months last year and overall felt so much better (and now while I do eat meat, if there is a non meat option it is always my first choice). The hardest part is ditching cheese/chocolate. I’m lactose sensitive so I never drink milk (I’ll do almond milk for lattes etc). Last month I had a really hard time with any dairy because it upset my stomach so bad, so I did really well stopping all dairy. I’ve slowly added some things back (provided I take a Lactaid pill first to help). I’m thinking about stopping again though as I just felt better when I didn’t eat dairy and meat. Socially it is very hard, and my family eating meat and dairy makes it difficult too. I admire you for trying it. It is very acceptable to be vegan here in Seattle but I know it’s rare in other places.

  • Anna
    4. February 2018

    You might be amused to hear that I have been looking into the whole “Scandi” style eating in an effort to eat more healthily and enjoyably! Rye bread has been an eyeopener! As with all things I try to keep in mind that healthy eating is simple – plant based food needs to be front and centre and the more processed a food is the less benefit it has to you, whether it is vegan, vegetarian or meat based. In england, the whole “clean eating” thing has had a bit of a bad press because if it leading some people to orthorexia, which is an eating disorder where a person becomes obsessed with the cleanliness of the food and cuts out food groups or limits what they eat from them in order to eat clean. With three teenagers in the house I am concerned to teach them to make good food choices, along with exercise and looking after their mental health. My husband is obsessed with asian food, so we eat a crazy mixture of food styles!