Veganism: A Seven Day Trial

The first thing you should know about me is that I love all things dairy. Especially cheese. So, naturally, I proposed taking on an all-vegan diet for seven days, and keeping a diary of how it went to share with Her Campus readers.

 

The idea of a cheese-free week is frightening, but I’m keeping an open mind and hoping that living with vegetarian housemates will give me an advantage on the meat-free side of things. Plus, the copious amount of vegan dairy products currently stocked in supermarkets should mean that even if I can’t have the real thing, finding a convincing substitute won’t be too difficult - for my sake, I really hope so.

 

Day One

My favourite day of the week: Big Food Shop Day. I headed to my local supermarket early this morning, armed with a full meal plan and shopping list. The shop took about an hour in total, mainly because I like to dawdle, and was roughly £10 more expensive than my usual shop. I’m sure that if I did some research, I could find cheaper vegan products than the ones I bought – but overall, not bad for a vegan-in-training!

 

Breakfast: I had my usual granola and blueberries but introduced a coconut-based yoghurt to the mix; the coconut flavour wasn’t at all overwhelming, and with a delicious natural sweetness I think it would be suitable for even the worst Bounty-haters out there.

Lunch: I tried out a BBC recipe for chickpea curry jacket potatoes - totally delicious and the perfect comfort food for cold weather.

Dinner: I was lazy and went for a ‘Butternut Cauliflower Mac’ ready meal - not quite as good as homemade, but then again, what is?

 

Day Two

I was snowed under with work today, so my main energy source was tea and biscuits. I’ve been using oat milk for a while now after being converted by my housemate, so that was one less swap to make (thanks Amy!). After a bit of research, I found out that McVitie’s Hobnobs are, in fact, vegan; stress-eating an entire packet has never been so guilt-free.

 

Dinner: An overcooked vegan risotto made with courgette, peas and parsley. As it turns out, I’m no better at vegan cooking than I am at regular cooking (go figure). To console myself about the disastrous meal, I tried out Ben & Jerry’s dairy-free Cookie Dough ice-cream and was very impressed - so far, so good(ish).

Snacks: Before bed I got an intense craving for cheese and so thought it would be a good time to try out the Violife, a cheese-alternative I purchased during my shop. I had plans for cheese on toast but couldn’t work out whether my bread was vegan or not, so settled for cheese on crackers instead. I was pretty apprehensive about this particular item; however, I found the flavour quite convincing – unfortunately, the texture was a bit more like processed cheese which I wasn’t such a fan of.

 

Aside from the risotto fiasco, my first couple of days went pretty smoothly - so far, I haven’t felt like I’m missing out on anything and I’m really enjoying trying out new brands.

 

Day Three

Today I hit a vegan-shaped wall and had to physically restrain myself from eating my bodyweight in leftover Christmas chocolate. I felt completely drained of energy and extremely irritable - I still don’t know if it was due to my dietary changes or just a bad hormone day.

 

Breakfast: Regardless of my mood, I tried hard to stick with it and made super easy vegan pancakes for breakfast (you just need to switch out regular milk for a plant-based alternative!).

Lunch: Chickpea-based falafels in pitta bread - you can’t go wrong with falafels.

Dinner: A very spicy veggie stir-fry.

 

Today’s meals didn’t feel that different from what I’d have on a regular day, which shows you can still have most of–if not all­–the foods you like whilst following a vegan diet. One downside that I’ve noticed, however, is not being able to grab things from the cupboard without first carefully analysing the ingredients. In the long run I can see it would be great for my health to be more aware of what I’m putting into my body, but at the moment I’m finding it quite time-consuming - especially when I’m not feeling my best. 

 

Day Four

I felt a lot more positive this morning and made sure to plan out my meals for the day in advance so I could spend less time preparing them later.

 

Breakfast: I really enjoyed my vegan pancakes yesterday, so I made them again for breakfast - topped with some sliced banana, it was a delicious and satisfying meal.

Dinner: I spent the majority of the day in seminars and lectures so unfortunately the trusty Hobnobs made a reappearance, followed by Quorn fajitas for dinner. For dessert, I tried out Gu’s ‘Free From’ pudding range; can confirm their Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake Pots are heavenly.

 

Eating plant-based has made me feel as though I’m eating more healthily than usual, and I’m aware that it would therefore be easy to fall into a trap of eating more than normal. Generally, vegan food is naturally lower in calories than dairy or meat; nevertheless, there are a few products on the market that contain excessive sugar and salt which are not so healthy. As with any diet, I think it's really important to be aware of what’s in your food and make the healthiest choices you can.

 

Day Five

No lectures or seminars today, so I attempted making all my meals from scratch – almost as much of a task as a full day of uni if you ask me…

 

Breakfast: A totally vegan English breakfast using Heck’s veggie sausages, Quorn bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast with dairy-free butter. The sausages were really tasty and the bacon was much better than expected, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my usual poached egg.

Dinner: My breakfast kept me full until dinner when I went all-out with a homemade vegan pizza. What I didn’t realise is that the pizza dough would take two hours to rest (note to self: always read ahead on recipes). By the time I was able to add my toppings at 9pm, it’s safe to say I was famished - in the end, it was delicious and very nearly worth the wait.

Snacks: Apart from the odd Hobnob, I’ve mostly snacked on fruit. In doing so, I’ve found it much easier to achieve my 5-a-day as I can’t run to the chocolate cupboard every time I’m hungry (much to my dismay).

 

Day Six

 

Breakfast: The good ol’ reliable coconut yoghurt and granola combo makes a return – a tried and true meal. 

Lunch: Plain and simple jacket potato (piled high with Violife cheese, of course).

Dinner: Veggie burger topped with salad, tomatoes and jalapeños - yum.

 

I started to run low on a few things today but being on a student budget, I put off food shops for as long as I can. I’ve also begun to notice that with some of the vegan products I picked up this week, I’ve actually paid more money for less food - I can imagine that following such a diet could become quite expensive long-term. Whilst my local supermarket is great for my normal shopping list, if I were to stick with veganism permanently I would definitely need to look into which supermarket offers the best value for money for vegan alternatives. It goes to show that a change in diet can have an impact in all areas of your life – physical health, financially and otherwise.

 

Day Seven

 

Breakfast: I celebrated my final day as a vegan with a typical Sunday brunch breakfast this morning; smashed avocado on toast, followed by a very tasty oat milk latte which I took out with me on my government-sanctioned daily walk.

Lunch: I attempted a Sunday lunch that included an (albeit slightly dry) nut roast, accompanied by some very tasty vegetables and roast potatoes. Followed by a ‘Freaks of Nature’ vegan Sticky-Toffee Pudding Pot, this meal definitely hit the spot.

Dinner: An extremely nutritious entire bag of Percy Pigs (they contain beeswax so aren’t entirely vegan, but I just really really needed some Percy Pigs – who can blame a girl, it’s been a long week).

 

From doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered that veganism is linked to a number of health benefits such as improved kidney function, lower risk of heart disease and lower blood sugar levels. It can also have an enormously positive impact on our carbon footprint, as researchers at the University of Oxford discovered; cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could potentially reduce your footprint by up to 73%. Ultimately, I don’t think I’ll be going fully vegan–my love of cheese is too great–but I’ll definitely be making a few easy swaps to plant-based foods; for my health, the planet, and most importantly, to please my main man David Attenborough.

 

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my week as a vegan. I feel like it’s opened my eyes to a world of possibilities - it’s also inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and get creative with meals instead of reaching for the same five recipes I usually use on repeat. I would encourage anyone to try it - as always, it's really important to speak to your GP about any major dietary changes before you make them, but if you have been considering going vegan, this is your sign!

 

 

Words By: Rosie Harkin-Adams

Edited By: Amelia Reed