Let me preface this by saying that I am not by any means a carnivore. I was a vegetarian for many years, although these days I eat fish once or twice a week. I do love eggs and cheese (cheese!!!) but overall I didn’t think it would be difficult to go vegan for a month as part of Veganuary, a January-long challenge to encourage people to try out a plant-based diet for the good of their health, the environment, and animals everywhere.
And it wasn’t—this isn’t going to be a post about how it was actually sooooo difficult to give up milk in my morning coffee (I prefer almond milk anyway) or cheese on my quesadilla (soy cheese isn’t great but it’s not terrible, and there are nicer options out there than what I bought if I’d bothered to go hunting for them). I would encourage anyone who is interested in reducing the number of animal products in their diets to do so; unless you’re one of those folks who thinks a balanced diet means a steak at every meal, I think you’ll find that you don’t miss meat, eggs, or dairy as much as you might think.
On the other hand, possibly to the chagrin of any vegans reading this, I’m not planning on continuing my all-vegan journey. While I always make an effort to reduce the amount of animal products I consume, I am overall comfortable with where I’m at regarding ethics, sustainability, and health. However, I feel like this Veganuary challenge has caused me to adopt a more mindful approach to what I include in my meals, and that’s a mindset that I intend to keep going forward.
First of all, it made me realise that some of my meals that I add animal products to, I only do because that’s the way they’re “supposed” to be, regardless of whether it needs them or not. This month, I left the cheese off my enchiladas and my pasta, and I didn’t really miss it on either. That doesn’t mean I’ll never use cheese again, but maybe I’ll cut back to a small sprinkle instead of a heaping handful, and maybe sometimes I’ll skip it entirely.
This month has also forced me to get a bit more creative with my breakfasts. While my lunches and dinners are often plant-based anyway, for breakfast I usually eat Greek yogurt or eggs, neither of which were an option during January. Although some of my old standbys were still available to me (avo toast), I tried out some new variations on oats, chia puddings, and toast toppings (chickpeas and tomato sauce was a clear winner) that I’ll continue to use to add some variety and some vegan goodness to my morning meals.
Of course, my vegan month was also made easier by the fact that Melbourne has about a million excellent restaurants with vegan options, and plenty of veg-specific restaurants that Veganuary gave me an excuse (not that I needed one) to try. Every time I go out for delicious vegan ramen or a vegan “meatball” sub (the photos in this post are of a few of my favourite dishes for the month), I think back to when I was a vegetarian as a teenager and my dining-out options were usually along the lines of salad, grilled portobello, grilled portobello, or salad.
It’s amazing and wonderful that vegetarian and vegan eating is no longer just an afterthought even on a non-veg restaurant’s menu. Vegans and vegetarians are getting meals that are creative and tasty, and the variety and quality of these dishes are sure to inspire omnivores to cut back on meat and animal products in favour of some of these delicious options.