When joining the Vegan Challenge (website is in Finnish) two weeks ago and committing to a vegan diet for January, I was equally looking forward to experiment as I was nervous about cutting off cheese and eggs from my diet. I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for over 20 years, with a handful of meals with game or organic beef in the past five years, but I never tried to completely eliminate all animal-based foodstuffs before. My main worries were the protein and calcium intake and my impression of many meat and milk substitutes as being highly processed.
During the first couple of days I found it a bit challenging to adapt to the new style of cooking. I’ve used ghee or butter for cooking and avoided vegetable margarine like the plague. But I had a big jar of coconut oil at home, so I started using that for cooking and continued to sprinkle olive oil over the cold dishes. I stocked up on organic tofu, chickpeas, lentils and beans for protein and filled the fridge with vegetables and fruits. In the beginning it thought that something was missing but soon I felt a new creativity creeping in and now I’m actually quite excited about this vegan cooking thing we got going on at home!
So, what are the main observations so far?
Well, I’ve noticed that I’m even more conscious when reading food labels and when scanning them for milk or egg powder or gelatin, I can’t ignore all the other stuff that’s in even some of the seemingly simple food products. I’ve developed strong willpower, especially when eating out. I was tempted to drown my penne all’arrabbiata in Parmesan at an Italian restaurant the other night or have one of those delicious-looking Portuguese pastries, but instead I went for a tea and ate my friend’s lemon cake with my eyes. I’ve learned to ask questions and inform people about my veganism when invited to a friend’s place for dinner. I’ve learned to plan to have snacks with me for vegan-emergencies as I’ve noticed that the selection in cafes, vending machines and lunch restaurants is pretty limited. But most of all, I’ve gotten inspired. I’ve browsed many vegan food blogs and cookbooks and realized that there is a way to do a vegan version of pretty much any recipe. So, will this become a more permanent life change? The answer is “probably not”, but for sure I’ll keep cooking vegan dishes in the future and introduce some of the newly found ingredients into my diet. The daily newletters from the Vegan Challenge as well as email communication with a dedicated tutor to answer all my questions is a great support in adapting to the diet. Two more weeks to go, I’ll let you know how I feel about this at the end of January 🙂