VEGAN WEEK: Alice, Anna, And Kiah ‘s Experience

A green mug with the words 'In case I haven't told you today I am vegan'
Alice Nott, Anna Stacey, and Kiah Tooke

The lifestyle team took part in the Vegan Society’s ‘Plate Up for the Planet’ where you go vegan for a week. Here is how Alice, Anna, and Kiah found the week, their favourite meal and their thoughts on the future of veganism.

Alice’s Experience

Vegan week was interesting, and in a lot of ways it was easier than I expected. There are so many substitutes these days and as a vegetarian I barely noticed the difference. It was easy enough to replace my milky tea in the morning with a green tea or have soya milk in my coffee.

The real challenge was snacks

However, the real challenge was snacks. The price of a vegan brunch bar is so much higher than a vegetarian one, if I was to go vegan in future, I would continue to probably eat honey for this reason (especially as honey is one of the most faked food and so is generally vegan). I would also say eating on the go was not as easy either.

That being said I didn’t notice a significant difference in my main meals, I continued to eat pasta, mash, and dhal. Breakfast most morning I had my current favourite of toast with hazelnut spread. Lunch was probably the hardest, whereas before I would pick up a cheese toasty I couldn’t, still a vegan sausage roll isn’t too bad.

The aubergine lasagne is easily my favourite vegan dish. The simplicity is contrasted by the depth of flavour this dish can convey when done well. Even when topped with vegan cheese rather than mozzarella its freshness and warmth is remarkable.

I bought it along to the vegan potluck, making both a gluten and gluten free option and it was a remarkable hit. I am not surprised I have been cooking it now for a year, after Christina taught me the recipe last year and every time its moreish quality leaves people asking for more

I would recommend everyone try going vegan even just for a week

I would recommend everyone try going vegan even just for a week, and not just for environmental reasons. You learn a bit about yourself, I realised that I wouldn’t really miss the food I thought I would, and you can still have pasta even with no cheese (although it is better with). I also learnt something else very important, and you are going to have to forgive me a little anecdote.

After vegan week had ended, I went out for dinner and had egg-fried noodles, I had thought for a while that eggs weren’t great for me, but after going vegan for a week I realised I was probably allergic. As soon as I ate eggs again, I began to feel sick and the rash on my arm re-appeared, and I finally had to accept that it wasn’t all in my head.

For this reason as well as the benefits to the environment I would highly recommend we all try challenges like this. You never know realising you can do it for a week might lead to you doing it for a month and eventually even longer. You don’t have to be vegan to care about the environment, but animal farming is a huge emitter, so it’s worth it even if it just leads to you learning a few new recipes.

Anna’s Experience

At university, I tend to make more plant-based meals than meat ones. But, for this challenge I decided to focus on finding meat swaps in order to show that the occasional vegan meal is achievable and still super tasty for the meat lovers out there!

I would recommend for meat alternatives are Tesco’s Plant Chef and Wicked Kitchen

Two ranges I would recommend for meat alternatives are Tesco’s Plant Chef and Wicked Kitchen. Tesco’s Plant Chef meat free chunks worked well in fajitas, and their sausage rolls went down well at the Potluck social. Wicked Kitchen’s peppered “Beast” slices made great sandwich fillers with a bit of salad.

Unfortunately, The Vegetarian Butcher’s “What the Cluck” chicken style soy pieces left a lot to be desired. The texture was slightly slimy and it had large air gaps in it, as well as having an odd flavour in my opinion, so I did find myself picking it out. After trying this I stuck to meals which did not use meat alternatives such as my katsu veggie stir fry and mushrooms on toast, which ended up being my favourite meals.

Lots of vegan swaps were eye wateringly expensive

Oat milk for cow’s milk is a swap I would keep as it was a very similar price, but lots of vegan swaps were eye wateringly expensive in comparison. Vegan snacks were a particular area where this was an issue, as products branded as vegan were often three times the price and in smaller volumes than their non-vegan counterparts. I found that I way to get around this was to look for products that were accidently vegan, but there were not many options and sometimes Soreen just cannot fulfil a craving for cake!

Overall, I would recommend this experience. It made me think more deeply about the impact our diet has on the environment and as I found it surprisingly easy. I am considering continuing to make these swaps for the planet.

Kiah’s Experience

Recently I have tried being vegetarian, which had been going well, so I was excited for the next step up to veganism for this week. My main worry I had going in was removing cheese from my diet – as someone who accompanies cheese to pretty much half my meals, I knew this would be a bit of a struggle. After trying countless vegan cheeses and being disappointed, I expected that I would just have to avoid any cheese replacements this week.

The downside to these products though is that they tended to be a lot more expensive

Overall, I found eating a vegan diet a lot easier than I had thought. The number of vegan alternatives that are now stocked in big supermarkets pleasantly surprised me, with alternatives from cream cheese to chicken pies being readily available. The downside to these products though is that they tended to be a lot more expensive, making the overall cost for the week a lot more than a normal food shop would be.

My favourite meal of the week was a satay potato curry that I made, it used a lot of ingredients I already had which I was pleasantly surprised by. A drawback I found to some vegan recipes is that they used a lot of specialised ingredients that were both expensive and not something I would find a use for in other dishes.

The Gosh! product range was also one of my favourites as it supplied me with a few snacks for the week and I found their falafel range was an amazing wrap filling. I was also pleasantly surprised with Oatly’s cream cheese replacement spread as this was my first cheese replacement that I was perfectly happy with. I did miss my cheddar cheese though.

I will definitely keep some of these vegan swaps

Although I will definitely keep some of these vegan swaps, I think the financial and convenience side of the week would stop me being vegan full time for now. As someone who tends to forget to bring food when I’m out and about, the vegan selection of food on campus was disappointing – having to opt for just chips for lunch sometimes.

I would most like to be vegan to minimise the negative effects my diet has on the planet, though I don’t think I could do it all at once like I did this week. As a student on a budget, I would find it hard to factor in the costs of immediate vegan replacements for some of my favourite foods such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (almost £6!) and chocolate.

However, I did experiment more with my cooking over vegan week, using way more fruit and vegetables than I ever have before. I sometimes struggle making sure I have my recommended 5 a day all the time, but after this week I learnt lots of new ways to incorporate a range of vegetables into my diet, making small changes to head towards a more plant-based diet.

Alice Nott, Anna Stacey, and Kiah Tooke

Featured image courtesy of Charl Folscher via Unsplash. Image license here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of Alice Nott, Anna Stacey, and Kiah Tooke. Permission for use granted to Impact. No changes made to these images.

This article is part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series. For more articles on the conference check out the link here.

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