I tried to start 2021 on the right foot by taking up the Veganuary challenge. Here’s what happened – and no, it wasn’t just about salads.
The concept of veganism is not foreign to me. After coming across a video on factory farms at the impressionable age of 15, I’ve flirted with the idea all my life. There have been instances when I would actually feel guilty for relishing a fork-tender medium-cooked steak or slurping on a milkshake (do you know what happens in dairy farms?). So it was just a matter of time before I took the plunge.
The thought of taking up the Veganuary challenge initially popped up in my mind last December. It was the festive period, and I made the conscious decision to let myself go. Read: wolfing down festive meats and sweets, happy hour all day, every day, and no such thing as working out. Hey, it was Christmas after all!
So, in an attempt to reset my body from December’s debauchery, I decided to take up the Veganuary challenge. Going vegan for just 31 days – should be easy-peasy, right?
My body is a vegan temple
First, I decided to stock up my fridge. It’s surprisingly easy to shop for vegan ingredients and snacks. Not to mention, it’s relatively cheap – protein-packed tofu for only 99 cents!
I swapped out hearty breakfasts of eggs and bacon for simple oats topped with peanut butter and chia seeds (or jam when I was feeling naughty). For lunch, I stuck to a wheel of vegan-friendly eateries near my place. Dinner featured easy-to-prep meals like tofu scramble or coconut curry (sidetrack: I’ve since realised cooking isn’t my thing).
Learnings from the Veganuary challenge
I’m not gonna lie. The first few days were a little rough. I kept thinking of the food I was missing out on. But I’m a fast learner and soon enough, I focused on the things I was gaining. By the end of the month, I had a whole new perspective on veganism. And I promise you, it doesn’t involve a bowl of shrivelled greens.
Feeling energised like the Duracell bunny
I was pleasantly surprised when I managed to shave two minutes off my usual 5K run. I didn’t feel sluggish and generally felt good about myself. Plus, food coma and the afternoon slump no longer existed in my dictionary.
Too much fibre can be a problem
Oh, boy. It might seem TMI, but I wish someone told me I would face a certain stomach issue. So if you’re planning on going vegan, keep an eye out for frequent trips to the bathroom and the almost inevitable flatulence. While I read that the gassy phase should pass eventually, mine just lingered for days on end.
Great plant-based options
Gone are the days where you’re subjected to questionable plant-based meats. Thanks to Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, I could get my burger fix easily. Plus, I was introduced to other brands like OmniMeat (a huge thumbs up for its luncheon meat), Heura and Just Egg – get this, it’s vegan eggs!
Don’t forget about the amazing array of plant-based milk like oats (my fave), almond and even peas. There are also great substitutes for cheese and yogurt as well. I know this is really hard to do, but try not to compare them all to the ‘real thing’. Judge them on their own and your taste buds will learn to appreciate the difference.
Eating out gets easier
At first, I felt a wave of anxiety whenever my friends wanted to meet for dinner. I didn’t want to be that person: the preachy stereotypical vegan who drags their squad to a meatless place. But surprisingly, it was easy to find regular restaurants that offer plant-based options. They were quite substantial too, not the lame way of making a dish vegan simply by taking out the meat. This is proof that veganism is on the rise, for sure.
Vegan food is downright delicious
This is the best part! Throughout January, I took the time to explore the vegan dining scene in Singapore and it didn’t disappoint. Here are some of the places worth a shoutout: The Living Cafe for its wicked pesto zoodles (zucchini noodles), Original Sin for fresh Mediterranean flavours, Warung Ijo for spicy Indonesian fare, The Kind Bowl for amazing Vietnamese cuisine, Sunny Slices for superb vegan pizzas, and Da Mamma for a one-of-a-kind private dining experience.
I think by now you should know that veganism isn’t just another trend. There are numerous studies showing how factory farms are strongly linked to fuelling climate change. And, of course, there’s the fact that chickens, cattle and other animals basically want to live and not feel the terror of being led to the slaughterhouse. Just like us, if I may say. While giving up meat completely might seem like a huge sacrifice, taking baby steps is the key. We can try to consume less meat for the sake of the planet – and even our health.
But all that said, will I continue being a vegan? For now, I am aiming to stick to a flexitarian diet comprising largely of plant-based food… with the occasional addition of meat. Admittedly, meat plays a central role in our lives – from a cultural standpoint (imagine refusing to eat your grandma’s home-cooked meals!) to the emotional attachment you have with your favourite foods (like chicken rice or bak chor mee). While my end goal is to fully commit to this plant-based movement, it does take time to lean into it.
So, now that you know what it’s like, are you prepared to take on the veganuary challenge?