I went vegan for a full month – and here’s exactly what I learned

Beyoncé, Lea Michele, J. Lo and even our own Roz Purcell are just some of the stars who've shunned meat and dairy to keep themselves fighting fit.

While in theory a vegan diet sounds relatively simple, in practice it can be a little more complicated – all that recipe planning, for one. 

Blogger Amy Mulvaney gave veganism a go for a month to see if it was for her or not, and here's how she fared…

I’m a meat-eater, a chocolate lover and a cheese fiend. So when I told people that I was going vegan for a full month, the reaction was pretty much the same: “Are you crazy? But what are you going to eat?”

But after doing a bit of research on veganism and seeing the effects it can have on your body and health, I had already decided that it was worth a try, despite being just a little terrified.

One month of nut butter, almond milk and tofu on, here’s what I learned

1. Preparation is key
With so many foods eliminated from my diet, I knew that the only way I would survive was if I planned things out properly. I stocked up on plenty of fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta, and set out all of my meals from books like Deliciously Ella Every Day.

2. It’s not as expensive as you might think
Aside from picking up pricier products like miso paste and nutritional yeast, after the first week my food shopping wasn’t expensive and was pretty minimal. I didn’t waste as much food as I usually would, and everything in the fridge was eaten.

3. Google is your best friend
In fear of eating something that wasn’t vegan, I Googled everything before it crossed my lips. You’d be surprised at which foods are not vegan, including certain breads, pastas and treats like crisps.

4. Eating vegan doesn’t have to be boring (and it’s kinda easy)
I found it surprisingly easy to omit meat and dairy from my dinners, and really enjoyed making new dishes. Vegan stir fries, veggie burgers and tomato pasta are dishes that I’ll definitely keep eating, even though the month is over. Obviously some meals take longer than others, but overall I made sure that whatever I was making didn’t take longer than 20 minutes.

5. I didn’t lose weight or have heaps of energy
Being totally honest, I didn’t experience the boundless energy and lift in my mood that a lot of people do when they go vegan. My mood and energy stayed pretty much the same, as did my weight.

6. People don’t react too well when they hear you’re vegan
Even though I was only vegan for the month, a lot of people couldn’t help but hide their reaction to my new lifestyle. They made it pretty clear that they thought it must be “terrible” to live that way, before scoffing when I told them it wasn’t that bad.

7. Eating out wasn’t tortuous… honestly
Whenever I was eating out throughout the month, I made sure I looked at the restaurant’s menu online and had a look at what I could eat. Most places were happy to cater to what I needed, and the food I ate was delicious. Saying that, not many cafes care if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, and don’t stock soy or almond milk, which is very annoying at 9am on a Saturday when you desperately need a coffee.

8. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy
Most refined sugar is vegan, as are many biscuits and sweets like Oreos and Hob Nobs. So while it might seem like anything that’s vegan is healthy, that’s really not the case.

9. Eating enough is difficult
I wanted to make sure that I was eating enough of the right foods throughout the month, as some vitamins and minerals don’t readily exist in a vegan diet. I had to make sure I ate consistently throughout the day and didn’t leave myself hungry and low in energy.

10. Overall, it was a positive move, which I might even continue. Maybe.
As I said, I wasn’t even vegetarian before I went vegan, so this was a pretty big change for me. Through a lot of preparation and planning (I carried nuts everywhere), I found that I had fewer moments of despair and cravings than I thought.

At the start of the month, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I hate it? Would I want to stay vegan for life? Now I’m at the end, I’m still not sure where I stand.  It was interesting in theory, but in reality I found the whole thing a bit tedious – constantly checking the back of packets for ingredients and not being able to be spontaneous with eating out can get tiring.

I now know, however, that meat, dairy and animal products do not have to form part of every meal I to eat. I’ve really enjoyed trying new foods, stepping outside of my comfort zone and fuelling my body with wholesome and nutritious food. While being vegan was something I really enjoyed doing for the month, I don’t think I could stick to the label of being vegan for life.

I’d be pretty happy, though, to say that I’m a part-time vegan. Now that’s something I can stick to.

Amy Mulvaney blogs about all things lifestyle, beauty and fashion over on What She Does Now.