Thursday, May 5, 2011

Update - Veganism

In March, I wrote about how I wanted to transition to a more vegan-like approach to eating. At the end of that month, I also set some exercise goals for April, mostly around mixing up my activities so I didn't get into too much of an exercise rut.

Now that it's May, I thought it might be time for an update! I'm going to wait and update on exercise at the end of the month, but first...

Vegetarianism / Veganism.

I set myself two goals in my March post: to reduce or eliminate chicken and turkey (which I was eating 3 - 4 times / month) and to reduce dairy in 'non-essential' forms (my main 'essential' was yoghurt). These goals were set partially from a health perspective, partially from an environmental one, and partially out of a niggling concern about animal welfare.

How have things gone? Thus far I have done the following...

- Mostly eliminate chicken and turkey

I haven't had turkey in the past 6 weeks and I have had chicken once. This once was accidental, when I ended up at a family barbeque with no fish or vegetarian main dishes. I thought we were having fish (and often my Mum does a vegetarian dish regardless) but learnt the hard way I should have checked!

At that point, I also hadn't told my family about eliminating chicken, and wanted to avoid making a fuss in front of extended family members who were there.

Lesson learnt: Tell other people, check meal plans in advance, and take dishes if need be.

I'm fairly set on continuing to leave white meat out of my diet (I haven't eaten red meat for about 10 years), and plan to be prepared at social events from now on.

I certainly haven't missed meat and have enjoyed finding alternatives to my default chicken salad / turkey subway type orders when out. It's also been easy making meat and non-meat versions of dishes at home.
- Reduce dairy in bought products and experiment with different non-dairy milks (e.g., almond milk as an alternative to soy)

Given that I don't drink milk plain or like the taste of milky products, I find it slightly ironic that dairy will probably be my biggest challenge in the animal product stakes. Other than yoghurt, I like milk in black tea and coffee, and enjoy frozen yoghurt and some chocolate varieties that contain milk.

I tried almond milk for the first time in April and loved it on cereal, but found it worse than soy milk in tea / coffee. I did discover that 'fresh' soy milk (from the fridge section of supermarkets) works better than the long life variety for hot drinks, although it's still not great in coffee. I believe VitaSoy has a version specifically for hot drinks, but I've not seen it in the supermarkets near me.

My love of yoghurt (and dislike of the two brands of soy yoghurt available where I live) means I won't be ticking the non-dairy box completely, but I will continue to seek out alternatives when possible, both in processed foods (such as by choosing chocolate with enough cocoa solids to eliminate milk) and in drinks.

I also discovered recently that two of the three yoghurt brands I (used to) buy have gelatine! Eek. I'll be working hard to source the one natural, pot-set, gelatine-free brand I like best, but which is sometimes hard to find.

Although I didn't set it as a specific goal, I have also been working to reduce egg consumption, and have experimented with egg replacer in baking.

I haven't had fresh eggs over the past 6 weeks or baked with eggs myself, but I have had egg-containing products on a few occasions. I also discovered that my main egg source was bought pikelets! I think that might count as good motivation to make my own.

I'd like to move to eliminating eggs completely, and think this should be achievable. I would also like to experiment with flax eggs.

If I can continue with these changes, the main area left will be fish / seafood, which I have no desire to cut out. I enjoy fish, believe in the health benefits, and if I'm honest...well, I don't feel as strongly about fish as I do about other animals. Eating fish and some dairy would be a happy medium for me.

I also don't have a problem with honey, although I don't eat it very often and have liked using 100% maple syrup in baking of late.

I know my approach is very much a 'half-way' one. However, one of the things that really appeals to me about this stance is that I don't have to view eating animal produce as an all or nothing decision. I know it is for many people, and so I hope I don't offend anyone with that comment.

The thing is, for me, eating animal-free most of the time is appealing because it's a lifestyle choice that can't involve "breaking a rule". I'm not sure how clearly I express myself there, but it is incredibly different to a diet where things are 'good' or 'bad' and 'allowed' or 'not allowed'. I have a strong dislike for those sorts of diets, and I don't want to find myself feeling guilty if I eat a cracker with milk in it (or whatever). Many vegans are able to avoid this sort of scenario and I admire them for it, hugely, but I'm also realistic about my own capabilities and personality.

I am also conscious that there are some things that I care a lot about (red meat being the main one), and which I don't think I'll ever need or want to eat again, and others where I'm prepared to think in quantity instead of absolute presence or absence.

So for me, avoiding meat other than fish and eating animal-free 80% or 90% of the time seems worthwhile.

I can't claim that it's vegan, or even vegetarian, but I think it might just work for me.

And after all that rambling, I will see where the next two months or so take me!


  1. Interesting update! I cook vegan for myself almost 100%, but don't at all when I eat out or am at friends' places. I use flax eggs routinely in baking (unless I'm making meringues!), and haven't had straight milk since I discovered my lactose intolerance in year 11. I'm completely with you on the flexibility aspect - go you! :)

    P.S. Please in the name of all that is holy, don't buy the fat-free so good! Horrible grey flavourless dirty dishwater stuff... at least get the lite one! Please! :P

  2. Hi, I found you via Johanna GGG, and I identify as an animal product reducer, although I do enjoy it when I do consume them.

    However I really recommend getting a soy milk machine, I make a blend of 2/3 soy, 1/3 oats at a fraction of the cost of store milk, and no wasted tetrapack packaging - a win for my bank account and for the environment. Also with fresh 100% soymilk it is a breeze to make tofu.

    I can get a block of tofu within 30 mins of thinking about it!

    I think that half way is a good approach, and if more people adopted it the planet would be in a better state? Good luck with your journey, and wherever it leads you.

  3. @Hannah
    Ok! Ok! :) I don't like the taste of milk (soy or regular or otherwise, although almond milk may be an exception), so I have tended to gravitate towards the lowest fat options, as they have the least milky flavour. But I agree that grey dirty dishwasher might just be taking it too far :)

    Also, thanks for grasping the flexibility thing - it's nice to hear someone else takes a similar stance!

  4. @Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours
    Welcome! I'm thrilled you found me :D

    Thanks for the tip regarding soy milk too - I will definitely look into it. I've also been toying with the idea of making my own yoghurt, so I may end up with a little factory in my kitchen.

  5. Interesting to hear how you are going - I think reduction is a great attitude - because it is no good beating yourself up if you are going to have meat occasionally

    one thing I get cross about is gelatin in yoghurt here because in the UK it was so easy to buy almost any yoghurt without gelatin and here it is so restricted (though a little gelatin slips in my diet here and there - I try not to eat it)

    By the way Gluten Free Girl had a couple of posts recently asking people to list the ways that they substitute for dairy and eggs - might be worth looking them up - I keep planning to post the links but these things always take me a while

  6. @Johanna GGG
    Thanks Johanna! I will definitely have a look. It's also interesting to hear that the yoghurt situation is different in the UK. Perhaps Australia needs to follow them rather than the US :p


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