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With 1% of the British population now following a strict vegan diet, Veggie's deputy editor Sophie Rae is taking on the Veganuary challenge this month to find out more...
Veganism, and the rise of plant-based living, undisputedly dominated food culture for much of 2016. Health buzzwords such as ‘clean eating’ led the trend for ditching processed ingredients, listening to our body’s natural cravings and increasing the amount of wholesome, nourishing foods we consume. Naturally, the trend became associated to veganism - a diet built on the foundations of vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds; whole foods, raw, natural and untouched by additives and preservatives.
According to The Vegan Society, 1% of the British population now follow a strict vegan diet. That may not seem like much, but if we break it down that’s on average 542,000 vegans; a mighty jump since the last estimate of 150,000 in 2006. So what sparked the change in many to rid their lives of animal products? For some it’s their love of animals, for others it’s the well-documented health benefits and for many it's the environmental impact.
Two decades ago most people wouldn’t have even heard of the word ‘vegan’ but with a wider consciousness around what we’re consuming - be it through food, health, beauty or fashion - turning to veganism seems to be ticking the right boxes in 2017 and beyond. It’s clear that attitudes towards veganism are changing, so in an attempt to better understand it, I’m taking the leap from vegetarian to vegan and joining in with the Veganuary challenge this month - 31 days dedicated to eradicating all animal products from my diet.
So what challenges will there be? Well, for me that’s easy: eggs and cheese. When I transitioned from carnivore to veggie last year, I developed a new-found devotion to the rich, glossy, butterscotch yolk of each and every free-range egg that topped my plate. Coming home late, bleary-eyed from deadlines, eggs were my speedy supper saviour: whipped into fluffy submission, they helped create countless omelettes and topped more root veg fritters than I can recall.
Cheese, on the other hand became my meat substitute. Out with the crispy bacon, in with the crumbling of salty feta. Beef burgers were replaced with squeaky halloumi sliders and our traditional Christmas turkey lived to fight another day, replaced with my take on Anna Jones’ spectacular Celeriac and Sweet Garlic Pie. You get the jist. I love cheese. And yes, I already miss it, despite spending yesterday nose dived into a colossal cheese board in an attempt to rid the fridge of any temptation. Perhaps now there’s enough lactose in my system to see me through to January 31st.
There is hope though. As the high street ups its game and restaurant chains listen to the wave of demand coming from vegans and meat-eaters alike who are adopting the ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle, I have high hopes that my month won’t be spent hibernating indoors, clutching my pot of nutritional yeast for dear life. I have plans to dine out with friends, to travel and to share conscious meals with family where my food choices will inevitably be the main topic up for discussion. I’m ready for it though. Armed with all the information I need from Veganuary’s handy starter kit, my fridge and larder are full of free-from alternatives and my mind brimming with vegan recipes to ensure I make the most of my creativity in the kitchen.
So, if you’re joining in with the challenge or simply want to see how I’m doing (be warned, there might be the odd cheese-craving tantrum!) then you can follow my ramblings over on social media - find me @rae_soph on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll also be blogging weekly right here on the Veggie blog, keeping tabs on the ingredients, recipes and brands that have helped me to make easy vegan choices.
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