The biggest challenges of being vegan - and how to handle them

Since being a vegan for a month, I've certainly jumped back into the world of meat.
Lawrence Smith/ Fairfax NZ

Since being a vegan for a month, I've certainly jumped back into the world of meat.

When I was a vegan for a month, I knew it would be a struggle at times - but I got through it. 

Having said that, there were moments when I really craved meat - beautiful and rare tranches of meat.  

While there were plenty of challenges along the way, there were also solutions. Here's what I faced, and how I overcame them.

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It's a myth that one has to live off spinach if they want to remain a healthy vegan.

It's a myth that one has to live off spinach if they want to remain a healthy vegan.

B12

This is what everyone seems concerned about, because meats seem to be the only source of the vitamin. It's many a meat-eaters excuse not to even try; I also used it many a time. But why is it so crucial? It makes red blood cells, among other things.

There are several apparent symptoms, including tiredness, light-headedness and shortness of breath (according to Google), if you don't get enough of it.

Resolution: Fear not, aspiring vegan, there are plenty of places you can find it. Personally, I wasn't too fazed because a month of not eating meat wouldn't debilitate my B12 levels dramatically, as my doctor friend told me.

In New Zealand, we're lucky to have Marmite and Vegemite to give us a good dosage here. Otherwise look to nut milks - many are fortified with B12. 

CHECKING THE INGREDIENTS OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

Coffee is vegan, and so is soy milk, and there's a plethora of nut milks out there.
Supplied

Coffee is vegan, and so is soy milk, and there's a plethora of nut milks out there.

My first trip to the supermarket as a vegan was a real struggle; I couldn't handle how much reading I had to do. The good part is that I learned a lot about what I was eating.

Animal products are everywhere: milk in bread, isinglass (the swim bladder of fish) in beer, animal gelatin in lollies and carbonated drinks containing insect-derived dyes, to name a few. The reading is crucial though.

Resolution: I ditched the supermarket. Seriously. I adopted the fruit and vege markets and bakeries as my own, instead of opting for the one-stop-shop.

I started eating bread the baker could recite the recipe of, usually only flour water and salt, and ate fruit and vegetables. I used vegetable oils and a whole heap of coconut milk and tofu from my local dedicated tofu maker. I realise not everyone has one of these nearby, so maybe head to the supermarket instead (read those labels though). 

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PIGGING OUT

It's easy to be a lazy eater when you have no concern about what's in your food: lollies, chips, just about anything is within reach. But if fast-food or those aforementioned treats are your go-to, like mine were, you'll be sorely out of luck.

I love cooking, but like everyone else, I have times when I don't want to cook, and there is very little out there for you. 

Resolution: Get yourself an Instagram account and find @accidentallyvegannz, who does the fine task of collating all the naughty treats available to vegans.

There are also heaps of Facebook groups out there. Then, get yourself acquainted with your local cafes and restaurants - many of them might be able to help you out.

Remember, hashbrowns and chips are made with potato and sauce is generally vegan as well, so you should be fine if you're a chip fiend.

 

"Go vegan, they said. It'll be healthy, they said." 😂😂😂 Beautiful vegan junk food haul via @chely_zap

A photo posted by @accidentallyvegannz on

EATING OUT

No matter if it's at a friends house, or a fancy restaurant, you're going to run into a bit of trouble being part of the vegan minority.

There's often a vegetarian option - but nothing vegan - on the menu. One weekend I had a birthday, a brunch and a barbecue I was attending, so that meant I had to ask if they had vegan options for me while my wagyu-eating friends laughed. 

Resolution: If you know where you're going, call ahead. Offer to book the restaurant for your friends, call the restaurant and clear the air. They want your custom, they should be happy to make you happy.

In my case, there were a couple of vegan options on the menu that weren't labelled, and in the other instance, the chef simply made something for me off-the-cuff.

When it comes to dining at a friends house, ask if they can cook to meet your needs. If they don't, they're not really your friend. Worst case scenario, just bring your own food.

TALKING WITH NON-VEGANS ABOUT VEGANISM

Despite the fact the term "vegan" doesn't mean you're from a satanic cult, or should I say "seitanic cult", it seems you might find yourself treated as if you were from one.

There are plenty of meat-eaters who still think vegans are lower in the food chain than themselves. The cliche is that you're eating their food's food, and it'll never get old. I was often questioned why I was doing it, so I simply said it was a challenge. It's hard to talk about the reasons for veganism without sounding like an evangelist. 

Resolution: Be reasoned, be polite, explain your point of view, and don't call them murderers. If they don't accept differences, move towards a subject that isn't food.

 - Stuff

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