The last time Cat lost this much weight in a week she was suffering from a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning. Take it from us, an attack of campylobacter can seriously deplete the body’s reserves and cause discomfort for days. However, this week Cat shed four pounds not by eating undercooked venison – far from it. She decided to try a vegan diet for a week, and what better time than the run up to Christmas Day. With acres of tempting cheeses, meats, and milk chocolate sweets to deny herself, would she succeed – or fall at the first sight of a Ferrero Rocher?
Much is expounded about the benefits going meat and dairy-free. These days there are many lifestyle diets, some of which are based on true allergies, such as gluten and lactose-free diets and others are more about making a statement, saving money or animal welfare issues. Cat herself was a vegetarian for nearly twenty years – and not one of those ‘vegetarians’ who eats fish (you ain’t no vegetarian, bruv).
Because of her veggie past, Cat never buys raw meat to cook at home, but that doesn’t mean that she will turn her nose up at a tender fillet steak or some tasty fish in a restaurant. Nonetheless dropping meat from her diet is no biggie – but dairy and eggs are another matter. How did she do?
Spontaneously and unpreparedly deciding on the vegan challenge, Cat’s first day involved scraping her cupboards for suitable options (breakfast: ginger preserve and prunes on an unbuttered muffin, lunch: cashew nut butter on toast, dinner: broccoli and mushrooms on a muffin). It was the sort of diet a student might have been thankful for, but stuff on bread is not the most stimulating of diets. Looking for help, the internet coughed up the Chipotle Method; an easy-to-use mix-and-match guide to creating easy and tasty vegan meals without the tedium of soaking chickpeas for tectonic periods of time. A quick spin to the supermarket to replenish her veg drawer with a few bonus legumes, some nuts, tofu and a couple of tubs of hummus and Cat was away.
Cat was underwhelmed by the sweetness of soya milk so instead of her regular muesli with prunes and strawberries, she stuck with peanut butter and bananas for breakfast each day. Evening meals were mostly a variation on fried or stewed vegetables, protein-enhanced with nuts or tofu, plus a rich hummus stirred through. Lunches were her usual mixed leaf and tomato salads but with avocado instead of cheese.
As it’s the season to meet relatives we ate out a few times. Skintrade served Cat a delicious sweet potato and courgette soup, with soft dunkable bap. We had lunch in Pompey with Matt’s family at Wagamama. The restaurant’s helpfully-annotated menu enabled Cat to enjoy kare burosu ramen: shichimi-coated tofu and grilled mixed mushrooms on a bed of udon noodles in a curried vegetable broth. It was a spectacularly tasty dish. The same evening we ended up in Loch Fyne with Cat’s family where, as the others enjoyed their fish and meaty suppers, Cat shovelled in an avocado super salad, (it turned out not to be quite so super as some of the ingredients – grapefruit and toasted almonds – were missing). Still, she was able to have her first pudding of the week, a fresh sparky trio of fruity sorbets.
Despite some serious hunger pangs and three days of rotten headaches (as a result of some sort of dairy withdrawal perhaps?), it turns out having a vegan diet is no great hardship – and mostly extremely enjoyable. Make sure your fruit bowl is full of bananas and keep hydrated. The toughest part of the challenge for Cat was going without dessert and her favourite seasonal treat: Lidl chocolate-coated fruity alcohol marzipan. Still, there are always those bananas.
So did Cat succeed in her self-imposed vegan challenge? She ate a vegan diet for a week, so you might think yes – achievement unlocked! However, the actual challenge that Cat set herself was “Can I have a vegan diet for a week and NOT DRAW ATTENTION TO THE FACT?” Is it possible to go full vegan, do your shopping, politely refuse a proffered tin of Quality Street and eat in a restaurant without pointing out that you are on a vegan diet. Can a food blogger Instagram every dish without once tagging it #vegan? The answer to that too is yes. Cat managed to resist making any sort of sanctimonious declaration for the whole week, proving that it CAN be done!
Today is Christmas Day and we’ll be eating Island Foods beef on the bone. Whatever is on your festive table, we hope you have a lovely dinner. And perhaps next month you might consider taking up the Veganuary challenge?