Vegan week

No honey, halloumi, yoghurt or milk. I could probably deal with that. I'm a vegetarian so being vegan couldn't be much of a jump. Right?

After a heavy weekend on the 'grape juice' Alexis and I decided to be alcohol-free and vegan for 7 days. 

Day 1 -

I found it hard to remember not to eat dairy. Without realising it I ate a 3 olive and cheese turnover (back by popular demand) for lunch. Followed by a chocolate milk. Both digested with a crashing realisation I had deviated from the plan. 

Day 2 -  

I had my first full day of veganism... Ever? I can't recall a day without some form of dairy. In my coffee, breakfast and almost every main meal...I grew up with a healthy dose of cow juice in my diet. 

Day 3 - 

Ok, it's not actually that hard to be vegan once you get into a routine. Your choices at the supermarket are definitely simpler. Living in Sydney (or modern city) there a healthy market for 'clean eating', so finding vegan groceries isn't a problem.

Also, Vegan cheese is delicious. I figured this out when I devoured one of the vegan sandwiches at Venus cafe across the road from work.

The vegan cheddar that changed my mind. 

The vegan cheddar that changed my mind. 

I know what it takes to run a cafe, I spent a few years doing it in Sydney. Michelle, who owns Venus cafe was only too happy to tell me about about running a (mostly) vegan cafe. 

I asked: What is the best and most troublesome part of spruiking veganism and more 'whole' foods? 

"People get excited by something that's 'vegan'". Michelle explained "It's (generally) more expensive to produce chicken and ham stuff than it is vegan". The biggest challenge for Michelle is what she gracefully describes as "judgemental people" (I'd call them narrow minded) who "aren't open to new things". Michelle fairly passionately added "we're trying to open people's minds to what else is out there... And they are just super judgemental".

I have no doubt she will keep warmly recommending a wholesome diet to the haters. Regardless, the place is busy enough without them.

Some of the foods at Venus Cafe - Image credit: Broadsheet 

Feeling less hungry and really thinking about my food before I throw it at my face. My lunch today was at About Life in Surry Hills. I'd say a quarter of the options were vegan, most are vegetarian with a few meat dishes in the hot food zone. As a vegan-in-training it left me feeling rather limited. 

Sunday - End of vegan week - 

We finished off the week with a mind-blowing dinner at GiGi's (now completely Vegan) in Newtown. Pizza is a favourite food of mine. I love it. But GiGi's levelled out the playing field and became, without a doubt, one of the best I've ever had. And it is 100% vegan.

I noticed the usual rounder shape of my abdomen was gone, pointing to the fact that I'm always bloated. Switching back to dairy, sure enough, rounded out that part of me again within a day. Full disclosure - I got noticeably farty too. 

A few things do really suck about being vegan.

You basically can't travel and eat well. Eating out with friends becomes a pain unless you go to one of the few decent vegetarian restaurants and order from 1/4 of the menu anyway. The corporate world doesn't have much time for you either. If you work in a client facing job: you can't schmooze the client by taking them to Lentil as anything.

To further my discovery I went to the shops to see how different a vegan grocery budget would be. I chose to focus on a range of everyday items. Including vegan bacon which a work colleague told me his vegan girlfriend loved.

Everyday items price comparison

Vegan options: Vegan cheese, Coconut yoghurt, Almond Milk and Vegan Bacon.

After I had been to the shops I thought it wise to ask a few people about their personal experience being vegan. It turns out there are a lot of people who have tried veganism, some have even stuck with it, like Max...

Max is a vegan.

Max on a cliff above Tonsai and Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand. 

Max on a cliff above Tonsai and Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand. 

Max is 23, he lives in Sydney's South, is an easygoing rock climber, and prides himself on his environmentally driven decisions.

Describe your lifestyle? 7:45-6 Civil engineer in the city, climb twice on weeknights, salsa once, read, occasionally out to parties (not drinking much alcohol at all).

How long have you been a vegan? 4 months - Recognising times where I have “messed up”, which is regularly. 

How have you "messed up"? I went to see my uncle on my fathers side who I hadn’t seen in over 20 months... My aunty did I say I was trying something new out in the way of only vegetables. Hah, they didn’t really believe it...  They served roast lamb. I ate it up, Didn’t feel at all like I had been missing anything.

What is the hardest thing about being vegan? Watching others eat misery... finding something delicious to eat, at a typical restaurant, and making sure I get all the right nutrients.

What is the best thing about being vegan? Knowing that every bite is a munch in the right direction... This week a man with a heart issue came forth, looking to me for some more information about what’s what foodwise... I HAVE to know what I’m eating.

I wonder if this simplifies the whole shopping process for max and his cohort. That has to be easier for the average, baffled shopper.

I also spoke to Georgia, a long term vegan ambassador with a social media following to match on her instgram

Gerogia is a vegan.

Georgia is 23 and lives in Sydney's East she works full time as a Producer in a digital marketing firm. She is passionate about sharing the vegan world with others and has made a mark on social media advocating it.

When did you go vegan? I decided to experiment with veganism in October of 2015, and I currently eat a full vegan diet. There are certainly levels of veganism. I slot in somewhere in the middle. My diet is completely vegan; no honey (which some vegans still allow) no animal products.

What's the hardest part of veganism? The first 6 months transitioning to veganism were the hardest, but you can't be too tough on yourself. I learnt that milk and honey are the hardest by-products to avoid. Milk powder makes itself in to an astoundingly large number of foods. One time I even found beef gelatin in a mango ice-block. You'd be surprised what's in your food when you actually look at the ingredients!

 Do you have any vegan-life-hacks that make it a bit easier? I learnt to look at menus before choosing a place to eat, that parties were easier if I offered to bring a plate, and that it's never a bad idea to fill your bag with snacks.

The final non-vegan food to make its way out of my diet was challah. Challah is a traditional Jewish egg bread eaten on the Sabbath. My boyfriend's family bake the bread so it gets so warm and soft in the centre with a crisp outer layer. It's heaven.  

Blessing and breaking this bread with family has been a custom in our culture for generations, so I found it hard to turn my portion down. Once I decided to stop eating it, I realised that the guilt I had built around that damn egg loaf was in my head. The family was fine, I was fine, and the dinner went on as it always has.

And the flip side: what are the best things about it for you? The best part about veganism is casting a vote for a better way to live on Earth. I support vegan restaurants, order vegan dishes, and spread awareness for veganism. There's no other lifestyle that is so equally positive for the environment, the animals and your own health. Support veganism!

What advice do you give to the potential vegan-curious readers? If you say “I could never be vegan”, I know who you are... I WAS you. I ate lamb cutlets and omelettes and frothed on caramel slices I say don't box yourself in - never say never.

Georgia and Max both appear pretty positive about their choices dispite constant social and cultural pressure. They are proud and sure that veganism is about choosing a healthy, ethical and dedicated lifestyle.

All in all, I'd say I was pleasantly surprised from my own vegan experiment. I will be making a permanent change towards a MORE vegan diet. But I don't think I will ever go full-vegan. I'll continue to enjoy the benefits in overall energy and digestion. I have a fresh appreciation and level of consideration for the food I have been eating too. 

Having dairy milk in my coffee this morning was delicious, I noticed and appreciated it, when normally I wouldn't regard the flavour at all. It is so nice to revive gratitude for food. I've realised it could have been the most overlooked part of my daily routine. 

I can't recommend a week of veganism enough... If you can do a month, power to you, you will feel amazing.