Forget Aquafaba Smoothies, Here's What It's Really Like Being A Vegan

'It's rare for vegans to be preachy, but common for meat eaters to be aggressive.'

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Meat-free.

Dairy-free.

Whey-free. 

Doesn't sound like a barrel of fun does it?

Veganism, though, is increasing in popularity at a staggering rate – jumping up by 360 per cent in the last decade – so it's high time we cow-masticators learned a thing or two about it. 

At the moment, there are more than half a million vegans in the UK with celebrities such as Ellie Goulding, Beyoncé and Ellen Page admitting to have given up their meat and dairy-filled diets. 

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So, what's the big deal with being a vegan? Is it cheaper that eating meat? Is it a difficult to maintain? Do they crave cheese all the time? 

We caught up with newly-turned vegan Kasia Bishop to find out what it's really like giving up animal products for good.

What made you become a vegan?

I became a vegan about a year-and-a-half ago after almost 22 years being a vegetarian. In my late 20s, I started to think more about veganism, but was scared of what it involved giving up. Following a trip to India – which included various Buddhist retreats and meditation – I started to think about compassionate eating and on my return to the UK, I decided I was ready to become a vegan.

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Of course, the one thing I was worried about was giving up cheese – it was definitely the hardest food to give up but I found it became easier to substitute it with other ingredients. 

I found it quite easy to transition from vegetarianism to veganism because I didn't want to eat animal products anyway and I wasn't too strict on myself. I don't believe you should do things that go against your natural grain.

Describe an average day of eating vegan

In the mornings, I drink a home-made smoothie on my way to work consisting of spinach, apples, pears, ginger and hemp seeds for protein. When I get to work, I'll then have some avocado on toast which is high in protein and good fats or make some porridge, to keep my iron levels up, topped with seeds and bananas. I substitute milk for unsweetened almond milk or oat milk in tea and coffee.

In terms of lunch and dinner, I do a lot of oriental cooking – if you take out fish and meat you realise that not many oriental dishes have much dairy. A lot of curries have tofu (non vegans freak out when you say that), chickpeas, pulses and spices which I love. 

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I make my own cheese-free pesto which is cheap and nutritious and my own pizzas with artichokes and olives to substitute the lack of moisture from cheese. Olives are great for omega oils. I spend around £20-30 a week and buy in bulk, to save money.

What's your favourite food?

I'm a massive chocoholic so I had to slowly wean myself onto dark chocolate, which is naturally vegan. I quickly learned how to make vegan deserts such as brownies made with avocados and bananas.

Many people don't realise that Oreos and Bourbon biscuits are vegan, with no added milk. They don't have the vegan logo as they might have a drop of milk in them but if you're not strict, they're great treats. I use a lot of oreos in milkshakes mixed with cocoa powder and coconut milk. 

Is it difficult to order food in restaurants?

It depends how up-tight you want to be. In London it's easy as there's so much variety but it's often quite hard in restaurants when you want to order a pizza or pasta dish and don't know what's in the base or how fresh the pasta is. 

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Airports are most certainly the hardest places to eat as a vegan. When you're traveling, all you want is something comforting that doesn't always involve falafel. I prefer to take my own food with me to the airport. 

Are there any foods you miss from when you weren't a vegan?

When someone tucks into a baked camembert in front of me or a box of Cadburys, it's hard but over time, you become less addicted to foods such as cheese and chocolate. The best thing to do is not to dwell on things you used to eat.

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What are the stereotypes people commonly make about vegans?

One thing that annoys me is the portrayal of vegans on social media. It's rare for vegans to be preachy, but common for meat eaters to be aggressive. 

I believe everyone should do what they want. In no way do I judge a meat eater, it's their choice to eat meat just as much as it is mine not to but it's users' social media posts that I find insulting and , mostly, untrue. 

Also, a lot of people think vegans are middle class and enjoy buying loads of fancy products but in fact, a vegan diet mainly consists of fresh food that aren't incredibly expensive. Milk substitutes can be expensive but in general it's quite cheap to be a vegan. 

Do you think people don't understand veganism in the same way they do vegetarianism?

Definitely. When people question why I don't eat honey or wear leather shoes, I feel like telling them to go and watch a documentary like Cowspiracy and then tell me what they think. I can't educate someone in 10 minutes, in the same way someone can't explain why they believe in God over a cup of coffee.

People are often uneducated to veganism which is a shame because when they do learn the facts, they're shocked. Unfortunately, people don't associate meat and animals so disassociation is the main problem with vegan prejudice. 

What are your top tips to someone transitioning to become a vegan?

  1. Do it slowly. Becoming  vegan shouldn't be a chore – it should naturally fit into your life.
  2. Make it fun. Experiment with recipes and buy some cookery books for inspiration.
  3. Do your research. Make a pinterest board and read up on veganism. My favourite recipe books are Peace and Parsnips: Vegan Cooking for EveryoneVegan Street Food: Foodie travels from India to Indonesia and Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
  4. Do the best you can. Good intentions are better than none. It's better to eat less meat and dairy than struggling to ban them completely. 
  5. Speak to a nutritionist. I'm naturally thin so I didn't want to be a vegan to lose weight so I went to a nutritionist to find out how best to manage my change of diet. 
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