The following is an account of my (almost) vegan week; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Mondays always ensure that my week starts with a bang – having to spend the whole day attending lectures till 8pm. Also, this week I’ve been appointed this task of writing a blog post about trying to go vegan for a week. A vegan diet is meant to be the healthiest way of eating, if you get sufficient nutrients from plant-based foods instead of overloading on quick-fix carbs for energy. So if I eat well enough today, I think that I might be able to survive this very, very long Monday.
So it begins; bananas for breakfast. Fruit is a great way to start the day, but I started to get hungry at around 11:30 am, so I decided to try out the new smoothie and salad bar which conveniently just opened amidst the many fast food joints which surround UoM’s campus. ‘Blend it’ seemed to be the ideal place to find vegan-friendly options for lunch and I was not disappointed. Their veggie wrap was delicious.
Several snacks later, I arrived home and made a veganised version of a pasta dish, by simply leaving out the cheese.
Today I wanted to be more creative with my breakfast so I made oats with almond milk, fruits and nuts. I looked up vegan instagrammers to get inspiration from their photos but unfortunately I did not have the time or patience to create something as pretty and colourful. It still tasted good though.
I was in Valletta that evening, looking for somewhere to eat. I found a place next to the new ‘Suq tal-Belt’ which I sometimes go to but never knew the name of. They had one dish called ‘Vegetarian Noodles’ which seemed to be vegan except for the fact that the menu included chicken broth as an ingredient. The waitress overheard me saying that I can’t eat here because even the vegetarian option is cooked in chicken broth, and interrupted me by saying that they don’t use chicken anymore but the noodles are just cooked in water. I asked her if that makes it Vegan, then, as the noodles were made from rice and not eggs, to which she reassured me that it was definitely 100% vegan.
When the dish arrived I was sceptical. It did not look vegan and it actually tasted like chicken, so I left, disappointed and hungry.
The biggest struggle of the day was that I had to come to terms with the fact that Uni’s vending machines are not very vegan-friendly for people who crave chocolate. As my eyes scanned the rows of milky chocolates displayed behind the glass, I vaguely recalled reading an article about Oreos being ‘accidentally vegan’. Could this be? My eyes darted towards the Oreos exhibited in the bottom right corner, they looked as though they were being held hostage. I then proceeded to search ‘Are Oreos vegan?’ on Google, and found out that they in fact do not contain any animal products, but could have traces of milk through cross-contamination. Then, the Oreos fell down into the slot where they met my open hand.
This made me question whether or not food containing possible traces of animal products can still be consumed by vegans. I suppose that products which are produced in the same building as non-vegan products might all be at risk of cross-contamination. Does this mean that vegans shouldn’t buy any products unless the company is fully vegan? Or is this down to the individual’s choice?
On my way to work, I stopped by an Italian food place and saw that they had a vegan arancina. It tasted good, but the choice was limited and that alone was not enough for lunch. I decided that I needed to prepare more food at home to make sure that I was eating enough, so I started following some vegan bloggers for ideas. That evening, I baked a sweet potato and grilled different vegetables – it was quick, simple and healthy.
Unless you’re someone who doesn’t like to eat your 5-a-day, there are many simple and cheap options for vegans. Fresh and seasonal vegetables can be used in an array of different ways, some of which I have always used and some new ones which I will be incorporating into my diet. However, vegan options from cafés and take-outs tend to be more expensive than the non-vegan options. I paid €4.50 for a miniature vegetable and hummus wrap (compare it to the €3.50 chicken ciabatta) which I also had for lunch, having not been satisfied from earlier. At least it tasted good, as I ate it on a bench on the first truly sunny day of the year.
On Fridays I like to reward myself for getting through another week by eating dinner at different restaurants. I wasn’t sure how well this would work out as I imagined myself having to survey the waiters or waitresses on the contents of their menu, figuring out what dishes could do without the cheese or the egg, and how much the chef would be willing to compromise.
I was saved by a Facebook advert for ‘Vegan Fridays’ at Olive House, Floriana (how did they know?). They serve Lebanese food, and have a special falafel menu. I ordered a falafel wrap which came with chillies and salad in homemade flatbread. I also shared a plate from their Vegan Fridays menu, which included hummus, tofu and beans. It was so good that I think even the biggest meat-loving companion wouldn’t mind being taken for a quick dinner there.
I think that it is important that people are aware of what they are eating, not so that they can lose weight, count calories or look ‘good’, but because eating well improves your mood and your general well-being. Even though the nutrients found in some animal products can be replaced by foods such as tofu, mushrooms and nuts, some vitamins can be more easily acquired through supplements. This challenge has made me realise that there is more to being vegan than just cutting out ingredients from your usual diet and if people were to move towards a more plant – based diet, this would benefit not only their health, but help tackle environmental problems including climate change and water wastage.