At the moment, in the media you can read and hear a lot about the fact that vegan nutrition is the best for the climate. I think you can talk a lot about this topic, but to understand what it means to eat vegan, you have to try it yourself. Here I want to tell you about my experiences. First of all: I was surprised how easy vegan living is for me - when I am at home. I was surprised how difficult it is for me to stay vegan on the road. In fact, I finally failed / interrupted the attempt for a few days when I visited friends in Vienna.
After having found myself a couple of times in the situation of discussing with friends about the pros and cons of vegan lifestyle, without any of the people involved in the discussion actually being vegan, I decided to experience it first hand. You can discuss many things although you have no clue what it actually means to live a vegan lifestyle. I started off very simple, and limited the experiment to one month, and nutrition only. You have to read a lot about the topic to actually find out which products contain animal-based ingredients. Glue, for example, used for labels on beverages, are often not vegan. Also detergents and cosmetics may contain non-vegan ingredients.
Does vegan nutrition at all make sense for the environment?
That's what I asked myself, regarding the impression that you produce a lot more of waste due to packaging, plus you buy lots of fruit and veggies that come from far away compared to e.g. the regional milk. When mentioning the word "soy", many people in Germany start talking about rainforest deforestation. Somehow, it is kind of fixed in people's minds, that vegans mainly eat tofu for which rainforest is cleared, which is a bad thing. I'm not denying that. Rainforest is very important for climate (and my heart's bleeding when I see the situation in Brasil, but maybe let's talk about this another time). Another question, what do cows eat? Grass?
Soy is mostly imported to Germany and most of it is used as concentrate feed in meat and dairy industry (source in German). High-yielding cows that give between 40 and 60 liters of milk per day, have to eat food rich in protein, based on corn, soy or canola. The soy comes among other places from monocultures in South America, oftentimes genetically modified and loaded with pesticides (source in German). This means, that when I buy milk, more soy has been grown for one liter than for the soy milk which I could drink instead. If I instead decide for a vegan drink based on spelt or oats, or if I buy the soymilk and tofu made from regionally grown soy, the plants used for this product were grown in Germany and Austria. A relatively recent study has demonstrated that vegan nutrition can reduce the ecological footprint by up to 73%.
Eating and cooking vegan was unexpectedly easy
Because I have been living in Leipzig for a few years now, I know quite well where to get good vegan food. Still, I (re-)discovered a couple of nice places, e.g. the Vleischerei and the Atacolypse. It is noticable that vegan food, especially vegan fast food alternatives have tradition in Leipzig. With Döner (or Vöner), burger (Bürger) and TexMex I really did not miss meat at all. And cheese only a little. Cooking vegan at home was very easy as well, which I had not expected. In the end, we just had to replace a few ingredients by some vegan alternatives and the results were, in my opinion, just as good as the original. Of course, I picked the best season for being vegan, because lots of fresh fruit and veggies were ripe in the garden and needed to be cooked. After cooking stuffed zucchini and bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, I more or less accidentally made the best lasagna I had managed to cook up to that point.
Roxi's vegan breakfast - hard to miss the dairy here
Staying vegan while on the road was not that easy
I found it very fascinating how on every vegan dish you order you will inevitably find a half avocado. When eating out, I eventually gave in and aborted the attempt, or interrupted it for a couple of days. The pizza just was too tempting, and it was also a bit complicated to find a restaurant with vegan option, even in such a big city like Vienna. I am certain that I would have found a place after a little research, which could have offered a good vegan option, but I just didn't want to deprive the group of their cheese pizza.
Even now, that I eat everything again, I notice that it's often complicated to find vegan food when I'm outside of my home town.
I also don't feel comfortable at all being the person that asks if this stuff on the catering pizza is tuna or artichokes. Or if the pretzel which I want to buy at a kiosk in the Frankfurt main station, contains dairy product. The salesperson also doesn't know. And what then? Do I still buy it, because I'm hungry and because I'm not an actual vegan after all? You will inevitably find yourself in these kinds of situations, and even though I did not enjoy them at all, I feel that I'm more aware now. I am more aware of people who, for whatever reasons, abide by a special diet and have this problem frequently.
Roxi's vegan brownies
Roxi's falafel with hummus
How healthy is a vegan diet?
One sentence you read frequently, is that vegans have to take care of their nutrient intake, especially protein. It is true that certain nutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamin B12 are more abundant in dairy, eggs and meat. Except for vitamin 12, however, all macro and micro-nutrients are contained to a sufficient amount in plant-based products, you only have to follow a balanced diet. This means that you should e.g. combine protein from different sources such as beans, corn and grain. Those who consciously deal with the subject of nutrition and keep an eye on the supply of nutrients are on the safe side. This also applies in general terms: People who think about their diet are generally healthier. This explains why vegetarians, for example, have a higher average life expectancy.
My vegan month for sure did me no harm and I would definitely recommend trying it to everyone who is interested. Even though I actually knew from the beginning that I wouldn't become a vegan for good, it still was an interesting experience. I also wanted to know if I would really go through with it. In the end I learned that vegans often have a harder time in everyday life than you might be aware of - especially if you eat out. I have tried some vegan recipes in the last few weeks, which I will use more often in the future. Maybe I will also eat one or two vegan days a week to contribute to climate protection. I think that if everyone ate a little more vegan, you could make a big difference.