Hi, I’m Hannah and I’m what you’d probably call a “flexitarian” (aka a vegetarian with commitment issues). 90% of my diet is meatless while the other 10% consists of burgers from the pub down the road. I’m one of those people who has done more than their fair share of diet experimentation and this shows in the fact that I’ve been everything from pescatarian to paleo.

Hannah Allaway

After hearing one of my friends describe her rollercoaster ride of adopting a plant-based diet last year for Lent, I decided to hop on the same train and give it a go. It can’t be that hard, I thought. (I was both very right and very wrong.)

I ended up finishing Lent two weeks before Easter and promptly devoured a whole load of cheesy pizza. Despite this, I honestly don't regret my vegan endeavor — in fact, it taught me to check my ingredients and cook pretty much all of my meals from scratch (okay, I normally do this out of choice but suddenly I had to) amongst many other things.

There are so many misconceptions surrounding veganism that I discovered while I was following a plant-based diet that after abandoning it, I became even more determined to mop some of these stereotypes up.

So if you're scoffing at me and my vegan attempt right now, know this: this one's for you.

1. It’s not all fruit and veg

“What can you eat?” I’ve heard this question playing on repeat ever since I made the switch. The answer? A lot of things. Sure, you’re not going to catch me with my usual poached egg on spinach for breakfast but the list of vegan adaptations is endless – and I totally proved that when I made these Rocky Road bars to power me through my practical exams. 

2. It’s totally doable on a student budget

I’m not going to argue that it’s all sunshine and rainbows and of course, if you’re living off vegan Quorn chicken nuggets and the finest falafel every single day, it’s going to make a considerable dent in your pocket. But if you’re meal prepping cous cous and veg (literal life saver) and starting the day with oatmeal or toast then it’s dirt cheap. Do you know how much a can of chickpeas costs in my local Sainsbury's? 55p. Do you know how much a whole uncooked chicken is? £4.55. Mhmmm.

3. Vegans don’t talk about being vegan: everyone else does

This one I found secretly hilarious. Turns out I wasn’t the one reminding everyone of my new dietary requirements – all my friends reminded me instead. “Hannah’s gone vegan” “But you’re vegan” “How’s veganism going?” was basically all I heard each day. So throw that stereotype out the window right now please — chances are you're the one creating it!

4. I suffered from no disastrous health effects

cream, chocolate, sweet, milk, coffee
Heema Gokani

BUT WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN? Peanut butter, my friend, peanut butter. This glorious, ooey-gooey delight becomes your new BFF. Eat it with bananas, strawberries, toast or just by the spoonful. That, and all the canned beans in the world. Nearly everyone I saw asked me some kind of question about my health (thanks for the concern guys, but I'm doing fine). I can promise you that I didn’t suffer from a lack of protein or vitamins or minerals at all during the time that I was vegan so seriously, stop asking!

5. When you cut something out of your diet, you crave it

I’m not a huge ice cream person. I mean, I like it just as much as the next person, but I’ll only have it on special occasions or when it’s super duper sunny outside. The moment I couldn’t have it because it didn’t align with my diet, I craved it so, so much.

Every time I walked past the Ben & Jerry’s in the shop, I’d just stare longingly at it. When I finally did cave and sneak in this raspberry cream cone (after abandoning being vegan for health reasons, I hasten to add) it was pretty good — but in the end, it was just ice cream. I'd hyped it up so much in my head because I couldn't have it that by the time I could, it was almost a disappointment.

6. For some people, it’s the best diet in the world

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed to find a picture to illustrate this point and damn, there were a substantial number of meals that looked so insane that I would have easily chosen them over a meat-based platter.

For the short time that I followed a plant-based diet, my energy levels never really dropped and I was never overly concerned about nutritional content — it all just sort of fell into place without me really trying. I know countless of people who swear by veganism and that's absolutely fine by me.

7. For others, it just doesn’t work

I abandoned my Lent quest two weeks early when I discovered that I was intolerant to something in my dairy replacements (still haven't worked out what). I wasn't fed up of eating vegan but I did take this as an excuse to abandon the diet completely! It's not something that personally am planning on keeping rigorously to in the future. As of right now, I'm back to the good ol' flexi days. I enjoyed my brief stint as a vegan but in the long term, it's not for me — and that is just as cool as if I'd decided to keep it up forever.

So next time you turn your nose up at a vegan diet, think again. Veganism has many benefits and isn't, as you might think, a diet reserved only for the elite who can afford to be choosy. Despite the fact that Lent is well and truly over for 2017, I still incorporate plant-based meals into my regime and I would highly recommend any curious readers to do the same. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!