What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about veganism?

One of the questions I get asked when I tell someone I am on a plant-based journey is if it is expensive. My answer is yes and no. Like any other choices of diet, plant-based diet CAN be expensive, but it does NOT have to be. There is no reason having a vegetarian or vegan diet should be more expensive than eating meat. Most of the essential foods, like rice, potatoes, pasta, tinned tomatoes and fresh or frozen vegetables, are probably already on your grocery list. Also, meat is probably the most expensive part of your meal, costing around 10 euros per kilo. Replacing meat with something like tofu, tempeh or beans that cost around three to five euros per kilo can actually help you save a lot on your grocery bill. But it does require some time before you get used to cooking with these plant proteins. As a result, many plant-based newbies get into the first trap, the vegetarian meat. Replacing chicken with vegetarian chicken is of course the easiest route to start on your plant-based journey. I am not against vegetarian chicken, but I can assure you that it is definitely not an affordable, nor practical way to sustain yourself on your new choice of diet.

I am not against vegetarian chicken, but I can assure you that it is definitely not an affordable, nor practical way to sustain yourself on your new choice of diet
So, by starting out as a vegan, you will need to change your perspective and your way of cooking. You will need to think of food as a source of nutrition, not just a menu, thinking about carbohydrate, protein and fat, instead of just Bolognese pasta. You would have to learn how to cook with beans or tofu, how to bake a cake without eggs, how to make pizza without cheese and many other challenging things. Surely, vegan food may take longer to prepare in the beginning. But once it becomes a habit, you will be surprised how quick you can get your dinner ready. Most of the vegetables can be eaten raw or will be prepared very fast, which will save you time! Another benefit is that you can use your own creativity and experiment with different kinds of herbs and many new ingredients to create your own meal.

Now, the second question I get asked: are you getting enough protein?

First of all, you need to know that your body does not need as much protein as you think it needs. An average person needs 0.8-1.8 grams per kilo of one’s body weight depending on several variables, for example if you are very active, the number goes up. There are so many plant-based sources of protein such as legumes, leafy green vegetable, like broccoli and spinach, and many more. So an average person with an average weight of 70 kilograms would need 56 grams of protein a day. And here is what 56 grams of protein a day can look like (picture below).

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You will be surprised how easy you can hit the daily protein requirement, if getting enough protein is one of your biggest concerns to go vegan
You will be surprised how easy you can hit the daily protein requirement, if getting enough protein is one of your biggest concerns to go vegan. And of course, there are other sources of protein you easily get during the day, like (plant-based) milk in your coffee or peanut butter on your rice crackers as a snack.

Until now you might wonder why you should not enter this journey, as things I mentioned earlier sound alright. So, let me tell you where it all started to go wrong.

Similar to other vegans, going vegan has also led me to the ultra-health food road. Entering this plant-based journey has not only taught me more about food and nutrition. It also made me skeptical about what I buy. However, this road is not always smooth. And here are the reasons why veganism can be such a life trap.

1. I spend a lot more time in the supermarket reading the ingredient lists of the products I’m considering buying. Because animal products, especially milk or milk powder, are used in the products that you are least expected. For example, potato chips and lentil burger patties.

2. Since I save money from not buying meat, I am more willing to pay extra for organic. Although it is not necessary to buy everything organic. There are some vegetables and fruits that are safe to consume in non-organic varieties due to their low pesticide residue levels.

3. The more I learn (or in other words, obsess) about food, the more I want to try those exotic superfoods. And this also links to the previous reason, I thought I was saving a lot, but I ended up spending more because of it.

4. Because veganism is not just about food. The deeper I get into it, the more I learn about the impact of my own simple acts. For example, I stopped using personal care products that are tested on animals. I switched to eco-friendly laundry detergent, dish soap and so on. So, in the end, I am paying more than I used to. But this is obviously not because of my diet choice, it is because of what I have learned.

Going vegan has also led me to the ultra-health food road
Although I spend more money and time, accidently and willingly, because of my choice of diet, I am quite happy with it. Because it is not just about money, I have learned so much since I started this journey. I know now that it is possible to live a life that involves delicious food, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and saves our co-inhabitants. I am more aware of what I am taking into my body which I think it is important no matter what diet you are on. We should learn to get certain nutrients from a certain food. Plus, it is fun trying a new recipe, to cook with new ingredients and to learn about my own health and the planet’s health. And because it is a part of fun, no doubt, it can get expensive. So, my advice to anyone who is interested in this plant-based journey, do not enter, if you are not ready for these happy traps.

Fun Fact: A vegan consumes less soy than a cow. In case soy is one of your main concerns for going vegan, you might be surprised how much soy you are eating now as an omnivore. Please check this page from WWF.

Alle bijdragen van de studenten in deze serie zijn te vinden onder de tag 'radboud honourslab'.
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