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Things To Watch Out For When Going Vegan | My Veganuary Journey

***As part of my Veganuary journey in 2020 I’ve decided to share some information that I’ve discovered on veganism over the month. It’s important to note that I’m no expert – I’m still very much in the learning stage of veganism and have included sources below for any scientific claims. My main goal is to help others should they also decide to try the lifestyle out!***

I learnt something very quickly before I started my Veganuary journey… It’s not the sort of thing you can jump straight into! Animal-derived products are incredibly popular within food (and other industries), so a lot of research is required before committing to ensure that you have enough knowledge of what you can and can’t eat (although of course the learning happens after you’ve begun, too). The following post is a list of several things I discovered prior to becoming vegan, which should hopefully be useful for anyone wanting to know their stuff before they start.

Not all vegetarian alternatives are vegan

This is one that nearly caught me out, as I’d naively assumed that meat-alternatives would be suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians. Sadly this isn’t the case – whilst Quorn have a vegan range, for example, their standard “meat” products use egg to bind the mycoprotein together, meaning they’re out of the question for vegans.

You’ll also find this with dairy-free products – again, eggs are usually the main offender – and many items in the free-from aisle will also not be vegan-friendly. The problem I’ve found is that, whilst it’s statutory to point out if a product is vegetarian it isn’t the same for if it’s vegan, meaning that plenty of vegan-friendly foods go unlabelled as such. Don’t dismiss a product straight away if it’s not immediately obvious.

Some supplements are derived from animal products

Another thing I wasn’t aware of before starting my Veganuary journey is that some supplements are not suitable for vegans. Whilst I was aware of fish oil (which should be fairly obvious), I also found out that Vitamin D3 comes from animals (although D2 is plant-based), and there are quite a few different ingredients in supplements that are often non-vegan, such as lanolin, glycerine, collagen, and B12 (source: Vitacost). As with food items, it’s best to give the ingredients list a good scan before you use them.

Veganuary Things To Watch Out For When Going Vegan
Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

Be careful of “hidden” dairy in food items

Last year I went dairy-free in an attempt to lessen my migraines, and during time I discovered just how prevalent “hidden” dairy items are as a food ingredient. Milk powder crops up a lot and is one of those sneaky ones that can be easy to miss, along with other obscure milk-based titles such as milk protein and milk solids. You might also notice whey or whey solids in various products which are also not vegan, and another one to avoid is casein, which is derived from milk (but you’d never know just from the name).

Over time you’ll find it easier to remember which products contain them and which ones don’t, but it’s always a good idea to check any ingredients that you’re unsure about, and apps like Is It Vegan? and Spoon Guru can really help with this.

Some foods have vegan ingredients but not vegan processing methods…

This is a really hard one to detect as most packaging won’t list processing methods on it. When I was doing some research into veganism last month, I was quite astounded by the number of products that aren’t technically vegan because of how they are made. Alcohol is a big one here, with ingredients such as isinglass and gelatine being used as fining agents (source: BBC). Some white sugar involves bone char in the creation process (source: The Flaming Vegan), making it technically non-vegan, and even oranges and lemons may not be considered vegan if they are glazed with an animal-derived wax (source: The Independent). This is where those apps come in handy again, as well as the almighty Google Search.

Veganuary Things To Watch Out For When Going Vegan
Image by pics_kartub from Pixabay

It’s important to remember the definition of veganism when considering whether a type of food is actually vegan or not – avoiding animal products and cruelty/exploitation “as far as is possible and practicable” (source: The Vegan Society). My “down the rabbit hole” style research led to me thinking that I would barely be able to consume anything during Veganuary, until a friend pointed out that there needs to be a line drawn to determine how far one goes with assessing the “veganness” of any type of food (technically, plants aren’t truly vegan because they are pollinated by bees and other insects – if you take it that far then it’s pretty much game over). Think about why you have become vegan and what measures you are willing to take to practice that belief, and use that to decide where that line should be for you.

…And other foods with vegan ingredients may still contain animal products

 If you’ve started scrutinising food ingredients already then you’ll probably have noticed the small print underneath the list that sometimes features, saying “May contain traces of…”. This doesn’t mean that the product actively contains those ingredients, however very small amounts may still be present due to them being created in the same environment as other food that does contain them (source: NHS).

The majority of vegans that I’ve spoken to are still happy to eat these products as they don’t deliberately contain animal products, but whether you eat them or not is really down to personal preference and the reasons behind your decision to become vegan.

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Remember that “vegan” is not synonymous with “healthy”!

Due to the very nature of a vegan diet being plant-based, you’re most likely going to find yourself feeling a lot healthier than when you were cramming cheese and bacon at every opportunity. It’s also a lot easier to avoid the high amounts of fat that come with meat and dairy, which of course aren’t great if you also eat a lot of carbs.

However, there are plenty of pre-packaged vegan foods out there that aren’t particularly healthy, especially if you’re conscious of your sodium intake – it’s worth noting that high levels of sodium are found in meat substitutes such as Quorn to preserve them for longer (source: Men’s Health). You’re still 100% vegan if you exist on a diet purely of Oreos and Party Rings, remember (which, as amazing as it sounds, is probably really bad for you), and some vegan products like soy and almond milk aren’t considered as healthy for the environment due to farming methods (source: My Vegan Experiment) which may affect things like what dairy product you opt for. Whilst most vegan foods will be healthier than the non-vegan alternative, it’s always wise to do your research and find out exactly what is going into your food, and how.

And finally… Don’t worry if you make a mistake!

My main takeaway from joining the vegan community is that people make mistakes. All. The. Time. I made one on my first day, automatically testing the biscuit mix I’d made with my stepdaughter before I’d even had time to realise what I was doing. And that’s okay! Veganism is a journey, and no one is going to be perfect at it from the very beginning.

As I’ve been saying previously research is super important, however the most important thing is to avoid being too hard on yourself if you accidentally eat something non-vegan – it’ll only demotivate you and make you feel like you can’t do it. Instead, I’ve been told by many in the vegan community to treat every mistake as a learning curve and the lifestyle will eventually come naturally. Every animal product you don’t eat is progress towards better animal welfare, environment, and/or health, so think about what you have managed to achieve instead.

What were your biggest learning curves when you started out as a vegan? Or if you’re not vegan, what do you think would be the hardest thing to avoid as one?Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin!

Veganuary Things To Watch Out For When Going Vegan

42 thoughts on “Things To Watch Out For When Going Vegan | My Veganuary Journey

  1. I saw your conversation on Twitter with someone about how bananas aren’t necessarily Vegan. It stunned me! I think it’s great that you’re giving Veganuary a go and putting so much time into educating yourself around it too. Good point about not to worry if you make a mistake – I reckon that’d be a thing that makes people quit quite easily so it’s important not to beat yourself up for making an error x

    1. I’m part of a Veganuary group on FB and people were getting quite upset during the first few days if they failed, so it’s good that there’s lots of support out there at least. It’s been a good ride so far so interesting to see how I feel by the end of it.

  2. I’ve asked GP’s several times if my Vit D capsules and Vit B12 injections are derived from animals and got non-plussed expressions and don’t know answers. One cheerfully said the Vit D is veggie but they come in a gelatine capsule. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Milk powder in crisps caught me out for about a year!

    1. It seems that so many people are confused about these things! My understanding is that D3 is animal but D2 is plant-based, however I don’t know about B12. I’m looking into getting VEG1 which is a supplement specifically for vegans – it has B12, Vit D, and other ones like selenium and iodine (all the difficult ones, basically).

      1. Oh that sounds brilliant! I have the B12 injected as I can’t absorb it through food so it is what it is. Good t hear about Vit D so at least it’s only the capsule that’s gelatine. Iodine is found in seaweed and kelp so do you like veggie sushi? I also add kelp flakes to stews etc for that earthy ‘meaty’ flavour. Selenium I’m drawing a blank lol *goes off to have a Google*

        1. I do like seaweed but it’s just so expensive! I can’t really justify including it in my diet unfortunately. Selenium is found in nuts like walnuts, almonds, etc so not finding that one too bad at least.

          1. Oh good, I’ve got selenium covered then. I got four samples of seaweed to review on my blog a while back and kept on using vouchers and money off coupons since lol. I think that supplement is such a simple way of doing things.

  3. I’m not vegan, so I had no idea quite how far down the rabbit hole it goes. The fact that fruit can be not vegan due to wax is so bizarre! It really seems like a minefield at first and I think you’re definitely right to encourage people to draw a line somewhere. Every pro-animal choice is surely a good thing. I hope to eventually go vegan but I’m honestly addicted to sour cream. I know that sounds mad but I love it. I need to find a good vegan alternative and then I reckon I’d be okay!
    Beth x Adventure & Anxiety

    1. Ooooh I don’t know an alternative to that, however I just googled it and loads of recipes came up! I’m finding it surprisingly easy, despite the fact that I’m a complete cheese fiend haha

  4. I’m also so interested to learn more about veganism! I haven’t fully committed to this lifestyle change, but I do try to limit animal products and eat completely vegan at least one day a week. I’m slowly easing myself into it 🙂 Thank you for this info!

    1. That’s great progress! I suggest watching The Game Changers if you haven’t already on Netflix – I watched it last night and it’s so unpreachy and science-based… Absolutely fascinating. My partner is taking steps too now which is great!

  5. A lot of this I have never heard of before and I really applaud you for considering a vegan lifestyle. it seems like a change that would require a lot of research and change.

  6. This was a great educative post. I’m not vegan and so I had no clue that some ‘vegan’ products still contain animal byproducts. I don’t think I’d go vegan, I love cheese and bacon too much!

    Hope your journey gets easier as you go along

    Loren | plaidandsugar.blogspot.com

    1. Thank you! That’s what I thought too as I’m a big cheese and bacon fan, but honestly I don’t really miss them! Seems to be chocolate that is the hardest which is weird as I’m more of a savoury person, but I reckon that’s because of Christmas!

  7. This is super helpful! I always assumed that because a productive was vegetarian that for the most part would be vegan. I might try and do veganuary! But I think to start with being veggie might be easier. I don’t know how easy it would be? Xx

    1. To be honest, I’ve found it really easy and I’m a complete cheese fiend! The trick is to do your research, and Pinterest has loads of great recipe ideas and food swaps. Hardest thing for me has been losing chocolate but I’ve found dark chocolate almonds keep my cravings away 🙂 glad the post helped!

  8. I would love to try some vegan food but I’m such a picky eater so I think I would really struggle. Vegan food also seems so confusing because you can only eat certain food it confuses me so much what you can eat and what you can. Great read really informative 💗

    1. I’m finding it quite flexible so far – I was worried it would just be beans but I’m coming across vegans that don’t even like beans so it must be possible! I think even just cutting down meat and/or dairy a little bit is a positive step. Totally agree with you on it being confusing – it takes some practice and I’m really not there yet!

      1. I’ve definitely cut diary out of my everyday life a lot as I can’t really eat a lot of diary. I think I’m going to do some more research on vegan food and see if I can try it 💗

  9. Great advice. We considered doing the Vegan challenge in Jan in a bid to maybe go the full way after my treatment. We’ve managed to stick to the vegetarian side of things, but we messed up with the vegan! So, it certainly isn’t something you can just jump into without correct research. You really need to know what you can eat and what you can’t, and always check the packaging.

    1. Thank you, and yes you’re totally right! It gets easier with time but man the start is difficult! That’s amazing that you’re going that though – how are you finding it?

  10. Thank you for all this advice! I had no idea that certain seemingly “vegan” foods had animal-based binding products or anything like that. I don’t necessarily think about going vegan anytime soon, but I am consciously making an effort to not always be eating animal-based products.

  11. I like your enthusiasm but is your article meant to portray veganism as difficult?

    I don’t think executing a vegan diet / lifestyle is realistic. Aim for 99%. Mistakes will be made. Doesn’t matter. Technicalities about beer etc or fruit misses the point. Make significant steps towards improving your health, reduce animal cruelty and save the planet.

    Plenty of foods to eat so think swallowing a vegan dictionary and aiming for perfection misses the point of the movement.

    You don’t have to be a rabbi to read a prayer in a synagogue or be a priest in a church? You can go once a week, do your best. Do it mostly right and check ingredients in supermarkets before buying them for allergens and download the happy cow app, done!

    1. My article is meant to portray veganism as totally manageable but, for those who really do want to take it seriously, I wanted to showcase how they could do so (the majority of vegans I have spoken to have felt this way, interestingly – I feel far more lax than any other new vegans I have come across). I discuss the technicalities issue and the definition of veganism in the fourth section as I must admit I first felt it would be impossible, so glad that I had my friend to discuss it with (hence why I included what she said – felt it was good advice). My final paragraph emphasises what you are saying my article is missing – perfection isn’t the goal, and small steps are also positive.
      If anything, this article is really a collection of my initial experiences with becoming vegan – mainly the surprise at how widespread animal products are in food and drink as I always felt myself in the know about where my food comes from (and clearly I was not about some things). The whole thing has been a massive learning curve for me, so I wanted to share so others could learn from it, too. Hope that makes sense! (also sorry I only just replied – your notification only came through today for some reason!)

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