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Jen Popiolek
Jen Popiolek

Going from being an avid meat and dairy eater, consuming both on a daily basis, to eliminating them entirely from my diet to try a “vegan week”, wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be.  I learned quite a lot, from what it means to be a vegan and how it can have a positive effect on the environment, to discovering that there’s a wide variety of tasty foods and recipes available to vegans.

I think there’s still a stigma around veganism, but I feel it is definitely because a lot of people are uninformed about it, and tend to turn their nose up at “being vegan” and react with statements such as “What do you eat, lettuce?” There really is so much more to it, and I’m really glad to be able to share some of the things I’ve learned with you.

My week as a vegan

I still had the same breakfasts as I would usually throughout the week consisting of berries, nuts and yogurt, only swapping the natural yogurt, for a dairy free alternative. No real difference in taste at all! On the weekend – jam & vegan margarine on toast, something I rather enjoy, but hadn’t eaten for a long time.

Lunches – So I started off the week on salads of spinach, rocket, beetroot, walnuts, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, peppers and pomegranate seeds. Not bad, but even better with some leftover vegan lasagne I’d made the night before. Then there was my vegetable soup (recipe below – yum!!), that I made mostly from leftover veg in the fridge, no biggy, but fulfilling and yummy!

Dinner – This is where it gets more interesting. Throughout my week I tried meals like; lentil lasagne, sweet potato burritos, lentil ragu, BBQ pasta burger, and even chocolate pudding!! Although my meal plan for the week was carb-heavy, this was purely coincidental; I have many more vegan recipes to hand that do not contain pasta or bread.

Each recipe I chose was not only very filling and refreshingly tasty, but also extremely easy to make. Here’s just a few of my favourites from this week that I highly recommend you give a try.

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My favourite meal of the week!!

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Some great facts that I have learnt:

  • In 100g of soy beans, there is 73% more iron, 20% more protein, 63% more magnesium and 26% more calcium, when compared to beef.
  • Studies say that replacing animal protein with plant protein sources, can help to prevent heart disease.
  • Some Doctors recommend plant based diets for health, whereas a vegan is someone who uses no animal products whatsoever on a moral basis. So, a person that chooses a plant-based diet might wear leather shoes, whereas a vegan wouldn’t.
  • It is difficult to determine whether alcohol or even soft drinks are vegan friendly without having to search the unrecognisable ingredients online and a lot of alcohol is filtered through animal products. So check online to be safe!
  • The estimated daily greenhouse gas emissions of an average 2000 calorie vegan diet have been shown to be anywhere between ⅓ and ½ less than the equivalent meat inclusive diet. In layman’s terms, veganism is better for the environment.
  • Vegan chocolate pudding is amazing.

walnut salad

Things vegans get asked on a regular basis

One of my friend’s became vegan a short while ago, and I love to ask her about it, because it really was foreign to me. Read some of the things vegans get asked the most, along with some answers in our Vegan FAQ

Jen Popiolek
There’s nothing gracious about eating pizza,
but damn it tastes good!

One weekend a month, The Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds City Centre hosts a Food Feast, where Northern-based independent restaurants can take part in a mini street food pop-up, usually including 5 – 8 stalls providing various dishes priced anywhere from £4 – £8. For January they hosted a Vegetarian & Vegan Feast, which must have gone down a treat because by the time I went to try some vegan goodies at 3pm, almost everything had sold out! Luckily Dough Boys (Belgrave’s resident pizza kitchen) were still serving their gorgeous pizza slices, so I got to try the Nice Nice Chilli which consisted of; Vegan dough, roasted cauliflower, smashed kidney beans, pickled chilli, red onion and coriander; scrumptious! Clearly the Vegetarian & Vegan Feast did well as Belgrave are holding another one on 24th February. I will be sure to arrive early to this one 🙂

Lasting thoughts

After my week of a fully plant-based diet and learning more about the ethics of being a vegan, (although I don’t feel ready to fully convert), I am more conscious about where my food comes from, and what ingredients go into certain types of food. Throughout the week I actually didn’t crave or think that much about meat or fish. The things I did struggle with were chocolate and cheese, which I missed.

I aim to cut down on dairy and meat substantially in my diet, already cutting out milk and yogurt, and I am going to use more vegetable based recipes.

I am looking forward to enjoying a more varied diet and feel more confident in trying new things.  I would encourage everyone to give veganism a go, even if only for a short-while just to see if you can do it, and hope that you discover that you enjoy it as much as I did.


For more of my reviews and recipes, please visit my website and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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