Going vegan: The hassles and highs and what I learned

By Nesta McGregor
Newsbeat reporter

  • Published
Newsbeat reporter Nesta standing with some broccoli and meat

Pig, cow, sheep, goat, kangaroo, guinea fowl, crocodile, chicken, rabbit, ostrich, duck and pigeon - it may sound like a build-your-own-farm starter kit but it's a list of the animals I've had on the end of my fork.

With me, when it comes to food there's only ever been one rule, the more meat the better.

So it was understandable when I told friends, family and colleagues I'd be going vegan for a month - a roll of the eyes, laughter or a sarcastic "good luck" were among the responses.

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Part one: The Challenge

My reasons for doing it?

1. I knew it'd be a challenge.

2. I've read and heard about the "negative" effects eating meat can have on the human body and the planet.

3. I've read about the way some meat is mass produced and processed.

4. Eating meat was never a decision I made - whereas not eating meat would be.

5. I also thought it'd make me leaner and my six-pack would return.

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Ingredients for a potato and leek soup - one of my first attempts at an all vegan meal

I appreciate it's not climbing Everest or swimming the English Channel but it's been harder than I thought.

A month is a really, really, really long time.

You spend longer in the supermarket

My first vegan meal was pulled jackfruit and rice - advertised as the animal-friendly alternative to pulled pork.

For me it's not like pulled pork! So much so I wanted to ring someone in authority to tell them that.

Dry, bland and not filling, the issue with "alternatives" is ultimately you compare it to the real thing.

The salty, smoky, tangy taste of pork. Ah man!

Failing on day one wasn't an option so I put my lack of excitement down to the fact that I'd opened my vegan account with a ready meal.

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Part two: The Movement

The next day I went on a massive shop which took three times as long as normal.

The majority of time spent squinting to read the ingredients on food labels.

Animals or animal products are in a lot more food than I first thought.

I mean, who knew orange juice could contain FISH?

Meal prep is key

I love to cook so the buzz of making a new meal excites me.

That is until I realised how much more preparation had to go into a vegan meal.

Chop. Chop. Chop. Slice. Slice. Slice. Peel. Peel. Peel.

I've lost count of the amount of onions, peppers or mushrooms I've chopped in the past month.

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Part three: The Reality

It's clear that convenience has a lot to do with my eating habits.

On any given day I leave work, buy meat of choice, if it isn't pre-seasoned then sprinkle on spices, stick in oven.

Sit-back and wait. Ping!


On one occasion a vegan soup recipe I followed consisted of 12 ingredients and 30 minutes for prep time alone.

Not ideal after a 10-hour day at work.

And certainly not as appealing as Dervish's warm smile as he slides over my order from the kebab shop a minute's walk from my house.

You find out who your friends are

As well as learning I'd have to put aside an hour or so for my weekly shop I also learned who my friends are.

My birthday meal was at a brand new Asian fusion restaurant in London's West End.

They do great steaks. The best smelling smoked chicken on earth and prawns the size of… well…massive prawns.

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My birthday meal while my friends had steaks and king-size prawns

I know this because I watched as my friends all ate theirs while I had the caramelized carrots and vegetable fried rice.

The night ended on a high though, a chef approached our table with a single slice of cake complete with a candle.

The whole restaurant sang and clapped.

Minutes later I had to settle for the cherry on the side. The cake contained milk and eggs.

By the way I still love my friends but I'll be taking them to a vegan restaurant next year as payback.

I can live without meat

It's not all been negative experiences though. I've tasted some amazing vegan food and wine.

From meals made by Michelin-starred chefs, to very tasty vegan fried "chicken" and kebab.

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Part four: The Meat Eaters

In the last month I've also learned that I love meat.

Food makes me happy and I feel like I've been eating just to survive, and not really enjoying my meals.

And the reality is I know where my food comes from. I know animals are bred and then killed for my consumption.

And even a trip to an abattoir mid-January had me reminiscing about the sights and smells of a perfectly-seasoned lamb chop.

The arguments for and against eating meat or using animal products are long and complex.

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Part five: The Verdict

And I hope we live in a world where the freedom to make that decision is never taken away.

What's far simpler is that after so many years as a carnivore - I'd find it difficult to cut out meat completely.

Apparently that makes me a ''flexitarian'' - someone who has reduced their meat intake but hasn't stopped eating it completely.

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