Welcome to day 2 of Vegan MoFo 2013! As you may be aware, September is Vegan Month of Food and I’m taking part with my a-z of gluten free veganism. Before we start on our alphabetical journey I’d like to give you the chance to get to know me a little better by giving you the story of how I became vegan and gluten free.
I’ve been vegan for two years now and gluten free for one. I began my transition at 14 years old by giving up meat and becoming a pescetarian. As a child I hated meat and would only eat chicken or heavily processed meats like sausages, burgers and pies. I hated both the flavour and texture of meat in its true form. I’ve always been an animal lover too so it was a combination of things that led me to pescetarianism. The reasons I didn’t give up fish were mainly to do with misconceptions about the lack of food choices available to vegetarians, both from me and my parents. I therefore lived on a diet of tuna, salmon, Quorn and Linda McCartney for the rest of my high school years. I finally gave up fish while I was in college after a pretty nasty food poisoning incident at a chip shop in Llandudno that was just the push I needed to go full vegetarian. Apart from a short period of time while I was at university, I have been vegetarian ever since.
I was always very sceptical of veganism. I thought it was too extreme and I didn’t understand the problems with drinking milk, eating eggs and wearing wool. I was definitely the type of vegetarian that lived off cheese and eggs and so the idea of giving up those types of food filled me with dread. When I was around 16 years old I had a lot of stomach problems and went on an elimination diet to find out if certain foods could be causing the pain. I tried giving up every type of food group apart from dairy and gluten as these two seemed the hardest. Eventually I gave up dairy and immediately felt much better. Although I still had no idea about the moral implications of eating dairy, I had no choice but to cut it out of my diet. Once I’d given it up I spent a lot of time researching the dairy industry and now understand why vegans choose to avoid being any part of it. This was a huge step towards me becoming vegan as I already didn’t like honey.
The only thing left in my diet that prevented me from being vegan was eggs. Throughout my time as a vegetarian I’ve always felt that eating eggs was not quite right. I adored eating them scrambled, boiled or fried and I was guilty of eating eggs that were not free range because they were cheaper. As time went on I became more and more uneasy about it and I began eating free range eggs only. Eventually when I was 20 years old I bit the bullet and cut them from my diet completely for a week to see whether I’d survive. I became completely vegan and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Last year I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance which was a big blow to my diet. It surprised me how many foods I ate that contained gluten and it has taken me a long time to change my diet for the better. Supermarkets are now extremely helpful if you are avoiding gluten as most of them have a huge free from section. However, most gluten free baked goods contain egg or milk. For a while I ate a few different brands of gluten free bread which contained egg as I had no idea how to cut bread out of my life. It took a lot for me to give up bread completely for a while and I was at a loose end when it came to breakfast or lunch. It was one of the best things I did to help me cope with my new diet though as it forced me to explore other options. I have now reintroduced small amounts of bread into my diet. I eat DS Ciabattas or B Free Wraps which are both vegan and gluten free. These are a treat and convenience food for me as I now try to focus on a mostly whole foods diet which does wonders for my health. I have recently been diagnosed just on my symptoms as a coeliac which is an allergy rather than an intolerance which has made me even more determined to stick to an entirely gluten free diet.
My journey to gluten free veganism has been a long and, at times, difficult one but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel healthier than I ever have done and the variety of food I eat has increased more than I could ever imagine. Once you cut out the bad foods it opens a whole world of alternatives to you and makes eating an exciting and fulfilling experience again. I now feel that I am making a difference with my vegan diet and I would never go back to eating meat, fish, dairy or eggs. Gluten free has also made me feel amazing. My advice if you are giving up gluten is to think about what you can eat rather than what you can’t. Use the opportunity to research foods you’ve never tried before and look at it as a positive change to your diet. Above all, do your research. There are so many blogs, books and societies out there which can help.
If you have any questions about gluten free veganism don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Later this week I’ll be doing an FAQ and answering some of the questions that are often asked by people looking into vegan, gluten free diets so please get in touch!
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How did you become vegan or gluten free?
Are you at the start of your journey?