This week we spoke with Katie from the blog Little Green Duck about her journey with her family and how she’s used her blog to document their commitment to veganism and all of the associated trials and tribulations that have come along with it.
Our family journey to veganism and how it’s totally changed our lives (for the better).
I met my now-husband, Paul, at a pub quiz in late 2011. The relationship was a whirlwind. We went from having never set eyes on one another to living in each other’s pockets within a week. Without going into too much detail it was like a scene from that famous Craig David song (except we actually met on a Sunday).
One of my clearest memories from those early days was on night 2, during a pub-based getting to know one another session (oh, the days when we could just say “shall we go to the pub?” and we just COULD, unencumbered by changing bags, wipes and pushchairs…but that’s a whole other post). We were looking at the menu and he turned to me and said “you’re not vegetarian, are you?” It was said with such passion and seriousness that I thought for a second that if I had said yes he would have walked out the door, never to be seen again. I had met and was falling for a self-confessed, proud and very vocal meat eater.
At the time I also ate meat and was an avid cheese, milk and egg consumer too so I didn’t think twice about the question. I answered “no”, laughed, and our relationship continued to blossom, both of us happily ordering whatever we fancied from whatever menu we encountered without a second thought. We even had the biggest meat feast you can imagine at our wedding, with designated carvers selected from guests at each table. Even writing that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable now.
Along the vegan path we go
In 2016, when our daughter was about 6 months old, Paul started talking about the fact he was struggling with the moral aspect of eating meat. The switch really flicked in his head after we went to a children’s farm and he saw all the lambs with their mothers and he couldn’t stop thinking about how he would feel if someone took his baby away to be food at such a young age. From then on, he did extensive research into vegetarianism, shortly followed by a deeper delve into the mechanics of the dairy and egg industry and why if you’re going to be vegetarian you really should be vegan. I’m not going to go into all that here because this isn’t supposed to be a preachy “this is a decision you should make” post, and I’m a real believer in people making up their own minds as grown adults, so I’ll leave it to anyone who wants to know more to do their own research.
I have to say, this whole change of mindset for Paul was a bit of a shock to me. My husband was considering not only cutting meat out of his diet, but also stopping eating cheese (we ate a lot), eggs (he got through about 12 a week for breakfast) and all other animal derived products. As the one who was doing 90% of the cooking at that time my immediate reaction was “WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO FEED HIM?”. It scared me. I told him that of course I would be supportive of his decision, but that he was going to have to start helping with the meal planning and cooking because I thought it was going to be REALLY hard.
Christmas came and Boxing Day 2016 was the last time Paul ate meat. From the beginning of January 2017 he made the full switch to veganism (to the horror of some people and admiration of others. Again, one for another post).
Despite my plea to him to help with meals more, it didn’t really happen that way. I was back at work but only part time at that stage, and our daughter was in a solid nap routine meaning I had a couple of hours spare a day. It just made sense for me to continue to plan meals, do the weekly shop and do the majority of the cooking each week. I am also a bit of a control freak when it comes to organising what we are going to eat each week, so I spent hours poring over online food sites, trying to find vegan recipes that wouldn’t take too long to cook with a toddler in tow.
From around March 2017 I stopped buying meat to eat at home (although I would still order meat when eating out without my husband. I was pregnant again at this point and thought the baby needed it), and then by June I’d switched to full veganism, having FINALLY found milk I could stomach on cereal after months of morning sickness. Our daughter transitioned to eating mainly vegan at home and vegetarian at nursery 3 days a week. Our son has been vegan since he was born almost a year ago. They’re both happy, healthy and thriving, and I was delighted that during a check-up with our lovely family doctor a few weeks ago, I told her about a typical week’s meals for our children and she was delighted that they eat so healthily. I was actually dreading mentioning it to a medical professional because it can still be received in mixed ways, so I was relieved and happy to get a thumbs up from someone whose opinion I really respect.
“So do you still wear leather belts?” and other frequently asked questions.
The answer is no, not unless we already own them – in which case we’re using stuff until it wears out rather than throwing it away when it’s still useful. We started just with food but now we actively seek out vegan and cruelty-free products as our old ones run out/wear out, because it’s the natural next step to take and our thinking is that if there’s a cruelty-free alternative why wouldn’t you choose it?
That’s how we got to where we are today – but what about how it’s changed us?
The main thing for me is that it’s totally reignited a spark and a love for cooking that I’d totally lost before. I always hated handling raw meat, was always paranoid that I was going to poison everyone by not cooking things properly and would throw any animal products away the second they went out of date because of this same paranoia. So much of our food was going to waste and I wasn’t even enjoying preparing it. I was also TERRIBLE at baking. Every time I made a cake it was flat and awful. Since being vegan I’ve been riding the crest of its wave of popularity, and trying out new recipes every week and even baking a series of successful, fully-vegan and absolutely delicious cakes!
My weekly meal planners are well thought-out, less repetitive, more tasty and healthier than ever before. I was so passionate about it that I started sharing some of my own recipes on my blog, Little Green Duck, at the beginning of this year, and also post most of our family meals on my Instagram feed, and it’s just going from strength to strength. I’ve made some amazing connections with like-minded people across the world, get daily inspiration from them and absolutely cannot imagine ever going back.
The other key thing that’s changed for me is how much more I now know about nutrition, and where we get each important nutrient, fat and vitamin from our diet. When I was a meat eater, I’d just eat whatever I wanted and just trusted I was getting what I needed (who knows if I was!). Nowadays, I’m fairly often asked “where do you get your protein?” (answer, it’s in pretty much EVERYTHING, so it’s the easiest thing to get into your diet as long as you’re eating a good variety of food types), and “but what about calcium?” (again, this is a lot easier than we’re made to believe by the dairy industry – most plant milks are fortified with the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk, some breakfast cereals are also fortified, plus calcium naturally occurs in varying levels in seeds, pulses and dried fruit, to name but a few). Being asked these questions and also having two children and wanting to make sure they get absolutely everything they need has meant that I’ve really done my research and I know that our diets are balanced, mostly healthy (but OH MY the amazing vegan dessert and junk food options that exist now are regularly consumed by the adults of the household so it’s by no means all lentils, quinoa and leaves here).
I really hope this post has come across in the positive way it’s intended. All this stuff is still SO EXCITING to me and I’d encourage anyone to at least give it a try one day a week. The vegan world is becoming more and more interesting every day and even if you aren’t worried about the cruelty side of the meat and dairy industries, there’s just a whole new world of food out there that I didn’t even know existed two years ago. I don’t want people to miss out on it!
For anyone interested in making some easy little switches to reduce their consumption of animal products, my best advice is to think of your favourite meat or dairy-containing dishes then Google “vegan…whatever it is”. There are thousands of really delicious vegan recipes out there, from decadent chocolate cakes to raw protein snack bars to macaroni “cheese” to lasagne and even chickpeas that TOTALLY replicate the taste and texture of tuna mayo.
My story doesn’t end here though – this whole journey has inspired me to make some huge changes in my working life. I was made redundant earlier this year so at the end of my maternity leave I won’t be returning to my old job in broadcasting. Instead I’m in the early design stages for some new products aimed at vegan instagrammers, the blog is probably going to change name (ideas on a postcard or to my DMs please!), I’m officially launching my brand (look out for the launch event) and I might even have a couple of really REALLY big surprises up my sleeve. Come on over and give me a follow on Instagram to see it all unfold. Everyone is welcome, regardless of your diet or lifestyle choices