It's no secret I'm a committed omnivore. The idea of restricting or eliminating any food is against my general eating philosophy - a little bit of everything and not too much of anything.

But there's a growing trend among Kiwis towards adopting what we might call special diets.

Whether we're going gluten free or paleo or low carb, more and more of us are choosing to restrict our diets in some way. Reasons are varied, but usually health related.

One increasingly popular way of eating for health and ethical reasons is veganism. Vegans don't eat, wear or use anything that comes from an animal - no meat, fish, eggs, dairy or honey; no leather, silk or wool, or cosmetics tested on animals. It's usually out of concern for animal welfare and environmental impact.


These are valid concerns. Industrialised farming systems and a growing world population have compromised animal welfare and caused hugely negative environmental effects. The growing of plant foods, it could easily be argued, is much gentler on our planet.

There are also undoubtedly health benefits to eating a plant-only diet. Research shows a well-planned vegan diet can be exceptionally healthy, bringing lowered risk of many chronic diseases.

I found it very interesting to practice a week of vegan eating recently, at the urging of the team at SAFE.

As a lover of eggs and cheese, my seven-day experiment had some ups and downs.

The ups were around creativity. I really enjoyed creating interesting and healthy recipes with some constraints on ingredients; it made me very focussed on the flavours and textures of my food and achieving a good balance of these without animal products.

I tried (and enjoyed) some new plant-based foods. I was introduced to cashew cheese (mis-named; it's not like cheese at all, but tasty in its own right) and dreamy coconut yoghurt (a serious exercise in saturated fat, so a little goes a long way).

And I sampled some extremely good food when eating out - food that's every bit as good as animal-based dishes.

The downs of my vegan week were less about food, and more about the mental challenge.


When you start eating in a way where some foods are restricted, there's a mental shift.

The minute you have to decide whether you're allowed or not allowed a food, you are, for better or worse, on a diet. I didn't enjoy having to make these decisions. And I didn't enjoy having to say no to things I otherwise wanted to eat.

That meant I sometimes had to eat whatever was available, rather than what was tastiest/healthiest - a situation that could easily mean a vegan diet, as with any diet, could be unbalanced.

So I won't be going vegan for good, although that's not to say I didn't learn something from the experience.

Eating more plants and fewer animals is something we probably should all work towards. But I'll still enjoy my vege omelettes.