My Journey Into the Vegan Unknown: The Good, The Bad, and the Results
Going vegan for seven days was one wild ride and no easy task. I made the decision to reassess my eating habits and detox from my bad ways a week ago and I’ll admit I am relieved the challenge is over. I don’t have any regrets though and learned so much about my own limits, have a much bigger appreciation for healthy foods and vegans, and want to share what my experience was like.
Vegan Grocery Shopping 101
In prep for the start of the challenge, I headed to my local health food store to get some groceries for the week ahead. The first place I went was the fruit and veg section to pick up salad ingredients, but immediately had my eyes bugging out at their astronomic prices. Okay I know organic produce is priced at a premium but come on, $4.99/lb for avocadoes, and $2.99 for green peppers? Sheesh. I decided to put off the fruit and veggie shopping for a later run to Trader Joe’s, and wandered around to see if I could find anything with normal prices.
Dairy, Dairy Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
To my surprise, very few items were actually labeled as vegan, so I found myself reading through one ingredient list after another. So many items I thought would be vegan had milk, butter, or cheese in them in some form or another. Man this was going to be way harder than I thought. And boy was it weird walking past the dairy aisle without stopping to pick up yogurt, my one regular dairy staple.
Yes, No, Maybe, Arg.
As a result, I spent around an hour each at 2 stores picking things up, putting them back, and scratching my head. It was quite frustrating not knowing if certain ingredients were vegan or not, and in retrospect it was foolish that I didn’t print out a list of safe brands and ingredients beforehand. In the end I did find some reasonably priced, tasty looking items – organic chili, blue corn chips, fire roasted corn salsa, sesame crackers, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, ready made Indian food, trail mix, pot stickers, and tofu pad thai.
May Contain Traces of Milk, Cheese, Eggs
Go grab five things in the supermarket that you think would be vegan and I bet at least half of them say “may contain traces of milk” or eggs, cheese etc. on the packaging. So now what? Well, those notices do not deter most vegans because the “may contain” items were not actually used to make the food. Manufacturers typically post those warnings as a way to limit their liability from consumers with sensitive allergies suing them if they were to have an adverse reaction to a minute amount that may have settled on the packaging or gotten picked up in the food production process somewhere. Machines are cleaned regularly and plants have to follow quality standards though, so unless you are looking for vegan only manufacturers or actually allergic to any of those things you’re fine to eat them if you’re going vegan.
To my surprise I didn’t have any intense cravings for meat except on the last day when I wanted to eat teriyaki chicken from one of my regular lunch spots (normally I eat chicken three to four times a week). What almost did me in several times during the last few days of the challenge was cheese. I wasn’t craving cheese itself, but food made with cheese. As I tend to eat a fair amount of carbs in a normal week, I felt myself wanting to eat pizza and home style mac n’ cheese, but I held strong!
What We Eat is Based on Habits
The hardest part about this challenge was breaking out of my old habits. There are four to five places I’ve gone to lunch for months because of specific dishes that I like which aren’t vegan. They’re close to my office, reasonably priced, and are don’t require any thinking. Getting out of my normal routine required research, patience, and a sense of adventure.
What I Ate
Day 1 – Banana, spaghetti with tomato basil sauce, salad, chocolate chip cookie, peas, spinach salad with mushrooms & pine nuts, ½ baked potato with chives, steamed asparagus.
Day 2 – Banana, 2nd half of my baked potato, salad with cherry tomatoes, slice of chocolate cake, ½ protein bar, veggie burrito with black beans, rice, chips & salsa.
Day 3 – Banana, fried rice, lemongrass tofu with tomatoes, sautéed broccoli with soy protein, chocolate chip cookie, crackers, almonds, stir fry veggies, salad, slice of chocolate cake.
Day 4 – Banana, buckwheat soba noodle salad with soy vinaigrette, cucumber slices, omega trail mix with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, crackers, tofu pad thai.
Day 5 – Chocolate protein bar, veggie bento box with eggplant curry and yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, walnuts, pasts with mushrooms, salad.
Day 6 – Granola bar, Chow Mein, sautéed mushrooms, tofu with green peppers and onions, brown rice lentils and curried eggplant, green beans, salad with avocado.
Day 7 – Granola bar, beet salad with quinoa, pop corners chips, chili with blue corn chips, spinach salad with tomatoes, apple slices.
The GOOD – Positive Results
Lost weight – 2.5 pounds in just 7 days, woohoo!
Digestion – improved all around, less bloating & discomfort, more regularity
Increased Energy – more stable levels throughout the day, fewer food comas after lunch
Smarter choices – ate more nutritious meals and snacks, reduced my empty calorie intake, didn’t eat or crave any fried foods
New restaurants – found several new lunch spots that offer vegan meals
Improved awareness – learned more about what goes into processed foods and have a stronger appreciation for healthy brands and dairy free/meatless meals
Reduced my carbon footprint – plant based diets are much better for the environment and I felt good about that
Productivity & Happiness – My body felt cleansed, and with more energy and less discomfort after eating, I got more done and felt more cheerful overall.
The BAD – Negative Thoughts
Time and research – spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could and could not eat. Had some difficulty finding vegan meals when I wasn’t in the mood for a salad.
Couldn’t eat off my husband’s plate – although my DH was happy about this one, I missed being able to nibble on what he ordered for lunch and being able to share desert at dinner one night when he ordered cheesecake.
Cost – although the food was good at the new lunch spots I found, I really cringed paying $10-12 for salads and veggie-based meals at lunch. It’d be easy to cut costs if I made my own lunches though; I’m just not good at doing that!
So What’s Next?
After seven days am I ready to commit to a 100% vegan diet? No, but I’m so glad I tried it out.
Am I going to try to eat vegan at all going forward? YES! I’m aiming for one day a week vegan, three days vegetarian, and three days of anything goes.
Ingredients I had to look up that you might find interesting:
Ascorbic acid – vegan
Beta Carotene – vegan
Calcium Carbonate – both vegan and animal derived forms
Calcium Chloride – vegan
Casein – animal derived
Cellulose – vegan
Cocoa Butter – vegan
Collagen – animal derived
Colors/Dyes – both vegan and animal derived forms
Dextrin – vegan
Fatty acids – both vegan and animal derived forms
Fructose – vegan
Gelatin – animal derived
Glucose – both vegan and animal derived forms
Glycerin – both vegan and animal derived forms
Guar Gum – vegan
Inulin – vegan
Keratin – animal derived
Maltodextrin – vegan
Mono-Diglycerides – both vegan and animal derived forms
MSG – vegan
Sulfuric Acid – vegan
Xanthan gum – vegan
Untemplaters, what’s the most weight you’ve lost in one week before? What are your current diet and nutritional goals? How do you think what you eat affects your lifestyle and efficiency?