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?
Paul @ The Frugal Toad says
I’m impressed that you made it that long! Me, I like meat with my veggies. 🙂
That’s what my husband said too! He didn’t think I could last a week, but I did and it was awesome!
Financial Samurai says
Sydney, were there particular foods you got extremely tired of eating? I see banana everyday there. Kinda boring no? What about making a banana shake or something?
Haha yeah I did eat a lot of bananas. Mostly because of convenience and they’re cheap. I’m usually not that hungry in the morning and only need a light meal to hold me over until lunch. I like granola bars and cereal too and try to alternate every week or every few days.
Chrisselle Mowatt says
I’ve tried so many times, but I just can’t give up bacon or chicken. ):
Yeah it is a big change. I started to crave chicken on the last day of my challenge. Beef and pork were easy for me to go without, but chicken and seafood were definitely harder because they are in so many of my favorite dishes. I substituted in tofu a lot in place of meat but had to steer away from a lot of Asian dishes. I didn’t realize that fish/fish stock is used in so many of the sauces and noodle broths even though the rest of the dish could be meat free.
I may try this.
I find it hard because It’s almost time for BBQ’s!
Even if you only do it for 2-3 days instead of 7 it’s an eye opening experience. I ate a lot of salads and felt good because normally my “greens” intake is too low. Give it a go today for fun!
Hammy Havoc says
No matter how many times I try, I just cannot give up that bacon or the cheese.
Bacon wasn’t that hard for me to go without but cheese was tough. I had no idea it’s in so many things, especially processed snack foods like potato chips and crackers.
Holy moly, what a thorough and helpful post! There is NO WAY I would be able to go Vegan for 7 days unless someone kidnapped my bunny or something.
That’s funny how you mention about not being able to nibble off your hubbie’s plate. Do you do that often? 🙂
The good thing is, eating vegetarian sounds so easy now right? It’s like swinging two bats before going up to bat. Bat feels super light!
I love the non bloated feeling and regularity of eating healthier.
Thanks for sharing!
Hi Sam. Yeah it took a lot of patience figuring out what I could and couldn’t eat but it really opened my eyes. I appreciate foods that have clear, simple ingredients so much now! And yes I do tend to nibble off of my hubbie’s plate a lot but he does it to me too esp if I’m not looking. haha Vegetarian is much easier now than before the challenge too which is great. I definitely want to keep eating more salads and lighter meals. It keeps me more energized and on my toes.
Hey Benny! My husband was probably half vegan for the week and was so encouraging throughout. He actually liked eating lighter dinners with lots of salad and veggies. I typically eat four times a day (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner) so I kept that schedule the same and it worked well. Haven’t heard of 4HB before. Not sure I could eat that many beans unless they were green beans. 🙂 Let’s see the first non vegan thing I ate was Malaysian food. Yuuum. A lot of dishes are made with shrimp and egg and are so flavorful. I totally agree that fried foods lead to sluggishness. Yuk! No more of that for me!
Glad you survived! Your husband didn’t want to join in for a week?
When you were eating vegan did you have three meals a day or smaller meals spread out throughout the day?
Have you heard about or tried the slow carb diet from the 4HB? That’s what I was doing for a couple months before I went on a two month vacation. Definitely lost hard to lose weight. Felt better. Less sluggish. It’s just a lot of beans and I’d get tired of eating beans. 🙂
I believe what you eat is so important in your efficiency. If your body is a car and food is fuel, you want to put premium fuel in there. Processed foods, HFCS, sugars, and fried foods all make me feel sluggish and I get that up and down roller coaster. Plus if I eat a huge meal of stuff I shouldn’t eat, I’ll be thinking about how I shouldn’t have just ate all that food. Not good for trying to focus on being efficient either.
So what was the first non-vegan thing you ate when you were done?