I went vegan before vegan was cool. Or, more precisely, I went vegan one day before Beyonce & Jay Z announced they were going vegan. Nothing like the first couple of hip-hop making your idea look tired. But I had already bought a refrigerator full of dairy-free, meat-free, animal-everything-free groceries, so I wasn't quitting.
Eating vegan in and of itself is not scary to me. There are plenty of vegan meals I eat without even thinking about it. That being said, giving up all dairy (including cream in my coffee), honey (comes from bees) and eggs (I love eggs) for many consecutive meals is a big undertaking for a gal like me. I had to re-learn what to eat, how to shop and cook.
When transitioning to a vegan diet, preparation is clutch. This was my first mistake. I realized the holidays were just around the corner (vegans can't eat most Christmas cookies…screw that!), so I wanted to squeeze it in prior. Additionally, I had a reservation at Burch Steakhouse, which was a week and one day away. It seems wrong to say the promise of a juicy steak prompted me to go vegan, but that's my story. I essentially started my vegan diet on a whim, which is why I had a chick'n patty (that had lived in my freezer for at least 14 months) with black beans for breakfast and just an apple for lunch. Brutal.
Aside from one minor snafu (cream in my coffee on Day 1… about five seconds after I decided to start my vegan diet. Old habits die hard.), I managed a full seven days without eating any animal products. Here are my highs, lows and lessons learned.
1. If I were a for-real vegan, I'd probably eat a lot of Vietnamese food. These are things I'd eat normally (vegan egg rolls & spring rolls; rice noodle salad with tofu, pictured at the top of the post). This shizz is delicious and if you've never had it, go to Que Nha in St Paul right now.
2. Tofu scrambles are almost as good as scrambled eggs, as long as you scramble the tofu with other delicious ingredients (especially herbs/spices/salt). Even my sweetheart thought so. That being said, cheese would've really made a difference and next time, I will absolutely cover my tofu scramble with tons of it.
3. Tempeh steaks ARE NOT good. At all. (But wine is good AND vegan!)
4. Vegan DOES NOT necessarily equal healthy. Case in point: Sweet & Spicy Doritos are vegan. And what about this veggie burger (there are 15 ingredients in a veggie burger patty, btw… methycellulose & disodium guanylate… mmm delicious) and pile of waffle fries? Nope. I'm weirded out by just how many unpronounceable ingredients it takes to make fake meat products. You know what the nutrition label on an egg says? NOTHING. 'Cause it's just an egg!
5. I recently read an article about how eating gluten-free/vegan/ impostor versions of your favorite foods is like "sex with you pants on," meaning it might be okay, but it's not as good as the real thing, so why even bother? I think the whole SWYPO thing is a load of crap. First, do people actually have SWYPO? I don't even think that's possible. And as far as impostor foods go, this vegan/gluten free pizza from Galactic Pizza was absolutely delicious. I'd order it again, even on a non-vegan eating week.
6. If you have an appreciation for cooking, you should really check out a good raw/vegan restaurant. I was absolutely impressed by the food at Ecopolitan. Every single thing on their menu is gluten-free, vegan, organic and raw (aka food can't be heated over 104 degrees). Behold: room temperature Flaxseed Tostadas, made with sunflower shells filled with lentil "taco meat", loads of veggie toppings and cashew sour cream. I mean, how do you turn lentils into passable-ish taco meat? Magic, I tell ya!
This was by no means the best meal I have ever had, but it was really satisfying and delicious. I was so impressed at the amount of labor and thought put into the food. I was MOST impressed that I convinced my friend/cousin-in-law (that's a thing) to join me for vegan happy hour. Carly, THANK YOU for your support in my weird shenanigans.
7. During my seven vegan days, I literally couldn't eat enough. And what's weird, is that I could eat and eat and never feel stuffed. That, in my opinion, was liberating in a way. I could eat as much as I wanted (provided said food had never touched or been an animal).
8. On the flip side, I was constantly looking for something to eat. Every time I got a coffee, I also purchased a banana or apple (typically the only vegan food offering at a coffee shop). I probably ate twelve times a day. I carried vegan protein bars with me just in case I had some sort of blood sugar-y bitchy melt down, which happened daily. Like I said earlier, preparation is key.
9. As far as I can tell, 96 percent of vegan foods are orange and/or yellow in color (exhibit A... this amazing quinoa stuffed squash I made).
10. I was so tired at the end of every day this week, I collapsed into bed around 10pm every night (early for me). Assuming this may be diet related, but who knows.
11. My weight stayed about the same. However, I was basically forced to skip all sugar-y things, and most of my other food vices. Hence, I felt lighter and healthier, in general.
12. This is the only diet I have had zero issues sticking to... PROOF that accountability (in my case, writing about this publicly) is a very good tactic when changing my lifestyle.
13. Though I spent thirty-some bucks on fake meat, I didn't end up eating much of it. My freezer is still full of fake meatballs and chick'n blobs.
14. After seven days sans animal products, I wasn't as eager to dig into that steak I'd initially planned this enter challenge around. I didn't miss meat as much as I'd anticipated (cheese on the other hand...). Whereas I normally shove food mindlessly into my face, thinking about every bite of food was rather insightful.
But then I did eat the steak and it was real nice. The end.