I’m so pumped to write this and had such a great week with this challenge.
So here’s what happened. I just recently developed lactose intolerance. As a major cheese-love this was rather upsetting, however, instead of wallowing, I decided to use this opportunity to become a better cook and learn ways to make food taste AH-MAZING without ever adding cheese.
My trick? Add bacon!
So then I started realizing that I was already cutting out a lot of non-vegan things anyway due to the dairy issue other than meat (obviously a big part of veganism) so I decided my next challenge was going to be trying veganism for a week as my next way of upping my cooking game.
The timing fell just about perfectly because I decided to pick up this challenge right when my husband was leaving for a week to lead a missions trip. He’s a pretty picky eater, so I would basically have to make two separate meals while he was home if I’d try this any other time.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you got to see all of my new recipes I got to try out that week. You’ll be able to catch these photos below…however if you aren’t following me yet, my name’s @thefearlessfig and you should check me out!
I tried to have something new for breakfast and dinner every day, but I had so much food left over that lunch sort of had to be last night’s dinner or else everything was going to go bad by the end of the week.
I should also point out that I am fully aware that veganism is a lifestyle that a lot of people have adopted that includes animal rights and possible non-violent beliefs. This was just an experiment to see how cooking as a vegan would go. This challenge is in no way me trying to say that I live a vegan lifestyle or understand fully what that means to people. This is a cooking challenge. Plain and simple.
There’s your backstory of how this post happened and here, my dear, is what I’ve learned through this escapade!
1. Vegan food is seriously delicious!
It’s just like regular food, but you just take out the ingredients that you usually use and replace them with vegan alternatives. You should check out all of these awesome meals I got to try this week. A lot of them you can find on my Pinterest page.
2. Vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.
I’m going to name just a few foods that you might not have thought of as vegan:
- rum, vodka, & whiskey
- french fries
- potato chips
Yep, all of them are vegan (as long as nobody slips something in.) And really, you can just swap around ingredients in about any recipe to make it vegan even though it will still be full of fats, sugars, etc.
Now, I would definitely say that most vegans that I know are super conscientious of what they’re eating which usually leads to eating a nutritious diet. Also, it’s a lot easier to turn down the donuts at work when you have no idea what’s in them as opposed to my normal “eat everything in sight” attitude.
3. I thought missing bacon would be the hardest thing about veganism. As it turns out, the hardest thing is reading all the labels!
I failed this experiment by 9:30 AM on the first day.
I had just downed about eight Altoids during a staff meeting because I get fidgety and need something to do, like pop mints. In the afternoon I was feeling my afternoon slump and decided to grab another Altoid. I peeked at the back of the tin while I was munching and started reading the ingredients to discover that Altoids have gelatin in them. And then I started thinking back to when I was really annoying as a kid and asked my mom a billion questions and I remembered that she’d told me that
GELATIN IS AN ANIMAL BYPRODUCT!
What the heck?
How did I fail so stinkin’ early?
In any case, we don’t just quit when we fail. We just learn for next time.
So I started looking over the ingredients in any foods I had been planning on eating for the week. And I discovered, surprise, surprise, that my NOODLES no doubt had egg and milk in them.
Bah!! Fortunately I’m only sticking it out for a week so those Altoids and noodles will in fact get eaten eventually.
4. I need to accept tofu for what it is. An unacceptable meat replacement.
I went into my first bite of tofu expecting it to taste like chicken…which only made my brain think it tasted even worse.
Once I started thinking of tofu as being soggy bread, it made it a lot more palatable. Also, I never actually ate it by itself, only with a vegetable present, and it tasted much better. So before you go out and try tofu for the first time. Repeat after me…
“Tofu is not meat. Tofu is unsweetened french toast.”
5. Cooking vegan food isn’t hard as long as you’re used to cooking real food in the first place.
I was really concerned about cooking things like tofu and lots of vegetables. I’ve been trained since I was ten to brown ground beef for my mom and to scramble eggs for my sisters. Was I going to be able to transfer those skills to vegan foods? As it turns out, you can.
Tofu was scary at first, but again, once you accept it as soggy bread your life will be much easier. I would sautee my tofu until it looked browned like french toast and then I’d know that it was done.
I did realize that going vegan would be so frustrating if you don’t know how to cook for yourself. I tried reading the ingredients of five different packages of granola before choosing one that I understood what the list meant. Also, things like teriyaki sauce and cereals were hard to translate what the various -croses and -odides meant or were made from.
6. Whole foods, especially beans, keep you full for sooo long.
As I mentioned, this was a cooking challenge. Not a read ingredients on all of my packaged goods challenge. So I stuck to mostly whole foods like beans, fruits, veggies, and other foods that only had a few ingredients listed so I knew what they were.
I have never been so full in my life!
I would finish lunch and feel like a giant, and then when I came home from work I was still as full as I had been four hours before.
I had two soccer games that week. Before one I ate two hours in advance. And I ate as much as I usually would, but I had beans in my meal which apparently digest crazy slowly so I was still stuffed by the time that I had to play.
7. I actually had a ton of energy while on a vegan diet.
I was expecting to feel really tired and groggy all week because I don’t understand how protein works, but I was happy to discover that I had plenty of energy the entire day and my workouts went just fine.
Also, I didn’t starve myself. As I said, I was stuffed to the brim most of the time because I cooked too much and underestimated how much I would fill up. So basically the whole week I was stuffed with food the whole time and still ate dark chocolate chocolate, drank more sugary beverages than I ever do (to be fair, I don’t drink them too often in the first place), and I lost three pounds in a week. This wasn’t my intent. I expected to gain weight from all of the extra food, but by the end of the week I had lost a whole three pounds. I find that very interesting and is a really good thing to think about.
I’ve had a bunch of people ask me if I’m going to stick to a vegan diet from here on out. And honestly I don’t plan on it. There are so many things to worry about on a vegan diet and I don’t think it’s worth it for someone who doesn’t have a huge passion for animal rights. I’m totally going back to eating honey every day.
However, this experiment DID help me realize that I don’t need to eat nearly as much meat as I’m eating in order to maintain good energy levels during my workouts. And the thing that I like about meat tends to be the flavors that I add to it, not the actual meat. So I’ve been working on finding good ways to apply those flavors to non-meat products. I’m thinking I’ll probably cut my meat intake down to about 2 or 3 days per week rather than twice every day like I’m doing and I plan to pick those days based on my hardest work out days.
There are a few items that I would have to say were the real MVP this week. I have links to them below. If you purchase anything from the links below you should know that I will receive a small compensation from your purchase.
- Vega Protein and Greens – This is a vegan protein shake that I first purchased because it’s lactose free, but it was a great thing to have around this week to add some easy protein without really having to research anything.
- FreshWorks Produce Saver– I own like three of these produce-saving boxes that keep my spinach fresh for two whole weeks when it usually goes bad in about two days. I own three of these because they’re so good. It costs about $15, but it has a lifetime guarantee (as long as you don’t break it or something) and will save you from throwing out a ton of foo.
- Nutri Ninja Blender– I love the Nutri Ninja blender because I can set it to one of it’s really easy settings and then walk away, but on my shoes and socks, and come back and my smoothies are perfect.
So if you’re interested in doing this challenge, I insist that you do some serious planning the day before based on what you have going on that week. Here’s where to start:
- Pick one or two breakfast options for the week. I did a new breakfast every day and it kind of made my mornings unnecessarily stressful. Here are some really easy breakfast options:
- Pick some great dinner recipes. There are a ton on Pinterest thanks to other great bloggers. Here are some easier ideas that I love.
- Baked Sweet Potato Fries and Veggie Burgers (I would just buy frozen veggie burgers because they’re so good!)
- Veggie Stir-Fry over rice
- Tempeh or Black Bean Tacos
- Falafel Mediterranean Buddah Bowl (this one takes more time, but is pretty easy)
- Pasta with Marinara Sauce (literally just buy the pasta and buy the sauce)
- Either pick some lunch recipes OR decide that you’re going to make some extra dinner every night and eat leftovers.
- Make your shopping list.
- Go shopping and make sure you read the ingredients of any packaged food you pick up. You’re a smart person so I don’t question that you’ll do a great job at looking out for animal products, but there are some ingredients that you might not think about when choosing your food. Here are some items that you need to look out for:
- any meat, but that’s pretty obvious
Thanks for reading everyone! Enjoy your day.