A 7-day vegan challenge. Hmm. What had I signed up for? I was a tad worried. Would I be hungry, what would I eat, would I get enough nutrients such as protein and vitamin B12, would I be bored with the food choices, would the food taste good, would it be satisfying? Just some of the thoughts that deepened my furrowed brow. But I’ve learned that to worry is putting faith in the wrong thing, i.e., a negative outcome. I had to turn my thinking around to be successful in this experiment. When you’re hungry that’s hard to do.
I have been curious, for many years, about vegan food. When I met vegans, I would pepper them with questions. What does “vegan” actually mean (I learned, the emancipation of all living creatures from human exploitation), and why choose the vegan lifestyle? I admired their commitment to the vegan philosophy. I knew, without trying it, that being a vegan was not easy in modern-day USA. I’m not a big meat eater but dairy products are a staple in almost every meal I eat. To eliminate cream, milk, butter, eggs, meat, honey and gelatin … how does one do this long-term?
Throughout the history of mankind, individuals have excluded some or all animal products from their diets for philosophical, religious or other reasons. The vegan movement officially began in 1944 in England by David Watson, his wife and four other “non-dairy-eating vegetarians”. Even in the vegetarian world they were revolutionaries as most vegetarians at that time ate eggs and dairy products. They decided upon the word “vegan” because it contained the beginning three letters and last two letters of the word “vegetarian”. These six people became the founding members of The Vegan Society, a non-profit in England which continues today. It was through The Vegan Society https://www.vegansociety.com/about-us/history that I enrolled in the 7-Day Vegan Challenge.
I was motivated to do the Challenge for several reasons: to test my cooking and meal-planning skills; health benefits; reduce my carbon footprint; try something new that would require patience and discipline; learn about food in ways I hadn’t previously considered; and maybe refine my palette. I debated whether to plan every meal (and snack) or take a laid-back approach and plan only some and leave others flexible based on what I wanted to eat. I decided on the latter as it is how I typically eat and I wanted the Challenge to be as close to my regular life as possible. I purchased a lot of what I needed from my local farmers market, as most of what one eats on a vegan diet is plant-based. I purchased the other items I needed (peanut butter, coconut milk, oatmeal and vegan chocolate) from the grocery store. I over-shopped at both places because I was concerned about being hungry.
Food-wise, the week’s menu included:
- Breakfast: oatmeal with fresh fruit, banana, chia seeds and coconut milk; toasted muffin or whole grain bread with olive oil, veggies, avocado hummus, olives and almonds; and banana and berry smoothies.
- Lunch: lentils or beans with veggies, hummus, herbs, lime juice and avocado; sauerkraut or kimchi; and peanut and jelly and walnut sandwiches; and potato salad.
- Dinner: pasta or mung bean noodles with roasted veggies, fresh tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms; bean or lentil soup; garlic broccoli with ginger and peanuts; and sushi with avocado and cucumber.
- Dessert: fresh fruit; granola bars; popcorn; apple pie; and vegan ice cream.
It was a tough week. My enthusiasm was good until day three went it started to dip and the reality set-in that it would be a long week. The hardest parts were: (1) I was hungry a lot; (2) the taste of what I ate didn’t fully satisfy me, I had a feeling that something was missing; and (3) I had to work hard to consume recommended daily amounts of protein and other nutrients (as a small person, there’s only so many calories that I can consume in a day). On a vegan diet, I could eat very healthy food or the opposite because items such as potato chips and French fries with ketchup are not excluded. I didn’t want to feel deprived only to compensate in an unhealthy way. I hung there, didn’t cheat or skip meals and I finished the week.
I am grateful for what I learned from the Challenge although I barely scratched the surface on what a vegan diet could be. It enlightened my food world-view. It was glorious in that way. Physically, I felt better, and I ate food that was better for me than my regular diet. It gave me a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be hungry. I have a better understanding of what works for my body and how, especially on really good or really hard days, I use food as a reward. I understand even more why it is important to cook at home where I control the quality of the ingredients, and to make the majority of what I eat be plant-based. It opened my mind to the question of food addictions, whether that is the right word to use, and if it is, am I addicted to animal-based products? I enjoy fresh berries, but I lovefresh berries with whipped cream even more!
My 7-Day Vegan Challenge was a success. Although I won’t become a full-time vegan, I have committed to two days a week of vegan-diet going forward. I will spend more time preparing vegan meals, investing in products and cooking methods that support vegan diet and researching vegan recipes. I have a renewed focus to do what I can to reduce hunger in my community. It is a luxury to be able to choose what one eats (or doesn’t eat), I am truly one of the lucky ones.
Pixie – September 2018