Thursday, May 30, 2013

Try Vegan Challenge Recap

Earlier this month, I posted about the Try Vegan Challenge from Food & Nutrition Magazine, declaring that I would "go vegan" for a week in an effort to show that a completely plant-based diet is not only healthy, animal-friendly and environmentally sustainable...but it can be tasty too!

My goal was to follow a completely vegan diet for 7 days, although the challenge only technically asked for 5 days and allowed room for slip-ups.  Spoiler alert:  I didn't make it 7 days and I cheated on Day 1!

As I mentioned, I normally follow a vegetarian diet and my main meals are plant-based with dairy and eggs complimenting the meals or serving as snacks.  Therefore, I didn't think I'd have too much trouble making the transition from vegetarian to vegan.  It's part of both my personality and my job to be a planner, so I made sure to meal plan and set myself up for success in this challenge.  My main concern during meal planning were snacks.  Some examples of my typical snacks are Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese and cottage cheese.  None of which are vegan!  So I substituted with things like pita chips & hummus, fresh fruit, sandwich thins & nut butter, and trailmix. 

Rather than post my food logs from the 5 day period, I figured it'd be easier to focus on my struggles and victories with the vegan diet. 

1.  Birthday cake.  I made the mistake of starting this challenge the day after my birthday, when all my coworkers wanted to celebrate with delicious (non-vegan) chocolate ganache cake.  I didn't even make it 24 hours before my first slip-up!

Not-so-vegan birthday cake.

2. I missed my yogurt.  I'm a big fan of Greek yogurt.  I enjoy it on a daily basis and at all times of the breakfast, snack time and even as a subsitute for sour cream in my meals!  It's absence was really noticeable and probably my biggest struggle!
3. Take-out with friends.  One night, I had Southern friends visiting, and they really wanted good ole New York pizza!  This was my second (and only other) slip-up.  Another night was sushi take-out with a girlfriend, and although I didn't have much trouble finding myself a vegan meal, I really wanted salmon or tuna!   And I had to be very careful when it came to ordering/sharing appetizers!  When following any kind of restrictive diet, you have to make sure to ask a lot of questions when dining out or ordering in.  Always check what ingredients are in things like batters, sauces and condiments.
Veggie roll + edamame!
1. Focus on real, whole foods.  This is my aim anyway, but cutting out dairy and eggs forced me to be creative and make smart choices to get adequate calories and protein.  A lot of newbie vegans struggle with what to eat and end up eating a lot of processed "meat substitute" products, which negates any effort to consume a healthier diet.  [When in doubt, consult a Registered Dietitian to develop a vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian/whatever meal plan to make sure you're getting adequate nutrients!]

2. Increased intake of fruits, veggies and healthy fats!  Although my meals looked fairly similar each day, I definitely noticed a boost in my normal intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.  My bag of food for work (pictures below) always included things like pears, fresh strawberries, brussels sprouts, carrots and hummus, nut butters and avocado.


Overall, this was a very interesting challenge!  Even though I'm a Registered Dietitian and long-time vegetarian, I still was able to learn a lot from the experience.  I obviously have a lot of practice with reading food labels, but this experiment sharpened those skills.  I also had to get creative and develop strategies to overcome obstacles that I'm sure a lot of people face when converting to a vegan diet, which will ultimately make me a better practitioner! 

And on a personal note, I learned I'm not interested in becoming 100% vegan myself! At least not at this time!  :) 

Tell me...are you interested in becoming vegan? Vegetarian? What do you think you'd miss the most?

1 comment:

  1. Greek yogurt and eggs, for sure! I love them and they're a big way I get protein as a pescetarian who can't afford fish very often ;)